HC Deb 07 May 1928 vol 217 cc55-75

I beg to move, in page 4, line 26, after the word "residence "to insert the words" or a business premises."

The purpose of this Amendment can be very simply explained. It is to abolish plural voting at a general election, except in regard to the university franchise. This is a Bill for the assimilation of the franchise, and therefore it would not be possible, under the title of the Bill, to deal with the university franchise. My Amendment, therefore is confined to the removal of the right, which exists under the present law, for a man to exercise two votes at a general election, one on a residential qualification and the other on a business qualification. The university vote, where such exists, will continue to be exercised if my Amendment is carried. Perhaps hon. Members will forgive me if I briefly mention what are the qualifications under the law as it now stands. A woman over 30 has a vote in respect of her husband's local government qualification. A man who has a residential qualification and also one or more business qualifications can vote twice, but not more than twice. He can vote in one constituency on his residential qualification, and he can vote in another constituency on his business qualification. In the case of women over 30 who have the vote by virtue of their husband's local government qualification, at a general election they can exercise one vote only, but they have a. choice of voting either where their husbands have the residential qualification or where they have the business qualification. In the name of assimilation or equality this Bill proposes to give two votes to the wife, just as the husband has had two votes hitherto. That will considerably increase the number of women voters.

Further, also, in the name of equality, the Bill proposes to give a business vote to the husband where the wife has a business qualification in her own right. As I said just now, these two changes will add a very large number of new voters; though it is a very small number by comparison with the total number of the electorate, still it is by no means a negligible number. It is important for hon. Members to remember that though the number of business qualifications is small by comparison with the 25,000,000 electors, these business qualifications are concentrated very largely in a few constituencies, and therefore it is quite possible that in certain constituencies the plural vote may have a very determining effect upon the result of the poll. We are opposed to this dual vote, because we believe it is quite inconsistent with the general basis of this Bill. As I said just now, there will be between 25,000,000 and 26,000,000 voters when the new register is compiled, and, according to the figures which the Home Secretary gave on the Second Reading, there will be something approaching 500,000 plural voters.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

That is, including the women.


On the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, the number of plural voters will be about doubled. The general basis of this Bill is the residential qualification. In other words, in the vast majority of cases the qualification for the vote will be citizenship, coupled with the qualification that the citizen has resided in a particular locality for a certain number of months. We submit that the dual vote is quite inconsistent with the general principle of the Bill. Up to the Reform Act of 1884, when the franchise was extended, the basis had been, in fact, a property qualification. This dual voting is a perpetuation of the property qualification for the exercise of the franchise. Surely, now that we are broadening out the basis of the franchise, and including practically everybody over 21 years of age, the time has come when we ought to remove from the franchise qualification all that savours of the old property system. That is the reason I am moving this Amendment. I cannot imagine that there can be any logical defence for the perpetuation of the dual vote. If it is going to be justified on the ground that the man has an interest established by having an office or practice or business premises, surely if he has business premises or offices in half-a-dozen constituencies it would only be logical that he should exercise a vote in half-a-dozen constituencies. As a matter of fact, that limitation of the property franchise cannot be defended upon any logical grounds.

Those who are unfortunately as old as I am, and can remember political agitations before the extension of the franchise, will be quite familiar with the old system of faggot voting when votes were manufactured in constituencies where the balance of parties was very close. It is quite possible for something of the same sort to happen if this property qualification is maintained in the present Bill. I submit that this kind of plural voting is inconsistent with the democratic basis of this Measure. We are not dealing with the question of university suffrage on this Amendment, and perhaps a time will come when a Measure will be submitted to the House which will deal with the remaining anomalies of our electoral system. For the time being we content ourselves by putting forward the Amendment which I. have submitted to the House, and which I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to make clear to hon. Members.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) has carried his memory back as far as I can carry mine, to the time of faggot voting. If any faggot voter had thought it worth while 50 years ago to acquire a faggot vote in respect of an electorate of 25,000,000, I think it would have been very remarkable. The right hon. Gentleman told us quite frankly that the number is very small in proportion to the total of 25,000,000 voters. At the present time there are about 220,000 or 240,000 men who possess the business premises qualification, and under this Bill that figure will be just doubled, and there will be between 400,000 and 450,000 who will have a second vote in respect of their own or their spouse's business premises. If we were starting a fresh Bill altogether, making new regulations for voting, then this Amendment might be reasonable, but it is not in accordance with the scope of this Bill. The Bill has been introduced to carry out a promise made by the Prime Minister to equalise the franchise between men and women, and there was no suggestion that in equalising the franchise we should take advantage of that opportunity to remove from the men the privilege they now enjoy of voting for their business premises. I am not at all sure that the right hon. Gentleman was not right when he said that on the principle which has been laid down it would be right to give a man five or six votes for different business premises in different constituencies, and if the right hon. Gentleman will move an Amendment to that effect I think I should be ready to accept it. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman will not carry out his logic to that extent.

The right hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that a man may vote in two different constituencies for business premises and a woman may only vote once. If you are going to complete the system of making a woman's vote equal to a man's vote, you must give the woman a vote for business premises. It is very remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley has not said anything of the position taken up by the Labour party on this point some four years ago when they wanted to deal with women suffrage. At that time a Bill of a very similar nature to this Bill was brought in by the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. W. M. Adamson), and, when that Bill was going through Committee, the Labour party did not take the trouble to move any Amendment to abolish this small relic of plural voting; and now, when a Conservative Government brings in a similar Bill, hon. Members opposite say "We will take advantage of this opportunity and knock the plural voting provision out of the Bill. "When one of the right hon. Gentleman's own colleagues brought in a similar Bill, no Member of the Labour party took the trouble to move the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley has now put forward. Therefore, not only did hon. Members opposite, by implication, consent to the existing method of plural voting and the right of a man to vote for his residence and his business premises, but, when an Amend- ment was moved to give a woman the same rights as a man and enable the woman to vote for business premises, they did not demur. One would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) would have said "If we allow the man to have this wicked plural vote for his premises we really cannot allow the same thing for the woman."


I am very reluctant to stop the flow of the right hon. Gentleman's oratory, but as a matter of fact the Home Secretary is totally wrong. In the Bill of 1924 which was introduced by the Labour party it is true the Clause was similar, but there was a provision in Clause 1 by which plural voting was abolished.


That is not my information. I had the Bill before me on the last occasion, and I did not know that the right hon. Gentleman was going to dispute that fact. My information is quite contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman has stated, but, if his statement is correct, of course that will remove something from my argument. If the right hon. Gentleman is right, and I have been wrongly informed, hon. Members know me well enough to believe that I should not wish to make a false paint. I have been informed that what I have stated was the case, and that the Labour Government promised that if the Bill passed through the Committee they would take it up.


What I have said is dealt with in Clause I of the Bill of 1924.


I am referring to Clause 1, Sub-section (2) of the Bill as amended by Standing Committee A.


Yes, but you want the Bill as it was introduced.


No; I never said that at all. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, he will see that I said that an Amendment was introduced in the Committee to make the franchise in respect of the business qualification the same for women as for men. That Amendment was accepted by the Labour Member in eharge of the Bill, and, when the Bill had passed through the Committee with that Amendment in it, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley said that the Government would take charge of it and do what they could to place it on the Statute Book. I am sorry to differ from the right hon. Gentleman—


The right hon. Gentleman knows the position in which the Labour Government were. We were in office, but there was a combination against us of the two other parties, and, if I remember the circumstances aright, that Amendment was reluctantly accepted in order to save the Bill.


That Amendment, so far from being reluctantly accepted, was moved by the Labour Member in charge of the Bill, and not only did it not propose to strike out the remnants of plural voting which men had, but it proposed to put in this very provision giving to women the same right to plural votes which men had. That Amendment was embodied in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman and myself have been opponents—I hope courteous opponents—for many years, and I am quite sure that he misunderstood me when I made my statement a few moments ago. I am glad to be able to clear up the point by stating quite definitely that this provision giving to women, as we are doing, the same right in regard to plural voting as men, was moved by a Labour Member and put into the Labour party's Bill, and the Labour Government promised to take up the Bill in that form.


We are not so simple as that!


It is no use my right hon. Friend saying that they wanted to pass the Bill. I grant that, but my only point—and it is, I admit merely a debating point—is that they did not, when one of their Members was in charge of the Bill, raise the attack on this question which the right hon. Gentleman is raising to-day because it is a Conservative Government that is introducing the Bill.


The right hon. Gentleman introduced this reference to the Labour party's Bill, and tried to make the point that we were in favour of this plural voting at the time when the Bill was introduced in 1924. In the Bill, however, as it was introduced by the Labour party, plural voting was abolished. Every Member of the House who has had any experience of the conduct of Government Bills and private Members' Bills knows that very often those in charge of a Bill have to accept Amendments in order to save the Bill, and that was precisely the position in which we were.


I do not dispute the facts at all; I only say that the right hon. Gentleman's courage is a little greater when I am in office than it was when he was in office. If this thing were so wrong as it is now alleged to be, the Labour party would have at once said, "We will not touch it; we will not have anything to do with it; it is wrong in principle"; but, apparently, they thought that it was not so very bad after all, and it is not so very bad after all. At the outside, it will mean an addition of 400,000 votes in a total of 25,000,000. As I have said, I am quite unrepentant on the matter. I think that a man is entitled to a vote in respect of his business premises as well as in respect of his private residence, and that if, by this Measure, we are to make the voting rights of women equal in all respects to those of men, a woman is entitled to the same right to a vote in respect of business premises. In these circumstances, I certainly hope that the House will reject the Amendment.


With regard to the particular point which has just been under discussion, I only desire to say this: We on this side of the House care very much indeed that women should obtain the vote, and, in spite of the fact that we regard plural voting as injurious, we supported any proposal which would secure the passage of a Bill in the past, and we shall support the Third Reading of this Bill even if our Amendment on this question be lost. That does not mean that we regard this Amendment as unimportant, or that we do not desire to see it carried.

The Home Secretary defended the original text of his Bill on the ground that any attempt to get rid of plural voting would have been outside the scope of the Bill. When this Bill was in Committee, the Chairman of Committees ruled that it was an assimilating Bill, and that we could bring the franchise of women up to that which men possess, or could carry down the franchise of men to that which women possess, but that we could not alter, either in excess or in defect, the franchise of both. I venture to suggest, however, that this Bill gives both to men and to women a right which they did not possess before. At the present moment, apart from this Bill, the franchise for men is plural only when they have a residential qualification themselves or a business qualification themselves—I am leaving out the university vote, as has been done by common consent in connection with this Amendment. Women at, a General Election do not have a plural vote at all. Therefore, at the present time, under the existing law, it is neither possible for a man to exercise a plural vote at a General Election on account of his wife having a business qualification, nor for a woman to exercise a plural vote at a General Election on account of her husband's business qualification. This new Bill, however, allows both a husband and a wife to exercise a plural vote, on account of their spouse's business qualification, which neither possesses at the present time. Therefore, I say that the Conservative Government, in bringing in this Bill in its present form, have given, both to the husband and to the wife, something which neither of them possesses at the present time, and that, so far from being in accord with the assimilating principle, they are going outside the scope of the argument to the Bill, and are increasing plural voting both for man and for wife; and on that ground I think that their case is indefensible.

4.0 p.m.

Had the Government merely given to women the precise franchise rights which men possess at the present time, I think their case would have been a better one. We should still have objected to the plural voting, but I think that our argument would have lost a great deal of its force. As, however, they have gone beyond that, I think their position is quite indefensible, and, further, I think it is ill-judged. It is quite possible that, had the existing rights in the case of men merely been extended to women, that position might have lasted for a considerable number of years, but the Government have, in addition, created a purely fancy franchise—because it must be admitted that to give women the right to vote on account of their husbands' business qualification, and the other way round as well, is a purely fancy franchise; and, because they have done that, I think that this particular form of plural voting will have to be revised at an early date, and will be revised, probably, very much sooner than would have been the case had the Government been content with that which, in our view, would have been improper, but which could be argued to be a reasonable method of dealing with the situation. Further than that, I do not believe that women want this purely fancy franchise. Women have demanded from the first that they should have the vote on precisely the same terms as men. They demanded from the first that they should vote as human beings, that they should vote on behalf of qualifications they possess in their own right. This new plural vote, which is to give a great number of women a second vote, not on account of their own right, or on account of being human beings, but on account of their being the wives of their husbands, I believe to be, not only a fancy franchise, but one which women would be very much better without, just as men ought to be without the right to vote on behalf of their wives' qualification. Therefore, I think the Conservative Government in this Bill have gone outside its real scope, and shall certainly support the Amendment


I wish to support the Amendment moved from the Labour benches. The House of Commons, really, should take due note of the fact that, at a time when we are supposed to be completing the reform of our franchise law, we are putting upon the Statute Book a provision which, examined by itself, must be regarded as an absurdity. It is quite absurd to say that any citizen is to have a vote in a particular constituency because that citizen is married to somebody. That is what we are doing. We are saying that a number of citizens are to have a vote, not because of anything they themselves in the constituency possess, but because they are married to a husband or wife, as the case may be. As I have from the beginning taken a very firm and persistent part in supporting women's suffrage, and served on Mr. Speaker Lowther's Committee, and there had something to do with putting forward the case for women's votes, may I point out that the ground upon which this provision was first put upon the Statute Book has now completely disappeared? You may search the Statute Book from beginning to end, but you will never find any provision by which a person has a. vote because that person is married to somebody, until the Representation of the People Act, 1918. It was put in then for this combination of reasons. First of all, the argument in favour of women's suffrage was too strong any longer to be resisted, and, therefore, women had to have votes.

The second reason was that there was still a large body of opinion in the House and country which was alarmed at the idea that more women should get on the register than men, and, therefore, you had to have some test, and the test taken was one which secured that more women than men should not be put on the list of voters. But if you simply had regard to some limiting test of that sort you might have had this result, that instead of mothers and wives having votes, you would have had a preponderance of unmarried women with the vote, and the House and the country most reasonably thought that if you are to give women the vote, it is at least desirable, and probably more important, that the married women should have the vote than that the unmarried women should.

All that is now completely out of date. I remember perfectly well that in 1918, on Mr. Speaker Lowther's Committee, the reason—and the only reason—that this provision was put in to include among those who should vote, women who were the wives of certain qualified voting husbands, was in order that a certain number of married women should have the vote without at the same time swamping the male electorate. We have gone further. We have recognised a very obvious proposition, that there is nothing alarming in the idea that women should be on the register in larger numbers than men because there are more women citizens than men. There is not the slightest possibility of women all voting one way, or of all men voting one way, and the attempt to turn the suffrage movement into a movement known as Feminism has met with the fate it deserved. Women are on the electorate, not as women opposed to men, but because they are citizens, with the responsibilities and duties of citizens, and, that being so, they must come on the register just like other citizens. What is the sense of the House of Commons at this moment perpetuating the absurdity of saying that the qualification for certain people to vote in a certain constituency should be that that person should be married to somebody else? I do not believe you can find in the franchise history of the world such a, proposal. It was introduced in our own country purely as an expedient. All that has gone, and I do appeal to the good sense of the House at this stage not to continue to perpetuate that absurdity. The only thing to do is to knock out once and for all this grotesque qualification, once you get to the point where women have the right to vote as citizens, without circumscribing their proper rights and opportunities.

I would invite the House of Commons, not in any party spirit, but in the desire to put our electoral law on a fair and proper basis, to say that we have now reached a point at which we are not afraid, because women as well as men have votes, that we want to have votes on the same basis, but let us get rid of this very ridiculous proposition by which a certain number of individuals in the country are put on the electoral roll because they happen to be married.

Viscountess ASTOR

Does the right hon. Gentleman want to do away with plural voting for men, too?


I am not urging that now. I myself think that plural voting is in itself objectionable, but, whether objectionable or not, the idea that we should embarrass our electoral roll, which ought to be simple, by the test of whether in a constituency someone who lives somewhere else is carrying on a business and is married, and that that should give the wife the right to another vote, ought really not to be perpetuated.


I should like to put to the House a point that strikes me about the Amendment. I believe that equal franchise should be given to men and women, but it amused me very much to hear the right hon. Gentleman talking about inequality. To my mind, there is nothing in the world that is pure equality. The right hon. Gentleman, even in this House, has certain privileges not given to ordinary Members. He has the right to be heard whenever he desires. That inequality applies all through life. I am one of those who think it was quite right that plural voting, when it became a drawback to the electorate, should be limited. But I cannot see any inequality in the present system, where you allow a certain number of people, who have tremendous business interests in the country, to have a certain advantage over the ordinary franchise.


Does the hon. Gentleman mean that the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) gets a right to speak in this House because he is married to Mrs. Snowden?


The point I wish to make is that the right hon. Gentleman, through his great position in the Labour party, and owing to the fact that he is a Privy Councillor, has a right to be called upon to speak when other Members on both sides have to wait continually for hours. I am not objecting to that, personally, at all. I am merely pointing out that there is no such thing in this world as absolute equality. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well you cannot secure for any class of people in this country pure equality. It is an impossibility. Trade and industry, to my mind, have an added right to representation in this House. As long as that added right is not too much out of proportion to the interests of the community; as long as the business interests of this country do not predominate in this House, it is a proper right. But to take away the right of trade and industry to an added representation in this House is taking away something from the Constitution of this country to which I, for one, would not be prepared to agree. I hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary will stick to the principle in this Bill, because, although I admit logically there is something to be said for the right hon. Gentleman's argument with reference to the women's qualification, nevertheless, I am confident that if you once accept this Amendment you will be suborning what we have always looked upon in this House as a proper protection of trade and industry.


I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey) into his theoretical argument as to when equality is not equality, or the entitlement of women under this Bill to the same franchise as the men hare to-day. I was rather interested in the statement of the Home Secretary, and I can congratulate him that he is a little better primed to-day than his Under-Secretary was in the Committee stage of this Bill, because he mentioned that the Franchise Bill of 1924 was a Government Measure, and was actually sponsored by the then Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson). Evidently the Home Secretary has been a little better informed this afternoon, and he had to come to the conclusion that it was a private Member's Bill, which was introduced in 1924—a tremendous distinction from the Government Measure which is being introduced to-day. During the Committee stage, when I was responsible entirely for the 1924 Measure, we submitted to a very logical argument.

A certain pressure was put upon us at that time, and, if the Home Secretary had been logical to-day, when he was using his argument that we were quite prepared to accept the Amendments that were put to us at that time, we should be equally as logical if we tried to argue that, because an official Amendment at that time was introduced to make the age of both men and women 25, the benches opposite were responsible for that recommendation at that time. I would hardly descend to that type of argument to prove that hon. Members opposite were in favour of an equal franchise upon the same terms. Evidently the Conservative party have developed tremendously since 1924, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will consult with the Minister of Education, who was in charge of the Opposition upon the Franchise Bill, he will begin to understand that in 1924 we had to consult with the Opposition and, without putting it to the vote, we came to the conclusion that we should be defeated in resisting the Amendment, and we accepted it. We are equally entitled to appeal to the Home Secretary that we should be allowed a free vote on the question of an equal franchise, without extending it to the equal business voting qualification either of the wife or of the husband. We stood then, and we stand definitely to-day, for the equalisation of the franchise, without fancy franchises or plural voting and the giving of the vote upon the human basis to men and women equally with one qualification.

Viscountess ASTOR

It is always interesting to hear Members on all sides of the House declare that they have always believed in equality between men and women. No party, as a party, has ever been really sound on this subject of equality, and I do not think they are now. There are a great many Members of all parties who, although they give lip service to it, really in their hearts do not believe in it. What I think was so interesting was when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) said, with truth, that the reason you got this absurdity of a woman voting because her husband had property was that it was based on the fear of what women were going to do, and any law based on fear instead of justice must be bad. It is a ridiculous reason that a woman should vote because her husband has property, but. that is not what hon. Members opposite are thinking of so much. They are thinking of plural voting. There is a good deal to be said for and a good deal against that. As long as a woman has a vote because her husband has a business, I do not object to a man having a vote because his wife has property, but it is all wrong in either case. There is no reason in it. That is man-made law. I shall not vote for the Amendment, because it is really getting at plural voting, which is not the question before us. The question before us is equality, and I feel that, as long as men have this absurd vote, women should have it too.

I wished to point out that a man-made law based on fear is one of the most ridiculous things possible to a logically-minded woman. The hon. Member who has just spoken says that the Conservative party is improving. Parties that do not go forward go out. I am glad to say that all panties are improving as far as the treatment of women is concerned, but there have only been a few men in any party who have really been sound about it. We have had just as sound men in our party as in any other. We also have the most unsound men in our party, and the worst of them is that they make so much noise. They always give it away. The men in the other parties are wise enough to keep quiet, but our unsound men are always making a noise, and, generally, when it is too late.


The House always listens with pleasure to the Noble Lady on a topic like this, and to-day our pleasure is the greater because she comes to the House fresh from her great golfing triumph, in which she demonstrated not only the equality of women but the inferiority of man. I gathered from her remarks that she was not quite sure how she stood on the question of plural voting. There was something to be said for it. and something against it, and she left it at that. She is not sure whether it ought to be abolished, but in any case this is not the afternoon to do it. That, I gather, is her position. On the other hand the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey), who so often charms the House with his wisdom, was rather out of his element when he was dealing with the question of equality, because he argued that the vote should depend largely upon the business and the responsibility a person has. If you are going to start off on that line I do not know where you are going to finish. If a man is to have two votes because he has a small business employing one other man, what about a man with 10,000 employés? If it is going to be based on the amount of responsibility the person has, there are hon. Members opposite who should have at least 250 votes.

I do not wish to appeal further to the Home Secretary for a free vote, because I rather gather he has made up his mind, but I should like to put this point to him. He has been very courteous in providing statistical information with regard to the operation of the Bill. Perhaps he could give us some further information. He agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) that this was a matter of small importance and that out of 25,000,000 voters, there would be approximately 450,000 concerned. Has he any information as to the constituencies that will be most affected and what will be the total number in them? In many constituencies there will be only a dozen or two, but at the other end there will be some where the numbers may run into thousands. It would be interesting to know what would be the largest number of voters affected by this in any constituency.


I have not exact figures on the point, but the hon. Member may assume that the constituencies most affected will be the central business constituencies in the large towns.


There is only one other point. Whether the Amendment is passed or not, we shall vote solidly in favour of the Bill, but I hope when the right hon. Gentleman, because of the tenacity with which he clings to Conservative principles, changes his place from the Front Bench over to this side, or below the Gangway, he will not say the Labour party cast a vote in favour of plural voting, because we have always been perfectly consistent, we have opposed it continuously, and while the right hon. Gentleman may continue to make, on the platform and in the House, what he has admitted to be merely a debating point, the fact remains that the Labour party has always been in favour of the abolition of plural voting and, whether we are successful to-day or not, we shall continue, and, I hope, take steps to abolish it at the first opportunity we get.


I do not think anyone will dispute the fact that the Labour party has always been against plural voting, are against it now and will always be against it. I only rise in order, if possible, to obtain some information as to the position of the Liberal party. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) made it clear that he was going to vote in favour of the Amendment, and I should think it probable that his example will be followed by his colleagues who are present. But in the earlier part of the Debate we had a discussion which seemed to indicate to those who were not Members of the previous House of Commons that, during the 1924 Parliament, the Labour party, in a Private Member's Bill, were not able to eliminate plural voting on account of their inability to get a majority. It is common knowledge that in that Parliament the Labour and Liberal parties were in the majority and, as long as they agreed, were able to have their way. I should therefore like to know how it was—it is an allegation which has been made both by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) and the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. W. M. Adamson)—they were not able at that time, when they had their Bill before the Committee, to get their own way and eliminate plural voting. It is apparent that in that Parliament the Liberal party were in favour of plural voting. In view of the exchange of arguments which have taken place on this matter, and the fact that the Home Secretary has been accused of making a debating point of it, we should like to know whether the Liberal party have changed their views, or what was the reason in the discussions on their Bill the Labour party could not rely upon their support and once and for all do away with plural voting.


Hon. Members opposite have not quite made up their minds upon what ground they are going to oppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). The hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey) opposes it because he does not believe in equality. The Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) is opposed to the Amendment because she believes the Clause as it stands gives equality between the sexes, but she has raised another issue. She is confused as to what equality means. The Clause as it stands does not mean merely equality between men and women. It brings in an inequality between men and women. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) made the real and material point with regard to this Clause. If you are going to give a vote to a woman because she is married to somebody, you are putting her in a preferential position not only as regards men but as regards other women. You are bringing in an inequality, not as between sex and sex, but as between the sex itself. Why should one class of women—


Why should men?


After that question, I hope to see the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth go into the Division lobby in support of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment.


I justify the distinction, but the right hon. Gentleman does not. There is a distinction at the present time between classes of men. Men have a separate vote for business premises, and, if it is given to men, why should it not also be given to women?


I should imagine that the hon. Gentleman could put an Amendment on the Paper extending the vote for business premises. Why should the vote in respect of business premises be limited to one vote!


Why do you not put it down on the Paper?


Because we are opposed to plural voting in any shape or form. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who are you?"] If I were criticising the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, I should merely criticise it on this ground, that it still omits one form of plural voter. It still leaves open plural voting so far as the University vote is concerned. [ Interruption.] I am informed that we cannot deal with that in this Bill. The point still remains that we are attempting to give equality to the sexes. This Amendment is the very Amendment that gives that equality, and the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton ought to be found in the Lobby supporting it. It gives equality between the sexes and equal rights to men and women to vote on the same register. It is this Amendment, and this Amendment only, that gives that equality.


I think the House is very pleased to have had some information elicited as to the views of the Liberal party. It is news to me that the Liberal party are in favour of disfranchising the whole of the business classes of this country in respect of business pre- mises, I do not think that that is a principle which is accepted on this side of the House. Personally, I am of opinion that the people who run the businesses of this country and who provide such a large measure of the revenue to pay the expenses of the country ought to have some special voice in its affairs. The limitation of two votes, one in respect of the individual and the, other in respect of business premises can be justified on many grounds. I will go further and say that if there is going to be equality between the sexes, I cannot see any reason for not extending the same privilege to the women voters. After all, we live in times that have very largely changed. Women now play a large part in the affairs of the country. They pull their weight in the business of the country. You can go into many busi-

ness establishments and find that they are almost entirely run by women. I am perfectly certain that many of the businesses in the country owe their success to the advice of women, and I may say that many Members in this House owe such success as they have attained in large measure to the advice of their wives. Therefore, if we are to observe equality between the sexes, I see no reason whatever why a woman should not be allowed to have a vote in respect of her husband's business, for the success of which, it is very possible, she is very largely responsible.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 78; Noes, 216.

Division No. 111.] AYES. [4.38 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Harney, E. A. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Adamson, w. M. (Statf., Cannock) Harris, Percy A. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hayes, John Henry Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, G. H. Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Barr, J. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Snell, Harry
Briant, Frank Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (Watt Ham, Silvertown) Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Bromley, J. Kelly, W. T. Stephen, Campbell
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Kennedy, T. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Cluse, W. S. Keli worthy, Lt.-Com, Hon- Joseph M. Strauss, E. A.
Compton, Joseph Lansbury, George Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H, (Derby)
Cove, W. G. Lee, F. Thurtle, Ernest
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Lunn, William Tomlinson, R. P.
Dafton, Hugh Mackinder. W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Day, Harry Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Viant, S. P.
Dunnlco, H. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Edge, Sir William Montague, Frederick Whiteley, W.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Morris, R. H. Wiggins, William Martin
Gillett, George M. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)
Gosling, Harry Naylor, T. E. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Owen, Major G. Windsor, Walter
Griffith, F. Kingsley Pethick-Lawrence, F, W. Wright, W.
Groves, T. Ponsonby, Arthur Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Grundy, T. W. Potts, John S.
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Rose, Frank H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Mr. A Barnes and Mr. Paling.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Betterton, Henry B. Charteris, Brigadier-General J.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Churchman, Sir Arthur C.
Albery, Irving James Bourne, Captain Robert Crott Clayton, G. C.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Cobb, Sir Cyril
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Brass, Captain W. Cohen, Major J. Brunei
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Bridgeman, Rt. Hon, William Clive Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips
Applin, Colonel R. v. K. Briscoe, Richard George Conway, Sir W. Martin
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Brittaln, Sir Harry Cooper, A. Duff
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cope, Major William
Astor, Viscountess Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Couper, J. B.
Atholl, Duchess of Suchan, John Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bullock, Captain M. Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)
Balniel, Lord Burman, J. B. Crookshank.Cpt. H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Burton, Colonel H. W. Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Cautley, Sir Henry S. Curzon, Captain viscount
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Davies, Dr. Vernon
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Cecil. Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Bann, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Dean, Arthur Wellesley
Bennett, A. J. Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.) Dixey, A. C.
Berry, Sir George Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Drewe, C.
Eden, Captain Anthony Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Salmon, Major [...].
Edmondson, Major A. J. King, Commodore Henry Douglas Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Elliot, Major Walter E. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Sandeman, N. Stewart
Ellis, R. G. Lamb, J. O. Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Erskine, Lord {Somerset, Weston-s.-M.} Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Sandon, Lord
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Fall, Sir Bertram G Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Savery, S. S.
Falls, Sir Charles F. Loder, J. de V Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Long, Major Eric Sinclair. Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)
Fermoy, Lord Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Skelton, A. N.
Fielden, E. B. Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kine'dine, C.)
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Lumley, L. R. Smithers, Waldron
Fraser, Captain Ian Lynn, Sir R. J. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Frece, Sir Walter de Mac Andrew, Major Charles Glen Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Macintyre, Ian Sprot, Sir Alexander
Gates, Percy Macmillan, Captain H. Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Macquisten, F. A. Storry-Deans, R.
Glyn, Major R. G. C. Mac Robert, Alexander M. Streatfelld, Captain S. R.
Gower, Sir Robert Makins, Brigadier-General E. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Grace, John Malone, Major P. B. Styles, Captain H. Walter
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Sueter, Hear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Grant, Sir J. A. Margesson, Captain D. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Meller, R. J. Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Grotrian, H. Brent Meyer, Sir Frank Tinne, J. A.
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Gunston, Captain D. W. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Hacking, Douglas H Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Vaughan-Morgan, Col- K. P.
Hall, Lieut-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M Wallace, Captain D. E.
Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne) Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Hamilton, Sir George Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Hanbury, C. Nelson, Sir Frank Warrender, Sir Victor
Kannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Oakley, T. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Oman, Sir Charles William C. Wells, S. R.
Harrison, G. J. C. Penny, Frederick George White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Perkins, Colonel E. K. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Haslam, Henry C. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian Pilcher, G. Windsor Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Heneage. Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Pilditch, Sir Philip Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Henn, Sir Sydney H. Power, sir John Cecil Wolmer, Viscount
Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Price, Major C. W. M. Womersley, W. J.
Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Raine, Sir Walter Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Hopkins. J. W. W. Ramsden, E. Wood, E. (Chast'r, Staiyb'ge & Hyde)
Hurst, Gerald B Remnant, Sir James Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Mine, Sir Edward M. Rice, Sir Frederick Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Iveagh, Countess of Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Ropner, Major L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Jephcott. A. R. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A. Mr. F. C. Thomson and Major the
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Marquess of Titchfield.