§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Sir HARRY VERNEY
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
I hope the House will deal kindly with me in my first attempt at legislation. I cannot help thinking that the main principle of the Bill is one which will recommend itself to all parties in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am speaking of the principle, not of the details. It is simply this: that we should try to shorten the period over which a General Election extends. Everyone feels nowadays that a General Election is unduly prolonged, and this Bill will enable us to reduce that period. If there are those who feel they can agree with the principle but do not agree with the details of the Bill, I would ask them particularly to notice the title of the Bill, which isA Bill to Amend the Law with respect to the determination of the day or days upon which the polling shall take place on the occasion of a General Parliamentary Election.Therefore, without committing themselves in any way to the details of the Bill, I hope we may get a unanimous vote for the Second Reading and then amend the Bill, if necessary, in Committee. The Bill as drafted enacts that all contested elections, with the exception of university elections, shall take place on one and the same day, and that that day shall be a Saturday. It further enacts that the date shall be settled by the Royal Proclamation which summons the new Parliament, and that in normal cases the elections are to take place on the following Saturday week after the date of the Proclamation. The remainder of the Bill is really a matter of machinery to carry out this principle, and I need not trouble the House with details upon the Second Reading. I feel I ought to offer an apology to the House for a mistake in drafting. It will be seen that the first Sub-section refers to "counties and boroughs." It has been explained to me by hon. Members for Scottish seats that the word "boroughs" is quite unknown in Scottish towns, unless it is spelt in an entirely different way. I may explain the point by referring to the Leith Burghs to show exactly how the word is 2114 spelt in Scotland, besides remarking that it shows a majority of over 3,000 for Home Rule and a reduced Conservative vote. Therefore, in order not to offend the susceptibilities of certain Gentlemen north of the Tweed, I propose with the leave of the House, later on to put down an Amendment to leave out the offending words, so that the Clause will read—In the case of all contested elections on one and the same day.I am quite aware that several hon. Members opposite have come down armed with notes for speeches urging the House to reject the Bill, and, with their permission, I should like to deal with one or two obvious objections that may be raised against it. The first thing that will be said is that this is another case of piecemeal tinkering with election law. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In that I have the assent of hon. Members opposite. I trust I shall have their sympathy, for in these days, when the private Member is sat upon by the Government Front Bench, the time available for private Members is so short that their only possible chance of getting any Bill through is to confine it to one Clause and one particular object. Any private Members who have tried to bring in a Bill know that that is their only hope. Remembering that I speak as a private Member, I hope hon. Members will not bring forward the argument as to piecemeal tinkering, and will cross out that part of their notes, unless for the purpose of wasting time they should think it necessary to bring it in. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I am sure hon. Members will not wish to waste time.
Another argument—a very reasonable one—is the question whether it is possible so to organise the police that we may have all the elections on one day. That is an argument which may be used by hon. Members opposite, but I am glad to know that it is not an argument which can be brought against me by His Majesty's Government, because, if the Home Secretary were in his place, I should remind him of the Return his distinguished predecessor, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had made in 1911, when he was at the Home Office. That Return showed that in the case of other countries where elections take place on one day—Belgium, France, Prussia, and the United States—no difficulty at all has been experienced with regard to the police arrangements. It works perfectly smoothly, and what can be done in other countries can be done in 2115 this country. Then, of course, there will be the argument that Saturday is a day that does not suit particular constituencies. This, I admit, is perhaps a subject which it will be easiest to discuss, because every constituency will put forward its own day. If we are to choose a day, probably the day which will be least inconvenient will be Saturday. If hon. Members opposite would rather have any other day of the week it is indifferent to me. Possibly the inconvenience of one particular day might be modified if that day is made a general holiday throughout the country.
I want to come quite frankly to what I suppose is the real objection of hon. Members opposite—the question of Plural Voting. I do not suggest that they will put that forward, but I suggest that it is at the back of their minds—how it affects the plural voter. I frankly confess that if the Bill were passed the plural voter would be of necessity less active than he is to-day, but in June of next year the Plural Voting Bill will be passed under the Parliament Act. If, from any unforeseen circumstances, that Bill was not passed, I should ask them to consider how far having all elections on one day will really curtail the activities of the plural voter. I will take my own case. The elections being on one day, I could get up rather earlier than usual and vote for the hon. Member for Anglesey. I could then take an express to Euston, where there would be a motor car belonging to the Member for Romford, and I could go and vote for him. Then, on my way to North Bucks, I could stop at Oxford and do everything in my power to prevent the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) from coming to this House again, and if I were successful I should probably be the first to regret it. I could then complete what I think would be a good day's work by making certain of the return to this House of the hon. Member for North Bucks.
Leaving the objections which may be raised to the Bill, I now come to a much more congenial part of my task, the enumeration of the advantages. I think it must be clear that in a General Election what does perhaps as much as anything to settle the result in a constituency where things are equally balanced is what has been happening in other constituencies during the week before. The influence which one constituency has on another is quite obvious to all Members. This Bill 2116 would at least enable us to find out the true will of the people a phrase not unfamiliar to hon. Members opposite, who have been listening to the speeches of their leaders in the last two years, and that again is something which should commend itself to hon. Members opposite. Then we should do away with, or at any rate mitigate, what has become the monstrous abuse of the use of the motor car, which flies about, particularly at by-elections. Anyone who has a car will know that he is pestered by the Whip of the party to which he belongs to send it all over the country for the purpose of elections. I suppose pretty well every Member of the House either possesses, or has possessed, or will possess, a motor car. I should not wonder if the hon. Member (Mr. Crooks) is presented with one by his constituents. In any case we know the number of motor cars belonging to Members of the House, because every night at eleven o'clock the large gentleman in uniform in Palace Yard makes night beautiful by shouting for so-and-so's car. All these cars will be used at elections. If the chauffeurs were returned to the House instead of their masters, the Bill would be carried by acclamation. I suggest to hon. Members that they should try their favourite scheme of a Referendum among the drivers, and see what their views would be about the passage of the Bill. In all seriousness, everyone I think agrees that the way motor cars are now used to carry electors to the poll, who could just as well walk, is becoming an abuse on both sides, and this Bill would do much to put an end to that.
Then I come to what is perhaps the greatest advantage of the Bill from the point of view of business men, in regard to the disturbance to trade and business which a General Election causes. There is a certain measure of hostility, not to any particular party but to politics as a whole, among the ordinary business men you find in the City. They are sick of politics, and one of the things which causes them to hate an election more than anything else is the inevitable disturbance which it causes to trade. If this Bill is carried into law the business men in our large cities will be grateful for something which has made politics more easily managed. Then that carries the corollary, perhaps the most important advantage of the Bill, that it secures and must secure the support of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury). He now imagines that he has 2117 a safe seat and that these business men will vote for him whatever he does. If he votes against this Bill the business men of the City will arise as one man and hurl him from his high office until he shares the fate of King Nebuchadnezzar.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I shall certainly vote against the Bill and speak against it if Mr. Speaker will call on me.
§ Sir H. VERNEY
I still hope that on reconsideration the hon. Baronet will see that he, who so accurately represents his constituents, will find that this is the one thing they have asked him to do throughout a long and honourable political career. He has always been a terror to timid legislators, but I hope he will come forward in support of the principle of the Bill. I launch this little Bill to-day, a small one, but I think a useful one, and I hope before the Session ends it may become an Act of Parliament.
I beg to second the Motion.
I was surprised to hear that hon. Members opposite had come down to oppose the Bill. I thought we had hit upon something which was distinctly non-controversial and that, though only a small measure of reform in our electoral law, it was one which would command the co-operation and assent of Members in all parts of the House. I quite understand that is is only a small measure. There are many other measures with regard to our electoral law which I should very gladly see introduced, but I think this one has arguments in favour of it which will appeal to a very large number of people outside the House of Commons. I agree with what my hon. Friend said, that the present long duration of elections dislocates business to an unnecessary degree and upsets the normal life of the community. Our elections now last something like from three weeks to a month. In 1906 the election lasted from 8th January to 8th February; in 1910 from 10th January till 10th February, and again from 28th November to 19th December. That was rather short.
In the last General Election I quoted there was no contest in Orkney and Shetland. In the other two there were, and the dates I have given are those from the Dissolution until the 2118 declaration of the last poll. But we know that election work begins before a Dissolution of Parliament, and the dislocation of business is very serious. It is of the utmost importance that we should curtail this very long drawn out period, and that we at the same time should get a simultaneous expression of the opinion of the people. It is all the more necessary now that General Elections are to be more frequent. We are to have General Elections now at least once every five years, and I agree with my hon. Friend that the business community are beginning to get rather annoyed with the amount of disturbance which is created. The curtailment of the time is, to my mind, a most important part of this Bill, even more so than the actual simultaneous expression of opinion by the constituencies. At the same time we should by that simultaneous expression of opinion prevent the influence which one series of elections in one district has on another series in another district. It is very difficult to say how that exactly works. On the whole, I am told by those who have very carefully studied these questions that the influence of the minority, who find that they are losing the election, is to strengthen voters in another election, rather than, as is generally supposed, to make people want to cast a winning vote. But whatever way it may be, it is very desirable that there should be no influence from one district to another. I am one of those people who believe that Members of Parliament occupy far too much public attention altogether. One might suppose that politics was by far the greatest and most important form of national activity. I do not want to underestimate the importance of legislation or administration, but there are other forms of activity—commercial, religious, social, artistic and scientific—which have to take rather a back seat, while we occupy so very prominently public attention. I do not say that we are entirely to blame for this. I think it is the Press who are to blame. We are an easy prey of the Press. They know that they can come down here any day and find us all sitting in rows and exercising our various peculiarities, and, therefore, we are a very easy prey to them. I venture to say that we do occupy in the Press, the leaders getting the best paragraphs, an inordinate amount of attention, and I feel sure that in other spheres of life, if we exercised the same capacities as we do here, a great many of us would never be heard of at all.
2119 If the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London were a poet, there would no doubt be a certain audience who would read his poems, but he would not figure so prominently before the public eye as he does at present. The very fact that I am standing on my legs here this afternoon will be recorded throughout the country in the evening papers, though it is not a very important occasion. Anyhow, when we have an opportunity of preventing this undue amount of attention being paid to Parliament by curtailing the period of elections of Members of this House, we ought to take advantage of it. The issues are before the electorate long before the election takes place. The candidates should be only too glad to have the wearisome round of meetings curtailed, because they themselves become stale and cease to exercise any particular influence on the electors, and it gives an opportunity for the use of the not very desirable forces that appear from behind the scenes and come on from one district to another and exercise a not very improving influence. Opposition may come to some extent from the Press owing to the proposal to have the elections on Saturday. The evening papers would not be able to get out the returns on Saturday night, though the Sunday morning papers would benefit very much by it, but on the whole there would not be the increased circulation of newspapers which occurs now from the dribbling in of returns of elections from all over the country in the course of the day. I dare say that we may have opposition from that quarter, but the inconvenience of the Press should be a secondary affair compared with the convenience of the whole business community.
The returning officers have now considerable power. When several districts are under one returning officer he is able to arrange the dates on which the elections from those districts shall take place. Speaking in no party spirit and without saying that there is any bias on cither one side or the other, I may show the power that he has in this respect. For instance, if he has in his district a constituency in which the result is known to be pretty certain, either one way or the other, and he has another constituency as to which there is a great deal of uncertainty, he can put the certain election first, with a view to influencing the uncertain one. I think that instances of that sort are not absolutely unknown. It is entirely wrong that that 2120 discretion should be left in the hands of a single individual. This Bill automatically takes it away from him. He will now have the date set before him. He will no doubt find an opportunity of increasing his expenses, because he will have to send a number of returning officers to the different districts on the same day, and he will no doubt charge a great deal more. He already charges a considerable amount. In my opinion, one of the most urgent reforms is that the expenses of the returning officer should be paid by the State. There are really no arguments against this Bill, except those in reference to the Press and the plural voter, and that is not worth considering in this Debate, because before the next General Election the plural voter will cease to exist. The measure is small, but it is very simple and very necessary.
§ Captain JESSEL
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I am surprised that the time of the House has been occupied by the introduction of this measure, though I congratulate the hon. Member on the very interesting speech which he made. I shall try to reply in the spirit in which he spoke, but regret that he should have so misused his opportunity by introducing a Bill of this kind. I speak as a private Member. Private Members have not got many opportunities of getting legislation passed. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that there is not the slightest chance of this Bill being passed into law. How many more useful measures could not the hon. Member have introduced with some chance of going down to history as a legislator if he had turned his mind to other great pressing necessities, rather than to what may be happily described as a bit of political gerrymandering? Hon. Members on that side of the House seem to love tinkering with election laws. Last Session we had three Bills on this subject. There was, first, the Plural Voting Bill, which has not yet received the Royal Assent. Then there was the London Elections Bill for extending the hours of polling. We predicted that it would not make much difference to either side, and we on this side admitted that there was some justification for lengthening the hours of polling in big towns in the case of Parliamentary elections. The Bill passed into law, but the result, I am afraid, has not quite come 2121 up to expectations, because the very first election where the Act was put into force, Bethnal Green, resulted disastrously for the Government. This Bill is very much like the London Elections Bill of last year. It has a wider area, but all the objections which applied to the Bill last Session apply with intensified force to this particular measure. I do not know why the Government and their friends are so keen upon what may be called the small fry of measures dealing with electoral difficulties. I do not know whether they are foreseeing the end that is shortly to overtake them within the lethal chamber at an early date, and are trying to stave off what must be their inevitable end if they go on as they are now proceeding.
If the Government are really serious over electoral difficulties, why do thy not, once for all, do what they should do, go in for a Redistribution Bill? All these inconveniences of short or long hours or of one day or of many days are as nothing in comparison with the end of the misrepresentation of the people of this country under the existing system. I do not wish to labour that point too much. We know about it in London, where we have a seat like Wandsworth containing over 40,000 electors, sending one Member to this House, and on the other hand a seat like St. George's-in-the-East, which contains barely 3,000 electors. There is nothing worse than this in the iniquities of our present electoral system. Hon. Members, instead of dealing with this matter, content themselves with small measures like this, which they know cannot be passed into law without the assistance of the Government. I know that there has been a great deal of complaint of the length of elections, but this Bill does not remedy this in the least. By the admission of the Under-Secretary to the Home Department last Session, the Government themselves have not made up their minds as to the justice of having one day for all elections. The hon. Member who seconded this Bill just now said that he did not attach very much importance to having all the elections on the one day. He was far keener on shortening the time. The hon. Member referred to the question of the police. The Under-Secretary for the Home Department said last Session on this very point, when dealing with the Elections Bill:—As a matter of fact, I understand the great difficulty of the police in looking after an area on an election day is not in regard to what, happens during polling hours, but in regard to what happens after the polling is 2122 over, and people come together to hear the declaration of the poll. Disturbance occurs still more utter the declaration of the poll, when the two sides have to seek refreshment, one as a matter of celebration, and the other as a matter of consolation. In these circumstances there are, no doubt, difficulties.That shows that there are considerable difficulties in having elections over the whole country on one day. A great deal has been made of the fact that no great difficulty occurs in having the London County Council elections on one day. I am one of those who believe that it is because we have all these elections on one day people take so little interest in them. The ordinary man in this country is not a very keen politician, but he is a great deal keener politician than the ordinary man in other countries, where the elections all take place on one day. Mr. Bodley, writing of France, where they have ten million electors, points out that there are three million electors on the register who fail to record their votes at elections. So that an extremely large proportion of the electors fail to record their votes. In this country, if you look at the returns, you will find that the percentage varies from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, and 95 per cent, of the electors. The object at which you wish to aim is to have as many polling as there are electors, but if you fix one of the worst days for an election the people would not vote so freely as they would on other days of the week. Take London. Saturday is a half-holiday in the central portions of the Metropolis. In parts of London north and south of the Thames, the half-holiday is on a Wednesday and a Thursday, and in portions outside the central districts it is inconvenient to have a Saturday poll. There must, therefore, be some latitude of choice. I do not wish to stake my own authority of the matter, but I will again refer to the speech of the Under-Secretary of the Home Department last Session. I think the House will agree with me that what applies to London and a great portion of this country, also applies to the great business centres. The Under-secretary for the Home Office said:—I quite agree with the hon. Member that the same day would not be convenient to all the constituencies, but at the same time that is the sort of thing Hint must be balanced, and if some day can be found for all the constituencies, I think one polling day will be a great advantage.The Under-Secretary, it will be seen, there admits that one day would not be convenient for all the constituencies. A good deal has been said about the advantage of this to business men. What would be the advantage to business men if you 2123 are going to have a whole holiday, and all businesses closed throughout the country I see in his place the President of the Local Government Board, who is known to take such an interest in the finance of the country, and he without doubt could tell us what the loss would be to the country of a whole holiday and a general cessation of business. It would be something enormous; the revenue would lose tremendously. As regards a Saturday poll, moreover, it would be a very great inconvenience to a great many who work up till one o'clock, and look to their Saturday afternoon and evening as the one holiday of the week. Everybody knows that the City of London on a Saturday afternoon is absolutely deserted, and I do not think my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) would like to be dragged to London on a Saturday by the constituency even if they were voting for him. Therefore, my most serious objection to the Bill is that it does not do what it aims at. The object is twofold. One is to shorten the time of elections, and the second is to have all elections on one day. The Seconder of the Motion did not attach so much importance to having the elections on one day as to shortening the time of elections. If you read this Bill carefully through it will be seen that even with the Amendment which the hon. Member proposes, you can have the elections extending to sixteen days, and that is applicable to counties and boroughs all over the country.
What is happening at present? In boroughs the maximum time for boroughs at present is ten days; therefore the result will be extremely inconvenient to the boroughs, because their time will be lengthened from ten days to sixteen days. That seems to me a very great hardship upon the boroughs. Then may I ask hon. Members whether they have thought the matter out in regard to expenses? I need not go into the details of the maximum and minimum allowances, but the fact is that you are only allowed a certain scale for borough elections. Surely, if you are going, under this Bill, to extend the borough elections from ten days to sixteen days, is it not conceivable that the expenses will be vastly increased? I have not calculated how many Members there are for counties and how many for boroughs, though I believe there are more borough Members than county Members, and by this proposal you are going to lengthen the time of elections for more 2124 than half the Members of this House. Then take the question of the counties. What is the loss? Your maximum time is nineteen days. Under this Bill you are going to reduce the number to sixteen days. You are going to go through all this preparation in order to reduce the number of days by three for the return of county Members, while you are going to add six days on to the present maximum of ten days for the borough Members. With all deference to hon. Members who have brought forward this Bill, I cannot see that they have thought the matter out very carefully.
At the present time in the counties and in the boroughs the same staff of polling clerks may be transferred from one borough to another, or, in the county, from one Division to another. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Oh, yes; I am confident about what I am stating, and I challenge denial of the fact that neighbouring boroughs often have the services of the same transferred staff of polling clerks, and, in the county, where the sheriff is the returning officer, the elections are purposely so arranged that the one staff may pass from one Division to another of the county. If the elections were all on one day, it would be found that great difficulty would arise. It would cost a great deal more money, though Members opposite are always preaching, but not always practising, retrenchment and economy. I think that the system proposed under the Bill, if carried into law, must cost a great deal more money. I am afraid, therefore, that this Bill does not fulfil the object for which it is introduced. The hon. Member has one other point in support of his measure—he wants to get rid of the influence that certain Members have upon other seats; that is, that the result in one constituency might more or less lead other constituencies to follow. But what about the uncontested seats? Under this Bill they will be returned within four or six days. There is nothing to prevent the influence of uncontested elections on the result, and in not taking that into account, the hon. Member has not removed any difficulty on that point. I think this Bill is thoroughly bad and absolutely unnecessary, and I regret that the hon. Member, with all his ability, did not devote his attention to a Bill which would serve a much more useful purpose, and would have had some chance of passing into law.
§ Mr. PERCY HARRIS
I do not agree with the description of this Bill given by the hon. Member who introduced it in a genial speech, in which, I think, he endeavoured to disarm criticism rather by humour than by employing argument. This is a Bill to establish a universal Saturday polling day, and any Member who votes for the Second Reading under the idea that any other day may be fixed is, I am sure, a very misguided individual. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion seemed to advance the argument that Members of this House occupied too much public attention. In many constituencies, if it was a question between the Saturday football match and even a speech from the hon. Member, the football match would probably have the preference. Why is this proposal made? Are the hon. Members opposite thinking of the convenience of the electors or of some party advantage? Hon. Members opposite cannot be surprised if their efforts at electoral reform are regarded with some suspicion, because they are, as the hon. Member really admitted, of a piecemeal character. Their prime favourite, the Plural Voting Bill, is frankly based, not on any manner of principle, but on party considerations. What is the principle which ought to guide us in dealing with a matter of this kind in a Bill. Our aim ought surely to be to make it as easy and as convenient as possible that the electors in every constituency should be able to go to the poll. That, surely, is the predominant consideration, but that will not be secured by this Bill. In many constituencies, I dare say, Saturday may be the most convenient day for polling, and I think when that is the case it is usually fixed by the returning officer, but in many constituencies Saturday is not only not the most convenient, but it is a very inconvenient day. In those constituencies, I venture to say, that Saturday ought not to be fixed for the polling day, and I think, as a rule, it is not fixed by the returning officer. There are, no doubt, attractions in having all the elections on one day. It is the fact that a General Election is now very much too long drawn out, and I certainly would be glad to see it brought within a comparatively short compass. But there are practical difficulties in having all the elections on one day, which I do not think hon. Members opposite have attempted to meet. For instance, the task of the police if the elections were held on one day would be tremendous, especially if party 2126 feeling and passions ran high, and especially if the elections happened to coincide with labour disputes, or perhaps with a burst of activity on the part of the militant suffragettes. In those events you would have got a position intolerable from the point of view of any reasonable and impartial election. The all-important consideration, to my mind, is to show proper consideration to each set of the electors, and to secure that you get as full and as complete a poll of the electors as possible. The importance of that will not, I think, be denied, because the House of Commons, unless it is elected by a large proportion of the votes of the electors, must always feel that its mandate is uncertain, and its authority is weak.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARRIS
My hon. Friend the Member for the City of London, says that they do not mind that, and certainly he has some reason for thinking it. I am, however, entitled to assume that the House of Commons ought to desire that. What proof have hon. Members to offer that this Bill will secure as full and complete a poll of the people as possible. I had to give a good deal of consideration to the question of Saturday polling in years past when I was a member of the London County Council, and I think our experience there is really very instructive. The argument that was always advanced in favour of a Saturday poll was that unless it was taken on that day, a good many work people would be disfranchised. The reason for that, it was said, was that they could not vote between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. That argument has gone, because the hours of polling at Parliamentary elections have been extended to from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
§ Mr. HARRIS
At any rate, if there is any force in that argument, it could be met by extending the poll. Saturday is a very inconvenient day for considerable classes of the community. In the first place, you have the tradesmen, to many of whom it is by far the busiest day of the week, and you practically disfranchise them if you fix the poll for a Saturday. It is well known that many Members of the Jewish community object to a poll being 2127 taken on Saturday, and if you study the conditions of life in many constituencies you will find that Saturday is not, in fact, the most convenient polling day. I quite realise minorities must sometimes suffer, but what I think is very unreasonable is that when you can fix a polling day which is convenient for all sections you should deliberately choose one which is inconvenient to some sections. If Saturday is to be fixed as the universal polling day, I really think some statistics ought to be produced in order to show that it really would be the most convenient day. The evidence I can produce from the London figures, I think, shows that Saturday is not, in point of fact, the most convenient polling day. Let me give the figures of the London County Council elections. In 1895 the polling took place on a Saturday, and the percentage of electors that went to the poll was 49.2, and in 1898 the election took place on a Thursday, and the percentage was rather higher, 50 per cent. In 1901 the polling took place on a Saturday, and the percentage was 40, and in 1904, on a Saturday, the percentage was 48. In 1907, when the polling was on a Saturday the figure went up to 55.5, but in that election very exceptional interest was stirred up, and very exceptional work was put in. In the 1910 election, which was also on a Saturday, the percentage fell to 51, and now, in the year 1913, when the polling was taken on a Thursday, the percentage went up to 52.2. You get this remarkable result, that the average of the two Thursday pollings is something like 3 per cent, higher than the average of the five Saturday pollings. There is no evidence on those figures that Saturday is the most convenient day, but rather the other way. There is this interesting fact, which I might commend to the notice of hon. Members opposite, that in the elections where over 50 per cent, of the electorate polled, the majority returned to power was not in sympathy with hon. Members opposite; while the elections where the polling did not exceed 50 per cent. of the electorate went the other way. I do not think that you can draw any very strong conclusion in favour of a Saturday poll from these figures.
If Saturday ought to be adopted as the one and only day for polling, I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have produced statistics of Parliamentary elections to prove their case. What is the fact? Take the General Election of 2128 January, 1910. That is a good test, because the register was absolutely new. The six London constituencies in which the percentage of electors polling was the highest, all polled on some day other than Saturday. It is curious that one of those constituencies was that of the hon. Member for Woolwich, to whom reference has been made. Woolwich polled the highest percentage in London, and the election took place on a Monday. If the polling had been on a Saturday we might have lost the advantage of the hon. Member's presence. Moreover, two constituencies, Walworth and Kennington, where the poll was on a Saturday, show almost the smallest percentage of electors polling, and compare very unfavourably with neighbouring constituencies. Therefore, from the actual figures, no case can be made out for making Saturday the universal polling day. In fact, I think they show conclusively that while for a minority of constituencies Saturday may be the most convenient day for the majority of people in London, some day other than Saturday is probably the best. I submit, therefore, that the promoters of this Bill have not made out their case. The advantage of having all the elections on one day may be too dearly bought if it means getting a reduced poll. The difference between us on this side and hon. Members opposite is that they want to disfranchise certain sections of the electorate, such as tradesmen, who they think vote to a large extent on our side, whereas we do not wish to disfranchise anybody. We say, fix the polling days which are convenient for all the electors. Before an important change of this sort is carried out there ought to be an inquiry from impartial sources to ascertain which would really be the most convenient day for all electors. Such a change ought not to be made merely because hon. Members opposite think that they may derive some party advantage from it.
Mr. CATHCART WASON
I am sure the whole House will agree that my hon. Friend (Sir H. Verney) is to be congratulated on the admirable manner in which he introduced this Bill. Certainly his speech might serve as a model for all hon. Members who desire to introduce Bills. I do not think that my hon. Friend need be under any apprehension as to the fate of his Bill as a result of the two speeches to which we have just listened. I think the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Captain Jessel) must have had some qualm of conscience when he attempted to make 2129 party capital because my hon. Friend had not brought forward a Redistribution Bill, bearing in mind the fact that the hon. Member and his friends are even more responsible than Members on this side for not having during their term of office introduced a Redistribution Bill.
You did not carry it in the days of your power, when you were absolute rulers both in this Chamber and in another place. The speech of the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Harris) was entirely in favour of the Bill as it stands. My hon. Friend made it quite clear that he has no predilection for Saturday. He would just as soon have any other day. That is entirely a Committeee point, and I am sure that we on this side would be found most reasonable in order that we might secure the day which was most convenient. As regards the time of the poll, as long as we have the elections on one day, we are willing to make any reasonable concession that may be required. I approve of this Bill very strongly, because I hold that our present system of electioneering, of representation, and of misrepresentation on both sides, is not conducive to good government, and this Bill, if carried, will in my judgment do much to check what we in Scotland call the spate, the flood of oratory which from time to time overflows the country. We have infinitely too much talking and far too long speeches, both inside this House and outside—especially inside. I do not intend to exceed the ten or fifteen minutes, which I consider ample for anybody, except those distinguished persona on the Front Bench on either side. My hon. Friend suggested that the Bill might prejudicially affect my Constituency, because, by an Act as far back as 2 and 3 William IV. special facilities were afforded to Orkney and Shetland, not only with reference to the delay in issuing the writ, but also in extending the time of polling to two days. I explained to my hon. Friend that personally I strongly approved of the Bill, and would like to see it carried into force; but in a matter of this kind no Member is entitled to speak offhand for his constituency. I shall certainly forward the Bill to my Constituents as early as possible, and while I have every reason to believe that they will be satisfied to have the poll on one day, in view of the other advantages which they enjoy, the Government will no doubt see 2130 that they are entitled to be heard. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs would also be entitled to put any representations he considered well in relation to his constituency before those concerned in respect to the polling taking place there on one day, and any representation that he might make to the Government would, I feel sure, receive attention. There is another very serious inconvenience with regard to the declaration of the poll in the constituency that I have the honour to represent. I believe it has been held by very distinguished lawyers on the other side of the House that if by any misfortune the demise of the Crown took place that it is quite possible that it would be necessary for the election to be taken all over again. There is also this very serious consideration that I think ought to commend itself to the House. It is quite possible that it may be exceedingly desirable, almost imperative, that Parliament should be summoned for the immediate dispatch of business. I am informed by the best legal authorities that without the presence of your humble servant it would be absolutely impossible for Parliament to meet. That is also a consideration that commends itself very strongly to me in supporting this Bill, which I sincerely trust will be carried into legal effect during this present Session; for I make no doubt that all reasonable objections will be given effect to in Committee, in view of the very conciliatory speech of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill.
§ Sir HARRY SAMUEL
Bills like the present are of the very greatest, possible interest, especially when introduced by hon. Members on the other side, who, if they are lucky enough to obtain a place in the ballot, instead of turning their attention, as we used to do in days gone by in this House, to grievances which alike are felt by people of both parties and in all parts of the country, endeavour, wherever it is possible, to help themselves and their party in view of a time of trouble. I am not surprised that the hon. Member took the line he did. At the present time there is talk about the Plural Voting Bill, which, it is said, has to be passed. Though my name is prophetic, I do not for a moment wish to be regarded as amongst the prophets, yet I think I may remind hon. Members opposite there is an old proverb which they might very well take heed of:—There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.2131 Daily we are receiving some little intimation as to what may take place. Still, what we on this side of the House have to do is to put aside questions that appertain to party, and really to examine any Bill carefully and honestly, and see whether it really will be for the benefit of the electors of this country. Turning in that spirit to this Bill, I have made up my mind that it will not be in the smallest degree for the benefit of the electors—and I am rather inclined to think that that is one of the reasons why the hon. Baronet has brought the Bill in. It seems to me that his anxiety is to bring as few electors as possible to the poll. First of all, he talks about the question of motor cars. I quite believe that motor cars in elections at the present time are little more or less than a horrible nuisance. They are infernal machines. But by them you get the people to the poll: possibly more people than you would do in any other circumstances if you restrict the use of these vehicles, especially in polling districts in very large county areas. In these districts I do not think there is the smallest doubt but that there will be considerable difficulties if the motor cars are disallowed.
Let me take the matter of all the polling on one day. I disapprove altogether of one day for all the elections. We have often heard of the policing of constituencies at these times, and the difficulty was acknowledged in the Debates in this House last Session by the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, I think. There is no doubt about it as to the great electoral excitement at the close of the poll, especially in some of the districts in London, concerning which probably I have the best right to speak. In East London, for instance, you get an enormous amount of excitement, and a pardonable excitement. Therefore, when you come to consider London alone, if you have some sixty declarations of the poll, all being within an hour or so of one another, you would conceivably get a very large amount of excitement, which would require a large police force adequately to control. In the known absence of the police you might see—not by the electorate—a manifestation of those particularly hidden forces which from time to time make themselves so disagreeably apparent whenever the police are called elsewhere. We on this side of the House called attention some time ago to the strong disapproval that was felt in sending the Metropolitan Police out 2132 of London in order to quell disturbances in other parts of the country. The same effect would be apparent here if we had only one day's polling. Then how about a fixed day? I think that is just as objectionable. Hon. Members must recollect that I am talking from my point of view, and that is a desire of getting as many electors as possible to the poll. We had a very good proof of the advantage to the party to which we on this side belong by the extension of the poll the other day in the Bethnal Green election. We ought to adopt every possible means to get the biggest poll in all districts. Take West London. Could anyone for a moment say that the same day would be best for bringing up the electors to the poll for West London as it would be for East London, or that it would be the same for North and South London? We have been told by the hon. Member for North Bucks that it is desirable to fix the polling day on a Saturday. If you did that there is no doubt about it that you disfranchise a very large number of people.
I hate to quote figures to the House, and I do not think that I very often transgress in this or other matters, but perhaps the House will forgive me in quoting a few figures on this matter. The figures are interesting because they are the result of an examination as to the numbers and classes who would probably be disfranchised if the polls were all fixed for Saturday. The total number so disfranchised would amount to the enormous total of 1,250,000. They include the following trades: nurserymen, metal dealers, dealers in precious stones, furniture dealers, dealers in pottery and glass, and chemists and druggists. All these classes of men have to be in their shops on a Saturday, and hon. Members know very well that it is extremely difficult to get them to leave their business even for the patriotic purpose of voting. There are also newsagents, drapers, tailors, milkmen, butchers, bakers, grocers, tobacconists, coffee house people, publicans, wine and spirit dealers, and general shopkeepers. I am quite sure it could not for a moment be in the minds of the hon. Member that the measure should disenfranchise this highly reputable and business section of the community! Now with regard to the point as to the length of the elections, the hon. Member for the Orkney and Shetlands tried to persuade us to give a vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, because he said the hon. Member for South Bucks would be delighted to 2133 see it amended in Committee. I am very strongly of opinion—I may be wrong—that it would be impossible to amend this Bill in order to bring it into harmony with the duration of elections. If you had the time fixed at nineteen days, it would be too short for the counties and too long for the boroughs. You would have to frame your Bill on other lines. Therefore I contend, whatever point is made, this Bill is absolutely dead, and there is no possible manner of bringing it into conformity with the proper manner of managing elections. With regard to business, any of us who have any knowledge of the business of this country will agree at once that there would be great dislocation of business by having all elections on one day, and that it would be very serious indeed to those who are interested in factories, and who know how the damping down of fires and the stopping of machinery affects profits. The financial business of this country would suffer. I am positive that the business community would suffer very much less if you had the elections extended over a period of time, than if by any manner of means you had the elections all on one day. I do not want to weary the House any longer, and I will content myself by saying that I base my objections to this measure first of all because it is designed to bring the smallest number of electors to the poll and not the largest, which is, to my mind, a fatal objection. Secondly, I base my objection to having one fixed day, which, I think, is equally bad. It is impossible to bring it into harmony, because if you reduce the nineteen days the period would then be too short for the counties, and if you keep it as it is it would be too long for the boroughs. This Bill is nothing but an understudy to the Plural Voting Bill. I shall have the greatest satisfaction in recording my vote against the Bill.
§ Sir CHARLES HENRY
I was very glad to hear the hon. Member who has just sat down state that in opposing this Bill he was not actuated by considerations of party advantage. Let me assure hon. Members opposite that we are guided by the same sentiments. We had a very important admission from the hon. Gentlemen when he acknowledged the advantages of the extension of the Polling Hours Act of last year. If I remember rightly he and his Friends opposed that Bill, and it was only when my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse made consider- 2134 able concessions that they allowed that Bill to pass. He went on to say that the proposals in this Bill would be detrimental to the business community of this country. I venture entirely to disagree with that, and I will give my reasons. It will be remembered that at the election of December, 1910, very strong objections were taken to the election being held at that period of the year, because of the interference with trade and the general disturbance of business. I venture the opinion that that is in itself an argument as to why it is desirable that the period of elections should be condensed. There is another point. May I remind the House that in the United States, where business interests are just as much regarded as here, the elections are all held on one day—if I remember rightly, the first Tuesday in November. It is a general holiday; not only the elections for the Federal Legislature, but the elections for all the State Legislatures are held on that date, and there is no doubt about it—I have had experience of it, for I have been there at election time—that none of the apprehensions which the hon. Member for Norwood anticipated have been realised. In France also elections are held on one day—on a Sunday, which would not of course be acceptable in this country. Since our present regulations have been in force as regards elections we have travelled far. In former times perhaps the only conveyance was the stage coach. The facilities of transit are such now that I consider that to condense elections into one day would be for the advantage of the community. With regard to the argument of the hon. Member for Norwood, that it would not be desirable to have elections all in one day on account of the danger to the public peace, I think the general excitement and rowdyism that used to be apparent—I am not speaking of London but rather of the counties—has disappeared.
§ Sir C. HENRY
The hon. Baronet must know there were special circumstances in connection with that election. There was a strike when the election was held; there will not be strikes in the large towns and counties at a General Election.
§ Sir C. HENRY
I have no knowledge of that. Possibly the hon. Baronet will tell 2135 us about it latter on. Then as regards machinery, there would be no difficulty in arranging that. I think it is desirable that expenses in connection with elections should be reduced as far as possible, and there is no doubt that if elections were compressed within a day or two, expenses would be considerably reduced. There would be no difficulty in getting in the constituencies suitable men, instead of having to import them from outside. There is another feature. At the present time in the counties the sheriffs have to decide when the elections for particular Divisions take place. That places the sheriff in a very difficult position. He is often accused of favouring one set of candidates, whereas if the elections were held on one day that objection would be got over. As regards the provision as to Saturday, I am not wedded to Saturday; in fact, I go so far as to say I should prefer if the elections in the boroughs were held on one day and those in the counties on another day. I think that would come within, the scope and title of the Bill. I think Saturday would be a desirable day for the boroughs. The hon. Member for Paddington said it would be objectionable to the Jewish community. I do not think that would apply, because, with the extension of the polling hours, the Jewish community would be able to record their votes. My objection to Saturday for the counties is, that Sunday intervening, the ballot boxes would not be dealt with until Monday. I think it is desirable that the result should be ascertained as soon as possible after the polling. I do not wish the polling to take place for the counties on Saturday. I would prefer Friday or Monday as the polling day for the counties. There is another important factor to which I attach a great deal of importance, and which I consider should weigh in the consideration of this matter, and that is the extension of the use of motor cars in connection with elections. Although I am not at all a legal expert, I hold the opinion that the use of motor cars in elections is a direct contravention of the law, which lays down distinctly that no expense should be incurred in conveying electors to the poll. No one can deny that by bringing electors to the poll in motor cars you do incur indirect expenditure. I would much prefer to pay the railway fares of voters, than to lend motor cars at the cost of 4d. or 6d. per mile, to bring voters to the poll. 2136 If the provisions of this Bill were accepted this contravention of the law would, to a considerable extent, be diminished. I believe that this Bill would be viewed with satisfaction, as a whole, by the electors, and that the shopkeepers and others mentioned by the hon. Member for Norwood would have no objection to it. With the extension of the polling hours, tradesmen would have ample opportunity of recording their votes. I hope the Government will not only support this measure, but give their earnest co-operation, so that it may become law.
§ Mr. LYNCH
Like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I draw my experience from two countries where this law already obtains. I can hardly refrain from referring to the speech of the Mover of this measure. We are often accustomed in this House to hear trivial matters treated with a heavy touch, but in this case the hon. Baronet has managed to deal with a very serious matter with a light touch. In the United States all the elections take place on one day, and that is a general holiday. I am not in favour of the polling taking place on Saturday. We have hardly enough holidays in this country, and I think it would be advisable to have the General Election on a general holiday, specially created, and this would facilitate the business of the elections. In the United States excitement at election times runs higher than even the most exciting contests in this country, and, moreover, the American papers have a happy facility of describing the elections graphically. The whole mind of the country is devoted to the election, and there is electricity in the air. Some years ago, in the great election light between Bryan and McKinley, I happened to be more deeply immersed in the Democratic camp, and I became convinced that if the Republican candidate were elected it would mean something like civil war or utter ruin to the entire country. After the election, however, and the declaration of the poll, the phlegmatic Americans quietly returned to their business. Since then I have always been more sceptical about the predictions of civil war following some great constitutional change.
If this law obtained here as in America, would it be possible to revert to our present condition? I think that is an argument which can always be brought to test the advisability of any proposed measure. Would any man be willing to propose to the Americans that they should 2137 give up their one-day election system for a dragged-out system extending over three of four weeks? In France, where the people are more excitable, all the elections are held upon one day. Those who lose at elections, even after great excitement, say, "So much the worse," and return to their businesses. Those who win say, "The more it changes, the more it remains the same thing." On the score of disturbance of the public mind and the danger of undue excitement and the necessity for more police, all those arguments would vanish if this measure were carried into law. Wherever a reasonable argument is put forward there is always a tendency to oppose it by some such argument as "We English are not a logical people." Carlyle expressed it admirably when he wrote:—With stupidity and sound digestion a man may front much.It is not a good thing to place too much confidence in arguments of that kind.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
Two arguments have been levelled against this Bill. One of them is the pressure put upon the police, and the other is the difficulty in regard to the provision of presiding officers and clerks on the election day. I think both of those arguments are very much exaggerated. I agree with the hon. Member who said that our elections are not now so exciting as formerly, and they are very much better conducted. I am speaking more of the provincial towns, because I do not know anything about London. In the provincial towns we have not that excitement, and there is not that necessity for police at the close of the polls which formerly used to be the case. With regard to the difficulty of obtaining presiding officers and clerks, I think there are ample provisions in every county and town in this respect. The fact is that there is a great deal of favouritism taking place in our elections, because very often the same men are removed from one part to another. That, however, is on account of the fact that they are favourites, and they are given these duties when there are other men in the locality able to do the work quite as well. I was very much surprised to hear the argument used by the hon. Member for South St. Pancras (Captain Jessel), who complained that this Bill was tinkering with the law of election. May I here take this opportunity of congratulating the hon. Baronet the Member for North Bucks (Sir H. Verney) upon the admirable speech he made in introducing this 2138 measure. This is a very important Bill, and it will make a very important change in our law. I think the hon. Member for South St. Pancras is the last man who ought to complain of this measure, because some two years ago he brought in a Bill himself dealing with the law affecting corrupt practices in municipal elections. I sat on the Committee upstairs which dealt with that Bill, which was very badly drafted, but with the assistance of the Government it was amended from a Bill of reference into a measure which was compact within itself. The hon. Member dealt with corrupt practices in a very modified way, but, nevertheless, it was a measure of some importance, and no doubt it will do a reasonable amount of good in the elections.
I support the Bill for this reason: I believe that it is essential that there should be no favouritism shown to any candidate. That is a very important factor in elections. All candidates should have an equal opportunity at the poll. Anyone who is accustomed to and knows the practices of elections, knows that the present system is a very unfair one. Some elections are put early, and others are put late for the purpose of influencing them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wick."] I am not referring to Wick. It may have been very witty to do so, but I am not referring to it because I do not know the circumstances. If there was any unfairness at Wick, then this Bill will avoid any unfairness in the future, and hon. Members on that side, as well as on this side of the House, will be treated fairly and equally. I speak with a knowledge of elections for the past forty years, and my observations have led me to believe that where there is the probability of a win—I am not speaking of one party more than another—the election is put early in that particular town, and then all the agents and speakers with the winning Member are taken into the neighbouring districts to influence the elections there. I consider that is very unfair. Owing to the fact that the mayor for the time being was the presiding officer, and had the power of fixing the day of election, the election in the town I represent was fixed five days after the election in the two neighbouring boroughs. Those boroughs polled on the Saturday, and the town I represent polled on the Thursday, five days afterwards. I consider that a very great injustice to the electors in the town which I represent, and an, injustice to the candidate. The hon. Gentleman for 2139 Darlington (Mr. Pike Pease), who is one of the Whips on the other side, was brought into my Constituency and spoke against me four days after he had won his own election. I consider that is very unfair to any candidate. All candidates, in my opinion, should be upon an equal footing, and no man should be under the injustice of having his election put back so that other workers may be brought into his constituency to influence the electors and put pressure upon them.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some right hon. Gentlemen on his own side do not contest their constituencies at all, but leave them to their families so that they may perambulate other constituencies.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
That is a matter for their constituents to deal with. It is a very great compliment to the candidate if they can elect him without his being present. We are not all, unfortunately, in the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think the hon. Member himself is not in that position. He has to take an active part, like ourselves, in his election if he wants to win his seat. I consider this system very unfair. I should oppose, for the same reason, the proposal of the last speaker on this side of the House that we should have all the elections in the boroughs on one day and the elections in the counties on a day following. That, I consider, would be very unfair to the candidates. We have now a very large number of men with very moderate means contesting county Divisions. Some of our Labour Members represent mining districts and others county Divisions. It is very unfair that the whole of the "workers from our towns, as they would be, and as they are now under the present system, should be transferred from the towns—I have seen them go in shoals—into the counties to work either against one side or the other in the county Divisions. If all the elections were on one day, both the county and the borough Members would be placed upon an equal footing, and there would be a better chance of candidates being elected according to their ability.
The present system is a great advantage to the rich men. They can command motors. I agree with the last speaker that the present practice of flooding a town or a county Division with motor cars is a negation of the law, and ought to be put down. It does give a great advantage to 2140 rich men, and that in itself is a very great injustice to the men with moderate means. So far as municipal elections are concerned, we have one day elections in practice. Ever since 1882 the law says that every municipal borough must have its annual election on the 1st of November. In every town throughout the country yon have the election on the same day, and there is no difficulty whatever about it. You have the same electoral disability that you would have if all the borough elections were on the same day, if that is the contention. You have the same ballot-boxes to provide for municipal elections, you have the same presiding officers, and the same check clerks; in fact, you have in some of our large towns the elections conducted similarly to the Parliamentary elections. There is not the slightest difference. Therefore, since 1882 all candidates fighting municipal elections in every part of the country are on an equal footing and have the same chance, because all elections take place on the same day. Take county council elections. I see the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. Charles Bathurst) sitting opposite. He is a member of the Wiltshire County Council. The county councils have their elections all on one day. It is fixed by the county council for the county. We have in the county I represent seventy-eight separate single-member constituencies, and in each of those every third year where there is a contest, and the bulk of them are contested, we have an election. There is no running from one constituency to another, but each man has an equal chance with another man. It is the same with the West Riding; there they have ninety members to be elected, and all the elections take place on one day appointed by the county council.
In London, so far as the county councils are concerned, 120 members are elected, all on the same day. Until the last election, the polling generally took place on a Saturday, but the county council for certain reasons changed the day to Thursday. Still, all the elections took place on that one day. I contend, therefore, there would not be the slightest difficulty in applying this law to Parliamentary elections, neither would there be any difficulty in providing the returning officers, clerks, and whatever other officials may be necessary to carry out the election. A very strong case has been made in favour of this Bill. There is only one objection, and 2141 in that I am with hon. Members opposite. Personally, I am not a believer in Saturday as the best day for elections; it does not suit every town. In some towns there are very important markets held on a Saturday, and the holding of an election might result in very great injury to the tradespeople, and especially to the market people who depend for their livelihood upon the market on that particular day. Generally speaking, the decision of the day is now left to the mayor or presiding officer. That, in my opinion, is unfair, because it enables him to appoint a day to the advantage of one side or the other. The only solution is to have the day fixed according to the arrangement laid down in the Bill. The Bill suggests a proclamation calling Parliament together, and we should leave a matter of this kind to the Privy Council, or those who are responsible for the issuing of a proclamation; we should leave it to them to fix a day, and the day should be the same for the whole country. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the introduction of this Bill; it is a measure which has been demanded for a very long number of years by a very large number of constituencies which have experienced the disadvantages arising out of the present system. I shall have much pleasure in following my hon. Friend into the Lobby in support of the Bill.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOHLER
Notwithstanding the charming speech, if I may so describe it, of the hon. Member for North Bucks (Sir Harry Verney) he must have fully appreciated the fact that this Bill would be opposed on this side of the House. We on these benches have steadily contended for a general amendment and re-enactment of our election laws. We have contended, further, that the basis of everything must be redistribution; and, when we consider what are the Bills now before the House, it is quite clear that this Bill is really a, party move on the part of the hon. Gentleman who has introduced it. It only creates another anomaly with regard to plural voters. So long as plural voters continue to be allowed by law, there is no reason why you should put an additional disadvantage on the man who has a right to exercise a double franchise. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill gave us a very interesting account of how he could go from Anglesey, doing much mischief on his way, to his own constituency; but I venture to suggest that if the hon. Member looks at his own majority, and realises 2142 that he is steadily fighting for his political life, he is likely to come to the conclusion that it would be advisable to devote his attention nearer home. His plan, further, must meet with considerable disapproval on his own side, because, in the course of his transit, he would have louse the motor car which is so much protested against by his hon. Friends. The real difficulty, so long as plural voting in part of our law, and which we contend should not be put an end to until we have secured redistribution, is that you would put the occupying freeholder in the borough at an immense advantage over anyone who happened to own a freehold in the North and to have an occupation vote in the South. The latter would not be able to exercise his double franchise, whereas the occupying freeholder in the borough would have no difficulty in doing so. He would be on the spot, and would be able to exercise his vote both for the borough and for the county. It seems to me, therefore, that the Bill would only tend to increase the anomalies that at present exist. The Seconder of the Bill put a point which really discloses what is in the mind of the hon. Member who proposed it. He told us that in June of next year the Plural Voting Bill will become law. I am not satisfied by any means that Parliament will continue until that date, and I am confirmed in that opinion because this Bill has been introduced. I think the object is to get this Bill through so as to kill the plural voter as far as is possible, because it is believed that would be an advantage to yourselves. You have no real hope that the Bill for the abolition of the plural voter will become law. I adhere to the position we have taken up that we want this question dealt with as a whole. We do not want a lot of amending Acts; we want the whole matter to be dealt with in one comprehensive measure. There is one other point to which, in my judgment, sufficient consideration has not been given, and that is the question of the police. It is for the returning officer to provide for the proper and lawful conduct of elections, and, under the powers conferred upon him, he has a right from time to time to adjourn elections in case there should be unlawful rioting.
I do not think sufficient consideration has been given to the existing situation in regard to Ireland. This Bill will apply to Ireland equally with England, Scotland, 2143 and Wales. It is of universal application, and the hon. Member who moved this Bill ought to give more consideration to this point. What is the position which we are building up in this House for the Irish people? I have heard with regret the statements made by the Prime Minister and other responsible speakers, that there is no chance of the Home Rule Bill passing through this House and the House of Lords as a Bill of Conciliation, amended and accepted. I believe the Government will endeavour to force the Bill through this House under the Parliament Act. I believe, further, that they will send it to the Second Chamber, and that the House of Lords will reject it, and that they will thereby induce a situation of which we have never had knowledge or experience before. In my judgment it would be a perfectly wicked course. I believe that having done that, having bluffed up to the very last moment, they will not ask His Majesty to assent to the Bill. I cannot believe, in view of the Gracious Speech from the Throne, that any man of honour—and I believe the Members of the Government to be men of honour—would ever ask His Majesty's assent to that Bill after that Speech. What would be the position? The only hope would be in an election. If the Bill is forced through under the Parliament Act, consider what will be the position with regard to any contested elections in Ireland! It would be wicked in the extreme if we were to pass a measure which threw upon the sheriff of the county the obligation of holding every contested election in Ireland on the same day.
§ Mr. HOHLER
With great respect, I think there are many contested elections in the North of Ireland. There will certainly be one in South Dublin. May I remind the hon. Member what happened at Louth not so long ago, when there was a contest between an Independent Nationalist and a Nationalist? He will remember the disgraceful scenes which occurred, and how the present Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) was insulted by the crowd. I think there was an election petition in that case. It is quite immaterial whether the contested elections are numerous or few, the real point is the responsibility which is cast upon the sheriff. Sufficient consideration has not been given to that point. I believe these 2144 elections will be fought with heat, intensity, and latent feeling and passion that at any moment might break out into serious rioting. That situation alone, which you are proposing to bring about, in itself justifies the rejection of this Bill, and therefore on that ground I shall oppose it. As for the argument that one day is suitable for all elections, I have to say that in my Constituency Saturday would be the most inconvenient day you could possibly choose. I happen to represent a dockyard constituency, and all the Navy go on furlough for the week-end; therefore it would be extremely inconvenient from that point of view. The hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. J. Samuel) established in his own speech, although perhaps he did not intend to do so, that Saturday would be a very inconvenient day to him.
§ Mr. HOHLER
That is rather curious, because I gathered from the earlier part of his speech that he suggested that there was some favouritism operating in the mind of the returning officer, the mayor of the borough for the time being, as against him, because the mayor fixed the polling day for a Thursday.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I did not wish that to be inferred. What I said was that the mayor did do it, and that it was an injustice to the electors and to myself.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I cannot follow that point. The hon. Member admits that Saturday would be an inconvenient day to him. I am not here to defend the mayor, but I do not like insinuations or imputations of that kind. I think the hon. Member established the point that Saturday would not be suitable throughout the country, because of the peculiarities of the different constituencies. It is all very well for the hon. Member for North Bucks (Sir H. Verney) to say that the Bill says "day or days." That is to catch us if he can, because we all know that when the Bill is passed it will be one and the same day. If that is so, I have not a shred of doubt, from the utterances I have heard in this House, that the majority would be in favour of a Saturday. I claim the hon. Member for Stockton as a supporter of the principle for which we are contending, and upon that principle the Bill should be rejected. I object to this hard and fast rule, and I consider that at 2145 the bottom of it is the belief that you are not going to get your Plural Voting Bill through before we have another General Election, yet you want to damage the plural voter. I shall steadily protest against it, and do everything I can to defeat the Bill, because if there were any just reason for it it would have found a place in the Registration Bill which was introduced and abandoned two years ago, or a place in the Plural Voting Bill which is being carried under the Parliament Act. When you find that both those measures have failed, you bring forward this Bill as a private Member's Bill, and I have no doubt that in due course His Majesty's Government will be graciously pleased to take it up. I shall oppose this Bill from first to last.
§ Mr. HANCOCK
I desire to say a few words in support of this Bill, which has been introduced, if I may say so, in one of the happiest and most entertaining speeches to which it has been my good fortune to listen. The Bill does not go quite so far as some of us would like to see it go, but it is a step in the right direction, and on that ground, more than any other, I rise to support it. I have noted with pleasure that in the speeches already delivered from the Opposition there has been no serious objection to the principle of the Bill. The objections have arisen more particularly with regard to the details of the measure. I was pleased that the Mover of the Bill was careful to explain that he was not wedded to any particular day. I am not wedded to any particular day and I rather incline to the opinion that Saturday would be an inconvenient day, although I should like to express the view that we cannot be very definite in asserting what would be a convenient day. I have fought three contested elections within eighteen months. The second election was on a Friday, and we were all of opinion that it was the most inconvenient day in the week, and inconvenient from a variety of causes. To begin with it is a mining constituency, and Friday is the day when the wages are paid, when the subcontractors pay the men who work for them, and the day of all others in the week when all the men are at work. In addition to that thousands of them have to come to work in railway trains, for they live five, ten, or fifteen miles away from the pit where they are employed. Taking these and other things into consideration, both parties were convinced that Friday was by far the most inconvenient day, and 2146 both agreed in asking that the day should be altered. They were not successful. The polling took place on that day, and in addition to the inconveniences I have mentioned it was one of the most wintry and inclement days I have ever known.
§ Mr. HANCOCK
I am not saying it will. If the hon. Baronet will do me the honour to wait until I have finished my sentence he will see my point. I was going to say that notwithstanding all these disadvantages we had the largest poll which has ever taken place in Mid-Derby. Whilst I myself would not vote for a Friday or for a Saturday, still I am forced back upon the impression that it is a difficult thing, after all, to say which is the most convenient day. I have lived in Nottingham for over twenty years. Saturday is their market day, and I can quite understand that it would be for Nottingham, and perhaps for other cities, a most inconvenient day. Consequently I can see the advisability of not being wedded to any particular day, and I am glad to know that the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney) made it perfectly plain that he was not wedded to one particular day. One hon. Member opposing the Bill referred to a number of trades or professions the people engaged in which would not be able to vote at all if the elections took place on a Saturday, but elections in some cases take place on Saturdays now, and I think really there is no force whatever in that argument. I cannot conceive that these people will be placed under any disability that they are not under to-day.
Then reference was made to rowdyism, and the opinion was expressed that to have all elections on one day would put a premium upon rowdyism, riots and disturbances of the peace. But are there not two sides to that question? Is it not possible that we may have less riots and less disturbance if all elections took place on the one day than if they are covering some three or four weeks? I can quite understand that if elections all took place on one day the disturbing element in the electorate will, in each constituency, be confined practically to that constituency, but if elections are spread over a, number of weeks it gives these undesirable characters an opportunity of exerting their activities in one constituency one day, and of going to another constituency another day, so I rather think the advantage in that respect would rather lie on the side of 2147 having all the elections on one day. But I am inclined to think that there is a very appreciable and welcome decline in that rioting which has characterised elections in the past. I have had considerable experience in both city and county elections. So far as the Constituency I represent is concerned, and I have known it during the whole of its electoral existence, rioting has been unknown. I am glad to know that so far as the city of Nottingham is concerned there is no room to complain. Consequently I do not think we have any need to concern ourselves so far as that particular phase of the question is concerned. I hope, seeing that apparently there is no real objection to the principle of the Bill, that the House will see its way clear to pass it, and that whatever alterations may be desirable, so far as its details are concerned, they will be made.
§ Sir J. D. REES
The hon. Gentleman, who is himself a distinguished citizen of Nottingham, has said that the day which it is suggested absolutely to make a fixed day for elections under this Bill would be the very worst conceivable day for the Constituency I represent. I regard it as a fortunate circumstance that he should have addressed the House immediately before myself, and that we can both speak very positively upon this subject. The hon. Member (Mr. Jonathan Samuel) twitted me, quite good naturedly, with having sat on both sides of the House. That is the way to learn which side of the House is the right side, and to have fought a brace of elections on both sides is the way to learn something about elections and to know exactly where the shoe pinches and what ought to be done. I do not recommend it for everybody, but it is a useful experience to those whom circumstances have placed in that position. What led to my interruption of the hon. Member was that he thought that, having elections on one day, would prevent Members careering about the country using an influence which he seemed to resent in the election of other Members. That struck me, coming from a colleague of the late Lord Advocate and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, as being the most extraordinary argument which could possibly be imagined. I do not think it is right to resent that use of such leisure as politicians may get, but if you do it is a very extraordinary thing that the colleague of two gentlemen who spend the whole of their lives in electioneering 2148 should present this argument for the consideration of the House. It fairly amazed me.
Then the hon. Member (Mr. Lynch) referred to the experience of America in his interesting comparison between electoral conditions there and here. I remember in America on one occasion asking why a certain territory was not made a State, and I was told that the reason was because most of the inhabitants would want killing before they could be turned into American citizens. I think this Bill will want killing before it can be improved. The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney) seemed to think it ought to be let through to be amended in Committee, but I think it will want killing before you can in any way improve it. It is a bad Bill, and it ought not to receive a Second Reading. I do not want to dwell upon the obvious absurdity of introducing a Bill dealing with a paltry matter like this; but at this very moment hon. Members like myself, who represent perhaps a normal English constituency of about 13,000 electors, are outvoted by two to one by hon. Members who perhaps represent a constituency of 3,000 voters. I am not speaking disrespectfully of their constituencies—I have represented a small one myself—but to propose to correct another anomaly while that remains uncorrected is absolutely trifling with a serious subject. The hon. Baronet also urged that the Bill should get a Second Reading because it was a little one. That is a classical argument. If it is a little one it is also conceived in sin, or, at any rate, in party and partial feeling, and is not worthy to receive a Second Reading. He said there would be no difficulty under the Bill in the police being able to carry out their duties. Even under present conditions the police in many constituencies are quite unable to deal with disorder. It may be very slight, but I have lived myself to be assaulted in the square of the chief town of the group of boroughs which I represented and have had to defend myself in the absence of the police in other boroughs where disturbances were more expected. It was not a serious matter, but it is an experience which is to the point when an hon. Member states that the police would be easily able to perform their duties if elections were all held on one day.
Another hon. Member referred to the motor question. I wonder whether he really suggested that there were more motors on this side than on that, because if that is the case I should like, as one who 2149 has seen something of both sides, to suggest that there are quite as many rich men and as many motors available to take electors to the poll on that side as on this, and that neither on that side nor on this does anyone know which way a man votes when he has got to the poll and has had his ride. I see no very great objection to the use of motors from that reason. The greatest objection I should think to the use of motors is that they get so very much knocked about that the owners do not at all like it. The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) suggested that legislation and Members of this House occupied too large a share of public attention, and that the interests of trade in this matter should be chiefly considered. I heartily agree, and it is because of interruptions to trade on Saturday, and particularly as regards my own Constituency, that I intervene in this Debate. That seems an extraordinary argument, coming from the hon. Member whose Friends are always thrusting legislation on an unwilling country. It is an argument which comes with greater force from anybody who sits on this side, and I heartily support it. My hon. Friend the Member for South St. Pancras (Captain Jessel) gave reasons as regards London against the adoption of Saturday, and being, I think, the first Member who has spoken for any constituency but a London borough, I should like to say that in Nottingham the objections enumerated as to London are equally valid. I can only repeat that, of all days of the week, Saturday is the most inconvenient. This practically would amount to the disfranchisement of many electors.
An election on Saturday would practically prevent a large number of electors from voting through their being unable to go to the poll. Shopkeepers are a class who are intelligent and hard working, and deserving of every respect and consideration, and in Nottingham they are almost invariably opposed to the Liberals since the Liberals have become Socialists. Formerly shopkeepers might be said to be equally divided, but since the Liberals have become Socialists they have become almost all opposed to the Socialist Government. They love Liberalism, but they hate Socialism. I understand their feelings. I have these feelings myself. I am absolutely certain, speaking for the shopkeepers in my own Constituency, that they object to having elections on Saturday. It is not only the shopkeepers who have to be considered. The shops are open all day. The shopkeepers employ carrying 2150 people to deliver their goods—the drivers and messengers who take about the material which are sold in the shops—and these men are engaged until about ten o'clock on Saturday evening, and so closely are they kept at work that very often they are supplied with food by their employers on that day. Saturday is our market day, and even with motors, which I must confess have always been available there, it is impossible to get men to record their votes, or to get the employers to allow them the necessary time to record their votes on that day. The day is also devoted to sport, summer and winter. We see sometimes 20,000 people looking on at a football match. The leisured class, if worthy of any consideration in these times, are away playing golf at some distance from the places where they have votes. Another reason is that those who indulge in drink—I am not suggesting that they are worthy of consideration any more than the idle rich—drink more on Saturday and are less fit to record their votes on that day than they would be on any other day. The practice of corruption would obviously be more easy and more pursued on Saturday than on any other day.
It has already been pointed out as regards the counties that to have the polling on Saturday would entail additional expense, because it would result in proceedings being carried on until the following Monday. Take the class of hawkers. Many hon. Members are perhaps not interested in them, but I am. They are a deserving class. They go out miles into the country on Saturday, and they are generally away from early morning until late at night. Under this Bill they would be disfranchised. Take the Jewish community. I hope their interests in this matter will not be overlooked—in fact, they have already been mentioned by an hon. Member who is well qualified in every way to represent them. I would only add that the adoption of Saturday for polling would lead to the wholesale disfranchisement of the Children of Israel, and on that ground the proposal should be opposed in all parts of the House. The police, again, have as a class a special dispensation and are allowed to poll at any station in their own constituency. That is to enable this most deserving class of public servants not to be disfranchised by being employed on an election day under conditions which would prevent them from recording their vote. If this Bill became law, we should have the police in one place, where there was not likely to 2151 be disturbance, drafted to other parts of the country where there was likely to be disturbance, and the object which the beneficent framers of this legislation had in view would be defeated, and the police would be deprived of what is their right. I have confined myself chiefly to the Saturday question, because it is desirable, so far as possible, that Members should—or, at any rate, it is preferable that they should—make their chief points those which affect their own constituencies. It is from that point of view that I object on behalf of my own Constituents to the passing of this Bill. In the first place, it is not desirable that the whole polling should be on one day; and secondly, it is not desirable that it should be on Saturday. Such a Bill cannot be amended in Committee by substituting another day. I object to any one day being named. It obviously must be a wrong thing. If the market day is on one day in one place, it is on another day in another place, and what suits one set of electors would be inconvenient for people in another place. This craze for uniformity is one of the banes of the time. Why should we have uniformity? The chief merit of the whole Constitution under which most of us were born, that of Kings, Lords and Commons, is that it grew up to suit our circumstances. Under our Constitution there is no written law providing for every detail; but hon. Members by this Bill are trying to force every constituency in the country to have election on the same day. I think that is objectionable, and, furthermore, they propose to fix the very day which is the worst in the whole week for the greater number of the constituencies.
§ Mr. LEACH
I desire to join hon. Members on both sides in expressing gratitude to the introducer of this Bill (Sir Harry Verney) for the way in which he addressed the House. I have heard many speeches since I came into this House, but I have seldom heard one which gave me such pleasure and satisfaction as that of the hon. Member. I would like also to point out what an excellent example he set all Members of this House as to the length of his speech. I sincerely wish that we could impose upon this House some kind of self-denying ordinance limiting the speeches of most of us to ten or twenty minutes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Five minutes."] I have never been in any assembly where so much time is wasted as in this House. I noticed in the early part of the afternoon that most 2152 of the speeches delivered on that side of the House referred to the party advantage which it is hoped we should derive on this side of the House from this Bill. I think that that must be admitted; but surely if this Bill, becoming law, would be an advantage to us on this side, leaving things as they are would be an advantage to the other side; so that the argument cuts in both directions. Most speakers on the opposite side, and some on this, spent a good deal of time condemning Saturday as the day to be fixed for the polling. I understand that the hon. Baronet is not wedded to Saturday, and that if this Bill goes to a Committee he is perfectly willing, and I think that many of those who support him are willing, to take any other day that may be deemed better than Saturday. I hope that hon. Members will support the Second Reading, and have the Bill sent to a Committee upstairs. Several amendments which are needed could be introduced. I should like to see the day changed from Saturday, and there should be an amendment to make the polling day a general holiday. In addition, during the hours of polling all classes of clubs, public-houses, and hotels where liquor is sold, should cease to sell liquor. I heartily support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
If this Bill were a real attempt to shorten and cheapen elections, it would meet with the unanimous support of everybody. By this continual gerrymandering of the electoral law you strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, when you go in for a reform of this sort, while we have the enormous anomalies of Romford and Kilkenny staring us in the face, and no attempt is made to amend them. The form of representation in this House in the old days was by locality. Later on in the Victorian period it was by property qualification; and now it has become an individual qualification. The last is the only way in which it can be equalised. Therefore, when you set out to alter the electoral law, you should always remember that if you are to have "one man one vote," you should also have "one vote one value," and you should make that the first principle on which to go. The best thing about the Bill has been the speeches introducing and supporting it, because the Bill itself I do not think a good one. I heard very little said in real support of it. Hon. Members opposite said that they believed the Bill to be a good one, and then proceeded to say that the whole pivot on which it turns, the 2153 Saturday, is a bad day. The hon. Member for Shropshire said that he believed in having one day for the counties and one day for the boroughs. There have been some rather severe criticisms by hon. Members who spoke against it, chiefly those of London. I think that those who represent large county constituencies have good reason to object to Saturday. The votes cannot possibly be counted on the same evening. The ballot boxes would be lying about all Sunday, and there would be a condition of suppressed and continued excitement which an election earlier in the week will avoid. I also think that in industrial constituencies certainly it will not tend to popularise politics if the people are robbed of their one half-holiday by making Saturday the election day.
I do not want to specify any particular districts, but anyone who knows the condition of certain big constituencies on Saturday afternoon, when wages are paid and drinking indulged in, and when football and excitement of various sorts are in progress, knows that if you add to that the excitement of a General Election you may run a danger to the public peace, and may create considerable amount of confusion and disturbance, which might result in the necessity of having to swear in special constables. There is no occasion on which the special constable is more out of place than an election day, because he must belong to one party or the other, and it is human nature to suppose that he might wink at the delinquencies of his own party and be a little severe on the delinquencies of his opponents. There is also the great inconvenience that it would end the existing arrangement by which in certain counties surrounding certain boroughs, in which the polling is on different days, they can use the same polling rooms, and thus save the candidates a considerable amount of expense. Speaking of the Bill as a whole, anyone who reads it will find it extremely vague. It contains too much legislation by reference. It would take a most experienced Parliamentary agent reading the Bill through to realise what it means. The concluding paragraphs and the Schedules, I think, are extremely involved and difficult of comprehension. With all the anomalies which we have got at present it is quite useless to add another, and while giving the proposers of this Bill credit for wishing to effect reform, I think that the House would be well advised to put the Bill into the waste-paper basket until the 2154 great questions which we are all agreed have to be solved have been thought out and dealt with.
If a Bill of large proportions dealing with large issues is brought forward by a private Member, hon. Members opposite say that it is ridiculous to bring forward such a controversial measure on a Friday afternoon. If, on the other hand, there is brought forward what practically amounts to a one-clause Bill dealing with some small point, then it is criticised as being no good. The hon. Member for East Nottingham, for instance, spoke of this Bill as being conceived in the shades of iniquity. Of course, there are anomalies in our electoral laws, but Gentlemen opposite have had quite sufficient time during the last twenty years to have set these things right long ago if they really believed in democracy. If the House really did trust the people it could at once and with perfect unanimity bring in a Bill which would clear away all these electoral anomalies, and give us a simple franchise, and conditions in which those possessing that franchise can exercise it and make our electoral system logical and complete. There is no unanimous kind in this House to do anything of the kind, and every measure brought forward, whether it is the small measure brought forward this afternoon or of whatever character it is, is looked at from the point of view of what party advantage can be made out of it. I am a party man, and do not want to lecture other Members of this House, but I do believe that it would be for the good of the nation if all Members of this House would face this electoral problem and deal with it as a whole. I do not suppose that there is any party which would not be prepared to share that sentiment.
At the same time I see no reason why we should not give a Second Reading to this Bill. The criticisms that have been urged against the Bill are absolutely ridiculous. There is very little rioting at elections now-a-days, and riots in connection with elections are very rare indeed. With regard to holding the elections on the Saturday, I agree with the hon. Member for Nottingham that Members must speak on that matter from personal experience. I have been returned to this House three times on Saturday pollings, and I think the percentage of voters was 93 or 94 per cent. In the industrial constituency which I represent, the population is about 100,000, and the number of electors is something over 15,000. The 2155 holding of an election on a Saturday was found both by the shopkeeping and manufacturing class, and by the ordinary industrial workers, to be convenient, and that it was comparatively easy to get to the poll. Therefore, I think so far, at least as the boroughs are concerned—and I speak in respect of the boroughs in this matter—that, generally speaking, Saturday will be a good day. In order to be perfectly fair, however, I agree that there are differences between one borough and another in regard to this question, but, while that is so, the law as it stands at present leaves to the returning officer the choice of the day of election, while compelling him to hold the election within a certain time from the day on which he receives the writ, and he may or may not choose a Saturday.
As to the advantage of the proposal which the hon. Member has brought before us this afternoon, every hon. Member of this House knows perfectly well that at the beginning of a General Election the constituencies, after the first results, are influenced one way or the other. I know that there is a dispute as to what the particular effect may be, but they have an influence one way or the other upon the constituencies which follow them. We should have the elections on one day, if that be practicable, but if it be found to be impracticable and almost impossible, then the election for the boroughs could be held on one day, and on the following day, the election for the counties might be held, and that might be a compromise in regard to what is proposed in this particular case. In any event I am convinced that any such alteration as I indicate in our electoral system would be for the good of the community. It would reduce the time of election, and, therefore, the cost. In regard to the question of motor cars at elections, and to which party they belong, I may say, for myself, that I have never had the money for motor cars, and at the same time I do not think I have had any need to convey voters to the poll; though, on the other hand, I am sure that my opponents have taken their supporters to the poll. I really do not think, in regard to the boroughs, that the use of motor cars makes such a tremendous amount of difference, and it is not material whether you have or have not motor cars, carriages, or other conveyances in contested elections. This Bill will, of course, practically abolish the plural voter, but I hope he is going to 2156 be abolished, anyhow, and I trust that the Bill for that purpose will be passed into law. I, like others, want the right hon. Gentleman's idea to be carried out with regard to redistribution. I admit the anomalies which exist, but if a private Member cannot deal with those questions all at once, there is no earthly reason why this House should not place all elections on one day, and thus give us a better reflection of the will of the people. I see no good reason why we should object to the Bill or criticise it because it does not cover the whole field.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL
The Government in this matter is the trustee, and I think as trustee the Government ought to be very careful to avoid even the appearance of getting a party advantage. I think the question of redistribution, or anything in the way of a reform Bill, ought to be considered very, very carefully when a powerful Government is in office, and one cannot help thinking that they are taking advantage of Friday afternoons to obtain the benefit of these proposals. The Member for Limehouse (Mr. W. Pearce) last year brought in a Bill for the extension of polling hours, and that was undoubtedly an act of gerrymandering. We feel on this side of the House that the question of redistribution is a paramount one in connection with reform. We feel that the Government ought not to take advantage of these private Members' afternoons to use them for the purpose of these small Bills. Personally, I am not altogether in practical agreement with my own side in this matter. I do not object per se to this Bill, but I do object most strongly to the method by which it is being brought forward, especially under present circumstances. There is no doubt that in the Election of 1906 our party suffered very severely from the fact that the elections were not all on one day. I believe we could have saved fifty seats but for the defeat in Manchester and the consequent rout. I am afraid that the Government has fear of some similar result now, and this Bill is brought in so that a rout such as we experienced should not occur in the elections. I am afraid this Bill is brought in because the Mover and Seconder have both of them somewhat doubtful constituencies.
This matter has been so fully dealt with that I do not wish to speak upon it at length, but I do want to mention the question of the Post Office, more especially as 2157 the President of the Local Government Board is present. Let the House consider what it means to the Post Office if you have all the elections on one day. There would be an enormous amount of literature and an enormous amount of work as the inevitable result of having all the elections on one day. We know that the distribution of Christmas cards throws such an amount of work upon the Post Office that they endeavour, as far as possible, to mitigate it by placing a notice to post early on every pillar-box. But the amount of work at Christmas is not comparable to what would be the enormous strain upon the resources of the Post Office if the whole of the elections were to take place on one day. I venture to suggest that consideration to the right hon. Gentleman, who has now left the Post Office. I am very strongly in favour of registration reform. I think there are a great many ways in which the reform of our registration laws should be continued and persevered with. But here we have, exactly as in the case of the Bill of last year brought forward by the Member for Limehouse, an uneasy suspicion that the Government are using this opportunity for purposes of their own, and that is really why we resent it. The hon. Member for Halifax suggested just now that there might be two days for the election—one day for the boroughs and the following day for the counties. The election for the boroughs might be held upon a Monday, and for the counties on the Wednesday, or there might be two days between, and I think that suggestion would be a very great improvement.
But to suggest, as the Bill does, that the whole of the elections should be on one day, and that day a Saturday, I think is a proposal wholly indefensible and absolutely unworkable. Previous speakers have stated that the House of Commons and politics loom too much in the public eye. There I disagree entirely with them. I think the interest of the public in this House ever since the passing of the Parliament Act has distinctly gone down. In the Press you can see that reports have been shortened, and very few Ministers, even of the highest importance, are ever now reported in the first person, and we have a résumé or précis of the debates in newspapers, which is getting shorter and shorter. I do think it is a very great public calamity that the public are getting apathetic with regard to politics. It was said that this House was apathetic about 2158 Home Rule. Whether that is so or not I think apathy is very largely due to the fact that the proceedings are not now reported as they once were. I therefore am one of those who think that this is not the proper occasion for bringing in a Bill of this kind, and I think if the Government want to avoid the appearance of acting in their own interests they ought to oppose this measure.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Colonel BURN
I think perhaps it is a great pity that the ability of the hon. Baronet who introduced this measure was not employed to better purpose in bringing forward a measure which could have effected some good for the people of this country. In these days when so much is needed to be done for the people, and when all parties are agreed that social reform is necessary, and housing reforms and other measures that really affect the everyday life of the people, surely if that ability had been employed in bringing in a measure of that kind it would have done a great deal more good. I think this Bill is a bad Bill, bad in every way. If I thought it were going to do good to the country, or going to lessen the great expense of elections, then I should be more inclined to consider it favourably, but as it is I look on it purely as a party measure, and as a gerrymandering measure, because the other side consider that they would gain some advantage by it. Whether they would or not is another matter, but that is their opinion, or otherwise this Bill would never have been brought in. The Plural Voting Bill has been referred to, and that is a premature attempt to do away with what they consider a great grievance, which in the ordinary course of events would be brought in next year. Now they want to make a preliminary attempt to better their position, especially when they consider that the avalanche has started, and that they are on the down grade, and they will do anything that they can to better their position and stop the avalanche from reaching the bottom. This is a disfranchising Bill, and I think it ill-becomes the Liberal party. It certainly will disfranchise people, because many would not be able to exercise the vote if the elections are all held on the one day. That is a perfect certainty. I am one of those who believe where a man holds property in two or three constituencies, like the case of the hon. Baronet who proposed this measure, I think such a man has every right to have a voice in the representation in those counties or constituencies where he is an 2159 owner of property. However, that is another matter, and does, not come into this Bill. There is also the question of police. The police would certainly be very hard worked if the elections were confined to one or two days. Though in this country riots do not occur, or there is very seldom trouble at an election, at the same time, no man can say when or where trouble is going to occur. If you draft police from one place where you consider the prospect peaceable, into another place where you anticipate trouble, it may be that that trouble will occur where you do not anticipate it, as trouble of the kind is usually sporadic. Then, I think myself that the police themselves ought to be considered in a case of this sort. Their work is very hard at all times, and it certainly would not be made easier if they had to concentrate on certain positions, at the time of a General Election. One hon. Gentleman has said—and I think others say the same—that he was simply pestered by demands for motor cars at the time of an election. I do not think, if the elections were all on one day, that that would lessen in any degree the demands made in that respect, and, so far as I can judge it would simply mean that the number of applications would certainly be greater, and be concentrated in twenty-four hours, so that a man who happened to be the owner of a motor car would have none the easier time. Personally, I should be by no means sorry to see all motor cars and carriages done away with as regards elections, so that every man would have to go on foot, or with his own carriage or motor car if he so desired. As to the question of presiding officers, you must remember it is not a very easy thing to get a man who is efficient and capable of performing the duties of presiding officer. I think this is a matter that requires a great deal of consideration, because a presiding officer is a very necessary person during an election. There is no question about it that you want the right man as presiding officer in each place in which an election is being held. The sheriffs and the under-sheriffs are responsible for the conduct of elections. I would like to ask how those officers could supervise in a large county with all the elections going on at the same time. I do not think anyone will deny that supervision is necessary, and that therefore no measure should be brought in which would entail the sheriff and the under-sheriff going over 2160 the county and attempting to perform, duties which certainly no person could perform. There is, as well, the matter of the ballot-boxes and all the materials used in an election. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are always ready to talk about expense and to consider economy in these matters, but under this proposal, instead of using the ballot-boxes and taking them from one town to another, new ballot-boxes would have to be provided, and that again would mean extra cost to the candidate. The Seconder of the Motion said that he considered that politicians and politics were too much in the public eye; I am perfectly certain there are a great many of them who would readily not be in the limelight, but who would like to do their work quietly. But if politicians and politics generally are in the public eye, it must be due to the Press. It is only natural that individuals should take an interest in matters which concern them very nearly indeed. As this House legislates, and the legislation affects the population of these islands, it is only natural that a certain amount of interest or, indeed, very great interest, should be taken by every man who reads the newspaper.
If I may state my own opinion, it is that the "man in the street," as he may be called, does not take nearly sufficient, interest in politics. I only wish I could think that every man considered what legislation is doing, not alone for this country, but for the great Empire of which this is the centre. If only you could make men consider that, I believe they would think once, twice, and thrice, before they gave their votes for many individuals on both sides of the House. [Laughter.] I am perfectly honest in my judgment. In my opinion, what we desire and what we ought to aim at is to make every man who has a vote really consider what legislation is doing for him and for the country. I am sure that if the elections were all held on one day there would be no time to put the case before the electors, and a large proportion of them would not know what they were voting upon. They would only consider what, in my opinion, they consider most of all now, and that is how it affects their own pocket, forgetting everything else about the interest and welfare of the country. Though politicians are accused of being too much in the limelight. I think that, as a matter of fact, it is necessary in order to make us try and explain to the people the effect of the measure that we may desire to bring in if we are given the opportunity. I shall certainly oppose this Bill, not only by my 2161 voice but by my vote, because I consider that it is brought in merely in order "to queer the pitch," and to make the future better for the party who at present sit on the benches opposite.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
The hon Gentleman who has just spoken has opposed the Bill professedly in the interests of different sections. I would venture to notice the claims which he has made on their behalf and endeavour to combat them. He said, first, that if the elections were all on one or two days it would be unfair to the police, as it would cast upon them extra labour. It seems to me that it would have exactly the opposite effect, because at present, the elections being held on so many days, the police have to be available for all those days, whereas under the provisions of the Bill their labours would be limited to one or two days. He next said that the Bill would be unfair to the owners and drivers of motors, because it would impose an excessive burden upon them. Personally, I would like to see motors done away with in elections, and I sincerely hope that that time may come. But I do not think that that objection of the hon. Member has any force, because instead of the motors being used on a dozen days, the work would be confined to one or two. Again, the hon. Member said that there would be a difficulty in obtaining presiding officers. I do not think that that difficulty would last very long. There would be a distribution of the work amongst a larger number of men who are certainly capable of undertaking the task. The fourth difficulty was in reference to the expense of the ballot boxes. I am not a county Member, but I understand from hon. Friends who are county Members that they do not think there is any lessening of the expense under the existing conditions, as the charge made for ballot boxes is practically as much as it would be if the electons were all on one day and new ballot boxes had to be provided for every Division.
Lastly, the hon. Member referred to the amount of interest taken in our electoral proceedings. There, again, it seems to me that his criticism was ineffective. One of the chief reasons why comparatively little interest is taken is the distraction occasioned by the long duration of our political efforts. If they were concentrated on a limited time greater energy would be given to them, and public attention intensified. Therefore it seems to me that the various objections of the hon. Member 2162 are ineffective and entirely fail, and his speech, instead of being a contribution against the Bill, is one in its favour. I do not commit myself to the suggestion of the Bill in regard to Saturday, nor does the Mover himself. Upon the last two occasions when I have been returned to this House there has been a Saturday poll. Therefore, personally, I raise no objection to it at all; but it seems to me that it would be wiser, and the Mover of the Bill has indicated that he is quite willing, that the particular day should be left to the consideration of the Committee. The hon. Member has gone further, and, in order to avoid difficulty as far as possible, has indicated his willingness that there should be more than one day, the real object in view being to limit the length of time devoted to a General Election. In regard to the principle of the Bill, it seems to me that there is, to all intents and purposes, general acceptance, and if I understand the purpose of a Second Reading discussion, it is to secure an adhesion to the principle, leaving points of detail to be considered in Committee. I therefore earnestly support the Second Reading of the Bill, in the hope that it may be sent to a Committee, where the points of detail to which reference has been made may be threshed out.
§ Mr. PETO
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne) has evidently approached this subject from the point of view of a borough member. Speaking of the police, he said that the Bill would lessen their arduous labours if they were concentrated upon one day. I think if he had addressed that argument to the chief constable of any county he would have very soon found out that it is a question, not of the concentration of labour, but of the possibility of the adequate supervision of elections. It is not a question of violence, as some hon. Members appear to think, but one of orderly conduct. When necessarily great crowds assemble it would not be possible for our county police to carry out the necessary superintendence and the orderly conduct of elections if all elections were held upon one day. Various Members have pointed out that the promoters of the Bill do not pin themselves to Saturday as against any other day. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton did not go quite so far as some speakers have done in giving away the whole basis of the Bill when he said that he was quite willing to leave it to the 2163 Committee to decide what particular day was suitable for different parts of the country. There is an hon. Member on the other side who has gone so far as to suggest that there should be two days, one for the boroughs and one for the counties. Why should we have a two-days' polling? By deciding this we are taking the decision in these matters out of the hands of those who know the local conditions: those who know precisely which day will ensure what I believe all hon. Members desire, the best possible representation of the people. Hon. Members would take it out of the hands of these; they imagine that any Committee of this House sitting upstairs can decide best for the whole of the country what two days, made by a cast-iron rule, the elections in localities in connection with a General Election, should be held!
§ Sir PHILIP MAGNUS
On a point of Order. Are we under this Bill discussing whether elections should be held on one or two days? In one of the Clauses it states distinctly that the election should only be held on one day?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Baronet will notice that the title of the Bill covers the two days.
§ Mr. PETO
I want now to address myself to a wider question. There has been general criticism from the other side of the House that my predecessors on this side have not dealt with the main objections to the principles of the Bill. Let me sum up my objection on these lines in a single phrase: There is no purpose which his Bill is supposed to serve that is approved by myself, or I believe by hon. Members who have preceded me in the Debate. I do not believe it is a Bill which will promote the better representation of the people. I am certain it is not a Bill that, if carried into effect, will reduce the expense of elections, or which will tend to their more orderly conduct, or will do any single thing that will be even an advantage or a reform in our present electoral law. I go further and say that I object on principle to this volume of tinkering with the electoral law of this country by private Members of this House. I am quite aware it has long been a custom for certain hardy annuals representing the individual view of a small group of Members to be brought up from time to time; but all great measures of electoral reform have had the responsible Government be- 2164 hind them. I object most strongly to this backstairs method of carrying out Government Bills by putting up private Members to propose them. I feel the general sense of the House of appreciation of the speech of the Mover of the Bill.
I am certain that the hon. Baronet the Member for North Bucks must have known perfectly well that he had got something uncommonly nauseous to propose to the House or he would not have covered it with such exquisite strawberry jam. I am quite aware that the speech created a favourable impression. I am quite certain also that the speech on this side by the hon. Baronet the Member for Torquay was very much more to the real point than that which proposed the acceptance of the Bill. I hold, for one reason if for no other, because it would increase the confusion and expense of our election, that this Bill ought to be rejected. So far as the day or days is concerned, I am quite sure that it is impossible for Members of this House to decide on any one day which would adequately meet the convenience, particularly of the counties, in which I am more specially concerned. The actual day that the hon. Member suggested, Saturday, is the worst of all possible days. I think the idea of these county ballot boxes—new ones—would have to be provided—being kept in cold storage over Sunday in every case, with not a single result announced until Monday, something like thirty-six hours from the time of the close of the poll, is bad. If hon. Members desired to propose an unfortunate method of procedure that is the one they obviously would select.
The argument in regard to the influence of one set of elections upon another has been much overstated. The hon. Member the Seconder of the Bill laid great stress upon the fact that he thought our election proceedings—and, in fact, politics generally—unduly interfered with the trade of the country. My view is that far too little interest is taken in politics. After all politics means the national affairs of the country. It is commerce, as a whole, and everything that concerns the prosperity of the people as a mass. The general public and those concerned in commerce and trade in particular cannot possibly take too much interest in these affairs. Certainly we should not propose legislation which will make their attention less in these national affairs, and so attempt to concentrate them as far as possible, as this Bill proposes to do, on a single day, 2165 and not one day in the year, but one day in five years, when they perhaps leave aside for the moment their own individual affairs and go to the poll and consider for the time being questions of State only.
I believe that, so long as we have the party system, the effect of one set of elections upon another is good. I do not think it is a thing that ought to be checked. It certainly tends to promote the general flow of public opinion in one direction or another, and the result of that is that, whether one side is victorious at the poll or the other, there is the greater probability of a working majority which makes legislation possible, prevents obstruction, and altogether renders the business of this House more orderly and more effective than it is when the parties are more narrowly divided. The hon. Member for Hammersmith said that he thought it would be a good solution of the problems placed before us by this Bill to have two days, if only we selected one, say, the Monday, for the boroughs and the second at an interval of a day, say, Wednesday, for the counties. I do not like, on general principle, to disagree with anything an older Member may have said in Debate, particularly when he is on this side of the House, but speaking as a county Member I protest against giving a Bill a Second Reading the idea of which is intended to prevent the influence of one set of elections upon another; neither can I accept the principle that it would be a very good thing that the borough elections should all be decided, say, forty-eight hours before the counties were allowed to poll! I think it would be disastrous; and from the point of view of the principle involved, it would undoubtedly be most unjust and most unfair to decide that one set of elections in this country should always have the right to poll first, and the other should always be subjected to the influence of that set of elections. There are a great many aspects of this Bill that have been fully dealt with. I have only tried to show that not only am I prepared on principle to oppose a Bill which is not put forward with the authority of the Government, but that I also oppose it because I object in toto to any principle that I can discover in the Bill, for it requires minute consideration of this small Bill to be even aware of the principle that is supposed to be its guiding motive.
§ Sir A. MOND
I am rather surprised at the amount of opposition to this very reasonable and small measure that has 2166 been called forth on the other side of the House. I should have thought that, on the whole, Members of Parliament would have welcomed a measure which would relieve them from one of the most toilsome and ungrateful tasks they have to perform, namely, that having finished their own election, they have then to spend their time for the next fortnight or so at other elections. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a selfish way of putting it."] Perhaps it is, but I should have thought that it would have appealed to many Members on both sides of the House. I am still more surprised when I hear gravely put forward, time after time, the practical impossibility of doing something which every civilised country in the world except ourselves is doing to-day. Those countries have their elections all on one day. We are told that we cannot raise enough of presiding officers, and that in the most orderly country in the world, the policing cannot be done. In America all the elections take place in one day; in Germany all the elections take place in one day, and in France and Italy, and I am glad to say in the Dominions of Canada and Australia the same occurs. Surely we are not so deficient in capacity in the Mother country that we cannot organise sufficiently to carry on our elections in one day, without putting forward all these fictitious objections with regard to high sheriffs, and so on. We are told that the high sheriffs could not control the elections. Has anyone ever known what the high sheriffs has done, or has ever been known to do, at election time. Surely these are small points, if there is any merit in the Bill—
§ Sir A. MOND
I am glad to have the hon. Baronet's view, but I am rather surprised that the hon. Baronet, representing a business community, as he professes to do, should make objections to this Bill. I have been informed by business men, quite irrespective of party, that they cannot understand why the commerce of a great nation should be disturbed, and kept in uncertainty for weeks, simply because we have not the organising capacity to get the business of our election over in one day instead of lasting for weeks. We have heard about the expense of elections. I say millions of pounds are lost to the commerce of the country by the present way in which we conduct our elections. You keep men away from their business for weeks; the country is kept in a state of 2167 uncertainty as to the Government or party that is to be in power; the machinery of your administrative departments is checked and interrupted, and for weeks you practically stop both the administrative Government and the industrial community simply because difficulties are raised which every other country has surmounted years ago, and because hon. Members suggest that someone might gain a party advantage. I do not believe there is any party advantage in this for anyone. I am not a believer in the party advantages supposed to be gained by a measure of this kind. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir Wm. Bull) did not like the Act for the extension of the hours of polling when it was introduced, because it would give a party advantage. We have had two elections in London lately and I do not think we have got any party advantage from that Act.
§ Sir A. MOND
I do not believe we would. I believe people on all sides vote as they want to, and I doubt that our party or any other party would gain advantage, which, I think, is a mere imaginary business, but I think the country would gain very much, and that is why I favour this proposal. I am sure if the opinion was taken of the Chambers of Commerce and of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and there are not a party organisation—whether they would like or not to have this reform, you will get an overwhelming majority in favour of it. I am not tied to any particular day. I think we ought to follow the American practice of proclaiming a general holiday for the elections. They have no disorder in New York, with a population of 6,000,000, by having the elections on one day; they had all the votes, amounting to 400,000 or 500,000, counted by eleven o'clock. They had a public holiday; all the saloons were closed, and everyone did his duty by voting. I think the elections are worth a public holiday, and that would get over a good many of the difficulties.
One of the reasons why the promoters of this Bill selected Saturday that in most of the industrial districts, it is a half-holiday, and most of the workmen could come to the poll. Some hon. Members spoke of the fixing of the days by the sheriffs as quite admirable. My experience is that both sides endeavour to get a day fixed 2168 which they think most favourable. Very often a man who thinks he is a clever electioneer finds after having fixed a particular day that the result turns out very differently. The struggle for favourable polling days should be abolished, and it does not seem to me that that would lower or diminish the prospects of the candidate. I was rather surprised to hear the views expressed as to what I might call the hypnotic suggestive effects of elections taking place in series as now. The hon. Member for Hammersmith pointed out that in 1900 the loss of seats in Manchester and other places led to the loss of at least fifty seats to his party. He suggests that, we want to have the elections on one day to prevent the retaliation that is to fall upon our shoulders. Surely, if that is the case, no one can say that it is a good thing and should be perpetuated! What does it mean? It means that electors in constituencies do not vote according to political convictions, but are, rather, led away by a kind of hypnotic effect by what happens in other places, and that the electors do not exercise their cool political judgment. No one thinks that that is ideal. I think that it is a very bad system, and I think that is one of the reasons why this Bill will do good, for elections, when decided on one day, will be fought upon the arguments placed before the electors by the candidates in their Divisions, unaffected by the nerve storms that influence electors in other parts of the country. I think that is calculated to get a sound and less hysterical representation than under our present system, and that is one reason why this Bill should be supported.
I have not heard any reason why this Bill should not be given a Second Reading. I think, on the whole, it would meet with the approval of all those who are not extreme politicians. They are all anxious that we should close our elections, which, after all, take a very considerable time, on one particular day. There is always plenty of time to place politics before the people. I quite disagree with the notion that people take less interest in politics to-day than formerly. I think the interest to-day is greater, considering that people are better educated and that Members of Parliament have to know more of the details of measures than in our previous history. I think people now have made up their minds very largely before the elections take place, and there is no necessity to drag elections on for weeks and interfere with the business of the 2169 country. We have to-day telephones, motor cars, aeroplanes, and a speeding-up generally, and why we should remain the one people who still fail in that speeding-up and keep to the old methods, that may have been very suitable when people had less to do, I, for one, fail to perceive. I think it is time to close up and contemplate our election system, and I shall certainly support this Bill if we have a Division upon it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) has advanced three or four reasons in favour of this Bill. One was that we were now living in the days of speeding-up, when there were telephones, motor-cars, and aeroplanes. The hon. Baronet was not in the House at the beginning of the Debate or he would have heard that both the Mover and Seconder of this measure brought forward as a reason for supporting this Bill that it would do away with the use of motor cars at elections. The hon. Baronet went on to say that one of the reasons which induced him to support this Bill was that after he had been returned to Parliament he had to speak for a fortnight in the constituencies of other Members, and he seemed to regard that as a great trouble, and as something which he should like to be relieved of. Fancy the feelings of those constituencies which in the future would not have the pleasure of listening to the hon. Baronet's speeches! The hon. Baronet ought not to look at these matters from such a selfish point of view. A great many of the electors are not so enlightened as he is, and they would like to hear from him reasons why they should do such a foolish thing as to support the Radical party. The hon. Baronet said the City of London looked upon the protracted period of the present system of elections as a great disadvantage, and that they would like to see that period shortened. I gather that that was a reason which induced the hon. Member to vote for the Second Reading. Has the hon. Baronet read the Bill?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then I am afraid that the aeroplane and the motor car and the telephone have not speeded up his intelligence sufficiently to enable him to understand the Bill. Under this measure the length of days from the proclamation which may be taken will be sixteen, whereas at present the period is only ten. It is true that the length of days from the pro- 2170 clamation under the Bill in the counties is sixteen instead of nineteen, and therefore the only effect is that the period in the boroughs is extended to six days and in the counties it is reduced by three days. I think I am correct in saying that the Bill would not have the effect which the hon. Baronet anticipates. This measure deals only with the time which shall elapse between the date of the Proclamation and the date of the polling. Let the hon. Baronet carry his mind back to December, 1905, when my right hon. Friend and colleague (Mr. Balfour), who was then Prime Minister, advised His Majesty to dissolve Parliament. That was in December. The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman took office and spent some three or four weeks in forming his Cabinet and in considering when the Dissolution should take place. As a matter of fact, the Proclamation did not begin till the beginning of January. All through that time an election was going on, and it would be the same under this Bill.
We will suppose that the present Prime Minister was to issue a notice on Monday that he had resigned office, what would happen? Some right hon. Gentleman on this side would be sent for and he would form a Government. Immediately all the electoral agents and candidates would go into their different constituencies and the election would commence, and that would go on until the polling took place, whether this Bill was in operation or not. This measure would not have the slightest effect on that, and though it may possibly be that certain members of the various Chambers of Commerce do not understand this Bill like the hon. Baronet opposite, and would like to see elections shortened, that is not what this Bill is going to do. Therefore, the argument of the hon. Baronet falls to the ground altogether. The hon. Baronet said he did not believe in party advantages in this matter, but he could not have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Leach) who, after saying that short speeches were in his opinion the best, delivered a very long speech and a very good one, because he said it could not be denied that this Bill conferred a party advantage on his own side. That is the whole object of this Bill and nothing else, and all the speeches made in favour of this measure with the candid speech of the hon. Member for Colne Valley, have been made with the idea of endeavouring to show that there 2171 was some advantage to the electors, whereas there is no advantage to the elector, and the only advantage is to hon. Members opposite.
I think this is a very important Bill, because it is one which is going to change the whole method and manner In which we have held our elections. It has been said by the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. J. Samuel) that it is very hard on him that other Members should be able to come into his constituency at election times and make speeches, and he gave as an example the instance of my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington Division, and he said that five days before his election my hon. Friend actually had the temerity to come down to his constituency and place before the electors the true state of things. I should have thought that that was a very excellent thing to have done, and my belief is that what all ought to aim at is that the electors should be thoroughly and properly informed as to what is going on, and this cannot be unless they hear more than one side of the question. In these days of contested elections, and the enormous number of speeches a candidate has to make, it is advisable that not only the candidate but other people should address the elector as well. It seems to me that the objection raised by the hon. Member for Stockton would not hold water for a moment. The hon. Member for Halifax seemed rather to suppose that a Friday afternoon was a proper occasion to make an alteration of this kind in the franchise law. I have been here the whole of this Debate, and I do not believe that up to about three o'clock there were more than thirty or forty Members present at any time out of 670. Surely, when you are going to make a great alteration like this, you ought to do it seriously and after careful consideration, when the Members of the House of Commons are present in more considerable numbers, and such changes as these should not be made on occasions of this sort. If you are going to make an alteration in the franchise law, it should be made by the responsible Government of the day, and not by a private Member's Bill. I do not see how anyone can deny that self-evident proposition. I have listened to all the speeches in favour of the Bill, and there has not been a single one which has agreed with any other. Every hon. Gentleman who has got up has said that he is in favour of the Bill, but then he has said that it ought not to be one day 2172 but two days, or that it ought not to be a Saturday but a Thursday, or that it ought to be a general holiday. There is nothing in the Bill about a general holiday.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I know, but why is it not in the Bill now? I am not voting for something which is not in the Bill, but for what is in it. If you are going to bring in a sort of skeleton and throw it down on the floor of the House and say, "Here is an undigested Bill; we do not attach very much importance to what is in the Bill. If we can get it through we can put in something to guard against such untoward events as took place last night"—that is not a serious way of carrying on legislation in this House. I do not know what happens abroad? Do they do this sort of thing abroad? The hon. Baronet apparently is a great admirer of what takes place in foreign countries. He tells us that in Germany, in France, in Italy, and in the United States certain things are done. I am not concerned very much with what occurs abroad. I am an Englishman, and, rightly or wrongly, I believe that England is the first country in the world, and I am quite content to go upon the old lines my forefathers went on before. What was good enough for them is good enough for me. I do not want at all to model my procedure upon the procedure of France, Italy, Germany, or the United States. If we are going to model our procedure upon what takes place in Prussia, I think that we might bring in a Bill dealing with the franchise upon the Prussian system.
As far as I know, speaking with all diffidence in the presence of the hon. Baronet, who is more knowledgable upon these matters than I am, there are three classes of electors, and they consist of people with property, people with a smaller amount of property, and people with very little property. The people with the larger amount of property return just as many members to whatever it is in Prussia—I am not a German scholar, and I do not care to pronounce the German word for fear I pronounce it wrongly. The fact remains that there is a great predominence in the hands of the wealthier classes, and I think that is a very good thing. If we are going to model our procedure upon the customs of Prussia, do not let us take one little bit out of the custom of Prussia, but let us take the whole thing. If the hon. Baronet would 2173 bring in a measure to found the government of this country upon the government of Germany, including the Emperor, I am not at all sure I would not support him. I want to ask the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney), who introduced the Bill, why, if he is so very opposed to the use of motor cars, he did not put in a Clause in the Bill prohibiting the use of them? The hon. Baronet says motor cars are very bad things, but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent their use, and, if the Bill passes and becomes law, motor cars will be used in exactly the same way as they are used now.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The point is that, in the hon. Baronet's opinion, the motor car should not be used to take the elector to the poll.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps the hon. Baronet would assist one whose intellect is not very bright to understand what it is he does mean. My point is that, if the motor car should not be used to take an elector to the poll, this Bill will not prevent that being done. Either it is right to use a motor car to take an elector to the poll or it is wrong.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then if it is wrong the hon. Baronet should prohibit it in his Bill, and, if it is right, he should leave it alone.
§ Sir H. VERNEY
If the hon. Baronet will tell with me in the division I will make any changes in Committee that he may suggest.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
There, again, that is the same thing. Nobody on that side of the House cares a straw for the Bill. All 2174 they want is to get something passed, and then they will go round and see if they cannot make it a workable measure. Is it supposed that a Bill can be passed with ideas of that sort? I have been told—and I have listened during the Debate to certain statements made with regard to the use of the police—that no riots ever take place now, that it is quite unnecessary to have any police, and that if the police are used there are quite sufficient number to preserve peace. I do not know about there never having been any riots at elections. I believe my hon. and gallant Friend behind me could tell a different tale. I remember even in the enlightened constituency of Peckham that there were considerable riots, even when the candidate was of such a peaceful disposition as myself. I know in my last election at Peckham, and on the occasion of my last speech before the eve of the poll, I stood up for, I think it was fifty minutes, and I never got a single word in. One gentleman had his jaw broken, some more men on a ladder broke a window to get in; some fellow pushed the ladder away, and they fell down. Altogether, there was considerable confusion. We all remember what took place at Wycombe, where there was a regular riot, and every window in the place was broken on the eve of the declaration of the poll. I notice that no single Member has ever taken the trouble to ascertain what the police themselves think upon this subject, or, if they have taken the trouble to ascertain it they have not informed the House. I hold in my hand a letter from a chief constable, who says:—With reference to your letter of the 15th instant, concerning the Bill on the question of all county elections taking place on the same day, I certainly consider that there would be considerable difficulty, from a police point of view, if such Bill became law. From time to time the elections vary in the gravity of the matters under review, and the feelings of the electors are stirred up accordingly. On the other hand a particular Division is carefully mused by one party with a view to ousting the sitting Member or defeating a new candidate of the same party at the next election. Take, for instance, the recent by-election in Somersetshire, where it was common talk that if ahe Radical candidate were beaten there would be a riot. I got this information from several responsible source, your's included.[HON. MEMBERS: "Was there a riot?"] Apparently there was. Here is the account:—I took therefore a strong body of police, 150, to Yeovil to put down any such conduct, and this I could not have done if all the elections had taken place on the same day. In Somerset there are, as you know, seven Parliamentary Divisions, and, in the past, working them on different days, it bad been usual and possible to have at each such election bodies of police, varying in number from fifty to150. The strength of the police force is 367 at the present moment; and, allowing for men on 2175 necessary duty, I would not have more than 200 available to send to the seven centres where the polls would be declared—or about twenty-eight in each place. This, to my mind, is certainly not a very strong force to deal with a hostile crowd of 5,000 or 6,000 people, and there is grave risk that counties might have to meet a large bill for riot and damage. I was standing in the street outside Yeovil Town Hall in November. 1911, while the votes were being counted, and as my men marched up in a body from the police station. I heard a man in the crowd say to his pal Too many for us to-day!' Comment is unnecessary. I may mention I have had the advantage of discussing this question with other county chief constables, and we are all of opinion that the holding of county elections on one day would require an increase in the existing strength available for service at polling stations. It would be advisable that at least three or four days should be allowed for the polling of the various Divisions. I have no great faith in the special constable: he has his own political views, and those would have to be reckoned with.That is a letter from a person who thoroughly understands the; situation and who would be responsible if any riot were to take place. What advantage have we to set against it? As far as I can judge from the speech of the hon. Member for the Colne Valley Division, the sole advantage would be a party advantage to his own side. There is one other question to be considered and that is the question of economy. It has been urged by hon. Members opposite that it would be a great advantage if elections were to cost less, and if the returning officer's fees were less. But it is very evident that under this Bill the returning officer's fee would be very much higher because, instead of being able to use the ballot boxes and the other necessities for the poll over and over again, they would have to have separate supplies for each election.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Yes, but that might be rectified by a sensible Bill. This Bill does not alter the fact, and it would give them an excuse for making more charges.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not think that Parliament is on the same footing as a county council; the whole thing is different.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have a letter here from an under-sheriff pointing out that this proposal would cause very great in- 2176 convenience to the sheriffs and would add very much to their expenditure, as they would have to get substitutes to do all sorts of things, and it is perfectly evident if you have to get special people you have to pay them more than if you use regular people for regular work. That is what you would have to do under this Bill. I only wish to add I sincerely trust that the House will not waste its time by passing the Second Reading of this Bill. We all know what will happen. It will go upstairs to a Committee; possibly we shall be able to stop its progress after that, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that I shall do my best to secure that end. But even if we do not succeed in that it is very unlikely that the Bill will ever become law, and it would really be very much better, if hon. Members are really anxious to make some change in the franchise laws, to consider what it is they want and induce their Government to bring in a Bill—a reasonable Bill—which could be passed.
§ 4. 0 P. M.
The hon. Baronet o has, as usual, opposed this Bill because it is a private Member's Bill. I always consider it a very good test of the merits of any measure brought forward if it is opposed by the hon. Baronet. I then feel quite sure that the proper thing to do is to go into the Lobby and support it. The explanation is quite simple. The hon. Baronet told us this afternoon that he believes in his forefathers: he holds that what was good enough for them is good enough for us. The hon. Baronet really belongs to the Stone Age. I want to deal with this question on broad lines. I want to consider the nature of the proposal and its probable effect. What is the object of a General Election? The object, as I understand it, is to collect the considered opinion of the whole community not upon individuals, but upon policies, and the intention is, during the period preceding an election, that questions of policy shall be under discussion throughout the whole country, and that at the end of that period the country shall pronounce its judgment upon it. What happens in the case of a by-election? Not only policies but persons and all kinds of small side issues are brought in, and the local people are overwhelmed by persons who come in from outside, and who impress upon them all kinds of arguments, inducements, and considerations which really have little or nothing to do with the questions of policy 2177 on which the whole election is supposed to turn.
In the case of a General Election extending over four or five weeks, one may say practically that each individual election partakes largely of the nature of a by-election. All kinds of small, petty, personal side issues are brought under consideration by persons from outside the actual constituency, and as soon as one constituency is polled these persons are drafted off to other constituencies, and, in fact, the same conditions obtain as in by-elections. What will happen if the elections take place on one day? Everybody will know the day on which the election is to take place, and everybody will realise that if he is to do useful political work it will have to be done in his own constituency. He will have to remain at home and do his best to persuade and influence the voters in his own constituency, and then at the end of the period we may reasonably believe the constituency, as a whole, will have made up its mind on the policy on which it is to pronounce judgment. Nowadays the results of elections already decided undoubtedly influence persons who have no very strong views. This would be eliminated, and men would vote on the merits of questions, instead of on a lot of petty, small side issues, such as now influence their votes. I contend the effect of that would be that a General Election held throughout the country on a single day would collect in a more correct and precise way the actual opinions of the people on the issues which are under consideration than is possible when, as now, elections are spread over a number of days. My first argument, therefore, in favour of this Bill is that it would more correctly and more precisely reproduce in this House the opinions held by people outside on the principles and policy on which they have to decide, and it would depend far less than it does at the present time on personal influence and the small petty points and side issues such as arise now in by-elections and more or less in General Elections. Another reason why I, as a business man, advocate this measure, is this: Anybody who, like myself, who has the duty of reading the reports coming in from day to day of commercial travellers covering the country in pursuit of orders, will know that again and again the reports from certain towns say, "No business can be done because the election is on." The persons the travellers have to see are not at business, but away electioneering. All kinds of troubles arise. The prolongation 2178 of a General Election has a tendency to disturb business for a period much longer than is necessary.
To take another point: Suppose, instead of having a sound Free Trade Government in power, the party opposite come into power, and we had elections spread over several weeks, as they are at the present time. Everybody would know that if the party opposite obtained power, they would naturally and inevitably walk the first plank they have laid down. I do not know how soon that would be. At any rate, the first thing they would do would be to put into operation the principles—if anyone can understand them—of Tariff Reform. The effect would be to disturb business far greater than at the present time. Nobody would know what was going to happen. All kinds of businesses would be suspended, and business men who knew that their business might be ruined or promoted by a tariff put on or taken off the goods in which they dealt would never know what to be about, and for months preceding any election you would have a disturbance which would inflict millions of loss on the business community. That evil is to some extent got rid of in the United States and other countries by the fact that all the elections are held on one day. Why do hon. Gentlemen opposite oppose this Bill? I cannot believe in some of the piffling points raised in the course of this Debate about the impossibility of finding enough returning officers to do the work, or the impossibility of the police being able to deal with the crowds. The Government are accused of bringing for ward a private Member's Bill. It would be the first time the Government did such a thing—
For the purposes of promoting their own party advantage. That is, of course, what is always said of any proposal brought in to change the existing law. Why do hon. Members opposite oppose it? [HON. MEMBER: "Because it is a bad Bill."] It is because the present system is supposed by them to serve their party advantage. I believe that is the only reason. The reduction of the election period to a limited period of time is most desirable. It is a settlement once and for all on a particular day, so that the next morning people can wake up and know exactly what would happen. That is so obviously convenient and advantageous to the whole community that I can- 2179 not conceive of any serious objection to the proposal, except that the alteration would tell against the Opposition, or that they imagine we are bringing forward a measure to tell in favour of our party. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir William Bull) spoke of the measure introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. William Pearce) last year, and which the House passed, for lengthening the hours of polling from seven to nine, instead of from eight to eight, as a gerrymandering measure. It enlarged the opportunities of those already entitled to vote by giving them two hours extra in which to vote. He said we brought it in because it gave a party advantage. They are very well satisfied with the results so far as they have shown themselves in Bethnal Green and Poplar. What was the effect of them? It was that in the two elections which have taken place under that Bill hundreds more in each constituency polled—in one case, I believe, 600, and in the other 400–than at previous elections held at the same time of the year. Can it be held that a larger poll is a disadvantage? Does it not give a better chance to the community as a whole to express themselves correctly? Hon. Members appreciate that I agree they make mistakes sometimes, as they did in that case. The whole system of elections should be so arranged that the largest number possible of those entitled should be able to register their votes.
There are only two points that this Bill raises: Ought elections to be held on one day, and ought that day to be Saturday? I contend that a one-day election is an infinite advantage over the existing system to the whole community. I am not quite certain on the question of Saturday. On the whole, I believe Saturday would be the best day. I do not believe in the expression of sympathy with the tradesmen. Hon. Members opposite have said that the retail tradesmen would be disfranchised by the holding of an election on Saturday. That is preposterous to anyone who knows the conditions of retail trade. There are hours during Saturday when no business at all is done. There are hours in practically every part of the country, in town and country alike, when tradesmen can really get away for two or three hours from their business without the smallest inconvenience. There is the question of the Jewish community, whose Sabbath is on that day; but the extension 2180 of hours, which has already been availed of by election agents or candidates, I think largely removes that. I do not think there is any valid objection, on the ground of the practical disfranchisement of any particular class of the community, to its being held on Saturday. But I think an infinitely preferable proposal would be to make of the election day a public holiday, and to close all public-houses on that day. If you had it on some day which was not otherwise a Bank Holiday, some day which was not a Saturday, but was made into a holiday, it would not be announced early enough to enable special arrangements for racing or football, or those other distractions which on Saturday take people away from their homes. Probably it would be found that if a public holiday could be arranged a much larger number of persons would register their vote, and if the public-houses were closed the work of the police would be so much reduced that what little validity there may be at present m the argument about insufficient police would disappear altogether. I am entirely in favour of the Bill as it stands, or as altered in the way I have suggested. I believe it would be a great advantage and convenience to the whole country. I believe it would be an advantage in more correctly representing in this House the views of the country. I believe it would eliminate a lot of small and personal matters which now enter into it, and that there is no valid objection to it except the objection raised by hon. Members on the other side, that in their view the existing condition of things is an advantage to their party.
§ Mr. GOLDMAN
Several hon. Members on this side of the House have concentrated their criticism on the suggestion as to Saturday being the day for elections in this country. I base my objection in this matter on very much wider ground. A very specious and plausible case might be made out, as indeed the hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) attempted to make out, as to the advantages of this measure. I believe that so long as electoral anomalies exist in this country, the principle of this Bill is altogether wrong. The hon. Baronet laid some considerable stress on the dislocation of trade, but it seems to me difficult to believe that hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who came in on a Christmas election, would have any particular fear of the dislocation of trade. My opinion is that it is not so much concern for trade which they 2181 feel as dislike of the plural voter, and, as hon. Members on this side of the House have expressed the opinion, it is disingenuous to attempt to deprive many plural voters of their votes. I am opposed to any tinkering of a big measure by dealing merely with one phrase of the case. In attempting to disfranchise the plural voter, let us remember that you are likely to disfranchise a large number of the best class of working men in this country, who are taking advantage of the new methods of the mobility of labour. In a large number of cases it is found that when an election takes place in a town in which a voter resides he in the circumstances is prevented from voting outside. Under the whole organisation of our party system, an enormous amount of labour is put under a special class in this country who may happen to be out-voters.
Let me remind the House that as many as 16 to 20 per cent, of the men are out-voters. You may have men engaged in the printing trade as compositors, in the distribution of newspapers, in the distribution of leaflets and pamphlets, and you have men engaged as motor drivers, men in the tramway service, and postmen, many of whom may be out-voters, and under the operation of this Bill, if all elections were on the same day, they would be prevented from recording their votes at the poll. I say, when you are dealing with such a case as this, far better would it be for the hon. Baronet to approach it from a wider attitude, and propose that we should change the electoral system so as to facilitate registration, and enable those qualified to vote to transfer their vote from one town to another. By eliminating this vital factor in relation to registration, you are not improving the electoral system, but adding to the hardships and difficulties. It appears to me a strange contrast when I look at the support this Bill is receiving and compare it with the scanty support given to me when I introduced my Registration Bill. We have these difficulties and anomalies, and I believe that the first thing to do is to remove the anomalies, and then introduce a Bill to improve the system of polling. I am opposed to any attempt to deal with this reform unless the ground and foundation of all our trouble is solved by a reform of our electoral laws. In these circumstances I will vote against the Bill.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
I rise on behalf of the Govern- 2182 ment to give the Second Reading of this Bill most cordial support. It is somewhat surprising to find that its principles should be received with opposition by so many Members of the House who sit on the benches opposite. The reasons which have been advanced have indeed been remarkable. In the first place, we are told that a private Member has no right to ask the House to legislate on his own motion on a subject of this sort. In days when we hear on all sides of Cabinet autocracy and of the manner in which the private Member of this House is ignored and reduced to impotence at the bidding of an omnipotent Cabinet, it seems strange that hon. Members who arc the first to make those accusations should say that a measure of this sort should only be considered if introduced on the responsibility of the Government of the day. I think, on the other hand, that my hon. Friend the Member for North Bucks has used the opportunity, which the fortune of the ballot has given him, very wisely to introduce a Bill which is moderate in its scope, brief in its wording, which meets undoubtedly what is demanded by public opinion outside the House, and which should without difficulty pass into law.
But hon. Members also oppose this Bill for the reason that they see in it a veiled attack upon the plural voter, and think that this is merely a party measure designed to give an advantage to one party in the State as against the other. This Bill has been for a very long time one of the objects of the Liberal party. Twenty years ago, in 1894, the then Liberal Government introduced, by the hand of Mr. John Morley, a Bill one Clause of which would have abolished the plural voter and another Clause would have established elections on one day. These two proposals are not alternatives to one another. Both are, in our view, in themselves desirable. We do not support this Bill because we think that it will abolish the plural voter, because we have every hope and intention that the plural voter will be abolished in a much more simple and straightforward way before the next General Election, by the passing of the Bill which has already been before the House and will shortly come before it again. Indeed, the extent to which the plural voter will be deprived of his franchise by this Bill alone, in its present form, would be very slight, because the great majority, probably, of plural voters are men with two votes in 2183 adjoining districts. The men who have to travel far are in the minority. It is the men who have a residential vote in a borough and a freehold vote in the neighbouring county who constitute the great bulk of the plural voting class. When a similar proposal was before the House in 1894 a very distinguished Member of the then Opposition, whom we are pleased to count still as a Member of this House today, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, said, in opposing that Bill:—I do not pretend that to have the elections on one day would be more injurious to our party than to the party of the Government. But T do say that it would be a most inconvenient arrangement.And he opposed it on that ground. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in advance, in discussing a similar proposal on another occasion, has given an answer to those who now contend that this measure would in itself be advantageous to one party and disadvantageous to the other. Of course, the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, who has just come back to his place, may be expected to oppose this or any other Bill. He does that by force of habit. He is "the spirit that ever denies," and in that respect, and in no other, I think he resembles Mephistopheles. This is a measure which undoubtedly will relieve from inconvenience large and important interests in the community, and which will still further relieve Members of Parliament, who are now compelled not only to take part in their own elections, but, when their own elections are over, to go from place to place to assist their friends; and, most of all, it will relieve Ministers and ex-Ministers, on whom these claims are especially urgent. The only measures of positive legislation that I have ever known the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) to support are Bills to prevent cruelty to animals, and 1 am sure that the very motive which leads him to make exception to his general rule in favour of those proposals should lead him to look with a more friendly eye, for the reasons I have given, on this occasion. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill represents South Paddington (Mr. P. Harris), and, therefore, represents myself in this House, but I do not think I have ever agreed with anything he has said on any occasion in this House, except the remark he made to-day that he was of opinion that it was very desirable that 2184 the period of election should be limited. He did not approve of the proposal that it should be limited to one day, but limited he certainly thought it should be. Surely no one can defend the existing arrangement which carries on a General Election for a period of two or three weeks! I do not think anyone has defended it to-day. Unquestionably the whole life of the nation is disturbed for that period. If we were starting afresh, if we were deciding for the first time how elections should be conducted, can anyone conceive that we should deliberately set up a system such as we have inherited from long distant times?
Indeed, when new Constitutions are passed by this House for adoption in the Dominions and other parts of the Empire, no one would dream of suggesting that a General Election should be spread over a period of two or three weeks. I do not think there has ever been anything comparable to one of our General Elections since the Saturnalia of Rome—which it resembles perhaps more than anything else, though that lasted only for one week, and that was complained of as being too long—except in the case of West Canada, where, recently, I was told that racing meetings sometimes continue without interruption for three weeks at a time. If my hon. Friend the Member for North Bucks had introduced this Bill immediately after the General Election, when our experiences were fresh in the minds of all of us, it would have received even a more general measure of approval than it did to-day, but three years have elapsed since the General Election took place, and the inconvenience of it is not so fresh in our memories, and hon. Members may perhaps forget how very disturbing to the whole life of the country is the prolongation of the General Election. The House is asked to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, and the hon. Baronet who moved it expressly declared that his mind was open, and also that the title of the Bill was open, to enable Amendments to be made in Committee. If it is not the general opinion that Saturday should he fixed by law as the one day, that is a point which can be discussed in Committee. It also could be debated in Committee whether more than one day should be allowed for the election. Some hon. Member's have suggested that there should be one day for the boroughs and one day for the counties, but all these Various 2185 matters could be dealt with on the Committee stage. I believe that the difficulty with regard to the police—which has bulked so large in previous times—is now much less than it used to be. Election riots which used to be regarded almost as a matter of course, are now happily very rare. The whole civilisation of our nation has risen. We have a more educated people, a more sober people. They are more accustomed to exercise the franchise. We no longer have great masses of unenfranchised persons amongst the populace who think it their duty to express their views by disturbance at election times, and the need for the intervention of police is now very rare. So far as our information goes, in the foreign countries it has not been found necessary to make any special arrangements with the of policing the localities at the time of election.
As for the other inconveniences that have been alleged, we find that in London the county council elections, in which most of the seats arc contested, can take place without any inconvenience whatever on the one day, and that in some great cities all the elections also can take place on one day. The question really to which the Committee is likely to address itself when the Bill reaches it is whether inconvenience would be caused by fixing one day uniformly for the whole country, and whether the disadvantage of lengthening the time of the borough elections is greater than the advantage of having all the elections on the one day. My hon. Friend's Bill does propose in its present form that the present maximum time within which borough elections may be held, should be considerably lengthened m order to give time for the necessary preparation in the counties. That puts the boroughs on the same footing as the counties. You cannot shorten the period for the counties, as the period which now exists is considered to be necessary, so that the scale of time is increased for the elections in the boroughs. That is a matter which the Committee can consider. I have heard it said, and I think it is true, that no matter how obscure and recondite any subject is which comes before this House, there is always to be found at least one Member in some quarter who proves to be an expert upon it. I think that is so, and that on every subject there is at least, one expert in the House. There is only one subject on which every Member is an expert, and that 2186 is the subject of Parliamentary elections. I have no doubt when the matter comes to be dealt with in Committee that many of the numerous hon. Members who will form that Committee will make their views heard. I trust when it is known that this Bill has passed the Second Reading, as I hope it will, that those outside this House who have suggestions to make, will make them to my hon. Friend or to the Government and express their views. It will also be necessary to hear the opinion of the police authorities upon a matter in which they are concerned. All those considerations will receive the fullest attention when the Bill goes to Committee, and I trust that it will come back to the House in such a form as may ensure it a passage into law in time to become fully operative for the next General Election.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman is very similar to many of the speeches we have heard; but it is not a speech in support of the Bill at all. It is a speech which confined itself to the title which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is so open that you can make the Bill anything you like. As I understand the Bill, and as I am bound to say anybody who read it would understand it, it is a Bill to provide that all elections, whether in the county or in the borough, should be held on one day, and that day, Saturday, and now we are told that the Bill is not a. Bill for that purpose at all. It is hoped to be made a Bill which will provide that elections should not be held all on one day, and that whatever day is selected it should not be a Saturday. If it is not wasting the time of the House of Commons to bring in a title with a Bill appended to it which is not intended to be brought into operation, I do not know what is. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was one subject upon which every Member of the House was an expert, and that was elections. That is not a rule without many exceptions, and two of the most striking have been contributed from Scotland very recently in connection with South Lanark and Leith, where the calculations of hon. Members opposite were very much upset. I have heard little said about the inconveniences of this Bill. Speaking as one with some considerable 2187 experience of elections, I think that nothing could be more inconvenient than having all the elections on one day. I do not know how these matters are arranged in England, but in Scotland the returning officer meets the contending parties and there is seldom any difficulty in arranging a day jointly convenient to all. Local circumstances are taken into account, and a day fixed. Why in the world should this House say that they will make a fixed rule, and that the local situation and circumstances shall not be taken into account at all? There are periods of the year when a particular day would be very unsuitable for one locality or another. According to this Bill that inconvenience would not be allowed to have weight at all: there would be a cast-iron rule that in every place a particular day should be taken and that day should be a Saturday. Saturday would be an inconvenient day, too, for busy shopkeepers in our large towns. Moreover, a Saturday election would interfere very seriously with what has become a habit or custom with many middle-class people—the taking of a holiday at the week-end.
Why should this House deliberately select a Saturday with all these inconveniences, instead of allowing people to manage their own affairs? The right hon. Gentleman said that this had been a plank of the Liberal party's programme for twenty years. They cannot have been in earnest over it, or they would have placed it upon the Statute Book long ago instead of leaving it to a private Member at this period of the present Parliament, when they know that it will never get on to the Statute Book. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The House of Lords is still useful for some purposes. It is not the case that this Bill would limit the time of elections; it would very seriously increase it so far as boroughs are concerned. We can test the sincerity of the Government's desire to limit the time of elections by what has happened in connection with recent by-elections. They have not been very anxious to limit the time when they have had the advantage of a favourable candidate, but they have not succeeded very well even when they have extended the time. To my mind there has been no argument advanced in support of the Bill as it stands. The Bill has been badly drawn, badly framed, and badly conceived; it is calculated only to increase the inconvenience and aggravate the diffi- 2188 culty and trouble of elections. It is not a Bill to which a Second Heading should be given, as it would only mean wasting the time of a Committee upstairs on a measure which nobody has been very keen to support, and which will never be placed on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
After the Debate which we have just heard, it is difficult to see what is left of this Bill. It is perfectly true that the hon. Baronet who introduced the Bill so ably put forward three principles or objects of the Bill. The first was that there should be one polling day only; the second, that the day should be Saturday; and the third, that the period of the election should be reduced. Well, all these three principles have been cast overboard by at least half of the various hon. Gentlemen who addressed the House on the other side. If it is a fact that the only remaining principle of the Bill is the limitation of the admittedly excessive period during which we have to conduct our electoral campaigns, I for my part would be warmly in favour of the Bill. But that is not the Bill as presented to this House, and I wish to echo what has already been expressed by several Members of my party, that in my opinion the general public outside this House are not very much impressed with measures of this character, because they arc so evidently and eminently of a piecemeal character, and attempt to deal in a partial way with electoral anomalies.
The hon. Baronet who introduced this Bill, if he is not tired of the praises that have been lavished upon him, will permit me, as an old opponent of his, to congratulate him most warmly upon the clear, facile and genial way in which he presented its provisions to the House, and I cannot help thinking that his intention in bringing this Bill before the House, whatever may be the intentions of his supporters, or of the Government, was above all things to do away with the serious inconvenience of prolonged elections in rural constituencies. The hon. Baronet has some experience of the constituency that I represent, and I can only say that having gone through an election on the last day of a very long campaign in December, 1910–the last day except that of the Orkney and Shetland poll—and, furthermore, the election being declared on a Monday after the suspense of the preceding Sunday—I can only say that I never want to go through that experience again. For at least two months afterwards my usual and perhaps 2189 somewhat strenuous activities in this House were severely crippled; and the same may be said of my opponent who, although he did not return to this House, but was appointed a Small Holdings Commissioner, had to take a prolonged rest in consequence of the excessive strain imposed upon him. My hon. Friend has just reminded me that on the day of the declaration of his poll, some hundreds of miles away, he was good enough to come and vote for me, as he has a property qualification in my Constituency. What would have happened if all the polling had taken place on one day? It means that a carpet bagger, like myself, would be unable to register his own vote in his own neighbourhood; and I do not see why even Members of Parliament should not be allowed to express their own views upon current political problems through the natural channel.
Various hon. Members have denounced the motor car. I wish to goodness the motor car had never come into existence, no far as my Constituency is concerned. It has made elections far more strenuous and alarming than they would otherwise have been, at all events, in large constituencies. It involves on the part of both parties far more meetings; and several meetings on one night, very often considerable distances from one another, and the ever-present danger of losing one's own life as the consequence of overdriving one's car in passing from place to place. If only some discount wore placed upon motor ears a premium would be placed upon the production of horseflesh, to the very great advantage of the agricultural community and increased national security. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading said, in a somewhat significant way, that at election times undesirable forces come in from other Divisions. I entirely agree with him. My own experience in the last and previous elections in my Constituency was that there was the incursion of undesirable forces. These included the Secretary for War, the present Postmaster-General, and other distinguished statesmen who seriously disturbed the equanimity of my Constituents when they were particularly peacefull, settled, and in a congenial frame of mind. This is a partial treatment of a very big subject. If only it were a comprehensive scheme of electoral reform which were before the House I should most cheerfully and readily support it. It is nothing of the sort. I am not suggesting that the hon. Baronet has brought forward this 2190 measure with a desire to benefit his own party. It is quite conceivable that with his experience of county elections that he has done nothing of the sort. I nany case whichever party does benefit this is a partial measure, and does not deal with other anomalies that undoubtedly operate to the detriment of the party sitting on this side of the House. There are various other matters which I should have liked to see in the Bill. First of all comes the unequal political power of different constituencies, and different individuals. Secondly—and it has not been referred to in the course of this Debate—there is the additional expense of those vulgar, inartistic, and libellously misleading posters which are put up at General Elections.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I do not think that is relevant to the Bill we are now discussing. The hon. Member is going into the whole range of what is and what is not desirable.
§ Mr. BATHURST
I accept your ruling. But I think it has already been explained that the title of the Bill is extraordinarily wide. I might venture to suggest that it such Amendments us have already been adumbrated from the other side are capable of being accepted and incorporated in this Bill, such Amendment as I have just adumbrated might similarly be incorporated. However that may be, surely it would be possible to remove what is in rural constituencies the most serious grievance of all, and that is the very serious expense of the necessary machinery of an election. This operates very harshly upon those who, in many cases, are best fitted by their training and surroundings to represent an agricultural constituency. I support warmly the suggestion of the hon. Member for East Wiltshire that the present unfair advantage given to the boroughs, as compared with the county Divisions, will be emphasised if the proposal to have two days for the polling, one for the boroughs and the following for the comity Divisions, is carried out. If it were possible for the more breezy atmosphere emanating from the country districts to produce a healthy effect upon the elections taking place in the towns, I am inclined to think that the repretation of this House would not be so much opposed to agricultural interests as it is. It is suggested that Saturday would be the best day for all elections. In the boroughs Saturday would prove 2191 to be a most unsuitable day, because, after all, each borough is a constituency within a constituency, and there are only a limited number of public rooms available. Consequently, it would be confusing to discover which is the particular polling booth at which an elector would be entitled to record his vote. Think what would happen on a Saturday night after midnight, when the news comes from every part of the United Kingdom as to the result of the other elections! Night would be made hideous, and this at the beginning of Sunday. I suggest that the present excitement and excesses of a General Election in the boroughs would be enormously emphasised and accentuated if all elections took place on the same day. No grievance is greater in the country districts, because it means that a very large proportion of the total number of candidates and electors will have to wait in a condition of excitement, suspense and anxiety for the declaration of the poll. I hope the Second Reading of this Bill will not be passed. Although I admit that many advantages would be obtained by limiting the period of the election, we ought, in fairness, to wait until the whole of this electoral problem is, dealt with in a comprehensive manner.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I very strongly deprecate these piecemeal legislative efforts to improve our electoral system. I myself, as a Scotchmen, feel a certain amount of sympathy with the principle which the hon. Baronet opposite wishes to carry into law, though I entirely disagree with the manner in which he proposes to do it. In. Scotland we have on more than one occasion suffered, my party at all events, from early electoral results in places like Greenock and Perth. I remember on one occasion the Conservative was rather unexpectedly returned. There was a miscount, and the Liberal was said to have been returned. It did us an equal amount of harm. Under these circumstances, I do agree that to create a sort of verbal atmosphere such as has been mentioned to-day is an unfortunate thing, and, if you could possibly get these elections on one day, it would be a good thing. I am afraid, however, there are practical difficulties. The sheriffs could
§ hardly control all the elections in boroughs and counties on one day. The police, certainly in some cases, would find it difficult. I remember at one of my elections it was doubtful whether my opponent or myself would be returned, and my opponent was particularly asked by the chief constable not to visit one of the burghs if he were returned; otherwise, he would be likely to suffer harm. He came to me and said he must go there if he won, and he asked me if I would stop at home and not go to this burgh. I said certainly; I should be happy to do so. If I were defeated, I would not go after the declaration of the poll, so that he should be free to live as long as he possibly could. If we had had all the elections on one day it would not have been possible to have drafted into that particular burgh all the police required. It must be so in many other cases. That, I should think, is a very great objection. In addition to that, you have not a sufficient number of experienced men to take charge of the polling and to carry on all the machinery of elections. My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Cathcart Wason) pleaded for a shorter period during these contests. I am not surprised. He had a terrible and prolonged time. A candidate who once went there during an election had such a time of it and was so tired at the end of it that when he landed at Aberdeen, he said, "Thank God, I am in Europe again!" I dare say that has been the feeling of the hon. Member on more than one occasion. His is a very-special case, and it might very well be dealt with. You cannot, in large constituencies, reduce the time too much if the Member is to have an opportunity of showing himself at all. Similarly, you ought not to prolong elections in burghs, as you will be able to do under the Bill. You are not shortening the period at all: you are, as a matter of fact, lengthening it.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 217; Noes, 152.2195
|Division No. 29.]||AYES.||[4.59 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Ainsworth, John Stirling||Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Alden, Percy||Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)|
|Adamson, William||Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Barnes, George N.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Arnold, Sydney||Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||O'Shee, James John|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hayden, John Patrick||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Hazleton, Richard||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Boland, John Pius||Henry, Sir Charles||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hewart, Gordon||Pirie, Duncan Vernon|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Higham, John Sharp||Pratt, J. W.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hodge, John||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Hogge, James Myles||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Holmes Daniel Turner||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Radford, G. H.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hudson, Walter||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)||Reddy, Michael|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jones, Rt.Hon. Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Clough, William||Jowett, Frederick William||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Clynes, John R.||Joyce, Michael||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Kenyon, Barnet||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Robinson, Sidney|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lardner, James C. R.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Crooks, William||Leach, Charles||Rowlands, James|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Cullinan, John||Lundon, Thomas||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Dawes, J. A.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Sheehy, David|
|Delany, William||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Shortt, Edward|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Devlin, Joseph||Macpherson, James Ian||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||MacVeagh, Joremiah||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Snowden, Philip|
|Dillon, John||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Doris, William||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Duffy, William J.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Thomas, J. H.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Meagher, Michael||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Millar, James Duncan||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Falconer, James||Molloy, Michael||Wardle, George J.|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Waring, Walter|
|Ffrench, Peter||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Field, William||Mooney, John J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Morgan, George Hay||Webb, H.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Muldoon, John||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Ginnell, Laurence||Murphy, Martin J.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Gladstone, w. G. C.||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Nannetti, Joseph p.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Goldstone, Frank||Neilson, Francis||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Nolan, Joseph||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Gulland, John William||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Hacked, John||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hancock, J. G.||O'Doherty, Philip||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||O'Donnell, Thomas||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Dowd, John||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Hardie, J. Keir||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||O'Malley, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||H. Verney and Mr. Ponsonby.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Cassel, Felix|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Bigland, Alfred||Cautley, H. S.|
|Astor, Waldorf||Blair, Reginald||Cave, George|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Bridgeman, William Clive||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.|
|Barnston, Harry||Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E.)||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildflord)||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Horner, Andrew Long||Remnant, James F.|
|Croft, Henry Page||Houston, Robert Paterson||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesell)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Royds, Edmund|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Hunt, Rowland||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Ingleby, Holcombe||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Joynson-Hicks, William||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Du Pre, W. Baring||Kerry, Earl of||Sandys, G. J.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Keswick, Henry||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Falls, Bertram Godfray||Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Larmor, Sir J.||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Swift, Rigby|
|Fleming, Valentine||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Mackinder, Halford J.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Macmaster, Donald||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Magnus, Sir Philip||Touche, George Alexander|
|Grant, James Augustus||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Gretton, John||Moore, William||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury St.Edmunds)||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Mount, William Arthur||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Newdegate, F. A.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Nield, Herbert||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Harris, Henry Percy||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Younger, Sir George|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Pretyman, Ernest George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.C|
|Hoare, S. J. G.||Ratcliff, R. F.||Bathurst and Lord N. Crichton-Stuart|
|Hohler, G. F.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."2196
§ The House divided: Ayes, 215; Noes, 152.2199
|Division No. 30.]||AYES.||[5.10 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Crooks, William||Hackett, John|
|Adamson, William||Crumley, Patrick||Hancock, J. G.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Cullinan, John||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Hardie, J. Keir|
|Alden, Percy||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Dawes, J. A.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Delany, William||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hazleton, Richard|
|Barnes, G. N.||Devlin, Joseph||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Dewar, Sir J. A.||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Hewart, Gordon|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Dillon, John||Higham, John Sharp|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Donelan, Captain A.||Hinds, John|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Doris, William||Hodge, John|
|Boland, John Pius||Duffy, William J.||Hogge, James Myles|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hudson, Walter|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Elverston, Sir Harold||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Falconer, James||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Farrell, James Patrick||Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Ffrench, Peter||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Field, William||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Fitzgibbon, John||Jowett, F. W.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Joyce, Michael|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Ginnell, Laurence||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Clough, William||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Kilbride, Denis|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Glanville, H. J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth),||Goldstone, Frank||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Greig, Colonel James William||Lardner, James C. R.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Leach, Charles|
|Cotton, William Francis||Gulland, John William||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Donnell, Thomas||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||O'Dowd, John||Sheehy, David|
|Lynch, Arthur Alfred||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Shortt, Edward|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||O'Malley, William||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Alisebrook|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||O'Shee, James John||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Snowden, Phillip|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Parker, James (Halifax)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Tennant, Harold John|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Pirie, Duncan Vernon||Thomas, J. H.|
|M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Pratt, J. W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Pringle, William M. R.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Radford, G. H.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Meagher, Michael||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wardle, George J.|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Waring, Walter|
|Millar, James Duncan||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Molloy, Michael||Reddy, Michael||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Webb, Henry|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Mooney, John J.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Muldoon, John||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wiles, Sir Thomas|
|Murphy, Martin J.||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Robinson, Sidney||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Nannettl, Joseph P.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Neilson, Francis||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roe, Sir Thomas||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Rowlands, James||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Young, William (Perthshire, E.)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|O'Connor, T. p. (Liverpool)||Scanlan, Thomas||H. Verney and Mr. Pensonby.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Duncannon, Viscount||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Du Pre, W. Baring||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lee, Arthur Hamilton|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Falle, Bertram Godfray||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Locker Lampson, O. (Ramsey)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Fleming, Valentine||Macmaster, Donald|
|Barnston, Harry||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Bathunst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Gibbs, George Abraham||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gilmour, Captain John||Moore, William|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Goldman, C. S.||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Mount, William Arthur|
|Bigland, Alfred||Grant, J. A.||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Blair, Reginald||Gretton, John||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Nield, Herbert|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S, T. Griffith-||Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Paget, Almeric Hogh|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Cassel, Felix||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cave, George||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hickman, Col. Thomas E.||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hoare, S. J. G.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Royds, Edmund|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Horner, Andrew Long||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Houston, Robert Paterson||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Hunt, Rowland||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Ingleby, Holcombe||Sandys, G. J.|
|Croft, H. P.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Dalzlel, Davison (Brixton)||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l, Walton)|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Kerry, Earl of||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Keswick, Henry||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Larmor, Sir J.||Swift, Rigby|
|Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)||Tullibardine, Marquess of||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Talbot, Lord Edmund||Valentia, Viscount||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)||Watsen, Hon. W.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)||Weston, Colonel J. W.||Younger, Sir George|
|Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Thynne, Lord A.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain|
|Touche, George Alexander||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud||Jessel and Mr. Harris.|
|Tryon, Captain George Clement||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House"—(Sir Frederick Banbury)—put, and negatived.2200
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-two minutes after Five of the clock, till Monday next, 2nd March.