§ (1) A man shall be entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary elector for a constituency (other than a university constituency) if he—
- (a) has the requisite residence qualification; or
- (b) has the requisite business premises qualification.
§ (2) A man, in order to have the requisite residence qualification or business premises qualification for a constituency—
- (a) must on the last day of the qualifying period be residing in premises in the constituency, or occupying business premises in the constituency; and
- (b) must during the whole of the qualifying period have resided in premises, or occupied business premises, in the constituency, or in another constituency within the same Parliamentary borough or Parliamentary county, or within a Parliamentary borough or Parliamentary county contiguous to that borough or county.
§ (3) The expression "business premises" in this Section, means premises of the yearly value of not less than ten pounds occupied for the purpose of the business, profession, or trade, of the person to be registered.
§ Where business premises are in the joint occupation of two or more persons, and the aggregate yearly value of the premises 193 is not less than the amount produced by multiplying ten pounds by the number of the joint occupiers, each of the joint occupiers shall be treated as occupying business premises of the yearly value of not less than ten pounds:
§ Provided that in a Parliamentary county not more than two persons, being such joint occupiers, shall be entitled to be registered in respect of the same premises unless they are bonâ fide engaged as partners carrying on their profession, trade, or business in the premises.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think it may be for the convenience of hon. Members if I point out that certain of the Amendments set down on the Paper on Clause 1 are not in order on this Clause, but will be in order on subsequent Clauses which I will indicate. The Amendments dealing with the qualifications of women ought to come on Clause 4. Amendments dealing with the question of soldiers and sailors' franchise ought to come on Clause 5, and Amendments designed in the way of disqualification, such as those dealing with the question of aliens or conscientious objectors, will be in order on Clause 8. They are not in order to be brought forward on Clause 1. I think it is important that we should see clearly at the start that we are going to deal with these matters in an orderly manner, and I notice that most of the hon. Members have taken the wise precaution of putting them down in the right place as well as in the wrong place.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
On a point of Order. Do I understand you to rule, Mr. Whitley, that the Amendment of which I have given notice ought not to be taken at this stage?
§ The CHAIRMAN
After those general observations for the assistance of hon. Members, who will recognise the particular Amendments referred to and see that I am not putting them out of court, but am only pointing out where they can properly be entertained—
§ Major NEWMAN
On a point of Order. I have an Amendment in manuscript to insert in Sub-section (1) after paragraph (b)—(c) Has the requisite Service qualification,and then I propose to move a series of other Amendments and to omit Clause 5.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have not got nearly so far as that. No manuscript Amendment has reached me up to now. There will be plenty of time for that.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
On a point of Order, Mr. Whitley. You have said among other categories that the question of dealing with aliens will be out of order on this Clause. As I have an Amendment which will come under that ruling, may I ask whether, when that Amendment is reached, I shall be heard on the point of Order, or whether I ought to press that point now?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is as the hon. Member prefers. I shall be quite prepared to take it when it is reached. Then, dealing with the Amendments as they appear on the Notice Paper, the first, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Major Newman), to insert at the beginning of Sub-section (1) the words, "Subject to the provisions of this Act," is quite unnecessary. The qualifications of Clause 1 appear already in the Bill in subsequent Clauses, and additional qualifications can be proposed by hon. Members in the proper place.
The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton), to leave out the word "man" and to insert instead thereof the word "person" raises, of course, the question of women. The same thing applies to the following Amendment in the name of the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil), to leave out the word "man" and insert instead thereof the words "person (whether man or woman)."
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Lord H. CECIL
On a point of Order. This Amendment does not raise question of the precise franchise to be given to women, and, as far as I am able to see, it is the only place in the Bill in which you can in an orderly manner raise the issue that the same franchise, whatever that franchise may be, should be given to both men and women. I submit to you that it cannot be raised on Clause 4. There is no place in which it could come in, and it must be raised here or not at all. I therefore submit that it is in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I had rightly apprehended what the Noble Lord's object was, and considered it from that point of view. The Noble Lord desires to propose that the franchise should be the same in the case of women as in the case of men, and the proper way to do that, in my view, is 195 to move an Amendment to Clause 4 to that effect, namely, bringing Sub-section (1), Clause 4, into line with Sub-section (2), Clause 4, providing in specific terms that the franchise for women shall be the same as the franchise for men. The reason for that the Noble Lord can easily apprehend. As the law at present stands, women are disqualified from the Parliamentary franchise by common law, whereas men are not. Therefore, it is quite clear that to make it a clear, business-like Bill you ought to set out in a separate Clause what the franchise for women is to be. It will be open to the Committee, when they reach the Clause, either to extend or to narrow Clause 4, or, if they desire, to leave out Clause 4 altogether.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I submit, as to the provisions of Clause 1, it will be difficult to discuss it in an intelligent way without knowing whether it is or is not to refer to both sexes. I have another Amendment to make the Parliamentary franchise identical with Local Government franchise, which is intended to work in with my first Amendment. Unless I first establish the principle of similarity of treatment, you cannot tell very well what the man's franchise is to be. Otherwise you may make an extended franchise for men, and it may be said that we have gone so far that we cannot make the similarity. I submit that the principle of similarity ought first to be determined, and then it becomes possible to decide what should be the franchise for men and what should not. The Committee might make an important difference on the question of the franchise for men, but the question of similarity should be considered whether they have decided to make the franchise for men wide or narrow.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is difficult as we proceed clause by clause to consider the relation of one clause to another, but I am quite sure the method which is clear to me, after a careful examination of the Bill and the Amendments, is the right one in the interests of the Committee, and I must hold that we must deal with the question of men and women in these separate clauses.
§ Mr. D. MASON
In the event of that being carried in Clause 4, to make the Bill consistent it would be possible, on the Report stage, to alter words in the other parts of the Bill which might be passed prior to Clause 4.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is one of the purposes for which the Report stage exists. An Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for the Hertford Division (Mr. Billing) [in Clause 1, page 1, line 7, after "man" insert "who is willing to make the declaration set out in the Second Schedule"] is out of order because there is no second part to the Schedule. Dealing with the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Rutland Division (Colonel Gretton), in Clause 1, page 1, line 7, to insert after the word "man" the words "who was a British-born subject,'' that is a subject which ought to be dealt with by way of disqualification on Clause 8. Clause 1 lays down the broad rule as to what the qualification for the franchise is to be, and this Amendment and other similar Amendments will be entertained when we come to Clause 8.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
As I have an Amendment in practically identical terms, may I submit to you, as a matter of logical arrangement that Clause 1 should be the category of those to be prima facie included in the franchise. I submit that the first consideration is whether prima facie the person entitled to vote is an Englishman, and the onus of proof should be on the person, and it should be declared that anybody other than a natural-born Englishman is entitled to be disenfranchised. If a naturalised foreigner or an unnaturalised foreigner is to be allowed to vote he should only get the right by specific enactment in the Bill, so that as a matter of logical arrangement the question should be dealt with here and not in the Clause.
§ Mr. MARTIN
Surely the law at present is that no one can vote in this country unless he is a British subject. That is the general law. This Bill is intended to cover the whole law of election, and when we come to the Clause which deals with the people who can vote we shall deal with those who have the requisite resident or business qualification and who are British-born subjects. A man must also be twenty-one years of age. There is a reference in the Act as to the age of women who are to vote, but not as to the age of men. Until a person is twenty-one he cannot vote, and therefore he should not go on the register. This Clause is to define the persons who are to be put on the register, and they ought to have these primary qualifications, being 197 British born and of twenty-one years of age.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I venture to point out that the Clause defines who is to become a voter, and any disqualification on the ground that he is not a British subject, and any other matter on general grounds, will have to be guided by previous enactments, part of which have been repealed. It is very obscure and difficult to find out. It would take a long time to find out what they are. On a Bill of this kind, which is to be the principle of dealing with great subjects like the franchise, the first Clause should stand, and the qualification as a British subject should be that of the person entitled to vote.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for East St. Pancras (Mr. Martin) raises two questions, one a point of Order. The question with regard to age ought to come here, and I propose to take Amendments on that subject. As to aliens, non-British subjects, hon. Members will see that there are various proposals on that question, and one deals with that by way of disqualification. It will be impossible to insert here a series of exceptions, and I am quite sure, after examining the matter very carefully, that the proper place is in Clause 8. But the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton) has made quite a sound point which I observed myself, that Clause 8 puts that in rather by reference to previous unre-pealed laws. There are Amendments on the Paper for that purpose. With regard to the Amendments, the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Major Newman) desires to move the first, providing that a man shall have attained the age of twenty-one years.
§ Major NEWMAN
I beg to move in Sub-section (1), after the word "man" ["A man shall be entitled"], to insert the words "who has attained the age of twenty-one years and is not subject to any legal incapacity."
I confess I was surprised that those responsible for the drafting of the Bill left these words out. After all, this is a Bill which takes the place of the great Reform Act of 1832. The other two Acts of 1867 and 1884 did not dare to tackle the Reform Act. They were simply Acts amplifying and extending the Reform Act of 1832. This Bill does tackle the Act of 1832, replaces it, and codifies the various 198 Acts which went before it. It endeavours to give us a Franchise Bill and a Registration Bill, to stand square on its four feet. Therefore I suggest that in this particular Bill we ought to follow the Act of 1832 and insert the words which are in the Amendment. In the Act of 1832 the words are:A male person who has attained full age and is not subject to any legal disqualification6.You, Sir, have ruled out the last part of my Amendment on the ground that it will not be in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Only because the last words are unnecessary. They are dealt with in Clause 8 and are superfluous here.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
Beyond the provision of twenty-one years of age it is also necessary to provide against legal incapacity.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think there is something to be said for the point put by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Healy). This is a case on which I have some doubt in my mind.
§ Major NEWMAN
We do not want to have to hunt about in other Acts for these various disqualifications. I intend to move to omit Sub-section (2) of Clause 8, and I am going to put down, if I am allowed. Amendments giving the various disqualifications. It would be better to say straight away, under Clause 1, that a man entitled to vote shall be twenty-one years of age. Then, also, to put down that he shall have no legal disqualification, and at the end of the Clause leave out Sub-section (2) and insert a Clause setting forth the disqualifications. If we do that we shall not be asking any potential or actual elector to hunt up these various Acts of 1832, 1867, and 1885 to find out what the disqualifications are. He would see at once, when he looks at this Act, that if he is twenty-one years of age, and if he has not got certain legal disqualifications, he will have the vote. Then he can look in the same Act and find out what the disqualifications are, and there is no further trouble. There will be no more hunting up other Acts. He will be able to see whether he has got a vote or whether he has not got a vote. I suggest that these words of my Amendment ought to be in the Bill, and I therefore move it.
§ Sir G. CAVE
There is no difference of principle between us. It is a mere point of drafting, and in my view these words are quite unnecessary. There is an existing disqualification as regards the age for the Parliamentary franchise, as there is in the case of aliens. People will not have to search the Statute-book to find out what that disqualification is; it is a common law disqualification. It is, therefore, quite unnecessary to put in these words here. If there is any need to put in any words with regard to disqualification we are willing to consider the point with regard to Clause 8. There is an advantage in putting in any words that may be thought necessary in. Clause 8, because if you do it in Clause 8 you can apply it not only to the Parliamentary franchise, but to the Local Government franchise. As it is a mere matter of drafting, I Hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not press his Amendment.
§ Sir F. LOWE
Is a person entitled to be called a man at all until he has attained the age of twenty-one years?
§ Lord H. CECIL
This question appears to me to raise the question of the dissimilarity of ages between the sexes with regard to the franchise, because it expressly states that a man is to have the vote as soon as lie is twenty-one years of age, or at any rate it mentions that age as the limitation, whereas Clause 4 lays it down that a woman is not to have her vote until she is thirty years of age. I am curious to know what reason there is for providing expressly that a man is to have the vote as early as twenty-one years of age while a woman is to be prevented from having a vote until she is thirty years of age. The proposition seems to me to be a very surprising one. I can understand people saying that men are alone qualified for the franchise. I can understand people saying that the franchise is something so indissolubly connected with the fundamental government of the country that only men should exercise it, but to say that a man should be deemed fit to exercise it at the age of twenty-one and that a woman is unfit to exercise it until she is thirty years of age—for that is what is said in expressed terms if this Amendment is adopted—does not seem to me to be a reasonable proposition. I know that the Government, preaching the doctrine of self-suppression, by which they mean that they are to talk and other people are to obey, or at any rate that they are to 200 decree in simple, conciliatory, and short language what other people are to do, may be unwilling to deal with this point until they are obliged. For my part, I think that self-suppression would be very suitable for a Trappist monastery, and that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, when he has repented of his sins, would be suited to be the Superior of such an Order. But I submit that the House of Commons is an altogether different institution from a Trappist monastery, and that we are here to discuss things, and not to practice self-suppression. Therefore, I invite the Government to tell us why there should be one age for a man and another age for a woman, and on what principle it has been arrived at.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already pointed out that it is quite open for the Noble Lord on Clause 4 to propose the same age in both cases, and it is there we must discuss this interesting question.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I submit that it is raised by this Amendment, which expressly declares that men are to be of the age of twenty-one. We are now invited to declare in terms that the franchise is to be given to a man when he is twenty-one, while on the face of the Bill we are to give the vote to women only when they are thirty years of age. I suppose I should be in order in moving to leave out the word "twenty-one" in order to insert the word "thirty" as an Amendment to this Amendment. That would at once raise the issue. I do not take that course, because it would complicate the proceedings of the Committee; but if it is in order to move that Amendment, I apprehend that it is in order, without being unduly lengthy, to refer to this matter in order to elicit from the Government some indication of what is their view in proposing a different standard of age.
§ Lord H. CECIL
Of course, if we are to accept the infallibility of the Speaker's Conference, that is clearly an Instruction which carries this as well as everything else, if we have only a suitable ritual of pious acceptance of what is laid down for us. But on the hypothesis that this Committee is to discuss and approve, if it thinks fit, the decisions of the Speaker's Conference as developed in an obscure and unsatisfactory Bill, I think the Government might give us some explanation why 201 they have got a distinction of ages between the sexes, which, as it appears to me, is now raised by the deliberate affirmation in this Amendment that the age of a man entitled to vote is to be twenty-one.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I do not enter into the question of the distinction in the ages of men and -women raised by the Noble Lord. I was disposed to agree with the Home Secretary that the subject of this Amendment was a mere matter of drafting, but I have been refreshing my memory by reading up the previous Acts, particularly the Reform Act of 1832 and the Representation of the people Act, 1867, and if it be the case—as I certainly always thought it was—that at common law a man was disqualified from exercising the franchise unless he had attained the age of twenty-one, it is curious that in both these Acts Parliament took pains to require as a qualification for the franchise, expressly and in terms, that a man should be of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity. "That is in the Reform Act of 1832, and it is repeated in the Act of 1867. It is true it is not repeated in the Act of 1884, but that is because the 1884 Act proceeded by way of Amendment of the existing suffrage. Here you are creating new qualifications in substitution for all existing qualifications, and I think it may very well be open for doubt unless the point is made clear that, apart from the language which has always hitherto been used when a new franchise has been introduced, the person should be of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity. I think the Government might consider the matter. It seems to me that it is a point of some substance.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I think the Government have come to the conclusion that this Bill does leave the law as it stands at present, namely, that a man may not vote if he is less than twenty-one years or be registered if he is less than twenty-one. This Bill does not repeal the Act of William III., which was before the Reform Act, and which provides that, "No person whatsoever being under the age of one-and-twenty years shall at any time here-after be admitted to give his voice for the election of any member or members serving in this or any future Parliament." That is the Section which prevents any infant from voting. I presume the Government have come to the conclusion that that, combined with the common law, has the same effect as the Act of 1867, which 202 was to prevent a man from being registered who was less than twenty-one years of age. There is no doubt that this Bill as it stands at present will not authorise any man to vote under twenty-one, but whether ho may be registered under twenty-one or not is a question which requires consideration.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should like to ask your opinion, Mr. Whitley, upon a point of Order. I think it is quite possible that the Home Secretary may have to accept this Amendment after what has fallen from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) as to whether or not twenty-one is the legal age. If he does that, would it prevent on Clause 4 any Amendment altering the age of a man and making that age correspond with the age of a woman entitled to the vote? It would, I suppose, leave us the opportunity to reduce the age of women from thirty to twenty-one, but it does not at all follow that it would enable the age of men to be increased to equal that of women if the House decides that the age of women should remain at thirty. Once the Committee have decided the point, it cannot be altered. Therefore, I raise this question now in view of the point raised by the Noble Lord. If I am right, I think we ought to discuss at the present time on this Amendment whether or not the age of men should be increased and made equal to that which is supposed to be the proper voting age for women.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is quite clear that when we have reached Clause 4 we cannot go back to Amendments on Clause 1 in Committee. It is clear that we cannot have it both ways. We must discuss one thing at a time. There would be opportunity for such a proposal as the right hon. Baronet indicates on Report. I might say that I was proposing, unless this Amendment was inserted in the Bill, to call the next Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland, which I understand is designed to raise the point referred to by the hon. Baronet and the Noble Lord.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then I think the best way would be for the discussion on this Amendment to drop and for my hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw it and to allow the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland to move his Amendment. I think that would clear the matter and enable us to discuss both questions. With regard to your remarks about the Report proceedings, they are rather different from 203 the proceedings in Committee, and on such a very important measure as this, and on such a very important question, it does seem to me that it is very much better to discuss the question in Committee than on Report. With regard to what my Noble Friend said, I do not like the idea of suppression, but I have not the courage of my Noble Friend, and I find it more difficult to stand up against what I think is the desire of the Government to issue their decrees. I shall endeavour to do my best to put the views which I hold strongly upon this matter. I think my Noble Friend was a little in error in saying that the Government are so very anxious to issue decrees and not to listen to arguments. In the circumstances I think that it would be better if my hon. and gallant Friend, would withdraw the Amendment in order to allow the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rutland to be discussed. It is perfectly clear that if this Amendment is carried, no further discussion can take place, and it is possible that this Amendment may be carried after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the late Prime Minister, and therefore we should not have the discussion on the other point, which it is important to have.
§ Mr. CURRIE
On a point of order. If the Committee at this stage commits itself to twenty-one as a fixed age, would it thereby debar itself from considering the question, which is to be raised later on, as to whether soldiers should not get the vote at the age of eighteen?
§ The CHAIRMAN
No. Clause 5 is a special provision for persons on war service, and I do not think that this would govern the decision of any Amendment on that Clause.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife is quite correct in saying that in nearly every previous Act which has for the first time created a franchise, the words proposed by the hon. Member have been introduced. That is, "Who is of full age and is not subject to any legal incapacity." That is the case not only in English Acts but in Irish Acts. But, notwithstanding that that has been the almost invariable practice, it is quite plain that the words are absolutely unnecessary. For instance, in the case of a minor, it is not merely a question of his not possessing a quali- 204 fication, but he is positively disqualified. The difference between these two states, of things is this: If a man "who has not a legal qualification gets on the register, he can vote, and his vote is perfectly good, and cannot be disallowed on a scrutiny. But if a minor, or alien, or any; other person who is disqualified gets on the register, he is disqualified by law and on a scrutiny his vote would be disallowed. That makes it perfectly plain,, even without the words in the Act, that a minor, being a person disqualified in law, would not be qualified to vote.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I agree that there is no difference of principle, and that this is a mere matter of convenient expression and arrangement. There is a distinction between these two questions. One, the question whether a man is disqualified on the ground of youth, from being registered, and the other whether a man is disqualified on the ground of youth from giving a vote. On the latter question I always understood that it was generally agreed that he cannot give a vote until he is twenty-one years of age. My right hon. Friend quoted from the Statute of William III., which confirms that, because the prohibition which he read out, if I caught it correctly, was a prohibition against an individual giving a voice, which meant voting. The real truth was that in the olden days there was no register; it was a question of people coming together and giving their voices. That was the only material thing in the vote. That was the reason why, though there has always been a common law disqualification against voting until the person was twenty-one years old, it was thought desirable in the registers created under the Acts of 1832 and 1867 to say how old a man must be before he could get on the register. I think that the simplest way of getting rid of any possible difficulty would be to insert after the word "man," the words proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, which were the words used in the early Reform Acts, which will make it quite plain that, not as a question of voting, but of registration, a man is not qualified until he reaches the full age. No doubt my hon. and learned Friend on the Irish Benches is quite right in saying that the vote of a person under twenty-one would be disallowed on a scrutiny, but we do not want to encourage these elaborate, antiquated machines. "We want to make plain 205 on the face of the Statute whether a person who has not yet reached the age of twenty-one is entitled to be put on the register.
§ Sir G. CAVE
We are really discussing a question of drafting. The draftsman thought it better to reserve the negative for a later Clause, but my right hon. Friend, the Member for East Fife, and my right hon. and learned Friend both prefer to have the words here, and I am willing to agree to that in this manner: After the word "he" to insert the words, "is of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity and." If my hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw his Amendment, I will move the insertion of these words.
§ Major NEWMAN
Should we not have "the full age of twenty-one years"? After all, the ordinary citizen, after reading this Bill, will have to think what the full age is, because thirty is the full age for women and twenty-one for men, and it would be better to put in twenty-one years.
§ Mr. MARTIN
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would accept the words of my Amendment at the bottom of the page, "or will be twenty-one years of age before the coming into force of the register being prepared." It seems very unfair that thousands of young men who are not qualified when they put in their application, but who would be qualified by the time the register comes into force, should be excluded from the register. I submit that it is a reasonable Amendment, because these men will be entitled by age to the vote before the register comes into force.
§ Colonel GRETTON
Shall I be in order in moving my Amendment providing that the full age be twenty-five, when the proposed Amendment of the Home Secretary is moved?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes, the hon. and gallant Member can move his Amendment as an Amendment to that of the Home Secretary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I beg to move, after the word "he," to insert the words 206is of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity and.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I beg to move, as an. Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "of full age," and to insert instead thereof the words "twenty-five years of age."
The reason for this Amendment is twofold. It is part of a general scheme of franchise for men and women. There is no reason which can hold water for one moment, except some reason of expediency which must fall to the ground, way women and men should be put on a different basis in this matter. I do not propose to discuss the question of women franchise at this stage. I only make the remark to indicate one general purpose which I have in suggesting the age should be twenty-five and not twenty-one. But I believe that the proposal is a wise one on the ground that men should not be qualified to vote until they are twenty-five years of age. The theory that a man has attained his full capacity, character, and responsibility at the age of twenty-one is not borne out by experience. It has been a convenient age for the purposes of the law, which many years ago fixed that a man might exercise the capacities of manhood legally at the age of twenty-one years. But, from the records of the past, when that age was established, it will be agreed by those who are learned in these matters that the tendency of mankind was to develop at an earlier age than has been the experience in our later generation. The whole method of upbringing, education, etc., tends to a more slow development of the full faculties and character than was the case under the earlier forms of education, civilisation, and government. If there is an argument in the distinction of sexes in this matter, that argument should certainly go to prove that women develop their full powers more rapidly than men in the majority of cases.
It will be conceded that no man has a legal right to vote unless that right is conferred on him by the act of the legislature, of the King and Parliament in session, from which the right to vote is derived. Therefore there is no reason why this matter should not be thoroughly considered in Committee of this House. Anyone who has had experience of education in this country, whether of the higher forms of education or those which we have in the primary schools, 207 will concede that our education does not develop character and experience at a very early age. No man or woman should be allowed to exercise the great function of electing a government, of having a voice in settling the destinies of a nation, which is what happens when a vote is recorded, until the character is formed and there is, in addition, some experience of the conditions of life, which it is proposed to remould, reform, and govern in the Parliament which is to be elected. I believe that these reasons are difficult to refute, and whatever may be the opinions or arguments in this Committee, the universal experience of practical people, given without prejudice and after investigation of the subject, is that twenty-one years of age is too early at which a man should be entrusted with a share in the destinies of his country, and that the age should be when the man has become more mature, and his character more definitely formed, under the greater experience he has accumulated. On the other hand it would not be right to postpone the giving of the vote longer than is necessary, and it is therefore I suggest twenty-five years as the right age. It will be found that at that age a very large number of men have attained to the responsibilities of family life, but at any rate, whatever may be the view of this Committee, this is a question of wide and vast importance, and I think it right that we should have an opportunity of having the proposal of twenty-five years, as the age at which to give the vote, fully discussed.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member could not have been here when I dealt with this Amendment, pointing out that it would come under Clause 8.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I will not follow the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Gretton) in his very interesting speech. He cannot expect the Government to accept this Amendment. Not only is it a question of men of twenty-one being entitled to vote, but there are many of that age already on the register, and if the hon. Gentleman's Amendment were adopted it would disfranchise the whole of those men who have been put on the register. Quite 208 apart from soldiers and sailors, there are many men who have done excellent service to the country before the War, and, therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I am surprised to hear the arguments of the hon. Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton), and I should have thought he would be one of the last in this House to propose such an Amendment. If he will carry his own mind back to the time when he was twenty-one years of age, what would he have said if it had been proposed to stop him from voting at that age? He is a successful business man, and I presume that when he was twenty-one years of age he thought he was well qualified to take part in his great business. I think the argument is all on the other side. The advantages which we possess to-day in the way of education have helped young men to develop quicker, and they have benefited largely from being educationally more fully equipped than was possible in the days when I was a lad. Young men of to-day have far greater advantages, and they are far better developed at the age of twenty-one years, than was the ease with former generations. We have had hon. Gentlemen come into this House at the age of twenty-one years and they have done excellent service here. With the advantages of education and other advantages of modern life, the young men of to-day are far more qualified to exercise the vote than were their fathers in the old days.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I could not support the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend in its present form, because it would disfranchise a great number of electors now on the register. At the same time, the proposal is one that is worthy of the Government's consideration in regard to future electors, who are not now on the register. In their case such an Amendment as this might be adopted. It is quite true that a good many people do good work at twenty-one years of age, but that is an argument which might be carried a great deal further. Remarkable services have been rendered by boys in the present War, but it could hardly be suggested that they should be put upon the register. We have had a Chancellor of the Exchequer at the age of twenty-three years of age, but I do not know that a Chancellor of the Exchequer of that age would be tolerated today. I was surprised to read that in the Bartholomew massacre a large number of the persons who took part in it were under 209 twenty-two years of age, many of them twenty-one years of age, and it is possible that people, two or three hundred years ago, were considered older at twenty-one or twenty-two years of age than is the case now; and I think it is true that people grow up slower than they did formerly. It is not unreasonable that the question of a later age at which to give the vote should be taken into consideration, and, if the Amendment is not pressed at this stage, it might be considered with regard to future electors who are not now on the register.
§ Colonel GRETTON
In regard to this Amendment I am quite willing to withdraw it, but I wish to call attention to an omission in the drafting of the Bill. In previous Franchise Bills there has been a saving Clause that those already on the register shall not lose their votes. But there is no such Clause in this Bill safeguarding voters already upon the register, and who without such a Clause would be disfranchised. There should be some Clause proposed safeguarding the position of those who already enjoy the franchise.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think this is a very important Amendment, and I do not at all agree with the hon. Gentleman behind me. I do not think at all that men of twenty-one are any better qualified, by reason of the education afforded in these days, to exercise the vote. I am not at all sure that the education of which the hon. Member speaks has not disqualified them instead of qualified them, and that it is because of the very effects of that education they are not qualified to exercise the vote. It is only in the three or four years between twenty-one and twenty-five that the young man begins to Acquire experience of the world in which he lives, and it is then only that he has an opportunity of seeing how badly he has been taught in the schools, because he sees life as it is, and learns by experience the proper course to pursue and the right method to take. It has been pointed out that women come to maturity very much quicker than do men. That is a fact. Yet the woman's age is to be thirty, whilst men's age is only to be twenty-one. My Noble Friend pointed out that for some unknown reason in former times people came to maturity very much earlier than now. Nelson was flag-captain at twenty-one, but there are no flag-captains of that age in the Navy. I do not know that we could have a Chancellor of the Exchequer 210 at the age of twenty-three to carry on the finances of the country, as did William Pitt at that age. There is another point in regard to this Amendment. We are going to extend the franchise in a way it has never been extended before, and we are going to include all sorts of people that have never been included before. It might be open to argument that those people who were on the register in the old days had some special qualifications which qualified them to vote, but that argument does not apply now where you are bringing in everybody, for this Bill is manhood suffrage, subject to certain reservations and qualifications of an ephemeral character. If you are going to admit everybody who is twenty-one years of age, I think it is well worthy the consideration of the Committee whether the age ought not to be raised. This is not a new point. It has been discussed before. There are very great numbers of people who think that while we ought to extend the franchise that there should be some alteration of the age. I am myself rather sorry that my hon. Friend wishes to withdraw his Amendment, and I should have liked to go to a Division upon it. I do not understand the objection about disfranchising a number of people. The Bill already disfranchises a number of people. I have not seen him exercise any regret over that. One of the oldest votes in the country disappears. It would be perfectly open to insert an Amendment which would preserve the vote to those who have already got it.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I beg to move in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "(a) Has the requisite residence qualification or, (b) Has the requisite business residence qualification," and Sub-sections (2) and (3), and to insert instead thereof the words "is entitled to be registered as a local government elector in respect of land and premises in that constituency." This Amendment is designed to affirm the principle that the same franchise should be adopted for the Parliamentary vote as for the local government vote. It would result in a single qualification for the two franchises, and people would know easily if they had a vote for either that they were qualified for both purposes. You want substantially the same qualities of judg- 211 ment and knowledge of political and local affairs to qualify you to give a vote on municipal matters or Parliamentary. The act of voting is a very simple one in either case, and depends substantially on the same process of mind. I know it used to be the doctrine that the local government vote must depend on rating, because the municipal body had the function of spending the rates, and that therefore it was proper that only ratepayers should elect the municipal bodies. But as everyone knows, the ratepaying qualification is so concealed by the machinery under which rates are paid that it operates very very slightly as a source of responsibility on the voter's mind. Very few voters realise clearly that the policy of the local body they are electing really affects the rates they pay themselves. Therefore, the value of the ratepaying qualification in municipal matters is not so great or real as it might be. On the other hand, if you affirm that a man ought to be a ratepayer as a test of citizenship it is not easy to see why mere residence should be sufficient in dealing with the Parliamentary vote. The right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), on the Second Reading of the Bill, used the expression "established home." Suppose a man had undergone six months' imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubbs, and was released the night before the qualifying day, then, as far as I can see, he is qualified to be a voter while his established home was in Wormwood Scrubbs. That throws a very pleasing light on the humanity of our penal system. I really do not know that anything is excluded from an established home as long as you are one night in one place; you may wander about during six months so long as you do not go too far afield. It is like the system of permitting non-interned aliens to go as far as five miles from wherever they live. You are adopting the same principle of qualifying for the franchise. You may go about within limits over a little area during six months, but you must be in a particular place on one night. You call that an established home, but it is really a limited or restricted degree of vagrancy.
Therefore, I suggest it would be better to adopt the more solid franchise of the local government. That qualification is that the person shall have "occupied, jointly or severally, as owner or tenant, but not as a lodger, any land or premises 212 in that area, and has during the whole of the qualifying period so occupied any land or premises in that area, or if that area is not an administrative county or a county borough in the administrative county, or county borough in which the area is wholly or partly situate." That does not seem to me to be at all an unworkable or unreasonable basis for the Parliamentary vote. It is, at any rater very much better than the franchise proposed in this Clause. My Amendment would make the franchise uniform, and would lay down the principle of one standard of political efficiency equally suitable for municipal and Parliamentary purposes. It would bring about simplicity, for which I have not a great admiration, but which is supposed to be one of the principles revealed from heaven apparently to the Speaker's Conference, the proceedings of which we are now to accept with obsequiousness. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman in his reply will condescend to instruct the Committee about what his Bill proposes both in respect of the Parliamentary and local government franchise. It is only kind to us to tell us what we are voting for before we vote. I understand that the Government require absolute obedience, but I do not suppose they require ignorant obedience.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
I am afraid I cannot hope to obtain any real assent from my Noble Friend to whatever I say about this Bill, but I will endeavour, at all events, to reply. He spoke about a simple form, of register. We have gone a very long way to simplify the franchise in this Bill, which sweeps away all kinds of difficulties and substitutes a very simple form of franchise both for Parliamentary and local government purposes. It is true it does not make one form of qualification for both Parliamentary and local government registers and makes a distinction, between them. My Noble Friend says he does not see why there should be any distinction between the qualifications and that practically the issues are very much the same. I think that if he will examine the matter a little more closely he will find that in local government elections there is very good ground for taking a different qualification. Such elections as in the case of the London County Council turn on issues like tramway questions, housing improvements, water supplies, and the 213 like. I think my Noble Friend will see that while there is a great deal to be said for a local qualification in the decision of local questions, that a wider qualification is more desirable when you have wider decisions on issues of far greater importance than those which are involved in water and tramway matters. It is quite true this proposal would simplify by making one franchise, but if we were to carry it the effect would be to give a very narrow qualification for a Parliamentary vote. My Noble Friend would limit the qualification entirely to an occupation franchise, whereas the Bill deals with residence and occupation, and, in certain cases, gives two votes. Then my Noble Friend raised the question of whether a prison would be taken to be a residence. I can give him no answer with assurance on that point until my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary returns, but the point is one which will arise again on Clause 3.
My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that no registrar would hold that the residence suggested in a prison would be a residence of the kind that would entitle anybody to a vote. However, the point, no doubt, will be raised when we come to consider the matter of residence, but the opinion I have given is, I believe, one which will be held generally by those who have, the task imposed upon them of putting voters upon the register—that a residence in a prison will not be such as to qualify anybody for the vote. We can raise a much fuller discussion better on the whole question of qualification when we come to the Clause which deals with it. No doubt there will be a good deal then to be said for the inclusion or the exclusion of the lodger vote. We shall doubtless have a somewhat prolonged discussion on that important point. I think, however, that the Committee will agree that this is not the best place to take a discussion on that very important question. I trust I have said enough to show to my Noble Friend that he would very much limit the qualification for the Parliamentary vote if his Amendment were carried; therefore it is not one which we could accept.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not quite agree that because a person is fit to vote for the local government franchise that that person should have a still further qualification, or an extension of qualification, vote by the Parliamentary franchise, on the ground that the exercise of the Parliamen- 214 tary vote is very much more important of the two. I quite agree that it is. But it a man is capable of exercising the more important function, surely he is capable of exercising the lesser function? If he is not capable of exercising the greater function, then his qualification should be limited in the sense suggested by my Noble Friend opposite. I was very much interested in the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), than whom there is no greater exponent of Bills or of legal phraseology, not only in this House but in any other place. I shall be very much, obliged to him if he would explain what is meant by an "established home." It is quite true that, as my right hon. Friend who has just spoken has said, that the question of residence had probably better be discussed on a later Amendment. It will have to be diseased. There is no definition, but later we may not have the advantage of the presence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and thus may not be able to have his opinion. Therefore I sincerely trust that as we have-got him now we will not let him go until he has given us his definition of an "established home." I do not myself hold that my Noble Friend is wrong in thinking that if a man spends five months and twenty-nine days in prison and his sentence expires on the last day, and he then goes into a common lodging-house, that he would be disqualified as a lodger on the ground of being a criminal; because he is not a criminal on the last day. He has escaped that disqualification. Therefore, it might be held that as he has a residence on the last day in the constituency, that he may be qualified for a vote. However that may be, I sincerely trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will give us the definition for which I have asked.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Colonel SANDERS
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), paragraph (a), after the word "requisite," to insert the words "occupation or."
My Amendment raises a somewhat similar point to that which has already been discussed, and that is the point of the definition of residence. What I want to put co those in charge of this Bill is this: Is there anyone who will be admitted by the words I propose to insert, "occupation or," who would be left out if the words were not inserted? They certainly, I think, would make the Clause 215 very much clearer. I want in respect to -this definition of residence to take a specific case. First of all, take the strongest case in all, that of the commercial traveller. Take a commercial traveller with a room here in business in London, a man who keeps his various lares et penates, his bed, table, chest of drawers, etc., here, but who spends his whole time travelling about the country on his business. It is very often the custom for commercial travellers to come back and spend their week-ends in London, or wherever their homes may be. But I am taking the case of the bachelor commercial traveller, who, as a matter of fact, it may be, does not come home ton a single occasion within six months. Has he a residence which will enable him to vote in London, or wherever he keeps his rooms or residence? If he has not got A residence in London, where has he one, and is he excluded altogether from the franchise? I want to give that man his residence at the place where he keeps his rooms. I want to know whether, if you put in the words which I suggest, "occupation or," he would be entitled to a vote for his place?
Take another case not quite so strong. Take the case of a barrister, a member of Parliament, or any other unfortunate person who has to live away from his home. Say he has a house in the country, hut he has to come up to town for almost the whole of his time. Has he or has he not a vote for his house in the country? What amount of residence, how many week-ends must he spend in the country, to entitle him to vote there? I put down my Amendment in order to clear up this point. It seems to me that "occupation" is a defined word. It is a word which has always been used for the law of elections. Those who are connected with registers and with elections know what is the meaning of "occupation." Why do we go away from a word which everybody understands and adopt a word to which no one can give an intelligible meaning? It may be that the word "residence" will be defined in such a way as will meet my point, but it is not defined in this Act. I hear it has been denned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman he Member for Walthamstow. After all, his definition is not yet the law of the land. Perhaps before long it may form part of the case-law of the country; at present we have to make a definition.
216 We have got nothing that is clearly laid down. In fact, I believe I am right in saying that there are conflicting cases upon the point. Therefore, I want to put in these two words which I think make the matter absolutely clear. If they do not include anyone which the Government wants to leave out, then I hope I have established my case for them to be put in.
§ Sir G. CAVE
This is a proposed new qualification and it is a serious matter. We are endeavouring to simplify the franchise and we have put in the word "residence," not only in connection with the old occupation franchise, but for many other franchise, such as the service, the lodger, and so on. My hon, and gallant Friend would add the very wide words "occupation or."
§ Colonel SANDERS
Docs residence include the present occupation franchise— that is the point I want to get at—or is it a fresh franchise?
§ Sir G. CAVE
It does include it. There is no great practical difficulty in the way of understanding the words "residence" or "business." They are everyday words, and embody the generally simple fact of the ordinary case. To attempt to define it would probably only mean that you define it by a synonym which would or might not carry out your meaning. The place where you live and have your home— that is your residence. I think everyone of us, if the point were put to him knows what the word residence means.
§ Colonel SANDERS
May I ask if the house would be my residence where I have not slept once for six months?
§ Sir G. CAVE
I think so. The point has often been argued in the courts. It may well be that a man may have a home in a place where, for some reason or another, either because of his health, or holiday, or duty, he does not actually and physically find himself in the house. But if it remains that man's home then it is his residence.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I think it is in the Bill. There is a very well-known Scottish case of a man who was not in his house for one day during the whole year for a number of years, but yet he was held to be 217 resident there, and had the privilege of being taxed. For the same reason, it can be held that a man is in occupation who keeps his home, his wife being there, but who, for some reason, never resides there. It would only add obscurity to insert these words, and every registration officer will know what is meant by the words in the Bill. If there is a doubt in any special case it will be open to appeal on the point of law.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
May I ask whether this includes the case of a man letting his home for the greater part of the qualifying period?
§ Sir G. CAVE
That, I think, is a separate point, and is raised by a later Amendment. For the purpose of the general qualification, I would rather keep to the word "residence."
§ Mr. NIELD
Take the case of a butler or man-servant employed in the West End, and having his family in a small house—it may be in Essex, in one of the large urban districts out of the county of London—and only occasionally going to see his family. In those circumstances, which place will be regarded as the man's residence to entitle him to a vote?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Major NEWMAN
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), paragraph (b) to leave out the word "premises."
I am in some difficulty, and I daresay some other members of the Committee are, as to the exact meaning of the words "business premises qualification." We know, I think, what the Speaker Conference wanted to do. The Speaker's Conference, I take it, wanted to give every man when he reached twenty-one years a vote. It then wanted to give a second vote to a man who had a business in certain conditions, or a second vote to a man who had University qualifications, and, of course, wished to place soldiers and sailors in a separate category. We are now dealing with this second vote which is to be accorded to a business man—I imagine, qua business man. That is to say, we do 218 not want to make any man a plural voter; we only want to give him this second vote if he genuinely has a trade, business, or occupation, and if the exercise of this trade, business, or occupation carries a qualification of £10 rateable value. Take the case of a man who follows the occupation of what is known as a French gardener. He has perhaps an acre of land, forces lettuces and other vegetables under glass, and has a small lean-to shanty against a wall. Undoubtedly he is a man carrying on the occupation of a French gardener, which demands a great deal of skill and a certain amount of capital, but his business premises consist merely of a lean-to shed where he keeps his tools, and which may be, is worth, nothing at all. Are you going to give this man a business vote or not? I could multiply instances of this kind indefinitely. I merely want to get some sort of idea what "business premises qualification" is. I think what we all want is to give a genuine man a second vote, whether he be a solicitor, a farmer, or a shopkeeper, if he is genuinely qualified as a business man. Apart from his ordinary residential qualification, we want to give him a second vote, and I am not at all certain that under this Clause as drafted he will get this vote unless the actual premises where he carries on his business are rated at the value of £10 a year.
§ Sir G. CAVE
Of course, this is only a verbal Amendment which alters the form of reference. I quite understand the point of my hon. and gallant Friend. He wants to raise a question of more substance. I gather that he wants to know whether a man who occupies for business purposes, not a house, but land, such as a farm or market garden, or something of that kind, is to have a vote respecting those premises. [An HON. MEMBER: "Land."] It might be that land is premises The intention is to give to every man a vote in respect of any premises he occupies for business purposes, and I hold that, as the Bill stands, a man who lives in one constituency, but has his market garden or his farm in another constituency, is the occupier of business premises in that other constituency. It is a real point of substance, and if the hon. and gallant Member is not clear about it it can be raised more properly and more effectively in a later Sub-section, to which he has an Amendment. Therefore, I hope he-will not alter the form of phrase here.
§ Amendment negatived.219
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words,or (c) is the owner of any land or premises of the annual value of five pounds or upwards.I have added the words "of the annual value of five pounds or upwards" in order to guard against the creation of faggot votes, which I know have been or were viewed in the old days with much apprehension by a large number of people in this country. If my Amendment is accepted, as I hope it will be, it will restore to the franchise one of the oldest qualifications in this country—the ownership vote. I have not looked it up carefully, but I believe I am right in saying it is the oldest qualification in this country, and I cannot see any reason, except the fear of creating a faggot vote, which I have guarded against by putting in the words "of the annual value of five pounds or upwards," why an owner should be deprived of his vote. Take the case of a man who is a resident in one constituency, and who, in another constituency, owns large properties. He has all the obligations which property entails upon a man —and they do not decrease as years go on, and as legislation increases—yet he is not allowed to have a vote for that property though a man who occupies a shop, or even a room for business purposes in that neighbourhood, would have a vote if only on account of selling a few bottles of ginger beer, or a packet of cigarettes, or a few-newspapers. It seems to me that it is absolutely incomprehensible that that vote should be taken away. I know that in the discussion on behalf of this Bill—I will not call it agitation, because I do not believe there is any agitation on behalf of the Bill, as I think the country as a whole is absolutely indifferent to the fate of the Bill—but in the initial stages of the Bill, the ownership vote was discussed more or less privately by several Members of this House. I do not see present the hon. Member who expressed to me very strongly his determination not to abandon his principles, and one of his principles was the ownership vote. I am afraid he has abandoned it, because I do not see him in the House in support of my Amendment. But that there should be any reason for this vital change, and that my right hon. and learned Friend, of all the people in the world, should be the one who supports this great change in the franchise is beyond me. I could imagine 220 listening with pleasure to my right hon. and learned Friend sitting on this side of the House answering the right hon. and learned Gentleman here if he were to propose such an Amendment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am not ashamed of it. I only wish there were one or two more. Perhaps, as time goes on, there may be one or two more, because I am not at all sure that there is not some tendency to think we are going a little too fast, and that before long a certain number of people will think that, after all, I am not so foolish as I look in taking up the views I hold now. I am not at all sure that there are not some right hon. Members on the Bench opposite who will not agree with me. But I must not be led away from my Amendment, which is of a serious and important nature, to discuss other matters. My right hon. and learned Friend, at the beginning of the Debate this afternoon on the question of the Instruction, assured us that he would do his best to meet serious points which were to be moved. He was prepared to accept Amendments and to listen to arguments, and I do hope that, having those views, he will attach some importance to my Amendment, and will see his way to accept it.
§ Sir G. CAVE
We are not to-day discussing the ownership vote by itself. If we had been discussing a Bill brought in to take away the ownership vote and nothing else, it is quite possible that the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury) and myself would not be found so far apart. The right hon. Gentleman, however, must not forget, and I certainly shall not forget, that this Bill is not a question of that kind. It is a measure dealing with the whole area of the franchise and other matters relating to it, and it is the result of a conference in which all parts of the House were represented. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] This Bill does not deal only with the ownership vote, but with matters upon which there are wide differences of opinion. In some instances the measure is in favour of those who hold one set of views and in other instances it is in favour of those who hold another set of views. If the ownership vote had been retained by the Conference the House would not have assented to the other proposals put forward by the Conference relating to the plural vote, 221 University representation and other matters. The House has accepted the proposals of the Conference as a whole as representing a fair arrangement, and it is on that ground that it is impossible for the Government to go behind the decision of the Conference and the general decision of the House. We could not, while restoring the ownership vote in any form, at the same time claim to retain all the other recommendations of the Conference. With regard to what the right hon. Baronet has said, I am certain that whatever side of the House I might be sitting upon, I should hold to-day the same view and use the same arguments as I am putting forward. I am anxious to get rid of all these wrangles once and for all. We shall probably hear a good deal of them during the next few weeks, but we must put up with it, and it is some consolation to know that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will address us from time to time. At any rate, we shall get rid of this kind of argument and this kind of thing. Under these circumstances I must ask the Committee to adhere to the Bill, and I hope my right hon. Friend will not press his Amendment.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If I understand rightly the Home Secretary's speech, it means that we must not press seriously any Amendment to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says it is an agreed Bill, but apparently it was not agreed to by my right hon. and learned Friend, because I do not think he was a member of the Conference, and so clever and able a lawyer making such a speech would never have been likely to have agreed to such a Bill as this. It is pretty clear that my right hon. and learned Friend did not agree to this Bill in conference, and therefore the point is whether we are to exercise our free judgment or not upon Amendments, or whether we are to take the whole of this Bill wholesale, giving up all our former principles. If that is what is meant, the sooner discussions of this sort come to an end the better. Are we to give up all the principles we have fought for ever since we have been in the House? May I point out that there is no such thing as binding the House of Commons to agree to any document in a conference, and surely we ought to have some stronger arguments than those used by the Home Secretary before we agree to the abolition of the ownership vote? You may have a man residing in one parish and one constituency having a vote for his property, 222 and in the next constituency you may have a man owning large works under a business qualification and a large amount of land, possibly let to farm tenants, and he is not to have a vote in respect to that property. That is a principle for which we have fought on all possible occasions. I think hon. Members should give voice to the views they hold, and say that as far as this Amendment is concerned there is no agreement in respect of the ownership vote, which has been supported in the past by a great many persons, and I cannot understand why we should be asked to give up the ownership vote in exchange for something else.
§ Colonel Sir R. WILLIAMS
I would like to say a word or two in answer to what the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London has said. I was a member of the Speaker's Conference, and I was one of those who had to face the disagreeable alternatives of giving up a great deal for which I had contended for many years in this House. There were other hon. Members on the other side who were even more deeply pledged to other questions than I was and they frankly gave up their views. They were men who, for instance, have supported plural voting. May I point out that the whole of this Bill is in the nature of a compromise. It has been said that it was a hole-and-corner Conference, but those who say that cannot have studied the list of the names of those who formed that Conference, because it was absolutely representative of the whole country. It is quite true that there were three or four members of the Conference who found compromise so absolutely against their nature that they could not stay on the Conference and they left it, to the great regret of those who stayed behind, because except on that one point they had given very good help to the Conference, and they would have continued to do so had their attitude towards compromise allowed them to remain. The argument has been used that the House has never been asked to assent to this compromise. On the contrary, I think the whole of the Resolutions of the Speaker's Conference were submitted to this House, and the House adopted them as a whole by a very large majority, and it was by the direction of the House itself that the Government brought in this Bill.
When the Bill was brought in the House assented to it by a very large majority. If it was simply a question of the owner- 223 ship vote I should go into the Lobby with my right hon. Friend, but it is not anything of the sort. The ownership vote, like the plural vote, has been given up. I know it is a great thing when we come to cherished convictions to give them up, but we have to recognise times and circumstances alter, and in countries where citizenship is growing in freedom greater elasticity of voting is needed from time to time. It seems to me that this compromise is most fitted for the present stage of our growth and the enlargement of our franchise. I hope that we shall not hear any more of the arguments that this Bill has been thrust upon the House without hon. Members knowing anything about it, because the Resolutions passed at the Speaker's Conference were submitted as a whole to the House and the House deliberately adopted them by a very large majority. Therefore, I think we are bound to carry out the wishes of the House.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
The Home Secretary, in declining to consider this Amendment, appears to have followed out in detail the method and spirit in which he began this Debate when he proposed that the whole of the questions connected with redistribution and proportional representation were to be debated and finished in one day. I cannot myself understand why the recommendations of this Conference should be looked upon as a sacrosanct and omnipotent arrangement. The compromise appears to have been taken as gospel by the Ministers in charge of this Bill, and also by my hon. Friend behind me (Colonel Williams). I have seen nothing to alter my opinion on the point that we in this House cannot and ought not to be bound by a compromise arranged and come to by a body of gentlemen in whose choice and selection for the purpose we ourselves had no part. I feel that we do not owe so much to the recommendations of such a Conference, or to the compromise arrived at by it as we owe to convictions which we, throughout longer or shorter periods of parliamentary life, have expressed to our constituents on the various points embodied in this Bill. To say that because the Conference was representative of all parties in the House, while it was not chosen by the House, should it override the principle of representation which is the right by which we sit here, and which is the relation existing between us and our constituencies, our 224 consciences, and our past expressed convictions, is, to my mind, altogether a reversal of the representative principle and Parliamentary practice. After sitting a long time in this House with, I think, unbroken loyalty to the party to which I belonged, I must say that I am grieved and chagrined at this attitude adopted by the War Government—to whom we admit and grant a full measure of autocracy in matters connected with the War—of autocracy carried into their dealings with this House and into their dealings with domestic legislation. The Amendment has been supported on the ground that there are large owners of land, and that in view of the responsibilities which they have they should be represented as owners of that land. I would venture to urge the Amendment on behalf of small owners of land. It has been the policy of this House, and of this country, to encourage as far as possible the small owner of land. I cannot but think that ownership of land, even in the smallest degree, does make better, more stable, and more patriotic citizens, and I should regret very much if the ownership qualification were entirely destroyed by this Bill, and if those small owners who have put their savings into land should find that the privilege which has hitherto attached to ownership was taken away by this Bill.
§ Mr. R. MCNEILL
I confess that I am getting a little tired of the appeals that are made to us to sink all our opinions, and practically pass this Bill without examination on the basis of this Conference. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Colonel Sir R, Williams) said that the House is committed by the votes that were given, first, on the Resolution and then on the Second Reading of the Bill, to the compromise arrived at by the Conference. I confess when I hear speeches like that of my hon. and gallant Friend, and that of my right hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir G. Cave), it makes me begin to wonder whether I was right in being in that majority. I was one of those who voted in favour of the Government bringing in a Bill upon the lines of the Speaker's Conference. If that principle were reasonably interpreted and adhered to, I think I was right. I was in favour, and I am still in favour, of having a Franchise and a Redistribution Bill, roughly speaking, upon the lines laid down by the Speaker's Confer- 225 ence; but, if on that account I am to be told on every occasion that I have no right either to propose or to support some Amendment of detail such as that now before the Committee, it is time for us to protest, and certainly for myself I say very clearly that I entirely repudiate the idea that I am bound in any sense either by the Speaker's Conference, to which I was no party, or by the vote of this House, to which I was a party, against supporting Amendments of this sort. My hon. and gallant Friend said that we were precluded from voting for this Amendment because the compromise arranged at the Speaker's Conference involved the surrender by our party of the principle of plural voting. That just brings out the point to which I am prepared to go by way of compromise. I am prepared to support the general lines of the Speaker's Conference, and therefore; in return for principles which have been given up by the other side, to vote for a Bill which gives away the plural vote. But this Amendment does not introduce plural voting. Plural voting means that a man shall be entitled to vote in any number of constituencies in which he may have one or other of the franchises which qualifies him for the vote. These here are alternative qualifications.
Something which was said on a previous Amendment by my right hon. Friend opposite makes the position which he now takes up, if I may say so, a ridiculous one. He said that in his judgment the word "premises" includes land. I gather, when we come to the definition of the word "premises," that he will accept an Amendment which I have put down, and I think some of my hon. Friends as well, to make it clear that premises does include land. At all events, he has told us that in his opinion that is the meaning of the word. Just see what is involved by the position which the Government take up in resisting this Amendment. A man farms a small farm and resides in some other constituency. According to the admission of my right hon. and learned Friend, by farming those few acres of land he acquires a, business premises: qualification, but apparently if he happens to be the owner of the freehold of that land and ventures to sub-let it he immediately loses the qualification which otherwise he would have. That is an absurd proposition. If he is entitled to have a vote in respect of land of which he is a tenant, is it not absurd that he should lose that right if 226 he happens to be the freeholder? I do not see that the Amendment in the least involves reintroducing plural voting in the sense in which our party was in favour of it before. I gather that this is an alternative. The words are, "has the requisite business premises qualification or is the owner of any land." It keeps us to the compromise of two as the maximum number of votes that a man can have, and all that it does is to say that the second vote which he is entitled to have under the compromise of the Speaker s Conference may be in respect of business premises, including land, or in respect of the ownership of land It appears to me, on the merits of the case, and without in the least giving way the compromise, to which in its broad outline I am prepared to agree, that the Amendment is a reasonable one, and I hope my right hon. Friend will take it into the Lobby, in which case I shall support him.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It seems to me that the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R, McNeill) is really himself setting up the claim that the word of the Conference is to be law for the purpose of knocking it down. It is not a claim, so far as I am aware, that has been made by the Government, and it certainly is not a claim that has been made by any member of the Conference. The view which those of us who happened to serve on that body take was fairly and properly stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me (Colonel Sir R. Williams). He said, fairly enough, "As far as I was concerned, I regarded this as an occasion when I, at any rate, should see whether it was possible to give-and-take." That, for what it was worth, was the spirit in which the Conference proceeded, and the question is whether that is the spirit in which the House of Commons is prepared to proceed. Nobody for a moment suggests that the fact that the Conference arrived at certain recommendations is in itself and by itself to stop the right of a Member of the House of Commons to propose such changes as seem to him to be good.
At the same time, let us see where we are. It is no good saying that this proposal is a mere matter of detail and does not seriously affect the balance of the Bill. We have already got to the point in the Bill which involves admitting two principles. First of all, it involves the 227 preservation of the university constituencies. That part of the give-and-take provoked no protest either from the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) or the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson). There are people in this House who have felt and who have spoken in the past very strongly indeed on that particular subject, and who regard this as giving up, I do not say a principle, because people do not give up a principle in the proper sense, but a very material part of their conception of a really well-balanced franchise. We have also passed lines 10 and 11, and the moment one looks at them one sees that they make preparation for an arrangement by which a man will vote more than once. The hon. Gentleman who spoke just now seemed to think that this Bill did not deserve to be described as a Bill which preserved plural voting, but I do not think he can have had presented to him the way in which it strikes some of us. The point is not whether it preserves plural voting in the sense which recommends itself to the hon. Gentleman, but whether there is not a great sacrifice involved on the part of very many people in seeing any sort of plural voting preserved at all. This is not the time that a man can compare the purity of his own political creed with the purity of someone else who holds a contrary doctrine, but there must be many people who really feel, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me said that he felt, that the abolition of plural voting and the establishment of the principle of one man one vote has meant very much to a vast body of opinion both outside this House and in it, and when we come to give-and-take it is only right to remember what has been given up on one side and has been received without any protest on the other by the words which we have already passed.
I am not trying to set up one thing against the other as though it were possible to weigh them with a pair of scales, but, at any rate, this is a Bill which concedes to some of its critics both the preservation of university representation and the continuance of, a system by which there will be many people in this country giving more votes than one. Let those things, at any rate, be remembered when one is asked whether or not the Amendment now suggested should be introduced 228 into the Bill. If we were discussing the merits of the ownership vote apart from anything else we might have a discussion, I dare say, lasting some time, in which there would be different opinions expressed, but we are hardly doing justice to the scheme of the Bill and the obvious purpose of the Government in putting it forward to treat it as a Bill which is recommended to the House merely because it is the result of some Conference recommendations, and as though either the Government or the members of the Conference have ever said, "Since this was the decision of the Conference, it cannot be altered in the smallest degree." The position is that this is a Bill which, as a result of a good deal of testing and trial, has been found, at any rate by the Conference, to possess some of the elements of a balance. To introduce so very large a change as the addition of an ownership qualification would, in the view of some of us, destroy so much of the balance as is represented by conserving university voting and preserving plural voting.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
I was a member of the Conference to which reference has been frequently made. I do not pretend that this Bill deserves any practical consideration from the mere fact that it emanated from the Conference, but the results of the Conference were brought before this House and submitted to its general opinion, and this House, by an overwhelming majority, confirmed the conclusions at which the Conference had arrived. I do not say the conclusions were confirmed without the right of amendment, or that what has been produced in the form of the Bill must not run the ordinary risks of legislation in this House. We do not claim anything more for it than that. There is no doubt that under the Bill the ownership vote is given up. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] I think it is. In the contentions between political parties in this country in the past the side to which I belong contended very strongly for the ownership vote, and a large section of it does so still. On the other hand, there were others, whose opinions were entitled to consideration and respect, who contended that the ownership vote should not prevail. For the moment I do not attempt to decide which of those parties was right or wrong. There is one thing we should remember, that one of the greatest authorities upon the subject, a man who enjoyed the universal respect of this House and a 229 member of the old Conservative party, in one of the best books ever written on constitutional law, said:It is certain that when our representative system began the right to vote was conditioned upon residence.Those were the words of Sir William Anson. If we look abroad and see what has prevailed in our great Dominions, we find that the property vote has been given up. I protested against it very strongly myself, because I voted a number of times without any residence in the country, on the strength of holding property. The property vote has been given up practically in all British Dominions. In the Conference we all felt that if the property vote were insisted upon, it would be impossible to come to any conclusion whatever. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) has pointed out, if we in the Conference gave up the property vote, it must be remembered that those representing the Liberal party and the Labour party in that Conference gave up contentions that were very dear to them and which were explained by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, indeed, one of the prominent members of the Conference belonging to the Liberal party said that in giving up the cry of "One man, one vote," they gave up their best political asset. I can very well understand how dear to them that cry must have been, yet now it has been given up. A concession has been made in that respect. It cannot be expected that the concession should be all on one side. In order to balance concession against concession, we arrived at the conclusions contained in the main elements of this Bill as being in the best interests of the people of this country. To claim that nothing should be given up on one side, and that everything should be given up on the other, is an impossible proposal. If we are to arrive at anything like a reasonable conclusion, there must be a concession on both sides. In these circumstances I feel that to insist upon the Amendment moved by the right hon. Baronet would be to displace the whole basis of the agreement arrived at at the Conference, and for that reason I oppose it
§ Colonel WEIGALL
The only answer we have yet had on this Amendment is the general one from the Home Secretary that, because the abolition of the ownership vote was part of a compromise arrived at by the Conference, it should not be 230 accepted. I speak as one who only after great consideration voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. I did so because I convinced myself that not only for the prosecution of the War, but that in order to prepare for peace during war, it was necessary to have an effective electoral machine, and I did not see any other way of producing that machine without going so far as to vote for the Second Beading. But I was safeguarded by a speech made by the Colonial Secretary at the end of the Second Beading Debate, in which it was distinctly held out to us that we should retain the ordinary privileges in the Committee stage of the measure. Here is an Amendment upon all we have had; from the Government is the statement that it is not part of the compromise arranged by the Conference, and therefore it must not be adopted.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
Of course, I accept my right hon. Friend's denial. My only apology is that my lay mind does not understand the language of a legal luminary. All I ask on the Committee stage is that on all these points we may be allowed, if not to ruminate over the food which is provided, at any rate to masticate it.
§ Mr. NIELD
I should not have joined in this Debate if I had not thought it necessary to define my position. For some hours past we have been discussing this matter, while we are engaged in this terrible War. Whatever I say on this Bill is said subject to the reservation that we have no business to be entering upon this discussion at all. But here we are! I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill) for having brought to his feet the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), who is facile princeps able to explain this Bill, because no doubt his tremendous legal ability and acumen contributed to the framing of it.
§ Mr. NIELD
I mean the basis upon which it is constructed. The man who draws the plans does not always build the house. I am very glad to know that upon the Conference we had so able a representative, and one who has made a special study of the question of franchise, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson).
231 One regrets that the conclusions of this Conference should now be put to us as having been accepted by all of us. We had no concern at all with the selection of the members of the Conference. We never knew there was going to be such a thing until it was announced in the newspapers, which nowadays seem to be the authentic channel for conveying information to Members of Parliament. We never had the faintest suspicion who were to be the members of it, nor were we asked to send delegates to it. The last move in that direction was a Motion made by the light hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cleveland Division (Mr. Herbert Samuel) to set up a Committee in order to formulate a scheme upon which a Bill might be based. That was the constitutional way of dealing with the subject. The Committee was named in that Motion. The Whips had been asked in the ordinary constitutional way to select names and the names were selected. What happened? The very moment that Motion was being made, it was destroyed by its author. The next thing we heard of the question was that this Conference was to be summoned, and that its members were to be selected by Mr. Speaker, without the authority of this House. I protest against the statement of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Dorset (Colonel Sir R. Williams) that this House must accept necessarily the conclusions of that Conference. If we had had the selection of it or had passed the terms of reference to it, I might agree. What did we have? On the Second Reading it was stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir Harry Samuel) that when they began to deal with the subject—what subject? The subject which presumably they had to consider, namely, the construction of a register, which was the one thing essentially necessary, by reason of the register having been allowed to lapse through the stopping of registration in 1915, and no provision being made to get information as to resident voters and absent voters—when they began to consider that subject, they were obliged to drift off into other matters.
Now we are brought here to discuss those matters. We are exercising such constraint as we can in the discussion of them. It is a great deal owing to the conditions under which we exist. We ought not to be told by the Home Secretary—I apologise if I have understood 232 wrongly; the hon. and gallant Member for the Horncastle Division (Colonel Weigall) said that his own lay mind caused him to misunderstand it also—I certainly thought the Home Secretary said that because this Bill was the result of a compromise and was directed by this House to be brought in because the House accepted the conclusions of the Conference, we ought to accept it. I am not going to refuse to accept it upon purely party lines. It is a grevious thing that we have been so placed as to make it necessary for us to abandon all our rights, because, after all, we are trustees for our Constituents, and in taking this action, we are taking it without their authority, except in my case, because I came here within the last few weeks with an authority limited to getting on with the War. Although I am not prepared to adopt all that has been said by the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), I am not at all prepared to say that this ought not to be considered as an alternative method of voting. It is not a cumulative vote. If a man has a right, whatever the right be, by his qualification as an owner, he ought to be able to exercise that owner's right alternatively to the business right. That will not infringe those doctrines for which the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir J. Simon), whom I have always regarded as joint owner of this scheme—I will not say of the Bill—has fought for so long. I agree that he and his Friends have laboured uncommonly well, and one can only congratulate them. At the same time, one can only express regret and sorrow that these things are forced upon us, and one can only congratulate them upon having such able, dexterous, and invaluable advocates of their cause.
§ Major HUNT
If this Amendment is agreed to the Bill will inflict a most distinct injustice on agriculture. Landowning is every bit as much a business as making tiles. You may have 10,000 acres of land and it does not give you a vote, while a £10 qualification for a man who makes tiles docs. It is a most extraordinary thing to have that sort of difference in the Bill as far as the extra vote goes. That, after all, is only the dual vote. The Bill also does away with the ownership vote, the oldest franchise in the country, for no reason that I can see. The hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman opposite talked a good deal about a compromise. There has been 233 very little compromise about it. Our side has done all the giving and the other side has done all the taking. The real fact of the matter is that the Unionist leaders, as they always do, have given the rank and file of the party away. These are the broad facts of the case, and that is why the hon. Gentleman talked so much about compromise.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I was anxious before the Committee concluded the Debate to say one word in reply to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Simon). He deprecated our saying, as I understand the Home Secretary also does, that the argument put against the Amendment was the authority of the Speaker's Conference. I submit this dilemma to the right hon. Gentleman and to my right hon. Friend: Either this is an appeal to authority or it is an appeal to reason. [An HON. MEMBER: "The same thing!"] Neither in theology nor in politics is it the same thing. If my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman do not appeal to authority and appeal to reason, why do they not give us the reason? They are quite entitled to say this matter was considered by the Speaker's Conference for these and these and these reasons, and this conclusion was come to. But they do not say that. They say it was arrived at at the Conference. It is part of the settlement, and you must accept it. What else is that but an appeal to simple authority, the Speaker's Conference, setting it in place of the two Houses of Parliament? The right hon. Gentleman appeared to argue that it was a matter of balance, and he spoke of the university seats remaining to the plural voter as balancing this concession. I value the concession about the university vote very deeply, but I am sure he would not advise me to judge of a public question merely from a personal point of view. Therefore, though I am deeply sensible of the advantage to myself of this concession, and though I should hope it would be felt even by the right hon. Gentleman that I am not altogether an unsatisfactory representative to him, who is an ornament of our common university, looking at it on the balance I ask what is the balance between? Is it between parties? If it is, there are two observations to be made. First of all, the old party system before the War is in ruins. There certainly is not a Unionist party in existence, and I doubt very much whether there is a Liberal party.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I should be very curious to know what his principles were. The balance between parties is an obsolete, thing. It is a balance between things which no longer exist. As to the second observation, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me quite candidly how many seats he thinks the university vote, as modified, and the remains of the plural vote are worth to the Unionist party, or to what before the War they used to call the Unionist party, and how many seats these other concessions are worth to the Liberal party? I should be greatly surprised, if I could get him in a perfectly frank moment to tell me his own conviction, if the Liberal party does not score in the proportion of ten to one. I think I could have made a better case for balance than the right hon. Gentleman has made from his own point of view, because I think proportional representation, if really attained, is a much more important safeguard than the plural vote for Conservatism, with a little "c," for the restraint of violent and revolutionary legislation. But we do not know whether we are going to get proportional representation. All that we have apparently got, so far, is this very small concession in the matter of the plural vote, which I do not think amounts, when measured in numbers of seats, to more than a very small concession, and the university vote. I do not think, so far, that is an equal bargain. I trace throughout the Bill, and throughout the curious zeal with which it is being pressed forward, the influence of the Labour party. I cheer myself by thinking the Labour party hardly ever knows its own interest, and probably is wrong, as usual. The political incompetence of the Labour party is much the greatest remaining safeguard for our constitutional system. I feel a little resentment that the Bill, although one which they believe in, inspire, and press forward, is actually being conducted through the House by the Home Secretary and the Colonial Secretary, who have more Parliamentary capacity for carrying such a Bill through than the whole Labour party put together. I know very well what would happen to it if it were conducted by the Labour party.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am a little afraid of these disquisitions being repeated on every Amendment. It seems to me they 235 will be equally pertinent. Let us really keep to the business in front of us.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I apologise. I agree that I was going beyond the sphere of the discussion. I was only really anxious to reply to the interesting argument of the right hon. Gentleman, the argument of the balance, with which I was mainly concerned. I think, therefore, this is a bad balance. I am not very much in love with the ownership vote. So far as it goes, I should be quite prepared for a complete abandonment if the principle of proportional representation had been completely conceded. I believe the true safeguard is in that direction because when it is put forward by the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill as it stands, as far as we have got it, fairly balances this concession, I am obliged to say I do not think it does, and I do not think the members of the Conference, like my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir K. Williams), gain anything by pressing it on us against the authority of the Conference, and my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) is entitled to support in the Lobby if he proceeds to a Division.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir R. Williams) gave his version of the reasons which induced me to leave the Conference. I have always kept that very secret, because I do not know that I have any right to divulge what took place, but I must contradict his statement that I left the Conference because I was unwilling to agree to any compromise. The late Patronage Secretary would bear me out that on many occasions I have agreed to compromise with the Liberal party, generally to my own detriment and to that of my party, but at any rate with some substantial portion on my side. I left the Conference because we were not only asked to give up everything, but we got nothing in return. We were in possession of certain things. We were asked to give them all up, but our opponents never gave up a single thing. We were to concede certain things which we had got and which they had not got, and which they desired to have. I do not call that a compromise. That was giving up practically everything we had got, and we were allowed to retain a few small possessions which were not of very much value. Now we are told that certain arrangements had been come to at the Conference, that they 236 could not be broken, that it was an agreed thing, and that no Amendment could be accepted which in any kind of way infringed what I call the one-sided arrangement which was come to at the Conference. We might just as well not discuss the thing at all. Why not go home to dinner? Why stay here to discuss it? I am not at all sure that the arrangements which were come to were arrangements agreed upon at the Conference.
Two pamphlets were published by gentlemen with German names, one named Schlosser, and the other Wiehl. One is connected with the Fabian Society. I do not know what the other gentleman is connected with. They published in 1912 and 1911 certain proposals which are identical with those to which the Conference agreed. In my belief it was an arrangement which had been come to by the Labour party, the Liberal party, and the Irish party joined together to force this proposal, which had already been outlined by these gentlemen with German names, and it was an arrangement that we should be compelled to accept these conclusions. Therefore I shall certainly go to a Division, and I sincerely trust I shall be supported by a large number of Members in the Lobby if only to show that the Committee is determined that when an Amendment is brought forward, unless it is met by reasoned argument, they will support it, and they will not accept the dictum that merely because something has been agreed in the Conference we are to agree to it here.
§ Sir W. BULL
The question is: Do we want to simplify the franchise as far as possible? I do not think the majority of Members of this House know that the net result of this is only 200,000 votes.
I did not have a good impression of the compromise, but I do say, after what the hon. Baronet has just stated, that when I get to Clause 33 of the Bill, where we repeal many Acts of Parliament dealing with the franchise, I fairly jump for joy. The object is to simplify the franchise, and if you bring in a third franchise you might bring in a fourth. The question of antiquity is brought in by the hon. Baronet, who says that the, ownership vote is the most ancient. Certainly not at five pounds. Why not bring in the forty-shilling freeholders and the potwallopers? The 237 benefit of this Bill is that there are two franchises now—the residential franchise and the business qualification. A man may have the choice of voting between the two. There are a large number of Members in this House who object on principle to the ownership vote, and I am not at all sure in these democratic times that they are not all right. For that reason I think it sufficient excuse for sup-
§ porting the opposition to the Amendment that it impairs the simplicity of the Bill which has commended itself to the vast majority of the Members of this House.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 35; Noes, 228.239
|Division No. 44.]||AYES.||[7.48 p.m.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Craik, Sir Henry||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Fletcher, John Samuel||Remnant, Sir James Farquharson|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gardner, Ernest||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Blair, Reginald||Hunt, Major Rowland||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Boyton, James||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Weigall, Colonel William E. G. A.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Johnston, Sir Christopher||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Butcher, John George||Lloyd, George- Butler (Shrewsbury)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Cautley, H. S.||Marriott, J. A. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir F.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Banbury and Mr. R. McNeill.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Nield, Herbert|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.|
|Adamson, William||Currie, George W.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Davies, Ellis William (Elfion)||John, Edward Thomas|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Denniss, E. R. B.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Archdale, Lieut. Edward M.||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Arnold, Sydney||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)||Keating, Matthew|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Elverston, Sir Harold||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||King, Joseph|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Knight, Captain E. A.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Finney, Samuel||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W Hayes (Fulham)||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S)||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gelder, Sir W. A.||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Gilbert, J. D.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Barrie, H. T.||Goldstone, Frank||Lowe, Sir F. W.|
|Bathurst, Captain C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Lundon, Thomas|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Greig, Colonel J. W.||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk.B'ghs)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius. (Galway)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Macleod, John Macintosh|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Macmaster, Donald|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Bull, Sir William James||Haslam, Lewis||Manfield, Harry|
|Burgoyne, Captain A. H.||Hazleton, Richard||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Buxton, Noel||Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Martin, Joseph|
|Byrne, Alfred||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Hewart, Sir Gordon||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Frederick (Prestwich)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza|
|Cecil, Rt.-Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Higham, John Sharp||Morgan, George Hay|
|Clough, William||Hill, Sir James||Morrell, Phillip|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Hills, Major John Walter||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Clynes, John R.||Hinds, John||Muldoon, John|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Newman, Major John R. P.|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Holt, Richard Durning||Nolan, Joseph|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Coote, William||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Horne, E.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Dowd, John|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Hudson, Walter||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. (Antrim, Mid).|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Outhwaite, R. L.||Robinson, Sidney||Wardle, George J.|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Roch, Walter F.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Rowlands, James||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Parrott, Sir James Edward||Rowntree, Arnold||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Samuels, Arthur W.||Whiteley, Herbert James|
|Pease, Rt.Hon.Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Perkins, Walter F.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Peto, Basil Edward||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Pollock, Ernest Murray||Shaw, Hon. A.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Alisebrook||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Pratt, J. W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Spear, Sir John Ward||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs, N.)|
|Radford, Sir George Heynes||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Swift, Rigby||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Thorne, William (West Ham)||Yoxalt. Sir James H.|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Tootill, Robert|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Toulmin, Sir George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Lord|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Edmund Talbot and Captain Guest|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Major NEWMAN rose—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not quite sure from the drafting whether by ''service qualification" the hon. Member means the naval and military qualification within the meaning of Clause 5. If that is so, it cannot be brought up here.
§ Major NEWMAN
Yes, I did mean the naval and military qualification. If I cannot get it in there my subsequent Amendments fall to the ground.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I told the hon. Member, I think, earlier that I proposed to allow a wide discussion on Clause 5 dealing with service qualifications for soldiers and sailors, and certainly that opportunity will be adequate to deal with his point. It does not require to be brought in here.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We cannot have too many draftsmen of the Bill. From the point of view of the Chair we must hare some regard to the original framework, although we can alter it. I come now to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for East St. Pancras (Mr. Martin). That is out of form. He proposes to leave out a number of words, and then to put them back again, and also he has included three different points which I think will all be raised in a moment or two. The ques- 240 tion of contiguity I propose to call when we come to the words "…. county contiguous to that borough or"….," and the question of the thirty days will be raised, I think, on the next Amendment. There is the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Mr. Adamson), to leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) of Subsection (2), and to insert instead thereof the words "must during the whole of the qualifying period have resided in premises or occupied business premises in the constituency or any other constituency." This Amendment is printed in the wrong place because he also has not put it in the right form. It should be from the word "must." So that the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. R. McNeill) comes in there, to leave out paragraph (a), on which we can have a broader discussion as to alterations in the paragraphs.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL rose—
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MARTIN
On a point of Order. I have one matter which I wish to change and which requires, it seems to me, the reconstruction of the two paragraphs (a) and (b). According to these two paragraphs, a man may have his qualification for the six months on residence, and his qualification for the one day of his occupation of business premises, or vice versâ In your ruling, Sir, you have not dealt with the matter. It seems to me-important, because the Clause has been made very free by the way in which it is drawn. I submit, however, that the effect is that a man may have his six months 241 qualification on a business occupation, and he can go and get on the register in any constituency in London, if, having his business qualification in any place in London, he resides one day, the last day of the qualification period, in any constituency, even a long way from where he has business qualifications, or vice versâ. He may have the six months' qualification as a resident, and if he occupies a place for one day, the last day of the qualification period, in a constituency ten or twelve miles away, he may get that qualification. It is necessary to restrict the Clause, so that the qualification must be the same in both cases. That is to say, if he qualifies on a business qualification, his last day must be a business occupation; and if he qualifies for the six months of residence occupation, his last day must be the residence qualification. That can only be changed by separating the Clause as I have done it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not sure of the hon. Member's point, but I think he is entitled to put it before the Committee. Perhaps the Home Secretary may see the point better than I can. Therefore, though it is a little irregular, I think he is entitled to put the Amendment in the form he has it.
§ Mr. MARTIN
With regard to the other part of the Amendment, if the Committee will look they will see that a man having his last day can have it either as a resident qualification or as a business qualification—that is, he spends the last day of the qualifying period of six months either as a resident or on a business qualification. For instance, a man in Kensington, not being a resident there at all, but having business qualifications for six months, is entitled to vote and get registered in Whitechapel if having that qualification in Kensington he resides in Whitechapel one day, and vice versâ, if a man has a resident qualification in Kensington and a business occupation of one day at Whiechapel, he can get registered in Whitechapel. I submit that that is not the intention of the Bill. The intention of the Bill is that a man can only register for one kind of qualification. He must either register on the business premises, and in that case the six months must be a business qualification, and his last day must also be a business occupation, or with regard to residence he must have a six months' residence occupation and his last day should be residence.
§ Mr. McNEILL
On a point of Order. I understood you to rule that the hon. Member's Amendment on the Paper was out of order. I do not quite follow why afterwards it was ruled to be in order. All I wish to ask now is, in case the hon. Member concludes his observations by moving the Amendment on the Paper, whether it will affect the Amendment I have later, in a somewhat different form, dealing with the same subject?
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is a question of drafting in the principle here. The hon. Member for East St. Pancras (Mr. Martin) has made this his main point, that it is necessary to separate what, in the Bill as drafted, is put together.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I wish to maintain his right to put that point before the Committee. The only way I can do that is by putting the first essential words of his. Amendment, which are contained in the words of the Bill, "on the last day," in paragraph (a), and insert the words "during the last thirty days."
§ Mr. McNEILL
On a point of Order. If that is the Amendment the hon. Member is going to move, I submit that my Amendment on the Paper will come before it, because my Amendment is to leave out paragraph (a). Therefore, it will come before the words which you say you will put to the Committee to stand part. If the hon. Member moved his Amendment, the words "must on" would stand part. My Amendment is to leave out those words, and the whole paragaph, and I submit, therefore, that it should take precedence.
§ Mr. MARTIN
The hon. Member's Amendment with regard to thirty days is exactly the same as mine. It matters not whether he moves it or I move it. But his Amendment does not cover the point of the qualifications in (a) and (b), so that you could have your six months' residence and your one-day business occupation, or vice versâ I would like to have that put.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member thinks that his proposal to leave out the words "or business premises qualification" should be put, it will protect the point of the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. B. McNeill)
§ Mr. MARTIN
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the words "or business premises qualification."
§ Sir G. CAVE
If I understand the point Aright, it is that as the Bill stands it is possible for a man residing in a constituency on the last day and occupying business premises in another constituency during the earlier part of the same qualification, to have a vote as a resident, so that you get a complex position. I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and I would like to consider his point. We will certainly consider it, and if we agree we will put down an Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MCNEILL
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out paragraph (a).
Lower down on the Paper I have a consequential Amendment, and the total effect is to remove from the qualification the power to remove from one constituency to another. In other words, paragraph (a) would become unnecessary, because it it is only laying the foundation, so to speak, for the provision in the latter part of paragraph (b). It is in order to prepare for leaving out those words in the latter part of paragraph (b), that I am now moving to omit paragraph (a). The substance of the Amendment will be plain to the Committee. As the Bill stands, a man can get a qualification for living practically the whole of the qualifying period, say, five months and twenty-five days, in one constituency, and then he moves across the border into another constituency for the last day, or for two or three days, provided that that other constituency is either part of the same borough in the right sense of the word, or in the same county, or in a contiguous borough or county. I wish particularly to call the attention of the Committee to that rather curious limitation. The reason why I am asking the Government to alter that provision is that a moment's thought will show how very easy it will be, if that provision stands, to use it as a new form of faggot voting.
It is clear that, taking two constituencies, two parts of the same borough, or two divisions of contiguous counties or boroughs, in one there may be a large Liberal majority and in the other a large Unionist majority. I do not care which way you take it. It is quite clear that the one division which has a number of votes to spare could quite easily lend 244 votes to the neighbouring constituency, in order to affect its political balance. It would only require organisation and cooperation between astute party leaders to bring over a number of voters one day, or a few days before the end of the qualifying period in one division or the other and to use them in that illegitimate fashion. This point was raised on the Second Reading of the Bill, and the only answer that was given either by the Home Secretary or by the Solicitor-General was that that possibility would be precluded by the interpretation of the word "residence." My right hon. Friend said that a procedure of that sort could not be held to be "resided." He has also told us that there is no definition of the word "residence" in the Bill, and my right hon. Friend has told the House more than once that it taxes the ingenuity of lawyers to define the word "residence," and that he would rather not do it, because if you put any definition of "residence" in the Bill it would probably lead to greater obscurity. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that that is a very frail security to rely upon against the illegitimate use of voters in the way I have suggested. Take the movement from one constituency to another within a few days of the end of the qualifying period. It might be perfectly bonâ fide. A man might perfectly legitimately, and without any thought of his position as a voter, change his residence from one division to another at a date which happened to be within a very short time of the end of the qualifying period. His neighbour might do the same thing from a very much less innocent motive, and large numbers might do the same. Therefore you are putting the onus upon the judicial authority of deciding every case where such a movement takes place, the very difficult point of determining whether or not the movement was a bonâ fide change of residence, or not. If that is a legitimate thing to do under the provisions of the Bill it would be unfair and it would be wrong in any definition of residence that might be given to exclude a man from his vote because he happens, for perfectly sound and bonâ fide reasons, to change his residence. Therefore the first reason, and a very strong reason, why I urge the Government to accept the Amendment is this: we are very anxious in this new franchise law to avoid as far as possible the constant quarrellings about claims and objections which used to take place before the revising barristers, and we do not want 245 to have any more cases than is necessary debated on their merits on rejection or claim before the registration officer under this new Bill. If this Clause remains as it has been put into the Bill, it seems to me that you open the door for a great number of perfectly unnecessary disputes as to whether the change of residence of this sort has been bonâ fide or not. That in itself is a very objectionable thing, and one which I think it would be desirable to avoid. Of course, this is not perhaps so important from the point of view of the representation of the country as of the preservation of the actual purity of the register. It does not require much imagination, with such a short qualifying period, to see that it is very easy for this sort of thing to be done on a large scale, and if that is so it is obvious that we are endangering to a serious degree the purity of the register.
I do not know what is the reason for this particular provision in the Bill. My own impression is that it is a survival from an old dispute which really arises in the boroughs of the Metropolis, and it may be concerned with the boroughs of the Metropolis, and it also arises from the splitting up of the old boroughs and counties which before 1885 were looked upon as electoral units into separate Parliamentary divisions, so that different divisions of Leeds or Sheffield or Kent or Surrey are regarded from the historical and geographical standpoint as being grouped together and forming in one sense one constituency, although in point of fact and from the standpoint we are now considering the matter two separate divisions of Surrey are just as separate, and are no more separate, than two divisions of Kent or Sussex. I believe that is the origin of this particular provision, and from that point of view I would like to ask why, if movement is to be allowed at all, is there to be this limit to contiguous constituencies and to contiguous counties or boroughs? I know that the argument which may be, and has been, advanced in favour of allowing this provision is that it is very hard lines, after a man has been living for the greater part of the qualifying period in a certain constituency and in the course of his business, just before the end of the qualifying period, he is obliged to cross the border into a neighbouring constituency, possibly in the same borough, that because of that movement he should lose his 246 vote. I will admit, for the sake of argument, that that is so, and that that is a great grievance; but why is it any more a grievance that he should lose his vote under these circumstances than when he has to move further into an electoral division which is not contiguous? Let us take a case which I think has been debated. We will take a gentleman in the employ of a railway company, say, a gentleman employed on the Great Western Railway, who lives in Berkshire. He is moved, in the course of his employment, a little further up the line, but he remains in another division of Berkshire, and because he has moved into another division of Berkshire he is allowed to carry his vote with him. That is supposed to remove a grievance. But suppose his change of employment takes him to Swindon, Taunton, or Exeter, is there any logical reason why he should not just as well take his vote with him to Somersetshire or Devonshire as from one division of Berkshire to another? It appears to me to be illogical and to be impracticable from the point of view of any real grievance.
There is this further consideration which I think is most important at the present time. Supposing there has been a grievance in a man losing his vote because he has to move just before the end of the qualifying period, that grievance practically disappears under this Bill in any case. Under the old system a man might be two years before he could qualify for a vote — I think about a year and eleven months. He had to be earning his qualification for twelve months from a certain day in July, consequently it might be a year and eleven months before he acquired a vote. Under these circumstances it was a rather serious grievance when just at the end of the period when he was going to get his vote he had to move suddenly in the course of his business, but now under the six months' residential qualification that grievance entirely goes. He cannot for longer than a few months be kept out of his vote. Therefore I submit that to incur the really serious danger of something in the nature of corrupt practice, or at all events sharp practice, and tampering with the purity of the register, for the sake of removing comparatively few cases of grievance, which, if it ever had any reality, disappears under the provisions of this Bill, would be a very serious blot upon this legislation. I have 247 put down an alternative Amendment, which, if it were necessary, I should move, and which would to some extent meet the case which I am trying to put, but I hope my right hon. Friend will be prepared to make a clean sweep of this provision, which I cannot help thinking has been put into this Bill without full and sufficient consideration of the possibilities to which it gives rise. I hope he will not say, as is sometimes said, in answer to Amendments of this sort—"My hon. Friend has been exercising his ingenuity and raising imaginary cases of that sort which are never likely to occur." I can assure him that it does occur, and that under the existing system, where there is very much less temptation, it does occur. I do not know, therefore I cannot say, to what extent, but my information is that in some parts of the country there has been a very considerable attempt to use this power of moving from one neighbouring constituency to another in the way I have indicated. I think now that we are simplifying the whole electoral franchise law, and making it simple, easy and short for a man to obtain a vote, it is a very great pity to continue any longer this anomaly which has no reason whatever in the particularly illogical form in which it appears. Let us get rid of it altogether. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us that the Government is prepared to do so.
§ Mr. MARTIN
On a point of Order. If this Amendment to leave out paragraph (a) is lost, will the hon. Gentleman be able to move his alternative Amendment, which proposes to leave out only some of this Clause?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
In accordance with the usual practice the subsequent Amendments will be safeguarded. The Amendment is to leave out paragraph (a), and the Question which I have to propose is, "that the word 'must' stand part."
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am strongly of opinion that the Amendment standing in my name should have been taken before that of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's. I now rise to ask if I can put my case after this Amendment has been disposed of, or should I be entitled to divide on my Amendment if I considered it necessary to divide upon it?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member might notice that the only Ques- 248 tion which I have put to the Committee is, "that the word 'must' stand part." All the rest of the words after that are still open.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Then I can proceed to put my case. The object of the Amendment standing in my name is first to remove the fear, whether well founded or otherwise, which many people have regarding the wording of paragraph (a). A considerable number of people are of opinion that if this paragraph receives a literal translation, those who may be absent from their constituency on the last day of the qualifying period, or for a month before the last day of the qualifying period, would run serious danger of losing their vote. This is a matter which will affect a large number of people in various parts of the country. For instance, in Scotland the last day of the autumn qualifying period. 15th July, is in the summer holidays, and a considerable number of people are absent from their premises on holidays, and many of them fear that in such circumstances they might lose their vote. I am certain that the framers of the Bill did not intend that, but I think we are entitled to get some assurance regarding the matter, so that that fear may be removed.
§ Colonel SANDERS
On a point of Order. Are we not discussing the Amendment of my hon. Friend opposite-while the hon. Member is raising a different point altogether?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It seems to be for the general convenience of the Committee that on the Amendment now before us a general discussion should take place to cover the Amendment of the hon. Member who is now in possession of the Committee. I think that it is advisable to adopt this course. It is almost impossible to separate these points in a general discussion. Of course, the hon. Member can move his Amendment afterwards, if he wishes, after having heard what the Government spokesman has to say.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
My second object is to remove the unfair distinction which is made between one class of elector and another, simply because during the qualifying period the elector may move to another constituency in the same electoral area or in a contiguous constituency, and another elector may move a considerable distance further afield. That distinction 249 is unfair, and ought not to be made. Take, for comparison, the cases of Scotland and London. In Scotland we have a population of about 4,750,000. In Greater London we have a population of over 7,000,000. Yet in the London electoral area an elector can move from constituency to constituency during the qualifying period and carry his vote with him. But in Scotland, with a far smaller population, an elector who moves, unless he moves to a contiguous constituency, loses his vote. I consider that that is an unfair distinction. We have reached a critical stage in oar national development. It is the duty of Members of this House to remove as many of the unfair distinctions between one section of our people and another as it is possible for us to do. If this Clause, of the Bill is passed as drafted, there will at least be one of these distinctions remaining which we would be well advised to remove, and I hope that the Government will give some indication of their willingness to remedy the two faults to which I have drawn attention, with a view to making the Bill fairer as between one elector and another than it is as drafted.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
The hon. Member who has just addressed the Committee has raised two quite separate points. The first was, that supposing an elector who has run through almost the whole of his period of qualification gees on a holiday, as people have a habit of doing in certain places, I am told, in Scotland, but not in Scotland only, will he thereby lose his right to be registered, and will the registration officer not put him on the register for the place in which he had resided during the whole of his period of qualification except for the last two or three nights? I hardly think that the hon. Gentleman need be under any misapprehension on this point. Residence after all is a matter which, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has already said, has never been defined, and cannot well be defined. It is a matter of interpretation, and I think that a registration officer, in a case such as that referred to by the hon. Gentleman, would say, "obviously it is the intention to reside in that particular place. He may have gone away, it is quite true, but he is coming back there, and he retains his qualification of residence." In fact, he does complete his qualification, because he does still reside there. He may not actually sleep 250 in his own bed in that house, or in any bed in that house, but he intends to go back there, and as to what period of interruption would disqualify, that really is a matter which undoubtedly would have to be taken into consideration by the registration officer. I cannot imagine that any registration officer who is making up the register, taking a case of that kind, where the man would otherwise be qualified, and who may have been away for a week, or in the last week of the qualification, because he was away from his residence during that week, would refuse to put him upon the register. I think if the hon. Member has any such fear he may dismiss it; but if he would like a higher and better opinion from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it might be given on the Report stage, when a more learned opinion might be forthcoming than that which I have advanced. Still, my view is the common-sense view, that such a course as that suggested would not be taken by the whole body of registration officers. Then comes a question raised by my hon. and learned Friend, a question which involves the whole point of successive qualification. He urged that I should not hurl the word "compromise" at his head, but should give some solid reason why there should be a right to vote on successive occupation of different houses. The law at present is that if a man moves from one constituency to another, in the same borough, he does not lose his qualification, but continues his qualification if it is a borough, but if it is a county he breaks his qualification and loses his vote. The Speaker's Conference had to consider the whole question of successive occupation, and they came to the conclusion embodied in Resolution No. 10:—The qualification to be registered a Parliamentary elector shall not be lost by removal to different premises within the same constituency, or from one constituency to another in the same borough or county (including the administrative county of London) or to different premises in a contiguous county or borough.My Hon. and learned Friend asks why this successive occupation was ever allowed, but I submit that it is very hard indeed that because a man moves just over the border of one constituency to another, he, should lose his vote. That was the case, no doubt, and the members of the Conference came to the conclusion that the losing of votes should be rather diminished than multiplied. I certainly take that point of view. I believe we are anxious as far as possible that people should not lose the vote, but that where a man has gone a 251 very long way towards qualification it should be made simpler and easier for him to complete the process by which he would attain to the right to vote. That is the spirit which animated the Conference. They did not wish to take away votes, but rather to facilitate the methods by which people shall be placed on the register. The conclusion at which the Conference arrived was a compromise between two views which had found expression in the course of this Debate. One view is that if you have successive occupation at all do not confine it to particular constituencies, but have it everywhere. The other view is, do away with successive occupation altogether. These are two opposite views, and in order to bridge over those views it had to be done by means of a compromise. My hon. and learned Friend opposite dislikes the word "compromise," and other hon. Members of this House rather dislike anyone using the word "compromise;" but, after all, this was a compromise agreed to by men holding very different sets of opinion on electioneering law and practice, and I am afraid that we shall be obliged to use this word compromise over and over again. A compromise means agreement between people who have hitherto held very divergent views. Let us see what there is to be said for putting it into the Bill. If that be adopted the law will stand in this form, that successive occupation shall hold good pro vided that occupation relates to a particular borough, either the same borough or the same county, or to a contiguous constituency. It seems hard in the case of a man who actually steps from one constituency to another in order to take a house close to his old constituency, as is often done—
§ Mr. McNEILL
The words of the Bill are, "or in another constituency within the same Parliamentary borough or Parliamentary county," and you may have two divisions in a county which are not contiguous at all, or a contiguous county. My right hon. Friend would not describe South Cornwall as contiguous to North Cornwall?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I perhaps made one small inaccuracy, but it does not affect 252 my general argument as to contiguity. A reason which pressed very much on the members of the Conference, and which caused them to agree, was that while successive occupation might be given to a contiguous constituency, it should not be given to those who broke that qualification by going to a great distance from one house to another. Take, for instance, a man going to Newcastle. He might live four months in that city, and then live two months in London. There, I understand, he would lose his qualification for the reason that it is not a contiguous constituency, and that it would be very difficult for the registration officer to ascertain whether or not the qualification was actually a good qualification. It would be very much harder for him to make the necessary inquiries and to obtain the necessary knowledge as to whether the qualification was a good one or not. If the distance from one constituency to another was so great as say from Yorkshire to London it would be difficult to ascertain the circumstances as to qualification, whereas it would be fairly easy to do so if a man moved out of the county of London, say to Middlesex or to Hertfordshire. I understand that that is one of the reasons which operated with the Conference in arriving at this recommendation. I do not say that the House is bound to accept all the Resolutions come to by the Conference, but I think the Government were absolutely bound to frame the Bill on the Resolutions come to by the Conference or on those lines, but I have never said that this House could not in its own judgment, if it chose to do so, override the decision of the Conference. After all, the Conference was a microcosm of the House. We have had arguments as to whether the particular mode of limitation of the successive vote as it now is is good or bad. The limitation of the Conference comes between the more extreme view of the hon. Member for West Fife and the other extreme view of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's whose proposal would disqualify many thousands of persons who, in my humble opinion, ought to be entitled to get the vote.
The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. McNeill) pointed out that there was a defect in the Bill as it stood by which voters might be brought from one constituency to another for the qualifying night and who have been referred to as faggot voters or one-nighters. The hon. 253 and learned Gentleman said that it would be possible for an astute electioneerer to move some hundreds of voters from one constituency into another and so to gerrymander that constituency in favour of a particular party or candidate. I admitted that that was not impossible for an astute electioneerer, but I pointed this out, that although you finish your qualification on the 15th January or the 15th July you do not get on the register until the 15th April or the 15th October. That produces a very considerable difficulty in the way of a very clever manipulation of the votes. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It places a very great difficulty in the way of making those voters effective for the purpose of an approaching by-election.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I still think it does make some difference that the period is the fairly long period of three months. I am not going to say I could not do it myself, but I am going to say that it is not so easy a thing to do as my hon. and learned Friend seems to think. I admit, that my hon. and learned Friend has discovered what is undoubtedly a flaw. We do not want to make gerrymandering possible. There are sure to be quite enough sharp tricks in electioneering, whatever Acts of Parliament you pass, and we want to diminish them and not to add to them. My hon. and learned Friend would substitute the words "for the last thirty days of the qualifying period have been."
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Let me point out some of the objections to adopting that period of thirty days. The period of qualification agreed upon by the Conference and incorporated in the Bill runs from the 15th January to the 15th July, and from the 15th July to the 15th January. We have to watch the ordinary movements of the people. It is quite a common thing for people to move from one district into another at Midsummer Day and Christmas Day.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I agree; but a very large move goes on at Midsummer and on Christmas Day. Take it that a man moves into his new house on the 25th 254 December. Under the Bill he would complete his qualification in that house on the 15th January if he had lived in a contiguous constituency from the 15th July— that is, in a period of twenty-one days. Suppose we put in the Bill that he must during the whole of the last thirty days of the qualifying period be in the constituency, then obviously the people who moved into their house on Christmas Day could not be registered in that constituency for the period from the 15th July to the 15th January.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Again, the same argument applies exactly to those who go in on Midsummer Day. Obviously they ought to have the right to qualify for that-particular register in that particular constituency. Yet at the same time I admit that there is a gap which requires to be stopped—I quite admit it. Except for that one exception—and another one to-be mentioned later—I should be quite inclined, very fully inclined—as a matter of fact, I am doing it —without any cavil or fear, to accept the Amendment if the Amendment is moved to the effect that it should be during the last thirty days instead of the last day. The Government is ready to accept that Amendment on condition that the period of qualification is moved on, and that instead of the 15th January we shall have the 1st February, and instead of the 15th July we shall have the 1st August. That would probably necessitate the moving on of the period for the completion of the register to 1st May in the one instance and 1st November in the other. If this were done, the particular danger which I have explained to the House just now of a man who moves in on Midsummer Day losing his qualification would not occur, because there would have been thirty days prior to 1st August, while in the case of a man moving in on Christmas Day he would have been in his new residence thirty days prior to 1st February. If the House desires to see this change made whereby there can be stopped an undoubted opportunity of gerrymandering the constituencies, if we can stop it without endangering the right of the people who move in at Christmas or Midsummer to their vote and their qualification, we desire to do it; but the Government can only do it if at the same time those concerned will consent to the moving forward of the period as I have suggested. With a view to stop- 255 ping this gap we have given very great consideration to this question, which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend on the Second Reading. If the Committee have strong feelings about it and take the view that the Bill as it stands would be seriously affected, and that the circumstances would enable those who are very sharp at various electioneering practices, particularly where elections were closely contested—if, I say, the Committee takes that view the Government would be prepared to meet them by accepting the words which will later be moved by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's, but on the condition that the Committee should move forward the period as I have mentioned.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Does that mean that if the Government accept the Amendment which stands in my name later, then the Government themselves will propose these Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman says are consequential as regards the difference of the registration dates?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
Yes; and that is why I wanted to put the Committee in possession of the whole case. Of course, we can only accept that Amendment on condition that the dates are moved forward as suggested.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am sure my right hon. Friend is simply anxious to meet the wishes of the Committee, but the proposal which he has made will, I fancy, have consequences which possibly he may not have foreseen. If the autumn register is not completed until 1st November, it will not be ready in time for the municipal elections.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
It will come into operation on the same date as the register now comes into operation.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
It will be ready in time for the municipal elections under the arrangements proposed by my hon. Friend just now? But you are shortening very greatly the period of registration, and the register probably will not be completed or published till the very last day. I am afraid there will be a very short interval between the moment the register is in the hands of persons interested in municipal elections and the day when the elections take place. I am not myself very much impressed with the suggestion that there can be manipulation of constituencies by 256 moving bodies of voters from one to another in order to secure their registration in the second constituency by residence there for the last day. In the first place, with constituencies as large as this—there will be on an average 20,000 to 25,000 electors—it will be very rarely indeed worth while attempting any such manœuvre. In the second place, it is not easy to find accommodation at short notice for any such considerable number of persons. In the third place, it is doubtful whether the Courts, if the matter were challenged, would, say that a person did, in fact, reside in the second constituency by merely being placed there for one night. Consequently, it does not appear to me that there is very much substance in that objection. But it is desirable, if possible, since compromise is in the air and is the fashion, if the right hon. Gentleman could suggest a period, say, a fortnight, and move on the registration periods correspondingly, or not move them at all, and so leave the date of the completion of the register as now by giving a fortnight, or it might be a week, as a period during which a person might have to reside in any constituency. That might answer the purpose.
With respect to the question of successive qualification, the proposal of the Conference, which is embodied in the Bill, would certainly give rise to some very obvious anomalies. As was suggested in the discussion just now, a person might move from the extreme north of Cornwall to the extreme south of that county and yet be able to claim successive qualification. On the other hand, he might move, let us say, from Bolton to Bury, which are towns which are not quite contiguous, but adjacent, to one another, with a strip of neutral territory between them, and there could be no successive qualification; or there might be removal from Huddersfield to Leeds or from Middlesbrough to Stockton, towns which are quite close to hand, but as there is a strip of county division between them successive qualification could not be claimed.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
"Or in another constituency within the same Parliamentary borough or Parliamentary county."
§ Mr. SAMUEL
It is not within the Parliamentary county, although it may be within the geographical county. He has moved from one borough which is one constituency to another borough which is another constituency, but which is not contiguous; therefore he will hot be able to claim successive qualification. In regard to the difficulty of inquiries at a distance I am not sure that there is very much substance in that. It is merely a question of an extra day's post in any case. The registration officer in one constituency would have to make inquiries from the registration officer in another constituency. Whether the constituency be next door or 50 or 100 miles away will practically make no difference at all. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's, I think, said that if there were to be successive qualifications at all, he would rather sweep away the anomalies and make the successive qualifications general, and his view was endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. If that is their view, and if that is generally agreed on all sides of the House, then let us make the successive qualifications general, because if no one is in favour of this proposal, why retain it? Of course, if there is any objection to making it general, none of us will press it, because we loyally adhere to the proposals of the Conference as a compromise, and if it is thought we are going too far in making general successive qualification, I should be the last to press it on the Government.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Of course, what I said, in pointing out the anomalies to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, was that if you are going to have this system at all, I would rather have the logical system of removing the particular restrictions that are in the Bill. Of course, I do not mean that I wish to have that system. I prefer to have the Amendment I put on the Paper.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Certainly; but I imagine the Government cannot think of accepting that Amendment, which would be very strongly resisted. Therefore that alternative must be ruled out. My hon. Friend says that if that is ruled out, do not keep the Bill as it is, but get rid of the anomalies. The right hon. Gentleman the Mem- 258 ber for the City of London says he is of the same opinion. Then why not do so? At all events, the Government might consider that proposal, and if it is found that the particular proposal in the Bill is not supported in any quarter, why not get rid of the anomalies and difficulties? I should like to ask the representatives of the Government if they could give some indication of what they understand is meant by the word "contiguous." The point may-seem verbal, but it is more than that. It will give rise in practice, I am afraid, to very considerable difficulties. It is quite obvious that North Devon, for example, is not contiguous to South Wales. There is the Bristol Channel in between. But as you go up the Bristol Channel towards the estuary of the River Severn and the River Avon, at what point do you get contiguous constituencies on one side of the water and the other? Take again the constituency with which I am familiar, the Cleveland Division, which lies just at the estuary of the Tees. It is quite plain, as you go up 15 miles of the mouth of the Tees, where you have South Durham on the one side and Cleveland on the other, that those are contiguous, because there is quite a short bridge across the river. When you come again to the mouth of the Tees, on one side of which is Hartlepool, and on the other Cleveland, within sight of one another, perhaps four miles apart, are those two contiguous constituencies? And when you come to the very indented coast of Scotland, and the isles of Orkney and Shetland, and other problems of the kind, you are faced by innumerable geographical conundrums of that sort. I do not know whether it is possible to define the word "contiguous." I cannot think of any other words myself, though perhaps the acute minds on the Treasury Bench may be able to devise a formula to accomplish what is desired by escaping the difficulties to which I have referred.
§ Mr. McNEILL
The Debate has now ranged not only over two Amendments which I have on the Paper—one being considerably lower down than the other—but also a third Amendment of mine which comes in between. I do not know whether it would be convenient that I should ask leave to withdraw my present Amendment now and have any further Debate on the others. I am guided, of course, by the Committee, but I should like to say, if either now or later I do ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, of course I shall 259 do so distinctly on the understanding, which I think I have got from the Government, that when we arrive at that second Amendment, giving thirty days, the Government will accept that Amendment, and that they will themselves then make the necessary consequential Amendments with regard to the other dates in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel) has rather objected to the period named in that Amendment of mine, and I do not want there to be any doubt upon the subject. He seems to think that a fortnight or a week would not make very much difference. I myself think that thirty days is a minimum which would preserve us against the dangers to which I have alluded. He talked about compromise being in the air, and said, Why not compromise and make it a fortnight? But the Amendment which I have got before the Committee, I think, would obtain a very considerable amount of support—I do not want to press it to a Division—and would get rid of these dangers altogether by removing the successive qualification in the Bill. In order to meet the views of the Government and the Committee, I am quite willing to withdraw that Amendment, but I do not want, when we come to my other Amendment, my right hon. Friend opposite to allow himself to be pressed by the right hon. Gentleman below me, or any of his Friends, into shortening that period; and I would like to have a very definite assurance, or certainly a confirmation of the assurance my right hon. Friend has given me, that my later Amendment will be accepted in its present form so far as the period is concerned, and that the Government will then make themselves responsible for carrying through the Bill with the necessary consequential Amendments.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I think before this Amendment is withdrawn it is well to continue the somewhat general conversation with reference to this subject. The question was very thoroughly considered at the Conference from many more points of view than those from which it has been considered this afternoon, but if we are driven back upon the particular Amendment of my hon. Friend opposite—namely, that a man must have been thirty days in premises before the date of registration in order to give him a qualification—and those words are put in as they stand—it means that the man who has moved from one house to another in the same con- 260 stituency will not be able to have his vote unless he has been in that house in the same constituency for thirty days prior to the registration. That is the immediate effect of this Amendment, and I do not believe my hon. Friend opposite means that in the slightest degree. He means that his words should be restricted to the case of a man who moves from one constituency into another, but his Amendment, I think, would have the effect I have stated. That, of course, affects the present law, which is, as has been pointed out, that not only in the same constituency but in the same borough the mere change of a house does not disqualify a man from having a vote. It was because we had to find some different system that we suggested the present proposal. It is by no means perfect. I am not at all sure that the Government have any more perfect system than what they suggest. Oddly enough, it is the same proposal that I made, but it has this difference. I was anxious to get successive occupation all over the country, because I never could see why a man who is entitled to a vote in a particular part of the country should lose that vote because he changes his residence to somewhere else, and there were a good many on the Conference in favour of that. If you give it all over the country you must have some sort of security of residence in the last place to which the voter comes. If you have successive occupation all over the country of thirty days or two months in the last constituency, see what that comes to? It means that although you are laying down a six months' qualification for the electorate in these cases you are only laying down one month's qualification. If you are to have successive occupation all over the country, the man can say he has resided somewhere during those six months and then you have reduced your six months to one month's qualification. Consequently at the Conference we were driven back to a restricted area, and we thought we could have an area which practically met the requirements of the situation. The real difficulty is that in certain parts of the country, and more especially the suburbs of big towns, there are thousands of persons moving in and out, and thereby losing their vote, and we thought we could remedy that. In order to do it the words were suggested that a man might move from one contiguous area to another. That was part of the whole scheme, and it is more or less wrapped up with some 261 of the other provisions with regard to this reform.
I do not know whether hon. Members have realised the extent to which the duplicate vote has been enlarged. At the present time in the city of Liverpool no man has a duplicate vote, but by the Resolutions which the Conference agreed to a man with different premises in different parts of Liverpool will be entitled to exercise a duplicate vote. The man who lives in the suburbs of a big city will be able to vote for his residence and for somewhere else in the city, and in return for this we thought it was justifiable to say that the masses of people who are moving from the suburbs to the city or rice versâ should have the advantage of successive occupation. That was why this proposal was suggested. I agree it is not logical, in fact there is nothing logical in anything proposed by the Conference, but it is a natural result of the fact that we were all trying to come to an agreement. I believe it is a workable system. I do not think there is anything like real weight in the objection that has been raised that this proposal will enable people to be brought in at the last moment for the purpose of voting at an election. What is proposed must be done prior to registration, and the date of registration certainly must be three months before the election, and probably a longer period than that. This is no new thing. This practice might have been adopted years ago. We have it in London in large areas. In almost the whole of the East of London there is a power to do this with voters who have moved from one Division into another at the last moment under the present law in order to gerrymander the constituency. I do not know that it has ever been done in London.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I am not aware in all my experience that it has ever been done in London, where we have a good many seats which might have been won by the transfer of a small number of votes in this way. I do not believe that under our present system of English politics there is much in the objection which has been raised on this point, and if that is so it would be very much wiser if the Government would adhere to the arrangement which has been suggested, and any departure from that arrangement is only justifiable if there is any 262 serious danger. If there is no serious danger we had better leave things as they are. If you do make this change and insist upon a month's residence under all circumstances, you will materially reduce the electoral rights that at present exist in all the boroughs and all great cities, because at the present moment in any constituency in Liverpool you may move from North Liverpool to South Liverpool on the very last day of the period. Consequently you are reducing rights which exist at the present moment. Although I do not see any very great objection to the proposal which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, I think it would be better to leave things as they have been suggested by the Conference, and then, at any rate, you will not have interfered with the existing rights of the people in the large cities, and you will not be running any danger of gerrymandering a constituency at the last moment.
§ Mr. NIELD
I agree very largely with what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. In one part of my Constituency if a man only moves across the road into another Division necessarily he loses his vote. Illustrative of that I remember a very interesting story told of a burglar who was apprehended by the police at Stroud Green in a road which forms the boundary between Islington and Middlesex, which is separated only by the centre of the road. The burglar's first question to the constable was, "Am I in Sir Ralph Littler's district?" Now, Sir Ralph Littler was noted for his heavy sentences upon burglars, while the Chairman of the London Sessions was equally celebrated for the light way 'in which he dealt with burglars. When the burglar was told that he was safely within Sir Ralph Littler's district his language was not printable. A man who moves only a short distance ought not to lose his vote when he moves from a borough into a county.
Although the word "compromise" and the word "conference" are anathema to me, I am prepared, from the practical, common-sense point of view, and as one who has had very considerable practice and knowledge of the drudgery of Parliamentary party work for many years past and of registration, to agree that it would be an advantage to get a limited successive occupation of this sort. I think, however, that the Bill, as it stands, goes too far. Instances have been given, and could 263 be multiplied, in which a successive residence could be claimed, and instances have been taken from Lancashire on the one hand, and Yorkshire on the other other hand. I think it would be conducive to fraud if the distance laid down is too great. I appreciate the difficulties raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cleveland Division (Mr. Samuel) with regard to the meaning of the word "contiguous," but I think the ingenuity of the Solicitor-General is quite equal to providing some words which will meet the case of the estuary and the river dividing counties. But to suggest that the Bill should pass as it stands is to leave open a very serious difficulty with regard to opportunities for fraud, unless you are going to require some sort of registration certificate to be taken by the person from one registration officer to another or some means of identification.
I apprehend the greatest difficulty with regard to the definition of the word "residence." The Home Secretary said that the word would be interpreted in the common-sense view, and that mere sleeping would not be accepted as residence. I wonder if it was not his lot on one happy day in his life to be in a certain parish for a certain number of days before a certain event. Residence there means sleeping, and one knows of many benedicts who have taken their beds and slept in the parish for the purpose of having the banns published. That has been held to be sufficient to constitute residence. Then again, according to the licensing laws, residence means actually sleeping on the premises. At any rate, you are not going to have such an easy task in defining "residence." My hon. Friend also reminds me of the Census, but I rather think it is a provision in the Act itself or in the Regulations which the Act authorises to be made. I hope serious attention will be given to the point, and that there will be some definite time to constitute bonâ fide occupation or residence and that it will not be left for us to connive, as so many of us have done in the past with regard to the marriage ceremony, at any qualification.
It has been objected that if you advance the time you prejudice the municipal elections, but I do not think so. You will have registration officers appointed in large centres for the purpose of doing this work. I know in my own county that the mere apprehension of this Bill becoming law has already suggested that they must have a 264 registration officer and a staff continuously employed. That would really mean that throughout the whole twelve months the register would be added to and would be kept up to date, so that there would be very little difficulty when the qualifying period closed in getting the lists ready, and there would be ample time for the elections on the 1st of November. I suggest that the proposals foreshadowed by the Parliamentary Secretary are wise proposals, and, in view of the alterations that take place quarterly in the movements of the population, I suggest that quarter days should be accepted, the qualifying period dating from them and being sufficiently long to prevent fraud, but yet such as to enable the register to be kept fairly up to date. I am quite sure that some control must be exercised over this question of successive residence, and I welcome the suggestion that has been thrown out by the Parliamentary Secretary that the matter is seriously appreciated by the Government, and that they contemplate some alteration to meet the difficulty.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
I do hope that the Government will stick to the Bill as it stands. This question of the man who is supposed to fraudulently change his residence for the purpose of getting the franchise has been raised as though this Bill for the first time gave the right of continuous occupation, whereas it simply adopts the existing law. It extends it a little, but it does not extend it beyond what was the law twenty-five years ago. Until the Registration Act of 1885 you had successive occupation over a whole county. In all undivided counties until 1885 you had successive occupation. You gave a man the vote by virtue of his qualification as resident of a house for part of the year at one end of the county and by virtue of his qualification as resident of another house at the other end of the same county, sometimes sixty miles away, for another part of the year, and it had been so ever since the Reform Act. If you look upon a wide extension of the franchise as a bad thing, you should take all kinds of precautions to prevent it; but if hon. Members do not do that, I do not think that they should describe it as an abuse to preserve the vote for a man who has done nothing to lose it except change his residence. Is it a criminal thing to change one's residence? It falls to the lot of us all at some time or other to take that very inconvenient and troublesome step. People who are well off have to change their resi- 265 dence very rarely, but working people often have to change their residence when they go in search of work. My view is that no man ought to lose his vote merely because of a change of residence, no matter what change of locality that involves. This, however, is a compromise, and it only brings us back practically to the law as it existed thirty years ago.
I have been talking of the counties, but take the case of the boroughs. This matter has been treated to-night as though Parliament for the first time was conferring the right to vote by virtue of one day's qualification. There are at the present moment 127 constituencies in the United Kingdom in which a man may get a vote on one night's qualification. There are 127 seats created by the division of boroughs, and in every one of them a man may acquire a vote by one night's qualification, providing he has spent the rest of the time in some other division of the borough. The hon. Member says that he wants to prevent abuses. I agree that if there is any attempt to get a vote by irregular means we ought to prevent it, but the way to prevent it is not by penalising a man for changing his residence. There is always a substantial interval between the end of the qualifying period and the preparation of the register, and the question where a man has spent that qualifying interval will be a good guide to any Court of revision as to whether the change of residence was a bonâ fide one or not. If I were revising a list of voters and found that a man had changed his residence for a night in the qualifying period, that on one night he was living in one constituency and then suddenly, as the qualifying day came round, he changed to another, and that when the date of revision came on he had mysteriously gone back to the original place, I should draw the conclusion that the change was not a bonâ fide one. In that case I would give the judge power to put him back to where lie had himself gone back. If there is any attempt at irregularity of this kind, my own opinion is that it is very rare, because I never heard the charge made except in the case of one constituency.
The suggestion that registration agents have such enormous power over voters that all they have to do is to sound a whistle and they can get a hundred or a thousand voters to change their residences for Parliamentary purposes, is 266 absurd. It is very hard to get some voters to vole at all, let alone to get them to change their residence for the purpose of obtaining a vote. I do not believe that any such serious danger exists in any part of the country. If it does, it can be provided against by giving the Revision Court the power of investigation and examination for the purpose of ascertaining whether the change made was a bonâ fide one. I have been in the Belfast Revision Courts when a Belfast man has proved that he has changed his residence eight times in the qualifying period. Among working people change of residence is a common thing and it would be a very great hardship to penalise a working man simply because he has changed his place of abode. There is no justification for it. The present practice has been the law in 127 constituencies in the United Kingdom for twenty or thirty years, and during all that time I have not been aware that any attempt has been made to bring this alleged swallow voter before the House as a matter of serious grievance. If there is a grievance to be met, meet it by direct enactment dealing with it, but do not penalise the working man who changes his residence merely because the necessities of his daily labour compel him to do so.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
I wish to emphasise what has been said so effectively by the last speaker. There is a great deal of advantage in retaining the Bill as it is on this point, but there is considerable disadvantage, when we are considering one Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division, for the Government to suggest that if he withdraws it they would give him another Amendment which has not yet been discussed by the Committee. That is a rather undesirable way of doing business.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
May I draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that the other Amendment has been discussed by the Committee. That was the idea of allowing a general Debate, so that it would cover this other Amendment. I must put in that careat.
I entirely agree. But I would like to point out that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Cleveland Division (Mr. Herbert Samuel) suggested a most important variation, namely, that the thirty days be reduced to a fortnight or to a week, and that the Government had indicated their willingness to accept 267 the thirty days before that important modification had even been suggested. That was a modification that I myself was going to propose if my right hon. Friend bad not proposed it. I am not impressed with the arguments used in support of the Amendment. The difficulty against which the proposed thirty days period is directed is really an illusory difficulty.
It is to be observed that not a single hon. or right hon. Member who has spoken in favour of the thirty days' qualification has put forward a single instance in which the difficulty has arisen under the existing law.
The right hon. Baronet goes to an Irish case, but this Bill in its present form does not touch Ireland.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Yes, it does. The franchise is extended to Ireland, but not redistribution; therefore, all this trouble may occur in Ireland.
I think it was occupation and not residence in the case of Armagh. That is an important matter when we are considering whether the case of Armagh is a case in point. The extension of thirty days may be a very serious thing, because, as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Government pointed out, if the period is extended for thirty days, the other dates may have to be put further forward, and by putting them further forward you will seriously interfere with the use of the register and its preparation in sufficient time beforehand for local elections, which, in Scotland, take place in the first week in November. This is one of the alterations which may be lightly adopted, but it is an alteration which, if adopted, means the adoption of a good many other alterations, and which will throw a good many other matters out of gear. I should be the last to depart from the non-controversial spirit in which this Bill is being discussed, but I would appeal to the Government to consider whether, if they accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division, they would not be prepared to reduce the period from thirty days to a fortnight or a week, because the week would be amply sufficient to avoid any danger from what has been called the swallow voter.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hayes Fisher) had been present he would have heard the other side of the case, which he had not heard when he gave a kind of assurance on behalf of the Government of his willingness to accept a later Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member (Mr. McNeill). It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman was impressed with the argument of the hon. Member opposite, and that his Amendment was intended to rectify a possible abuse. It was not then clear to the right hon. Gentleman, when he made his admission, that the Amendment will have rather a disfranchising effect in practice. The effect will be that certain men, as the result of this, will lose their votes, and I am sorry that aspect of the case did not present itself to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to ask the Government to reconsider this matter. It is a serious thing if at the outset of an argument an assurance is given which varies the terms of a Bill based on a compromise, and before they do that they ought to have had access to the material on which the Conference reached its conclusion. But without having gone into all the facts, many more than have been adduced in this Debate, they have allowed themselves, so to speak, to be driven to make an admission which a wider examination of the question would perhaps have prevented them from doing. My appeal to them is that they should not now continue to give this assurance, which they have in a way, but should reserve their decision until the Report stage, when they have had an opportunity of looking into the question further. An hon. Member from Ireland who has a very complete knowledge of this matter, and who gave it very fully to the members of the Speaker's Conference, has shown that really we are attempting, by proposing to accept the Amendment, to do a great injustice in attempting to rectify a possible abuse. Therefore, I reiterate my suggestion that the Government should withdraw that provisional arrangement with the hon. Member (Mr. McNeill), and should take until the Report stage before they definitely decide what they will do in regard to these thirty days.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir G. Hewart)
This discussion has exhibited very well some of the difficulties involved in this Bill, and has exhibited also the spirit in which those difficulties ought to be met. There are three points which seem to have emerged from the discussion and I should like to refer to each of them in turn. The first is the question of successive occupation. On the one hand there are those who desire to make it universal, and on the other hand there are those who desire to get rid of it altogether. What the Bill in fact does is to extend materially the provisions of the existing law with regard to successive occupation. The word "compromise" is said to be an odious word, but upon that matter I submit that the scheme which is contained in the Bill is a reasonable compromise between these two opposing views. Now if a compromise had to be made, what was involved? If one turns to Clause 6 of the Bill it is provided that the qualifying period is a period of six months. That itself is an important alteration of the law, because it diminishes the qualifying period, and when one hears complaints of the possible disfranchising effect of some provision of the Bill it is important to remember that one of the primary purposes of the Bill is to diminish the qualifying period. If Clause 6 had stood alone it would have followed inevitably, whether with regard to the residence qualification or with regard to the qualification arising from the occupation of business premises, that the whole period would have had to pass in the particular constituency in which registration was to be made. The provision of Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 is an enabling provision. The words with which the Committee is at present concerned provide that, in order to have the requisite qualification for a constituency, a man must on the last day of the qualifying period be residing or occupying business premises in the constituency. It has been pointed out, and the Government is satisfied, that if that provision stands without qualification as it stands in the Bill, there will be undoubted opportunities of what has been called gerrymandering. The Government is satisfied, upon materials which, in its 270 opinion, are ample, that there is a real evil to be provided against.
If that is so, if we have in the first place to reduce the qualifying period, in the second place to extend the provision of the existing law with regard to successive occupation, and in the third place to take suitable precaution against the practices I have described, it is quite obvious that here also there must be compromise—there must be give-and-take. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Hayes Fisher) said a little time ago that if the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. McNeill) would withdraw the Amendment which he had then proposed, the Government was prepared to meet his objection to the extent of accepting the later Amendment, which would substitute for this one day a period of thirty days: To that undertaking the Government will adhere, and I suggest, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman should withdraw the Amendment with the promise on the part of the Government, first, to accept his later Amendment, and, secondly, to propose the consequential Amendments which will have to be made with regard to the dates and periods of registration. It is quite true, no doubt, that to a limited extent, when one puts all these provisions together, there is a slight reduction of the facilities provided by the existing law in the case of certain constituencies. I think that is limited to the case of the divided boroughs because, no less in the new constituencies than in the old, it will be perfectly possible for a resident or an occupier to move from one set of premises to another in the same constituency without prejudice. No doubt where a borough is divided into more than one constituency geographically there will be a subtraction from the previously existing facilities, but the compensation for that subtraction is that when one takes the Bill as a whole its provisions are enabling and liberating. With regard to successive occupation, the Bill will provide that for the last thirty days of the qualifying period a man must have been residing or occupying business premises in the constituency, and must during the whole of the qualifying period have resided or occupied business premises, in the constituency or in another constituency within the same Parliamentary borough or Parliamentary county, or within a Parliamentary borough or Parliamentary county contiguous to that borough or county.
271 The Government was asked what exactly is meant by the word "contiguous," and the Committee was entertained by a series of conundrums arising out of the sort of difficulty one can make of an estuary increasing in width, an inlet of the sea which begins by being very wide and becomes gradually smaller, and the question asked was how far the separation had to go to prevent the two constituencies being contiguous. No doubt an ingenious mind can frame hypothetical difficulties of that character, but in practice I am assured, and I believe, that these difficulties are not likely to arise. What is "contiguous"? "Contiguous" surely means "touching." No doubt as a matter of physical fact where there is a stream or a river which makes a boundary between two divisions one might say, in a sense, that these divisions do not touch. But the boundary follows the parochial boundary, and the ordnance map shows where that is, and it naturally follows the middle of the stream. When the stream becomes very wide and becomes part of the sea, the parochial boundary is not in the middle of that stream, and contiguity has ceased. Apart from verbal ingenuity and fertile imagination, I am assured that the difficulty which is suggested is not likely to arise.
We were further asked with regard to the word "residence," and I am not going to repeat what has been said already. The difficulty of defining the word "residence" is notoriously great. My hon. and learned Friends on both sides of the House are well aware that there are many Statutes in which the word "residence" occurs. Those statutes have one thing in common—they refrain from a definition. This Bill also refrains from a definition. How can one possibly define it? Take the case of the man who goes from his house in order to make a visit and intends to return. Who could deny that that house was still his residence? Take the case of a man who goes from his house intending then and there to find another home. Who could deny that he had then at once ceased to reside in that house? The view the Government has taken is that under the Statute, when it becomes a Statute, as under the others, there will be no difficulty in practice in determining what "residence" is, both on the facts of the particular case and on the intention which from the facts 272 is to be imputed to the person. In these circumstances I repeat what my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board said a moment ago, that if my hon. and learned Friend opposite thinks fit and obtains leave to withdraw this Amendment the Government will accept the later Amendment which stands in his name.
§ Mr. MCNEILL
After what has fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman I certainly ask leave to withdraw the present Amendment in order to allow the Committee to get on.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must put the question, and the hon. Member must object to leave being given to withdraw the Amendment if he desires to do so. The question is, "That the Amendment be, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
Before the Amendment was withdrawn I wanted to call attention to a point which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir G. Hewart) has not appreciated. If the Government accepts the Amendment suggested afterwards, I think the Bill will then provide that the man who has not removed from the constituency at all but has moved in his constituency will not be able to get the vote unless lie has been thirty days in the same house. I do not believe that is what the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. McNeill) means and believes. His point is that he wants to protect the constituency against an influx of new people from outside, and I really suggest that before the Home Secretary accepts this Amendment he should make it clear whether or not the man who changes his residence in the same constituency is to be deprived of the vote because he has not been resident for the past thirty days in the same house.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he means by the acceptance of the subsequent Amendment to disfranchise the man who has been five months in one constituency, because he will be short there, and who has been one month in another constituency because he will be short there. If so, the acceptance of this Amendment would have penal consequences. We are all in favour of 273 preventing fraud, but it is another thing to penalise a man for changing his residence. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) gave the instance of Armagh. It was not a Parliamentary borough at all; it was a municipal borough. What happened was this. There was one ward for the Conservatives, and another for the Nationalists, and there was a middle ward, which was the fighting ward. The Nationalists were in the majority, and they proposed to build artisan dwellings in this middle ward, whereupon the Orange voters proposed to come in, and on that particular day to get the franchise. The Nationalists met that by levelling the houses, so that there were no houses at all. But to fasten on this particular case, which arose out of a question of workmen's dwellings and greatly excited the people in a small town in Ireland, to disfranchise a man because he has been five months in one constituency and one month in another, and to say that he will be deprived of the vote in both constituencies—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, that is what I rose to ask. Is he to retain the vote in neither case? Is he to retain the vote in the constituency in which he has been resident for five months? If that is the proposal I will agree to it, but if he is to be absolutely disqualified in both places I think the Government will find strong resistance.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I am quite satisfied that the fear of the right hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson) would not be realised. It seems to me that if a man resides in the constituency for thirty days, whatever the tenancy may be, he will be protected.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
It does not say the same premises. It says "premises." The way to remove that doubt would be to leave out "premises."
§ Mr. MULDOON
This is a subject which concerns the Labour party a great deal more than any other party in the House, because they represent a class which frequently change their residence. Although the franchise is extended in their interest, this is a proposal which disfranchises them for the Parliamentary franchise and the local government franchise, unless they have a month's absolute residence in the place in which they last resided. Heretofore there was successive occupation, and it was so guarded that it could affect no Parliamentary 274 division, and it did not affect any Parliamentary election, and did not as the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) has said, in the city of Armagh, and could not do so because the changes must be within the same Parliamentary division. What would happen is this: Where a man has been only twenty-eight or twenty-nine days in his last residence he must go out in that constituency, because he has not been in it thirty days. He must go out in the previous case because he has not been there for the full period of six months. He is disfranchised in both. I submit that that is clear —that he is disqualified both for Parliament and the local franchise, and his wife is disqualified for the Parliamentary franchise. Both are disqualified by reason of the operation of this drastic provision. There is no doubt about that as the Act stands. In Ireland there is a power on the part of owners to serve notice to quit upon a large number of small tenants whom they can clear out, and there are a large number of the serving class in Ireland who are employed with one farmer for six months and with another for another six months. There would be a continuous disqualification against these men. The statements of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) are absolutely accurate, and if the Amendment is embodied in this Bill as regards Ireland it must affect the attitude of a large number of us at future stages.
§ Mr. PETO
A large number of Members seem to have forgotten what the Solicitor-General has pointed out, that the Bill has a qualifying period of six months, and therefore all these complaints about disqualification are limited. If there is anything in the complaints that by inserting thirty days as the necessary residence in order to avoid transference of voters from one constituency to another, in a manner which was never contemplated or intended when the resolution at the Speaker s Conference was decided upon, I think the objections are very, very slight and trivial compared with the importance of not creating by this Bill a new method of eluding the intentions of Parliament, which are to give to bonâ fide, persons who find it necessary to transfer their residence a vote in the new constituency to which they transfer as soon as they may be reasonably given it. This is intended to avoid the possibility of fraud. That was distinctly our intention 275 in providing for the continuous vote, and if the Committee before they finally settle this question will turn to Resolution 10 of the Speaker's Conference they will find that it is perfectly clear that it is intended to provide for the bonâ fide transference of voters resident within a constituency and to enable them to vote in a contiguous constituency, and there is no exact limit to the number of days which it is necessary that a voter should reside in the new constituency. In putting a period of thirty days it raises the matter above suspicion, and it will make it clear and easy for the registration officer to do what we want him to do, to register all the bonâ fide residents who are entitled to vote and to keep off the register any voter who may be more or less placed there by wirepullers or other people to procure a spurious transference of voters for party electioneering purposes. Therefore I am very glad that the Solicitor-General has put before the Committee exactly what was the intention of the Speaker's Conference, and the Government have decided on what I think is a wise course in order to prevent our legislation simply producing complications, and making for difficulties and, possibly, fraud. That is not the intention of the Committee, and every hon. Member who has spoken says it is not his intention. I do not think anything less than what the Government propose to secure a clean register, such as we desire to see, would be possible.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
I have no objection to the Amendment being withdrawn, but I certainly do object to it being withdrawn subject to the condition that the Government are going to accept a subsequent Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. R. McNeill. This seems clear, as the Solicitor-General has pointed out in his lucid speech, but I beg the Committee before they accept the withdrawal of this Amendment to keep in mind one thing which the Solicitor-General said quite frankly. He said that the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's narrows the present franchise. Now I ask not only the members of the Speaker's Conferences but the members of this Committee, was that the intention of the Speaker's Conference, or is it going to be the expressed intention of this Committee, that we are going to narrow the present franchise and take away from 276 people the right to vote which they have at the present time and we are going to justify that by what I may say, without disrespect, is the more or less specious argument that in another part of the Bill there is a Clause which, as the Solicitor-General pointed out, is an enlarging and enabling Clause? I ask the Committee to bear well in mind, in deciding whether or not this Amendment is to be allowed to be withdrawn, the promise the Government have made to accept a subsequent Amendment, the acceptance of which necessarily means, and means in the expressed words of the Solicitor-General, that we are cutting down the existing franchise. I think that we should judge this Amendment, and the subsequent Amendment which the Government propose to accept, on their merits. I could understand the Government coming to this conclusion if anyone who has spoken in favour of the next Amendment had been able to point out that, in the event of the Bill being accepted in its present form, there would be a possibility of the mischief which the hon. Member for St. Augustine's affects to fear. But I ask the Committee, has any Member who has spoken in support of the proposal of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's suggested any case which appeals to a reasonable mind as a case in which injustice will be done by gerrymandering the electorate, by bringing in people and giving them a qualification which they are not entitled to if the existing terms of the Bill remain? I ask the Committee not to accept the withdrawal of this Amendment unless the Government give us the assurance that they will not consent to accept the further Amendment, or at all events that the Government will agree to reserve the further consideration of this matter for the Report stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. MARTIN
I was very glad indeed to hear the Solicitor-General say that the Government intended to accept the Amendment with regard to the thirty days' qualification. One of the grievances of the Radical party for a number of years was that if in a constituency like mine a voter went away he lost his vote, and if he moved into my hon. Friend's constituency he retained his vote. Surely we want some substantial qualification for a voter. We do not want to leave the thing wide open as it is here. What is the qualification of one day? I submit that there is no such thing as residence for one day. The Court of Appeal dealt 277 with that the other day, and they said that residence requires a lapse of time, not a day, but a lapse of substantial time. According to the provisions of this Clause, as it stands, the voter only has to be there one day. He does not have to remain there after that day. If he is there on the last day of the six months he can get on the register for that particular Constituency, and he can go to any Constituency in the Kingdom the next day. It has been suggested by some hon. Members that he must be there some time before the register comes into force, but he does not need to stay there, according to this Bill. He only has to reside in one of these constituencies in the county or borough or contiguous counties or boroughs for six months, and he only needs to be for one single day of the period in the particular constituency where he desires to be placed on the register. That is not a substantial qualification. It is open to the objections brought against it by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's that it gives chance for fraud. It is said that there has not been fraud in the past. How do we know that? All we can say is that there has not been a great deal of fraud shown up. "We have to deal with the future and not with the past, and we have got to make a Bill that will be a good, workable, reasonable Bill. I shall certainly support very strongly the Government in their decision to make this a substantial qualification.
I think the Government must recognise that by their hasty decision in this matter they have got into somewhat of a difficulty. The Committee is, I think, agreed with the object in view, and that is to prevent cases of fraud. The Solicitor-General told us that the Government had agreed it was necessary to prevent cases of fraud, but there are other ways of securing that very desirable thing besides the proposal which the Government intends to accept from the hon. Member for St. Augustine's. The effect of what they propose to do now will be undoubtedly that for men who are entitled to a vote under existing circumstances the qualification will be narrowed. Does the Solicitor-General deny that if a man has been for five or six years in a house and within twenty-eight days of the end of the qualifying period he moves into a neighbouring constituency he loses his vote in the place where he was for six years, and he will not get it in the place to which he moves, unless he has been there for 278 thirty days? There is no necessity whatever for that. Not only does the man lose his vote, but his wife under this Bill will not get the vote, and if he has two or three sons over the age of twenty-one who are moving into the new house with him they will also be deprived of the vote. The object is to prevent fraud. I agree that it is desirable and necessary to do that, and that the Government should put something into the Bill to do that. I suggest that this transference has got to be a genuine, bonâ-fide transference. You can secure that it is a bond-fide transference in more than one way. This is not the way to do it. If a man moves in on the last day his case will not be considered on the very next day by the revising authority. If he has only moved in for one day evidence can be given that he was there only for one day and that it was not a bonâ-fide transference at all.
Again, what is to prevent the Government either putting stringent penalties into the Bill to meet the case of these transfer removals which are not bonâ fide? Suppose registration agents or party organisers are organising a transference on bogus lines, put a provision into the Bill either for a heavy financial penalty or for imprisonment, and you will secure the object which the Committee and the Government have in view without the necessity of restricting the franchise as is proposed by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's. I hope that the Committee will not agree that this is the right way to proceed in this matter. At present a man, before he can get the lodger franchise, has to sign a declaration about his qualification. That not only must be witnessed, bin it has the force of an oath, and if it is a false declaration the man can be proceeding against for making it. Similarly, where a man transfers a few days before the qualifying period, you can provide that he must make a statutory declaration, and you can impose severe penalties, as much as you like, for a false or a wrongful declaration, and if you do that I believe that you will meet the difficulty as to possible fraud in a far better and more satisfactory manner than is now proposed.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Question I have to put is, "That the word 'must' stand part of the Clause." The Committee will notice that I am putting this single word in in order to leave open for discussion the subsequent words.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
On a point of Order. I understood Mr. Maclean to rule in your 279 absence that if this Amendment were negatived it would not be possible to bring up the other Amendment, and the reason we had in negativing this Amendment was to kill subsequent Amendments. Are you saving subsequent Amendments?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes. This has been a rather general discussion, in which it was desired that the Committee should be able to consider whether it is going to leave out the whole paragraph or to leave -out certain words or leave out some and put in others. It was desired to leave it open to the Committee to come to these specific points after we have disposed of the present Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is this difficulty about the Amendment of the hon. Member for Fife, that it includes two different proposals. The first is "must during the whole of the qualifying period have resided in premises or occupied business premises in the constituency," and then it goes on to a separate question, "or any other constituency." Would it not be better for the Committee to decide the question of whether the words "on the last day of" are to stand part or be altered?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I beg to move, to leave out paragraphs (a) and (b), and to insert instead thereof the words "must during the whole of the qualifying period have resided in premises or occupied business premises in the constituency or any other constituency."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not quite sure of the words of the Amendment on which the hon. Member lays stress. Does he lay stress on the last words "or any other constituency"? If he will tell me, I will tie able to help him.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Will it not be the best way for the convenience of the Committee to take the Amendment of the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division first, and then for the hon. Member to move his Amendment to insert after the word "constituency," the words "or any other constituency"? It will separate the two points.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member has an Amendment to insert words after the word "must," he can move it now.
§ Major NEWMAN
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), paragraph (a), after the word "must" ["must on the last day"], to insert the words "except for good and sufficient reason."
I think the Committee will agree that we are not in the hands of lawyers, and that we must approach this matter with a certain amount of common sense, and I submit that the insertion of the words I propose would make the meaning of the Sub-section clear. After all, we want to ensure that the man shall reside in the division for six months—that is to say, that he shall be there for a period which will reasonably satisfy the registration officer. If on the very last day lie happened to be away on his holiday, it would be very hard on him to lose his qualification; but surely it would be the common-sense way for the man to send a postcard or a letter to the registration officer simply giving the reason why he was not in residence on the last day of the period. It would only cost him a penny, and if he wants his vote surely he might pay that amount of money and take that amount of trouble. If my Amendment is accepted, it will do away with all the trouble about thirty days, a fortnight, or a change of date, and all the rest of it. Therefore, I should like to hear from the Home Secretary why this, to my mind, common-sense Amendment should not be adopted.
§ Sir G. CAVE
The Committee will see that we cannot possibly accept this Amendment, There may be fifty good and sufficient reasons why a man should leave his home in the qualifying period, and if he goes away for a holiday or something of that kind, it is a good and sufficient reason, because he does not cease to have his residence there. With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, his common-sense proposal would make great nonsense of the Sub-section.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I have rooms at Oxford, but reside there much less often than I should desire to do. Shall I, under this Bill, be disenfranchised? I do not 281 reside anything like six months on end, or even one month on end, in those rooms in the college, and am in London for what would be, I suppose, held to be good and sufficient reason.
§ Sir G. CAVE
If so, he will have a qualification in Oxford, but will have to choose between his vote there or in London.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I have not got a vote in London. What constitutes residence in Oxford? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not know?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I beg to move, in Subsection (1) (a), to leave out the words "on the last day of the qualifying period be," and insert instead thereof the words "for the last thirty days of the qualifying period have been." It was in reference to this Amendment that the Solicitor-General said that the Government would accept it. As I have already given all the arguments in favour of this Amendment when I was speaking last, I think it would be outrageous on my part to ask for any more time, and I content myself by formally moving.
§ Sir G. CAVE
We accept this Amendment. We think there is a real point to be met and that this is a fair way of doing so.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I am very anxious that this Bill should pass, but I think we are entitled to an answer to the question which we put, namely, in the case of the man who transfers his residence from one house to another in different constituencies, is it proposed that he thereby loses his vote and that he is not to get it in the place to which he has gone, and loses it in the place which he has left? For a mere change of residence that is needlessly penalising the working man. You must leave him his vote in one constituency or the other. The object with which this Amendment is accepted is to prevent fraud. Very well, agreed; but then leave him the vote where he had it. In England this will not be so severe as it will be in Ireland, for this reason. The Speaker's Conference agreed that there should be only one register annually in Ireland, and the Colonial Secretary, on the Second 282 Reading, formally stated that wherever we could show that there was a departure in the Bill from the Speaker's Conference the Bill would be restored to the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference. Accordingly, some of us put down Amendments to have only one' register annually, two being wholly unnecessary. I think it would be perfectly monstrous in that state of the law, which is what we must contemplate, that a working man by leaving his residence in one district should be deprived of his vote for practically a year and a-half. Put down fraud by all means, but do not use a suggestion of fraud to inflict a real wrong on working people. It is all very fine for those who have permanent residences and who have not to work on the tide or on the cargo to make those privileges, but they are fantastic provisions which are aimed at grievances which do not exist, and have never been proved to exist, but which will inflict a very real and great hardship upon one class of the community, namely, the poor. This is, therefore, to my mind, an anti-working man Amendment. I do not hesitate to say so. If it be not so, then leave the man the vote in the place where he has lost his residence, and do not deprive him of the franchise altogether, for otherwise this is a mere disenfranchising Amendment.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I cannot forbear expressing my regret that the Government should have accepted this Amendment without any consultation with those who in different quarters of the House are warm friends of the Bill. The effect of it must undoubtedly be to prevent a considerable number of men and women from obtaining votes who but for the Amendment would get them. It is no answer to say that the Bill in its other provisions enfranchises a considerable number. My right hon. Friend the Solicitor-General is a very distinguished' lawyer, and I am not a lawyer at all. I should not dream for a moment of questioning any decision or pronouncement that he might make. At the same time,, it was rather surprising to hear him apparently lend the weight of his authority to the proposition which has been advanced by various hon. Members that if a group of voters were transferred, for the purpose of gerrymandering an election, from one constituency to another, and in the second constituency slept there for the last night of the qualifying period- 283 that they could obtain a vote in the second constituency, and that the fact could possibly be held to be residence. He has said that he was not able to define residence. He has said there was a real evil to be met, that there was a possibility of gerrymandering constituencies. That was the case which was put by those who advanced that argument. Therefore, when he said the case was a sound one I drew the conclusion That he thought that a temporary transfer of that kind could not be residence within the meaning of this Clause. However, the Government have taken the line they have, and we who are friends of the Bill do not wish to divide against the Amendment; but I hope, in future, when it is necessary to make Amendments in the Bill that the Government will endeavour to ascertain the views of all quarters of the House before coming to a decision.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is with the greatest surprise that I learn that the Government have decided to accept this Amendment. The proposal is going to have a most serious effect on the Bill in respect to the enfranchisement of a large number of working men because of this provision requiring a period of residence before the end of the qualifying period. They intended to attack the case of fraud. In doing so, as my hon. Friend opposite indicated, they are doing that which will prove to be a very serious hardship to a large class of people who are entitled to the franchise. As a matter of fact this is a matter which has been very seriously considered by those who were responsible for the drafting of the Report. It was very largely to safeguard such a dis-franchisement that they decided to frame the proposal on the lines on which it has been raised. I regret the decision. I am entirely opposed to it, and, if need be, will vote against it.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I agree that the Amendment now proposed is a good one, but it seems to me not impossible to meet the case which has been put. What you want to secure, as I understand it, is that a man shall have resided in the restricted area for the qualifying period. Is there any difficulty in arranging that if he does not spend the whole of his last month in the new constituency, or he removes, he should be entitled to be registered in the previous constituency from which he has removed? If that were given as an 284 alternative justice would be done, mere will undoubtedly be a grievance if a man who has resided for the whole of the qualifying period loses his vote through some break in the last thirty days. I myself cannot see the insuperable difficulty—I have not the form of words here, as the matter has been rather sprung upon us—but I cannot see the difficulty of giving the man that alternative. If he does not reside for the thirty days in the new constituency, then by all means let him be registered in the old constituency from which he has removed.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I am very sorry the Government should have so readily accepted what, I think, has been proved up to the hilt to be a disfranchising Amendment. I think it is a very bad start in this great Reform Bill, and I am afraid it will give a very bad impression outside to-morrow when many of the general public read what we have done on our first day in Committee. I hope even now the Government will reconsider and modify it, and accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, so that in some way they will undo the mischief which evidently will be done if this is pressed. I may say for my part that if it goes to a Division, although I do not like voting against the Government, I shall certainly do so on this occasion. I think it is a very bad start, and I beg and pray the Government to modify it in some way.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
If the Government are prepared to accept my Amendment, which I will move when the present one is disposed of, namely, "or any other constituency," I think it will meet the objection of the right hon. Gentlemen, and I think we are entitled to ask the Government very seriously to consider the acceptance of this Amendment. During the time that we were discussing the larger question the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary used my argument as being extreme on the one side against the extreme argument of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's on the other, and he pointed out that that showed the wisdom of the Government in treating this Bill on the basis of the spirit of compromise. Having accepted the Amendment put forward by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's, if the spirit of compromise is to be continued, then the Government are bound to accept my Amendment, and to 285 put in these words, "or any other constituency," and so meet the difficulty.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I hope the Government will give real consideration to this last proposal. As I have already pointed out, there was really a choice of proposals before the Conference, but the one we recommended was a universal successive occupation all over the country, with a short period at the end for qualification in the constituency, and I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that as he has undoubtedly, by the arrangement made to-night, withdrawn and reduced the electoral rights of a very considerable number of people in all the large cities of the country, it would be very wise if he would consider this proposal, by which you would then be establishing a logical system, namely, that a man who has got a vote anywhere in the country should be entitled to carry his vote with him. There is a great deal that can be said for that, and, if you do that, then undoubtedly you are extending electoral rights to a large number of people who at the present moment lose their rights because they move. To leave it as it is now would disfranchise a great many. All over London, Liverpool, Manchester, and elsewhere it is a disfranchising measure. If you would only consider this other proposal, I believe it would meet with the approval of the House, and I am sure of the country, because there is no more serious objection to our electoral law now than the difficulty men have of keeping their vote. All over the suburbs of London there are tens of thousands of people who lose their votes simply because they move from one place to another, and there can be no justification for carrying on that system.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I confess that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Samuel) has made me very uneasy as to the effect of the proposed acceptance of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. E. McNeill). I was rather surprised at the conclusion to which his own remarks led him. I represent a constituency which is purely industrial, and numbers of people in my Constituency are in the habit of moving at the end of each quarter. Now, quarter day falls within the period of thirty days which will be laid down by this Amendment. The Government have indicated no intention of departing from 286 the attitude taken up by the Solicitor-General and I would, therefore, invite the Home Secretary at least to modify his acceptance of this Amendment. If that is going to be done I have nothing more to say, but unless the Government do that I shall oppose the acceptance of this Amendment.
§ Sir G. CAVE
We did not accept this Amendment light-heartedly. We carefully considered it and it was deliberately accepted by the Government. There is a real danger to be met. Hon. Members know of the Armagh case, in which it was held that a man who moved from one division to another on the very last day of the qualifying period and who left his new residence on the day after the end of that period was an inhabitant householder. That was the decision in the Armagh case. That was the decision given in Ireland by an Irish Court, and it shows that there is a real danger to be met. It is difficult to distinguish between an inhabitant householder and a resident. But as this case has arisen there is a real danger, and we have to meet that case somehow or another. We have very carefully and deliberately considered the point. The Bill says one day, but that does not meet the case. You might increase it to a fortnight or three weeks. We thought that thirty days was the proper period. If you make it thirty days you can keep the present dates in the Bill. There is the man who bonâ fide changes his residence at Christmas who has not completed his thirty days, namely, to 15th January. To meet that case, we are suggesting that you should allow at least a month after Christmas and Midsummer Day before the qualifying period ends. We propose to extend the period to the 1st of February instead of the 15th of January, and to make the other date the 1st of August instead of the 15th of July. I think, on the whole, we have met a real difficulty in a real and sensible way, and I hope the Committee will be willing to support us. The Speaker's Conference named no date at all, and we have tried to interpret the matter reasonably. We have had to put in some period, and I think we have not departed from the recommendations of the Conference in putting this period in.
I want to deal with one other point. My right hon. Friend suggested that we might insert some sort of provision that a man who lives in a constituency, say, five 287 months and then moves should not lose his qualification, but I think he is rather confusing two senses of the word "residence." The man has changed his residence. The whole basis of the Bill is six months' residence—not six months' actual bodily living in the place, but having a residence there for six months. If we made five months' residence a qualification, we should be reducing the qualifying period in the Bill and really departing from principle. I do not think we ought to do that without further consideration. I do not wish to shut the door upon it to-night if some further argument can be brought forward before the Report stage, but I do not think we ought to go so far at the present moment. We have done our best to meet a really difficult point, and I hope that the Committee will support us and allow us to pass this Amendment which we have accepted, leaving the matter open for further consideration if it should be necessary.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I cannot help thinking that the second part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech to a large extent was the answer to the first part. He pointed out in the second part of his speech that we must not imagine that "residence" was the same thing as physically being in a place, and it follows, of course, that the circumstance that you are physically in a place for one day is not at all the same thing as residence there. The test of paragraph (a) as I understand it is not that a man should find himself physically existing in a given place on the last day of the qualifying period, but that he should be a person who has a residence in that place and who has got his home there on that last day. Greatly as I desire to guard against fraud, I find it difficult to believe that people are going to change their homes, with all that their homes mean, for twenty-four hours, for the mere privilege of perpetrating a fraud of this kind. Of course, the Armagh case was a case about occupation, and occupation involves questions about tenancy, and has been known in the history of franchise manipulation to have resulted in the creation of faggot votes. One advantage of "residence" is that it is a test which corresponds more or less with the history of the voter. He cannot shift his home for twenty-four hours for the mere privilege of securing a vote, and those who have drafted this Bill have 288 very properly said that the first test is the situation of a man's home on the last-day of the qualifying period, but, since there must be six months' residence to-qualify, it is necessary to go back six months and to show either that his home during those six months was in the constituency or in some contiguous place from which he had moved. If that is the right view of "residence," I am not at all convinced that there is any justification for this change. The Home Secretary possibly by forgetfulness, has not at all dealt with the observations of my hon. Friend opposite. If there is going to be, as logically there ought to be, successive residence, whatever the situation of the old home, that would be another thing altogether; but in the meantime I am very sorry not to be able to agree, but I do not myself feel the least convinced even by the very persuasive and reasonable way in which the Home Secretary has put the point before the Committee.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
I am very reluctant [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] to trouble the Committee, but this is a very important matter, and I hope hon. Members will pardon me if I say a few words upon it. I am exceedingly glad that the Home Secretary was good enough to say that he did not shut the door on the suggestion that has been made that if a man did not get a vote in the new constituency he would not lose it in the old constituency. In that case the answer the right hon. Gentleman gave is no answer at all. The answer only related to the case where the man has resided for only five months in the old constituency. The man may have lived five years in the old constituency, and that would be the common case. The common case would not be that of the man who spent five months in the old constituency and a month in the new. It would be the case of the man who got his vote by residing for five years in the constituency, but happened to change in the unfortunate month introduced into this Bill by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's Division, and who had thereby lost his vote. It is said he would only lose it for six months. In fact, he may have lost it for six years, because the register upon which his last vote may have been recorded might be the register upon which there is a General Election. In that case, in effect, so far as the power 289 of actually voting is concerned, it would go for six years. Apparently the Government have come to the decision that they will have this month in the Bill. I hope they will bear in mind the case of a man who already has a vote, and not confuse him with the fugitive or vagabond who is constantly going about from place to place—I mean the case of the steady voter who has a fixed residence in one constituency, but who has the misfortune to change it at a particular time, and who, as a consequence of this Amendment, loses his vote. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has met the case of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Bristol (Sir C. Hobhouse), because he is going to alter the date in the Bill. He is going to alter the Bill to meet the English quarter day. I do not know about Scotland, but the English quarter day is not the quarter day in Ireland.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
At any rate, it is not the quarter day in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman is inserting a date in his Bill which, while meeting the English case, will have the effect of disfranchising the Irish voter. So much is that so that under the existing law we have a different qualifying period from that in England. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider the case of the man who has his vote, and will try to secure that if he does not get the vote in the new constituency, at any rate he shall not lose it in the old.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
This is one of the most important Amendments concerning the industrial classes. One point which has not been sufficiently alluded to is the great amount of disfranchisement which will take place if this Amendment is passed. We have heard of the case of Armagh. We are a little tired of the Armagh case. Instead of doing a wrong to Ireland, it is a wrong to England to use the Armagh case.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.