HL Deb 01 August 1867 vol 189 cc526-95

House again in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 15 (Certain Boroughs to return one Member only).


My Lords, the immediate object of the first Amendment which I have to move is to increase the number of seats placed at your disposal for distribution, by proposing that not more than one Member be returned by boroughs having a population not exceeding 12,000. The Amendment which I have to propose is to strike out the word "ten" and insert "twelve." But this Amendment must be considered in connection with other Amendments which I propose should follow if the Motion which I shall now make be adopted. The general effect of the arrangements will be to enlarge the scheme of re-distribution contained in this Bill. My Lords, on a former evening there was a good deal of discussion on the sufficiency or insufficiency of the plan of Her Majesty's Government. Now, I would remind your Lordships that on that occasion, while great exception was taken to the Resolution moved by my noble Friend behind me (Viscount Halifax), the objections made to it were rested almost exclusively on the form of the Motion and scarcely at all on the ground that the distribution of seats in the Bill as it stands was satisfactory or sufficient. On the contrary, my Lords, several noble Lords who stated their intention of voting against the Resolution of my noble Friend expressed at the same time their decided opinion that the scheme of re-distribution contained in the Bill was one which stood in need of amendment, and even those Members of Her Majesty's Government who resisted the Motion, and especially my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, did so almost exclusively on the ground that it was inexpedient to disturb the arrangement on this subject which had been come to by the House of Commons. Now, my Lords, I would venture to assume from what passed that evening that it is the opinion of a large portion of your Lordships—and, as I believe, it is the universal opinion outside the walls of this House—that the scheme of distribution as it stands is unsatisfactory and inadequate to the necessities of the case. With regard to the only argument advanced against disturbing the proposed distribution—namely, that we should be reluctant to interfere with an arrangement deliberately made by the other House of Parliament—I would venture to point out that this is a subject of all others with respect to which we have special advantages as compared with the other House of Parliament in dealing with it. No man, my Lords, is ignorant that if the scheme of re-distribution now before us is insufficient, no very great blame can be attributed to Her Majesty's Government on that account, because we all know that an extensive and complete scheme would have provoked so much hostility from those whose personal interests would be thereby affected, and so many persons would have thought themselves bound to resist a proposal which would diminish the political influence of the constituencies by which they have been returned, that an opposition would have been excited which might have been fatal to the whole measure. And if I rightly understand the remarks which are reported to have been made by the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Government in the other House of Parliament, this was his reason for proposing so small a scheme of re-distribution as that originally contained in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said that he had no objection to a larger scheme of re-distribution if the opinion of the House of Commons was prepared to support it, but he did not believe that to be the case, and was therefore content with the very moderate measure proposed. My Lords, I would venture to submit that this is a subject upon which you may most properly and most judiciously carry further what has been intended by the other House of Parliament. The Amendment which I am going to propose is not inconsistent with the principle of the Bill, it is not calculated to diminish its efficiency or to cripple its operation. On the contrary, the whole scope and purport of that Amendment is in strict conformity with the principle of the Bill; it is intended to render the measure more complete and its operation more perfect; and being free from all disturbing influences of personal interests or the wishes of constituencies, if we can apply ourselves to the consideration of the measure and make it more perfect and complete, I believe there is no man that will not feel that we have rendered a service to the public. My Lords, I venture to express an opinion that it is most important that we should take this course — in the first place because I hold it to be most undesirable that this question of Parliamentary Reform should again be brought immediately under the consideration of the new Parliament. I can conceive nothing more injurious to the public interests, nothing more calculated to interfere with the proper progress of legislation on other subjects, than that at the moment the new Parliament, elected under the provisions of this Bill, should be summoned, its attention should be called to the necessity of amending and extending this portion of the measure. There is another reason which, with me, weighs very considerably in favour of considering this part of the subject in the way that I recommend, and it is this:—On Tuesday night last the House, by an overwhelming majority—a majority which I think represented, if that be possible, a still more overwhelming superiority in argument — on the Motion of a noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), whom I do not see this moment in his place, decided in favour of an alteration in the mode of electing Members for places returning three representatives. That Motion was carried with an almost unanimous expression of opinion on the part of this House such as I do not remember ever to have seen equalled. But the noble and learned Lord, in moving his Amendment, stated distinctly that as the Bill stands, the proposal which he made would be of very restricted operation, that it would apply only to a very small number of seats; and he intimated his own opinion that much less importance was to be attached to the Amendment he proposed on account of its immediate effect than because, in the inevitable changes which must take place at no distant time, its operation would be almost certain to be extended. My Lords, I am anxious to carry this principle to a greater extent without delay. Having now stated generally the arguments in favour of attempting some improvement in the scheme of re-distribution contained in the Bill, I will now, with your Lordships' permission, state in substance the mode in which I propose to carry that improvement into effect. In the first place my Amendment adds twelve to the number of boroughs which will lose one Member each. Most of your Lordships, no doubt, have before you a list of the towns to which this Amendment will apply; and if you look over that list I am sure you will concur with me that there is nothing in the character or the importance of these towns which makes it undesirable they should, every one of them, give up a portion of the representation which they now enjoy, in order to afford a means of extending the representation to other places. I do not wish to be invidious, or I might point out that several of these towns are far from bearing a very high character in the matter of election purity—especially one of them, to which my noble Friend on the Bench behind (Earl Fortescue) referred the other day, a town in his own county, and of which he knows a good deal. Quite irrespective, however, of any consideration as to the purity of these places, I venture to say that none of them are of such importance or of such a character that they would not be adequately represented by a single Member; and when they are compared with some of the larger and thriving towns to which you are going to give a single Member under the Bill as it stands, I think no man who considers the subject with any care will deny that to withdraw one Member from these places is a most reasonable proposition. I do not think it would be fair or right to submit this Amendment to your notice without endeavouring to explain the Amendments by which I propose to follow it up. I do not mean to pledge your Lordships in the slightest degree to those ulterior measures. The simple question upon which you will be called to vote, in the first instance is, whether you will or will not extend to these twelve towns the same principle which you are going to apply to boroughs of somewhat lower population. At the same time, it will be convenient that your Lordships should have before you the further Amendments which I propose. If the present Amendment should not be adopted, of course these will fall to the ground; but, should it be adopted, I should further propose to add to the end of the clause words which would provide for the union of certain boroughs in order that they may jointly return Members to Parliament, instead of enjoying a separate representation. I perceive that a noble Friend behind me (Lord Lyveden) has given notice of a Motion which, I presume, he offers as a substitute for this Amendment, disfranchising altogether towns containing less than 5,000 inhabitants. Now, I have no insurmountable objection to that proposal: though I do not consider this to be the best mode of dealing with them, I think it would be better to adopt this suggestion than to leave these very small towns in the state in which they will be left by the Bill. To leave these small places with such privileges would, in my opinion, be, in the highest degree, objectionable and dangerous. Some of those boroughs are really mere villages, swelled to an apparent population—but even then having no adequate claim to a separate Parliamentary representation—by including in them surrounding districts which are essentially rural, and possess nothing of an urban character. I think this most objectionable. In the first place, the existence of these petty places returning Members to Parliament will provoke such invidious comparison with other and larger towns which only enjoy a smaller privilege, and will form so grossly inconsistent and absurd a distribution of political power, that it cannot, in my opinion, hold good for more than a very short space of time. The existence of such towns with such a representation seems to me calculated to insure the immediate re-opening of this question, to which, as I have said, I entertain very great objection. Further than that, I most extremely object to the retention of these small towns with the new franchise which you are going to establish, because I think that to do so would be to insure the existence there of very gross venality. At present many of these small towns are under the territorial influence of certain proprietors. As a matter of fact, they do return Members who are, in a great degree, nominated by certain large landlords. That is an arrangement to which, I think, there are just and valid objections, but which, at the same time, is attended by some undoubted advantages and convenience. I am not going to trouble your Lordships by recapitulating those advantages, because they have often been pointed out. But when, in these towns, you extend the right of voting to every ratepayer, and thereby practically confer the power of giving seats in Parliament, new so much coveted, on a very small number of persons in an extremely humble condition of life, it is contrary to all that we know of human nature to suppose that inducements will not be offered to them to sell their votes—inducements which it is impossible to expect that they will resist. These small boroughs, therefore, will lose whatever advantages they have possessed under the existing system, and under the new franchise they will become seats of venality and corruption. I am aware that an opinion has been expressed not within these walls, and I hope and trust that it is entertained by none of your Lordships—that the probable extension of venality as a result of this measure is not really to be viewed with alarm, but, will, on the contrary, act, to a certain degree, as a safeguard and protection against the very democratic tendency of the whole measure. My Lords, I cannot help feeling that that hope is entertained; and, in my opinion, it is a hope as fallacious as it is shameful. I believe that venality will prevail if you leave these small boroughs as they are; but I deny that this venality is likely to act as a corrective of the extreme democratic tendency of the Bill or to increase the influence of the landed aristocracy. I believe that the persons who will offer the highest inducements in the way of bribes to the voters who will be able to dispose of these seats, will be persons who have become rich by successful speculations and other means—including means sometimes not of the most reputable character—persons who, having raised themselves to sudden wealth, are anxious, by every method in their power, to acquire also a higher social standing, and, with that view, wish to obtain seats in the other House of Parliament. Having that object before them, they will not be niggardly in promises as to the measures they will support any more than in money. I believe that they will appeal as much to the passions and prejudices as to the interests of those who have the control of these seats; that they will flatter their very worst prejudices, and in this way, as well as by the free use of money, will very often obtain seats. In short, the tendency of the measure as it now stands is to substitute for the influence of old connection and the territorial power of great families, the bare influence of money in its lowest and most degrading form. I say I believe that is likely to be the effect of leaving these small boroughs in possession of the right to return Members to Parliament under the franchise you are now going to establish. If, therefore, the choice lay between continuing these boroughs as they stand in the Bill or adopting the proposal of my noble Friend, I should, without hesitation, concur in adopting that proposal. But I submit to your Lordships that there are strong reasons for preferring the plan of uniting these boroughs in groups for the purpose of forming constituencies sufficiently numerous to give a hope of their independence. I venture to think that by uniting these boroughs together, and in some cases adding to their constituencies, towns at present unrepresented, you will raise the constituencies to such a number as to afford a rational prospect that they may in future be independent, and not more liable to the temptation of bribery, than I am afraid most places will be under the franchise you are about to establish. The adoption of this plan would also involve a much less departure from the principle of the Bill than that recommended by my noble Friend. We are told that principle is to avoid complete disfranchisement, and I think it is a sound and just principle as far as it can be applied in reference to other and higher considerations. It is highly desirable in passing this measure that we should not subject any constituency, against which no charge has been preferred, except that of its being small, to the mortification of being entirely deprived of the electoral power it now possesses. This advantage would be attained by uniting together existing boroughs. And further, it appears to me that, by adopting the system of entire disfranchisement proposed by my noble Friend, we are placed in this difficulty. If we confine ourselves, as he proposes to confine himself, to places having less than 5,000 inhabitants, we still should have many constituencies which, in my opinion, would be much too small; they would not be adapted for the purpose we have in view, and they would be liable to those objections I have stated to your Lordships. If, on the other hand we carry that limit higher—if we make it considerably higher—we incur this other inconvenience, that we should completely eliminate from the future representation the element of small towns. It was on a former occasion argued with great force and with great justice that it is desirable to keep this element of the small towns in the representation. They answer the useful purpose of providing for the admission into the House of Commons of some valuable Members who would not otherwise find seats in it. The smaller boroughs have hitherto and may still be expected to return to Parliament a different class of representatives from the large towns. I believe the representa- tives that would be likely to be elected by them, would be of extreme use in producing that variety of composition in the House of Commons which has been, hitherto, one of its main recommendations; and for one I should greatly regret to eliminate this ingredient out of the House of Commons to the degree that it would be if we were to adopt the principle of total disfranchisement, and to carry it far enough to prevent our leaving any unduly small constituencies. By my plan of uniting those towns together, and strengthening them, when necessary, by towns at present unrepresented, you will maintain the character of small town representation; while at the same time there will be, as I believe, no practical difficulty in creating constituencies large enough to give a certainty of their independence. Such, my Lords, are the views which induce me to prefer the scheme which I now venture to commend. By a separate Motion, I propose to add at the end of this clause the words of which I have given notice, and which will provide for uniting together certain towns to form a joint representation. I may add that in doing so I am following the precedent of Scotland and of Wales. From all that I can learn, in both those countries this system of uniting towns for joint representation has been found very succesful. In Scotland, especially, I hear that is the case. It is, I believe, known that the effect of uniting several towns in representation has been to produce a considerable diminution in the facilities for bribery, and particularly in the worst forms of bribery that take place at the close of the poll. If your Lordships should adopt the suggestions I make, and consent to add the words I propose at the end of the clause, it will then be my duty to propose an addition to the first Schedule of the Bill describing the towns which would be dealt with. I hold in my hand a sketch of the arrangement which I have prepared, and I shall be ready to lay it on the table if your Lordships sanction my Amendment. I candidly tell your Lordships I am not altogether satisfied with this part of the scheme I am proposing. I have found it a matter of very great difficulty to draw up an arrangement for forming groups of boroughs which could be confidently recommended. I am not in possession of the local information which would enable me to form a conclusive judgment as to what would be the best arrangement, because there are various considerations to be taken into account which I cannot properly apply to the case without a fuller knowledge of the facts. In the first place I think it is important, as far as you can, to withdraw a portion of their representatives from those districts of the kingdom which are at present over-represented in proportion to their importance. I think it is also desirable, as far as possible, that you should unite together towns which are within a convenient distance of each other; and also that you should deal with those of small population; and, in regard to population, I think it very important you should have regard to that which is urban. In the Returns laid on our table there are various boroughs which appear to have a large population, a great proportion of which is really rural, while the town population is extremely small. There is one such case I happen to know of; it is the borough of Midhurst, which is really a village rather than a town, but is swollen to the size of a respectable borough by the addition of a strictly rural population. I say, therefore, that the scheme I lay before your Lordships will require revision in regard to the Schedules; but, if the principle is adopted, I have no doubt that the Government, with the means at their disposal, will be able very easily to amend the scheme which I suggest, and to correct the faults which may be found in it. What I propose is merely intended to give your Lordships some assistance in coming to a conclusion. I for one shall be most happy to concur in any Amendment of my scheme. But of this I am perfectly persuaded—that, whether by the scheme I suggest, or by some other scheme, it is perfectly practicable to group some of these small boroughs so as at the same time to continue to them the right of being represented and to obtain the number of seats which I think are wanted to meet the claims of larger boroughs to additional representation. I will not disguise—indeed, I at once plainly avow—that both in regard to the line taken for depriving towns of half their representation, and also in regard to the grouping I propose, I have been mainly guided by the consideration of what I know to be required in order to meet the demands for increased representation. It is, therefore, necessary I should lay before your Lordships a sketch of what I believe to be a proper mode of applying the seats which I hope may be gained by the adoption of the first Amendment. The number of those seats is twenty-three, of which twelve are gained by depriving boroughs under 12,000 in population of half their representation, and eleven are obtained by grouping. Assuming that we have these twenty-three seats to dispose of, then I will state how I would distribute them. I have already stated that my main object is to extend the application of the principle so ably supported the other night by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cairns). I therefore propose that these twenty-three seats should be applied in creating constituencies to return three Members to Parliament. The first new constituency, and which I think would be the most important of all, would be that of the Inns of Court, and to that I had proposed to give two Members. But in making that proposal I coupled it with the further proposal that in this new constituency what is called the cumulative vote should be adopted. I think that a better and a simpler mode of applying the principle recommended by the noble and learned Lord than that which he has suggested. I am convinced that the object in view would be better attained by allowing each voter to unite all his votes in favour of a single candidate, than by restricting each elector to two votes when three Members are to be chosen. But while I hold this opinion, I acknowledge that in the majority of instances the operation of the two modes of voting would be practically the same; and as the House has adopted by a large majority the plan proposed by the noble Lord, and it appears to me desirable that we should proceed as far as possible on one uniform principle, I have thought it right to vary the Amendment of which I originally gave notice, by proposing to give three Members to the Inns of Court; so that this new constituency will then fall under the operation of the general clause proposed by the noble and learned Lord. I confess that I regard this as a most important constituency. It is of the highest consequence to the State that men who stand high in the estimation of the legal profession should be Members of the House of Commons. It is very necessary that those who from their professional eminence are most likely to be selected as Law Officers of the Crown should possess seats in the other House of Parliament, and, under the changes you are about to make in the Representation of the People, it seems doubtful whether that will always be the case. When, therefore, you are making extensive changes in other directions, which will diminish the existing means for bringing them into the House of Commons, you ought to provide some new facilities for the entrance into Parliament of men distinguished for their professional eminence and high character at the Bar. When, too, you are about to increase very largely the proportion of electors who have but little education, and when by such changes it must be expected that the proportion of men distinguished for their acquirements and abilities who will be returned by these electors will be considerably diminished, I think it desirable that the number of representatives to be returned by constituencies composed almost exclusively of men of high education should also be increased. I confess that, for my own part, I should like to carry the principle even further, and to increase the number of representatives which this Bill will give to the Universities. But though this would, I think, be highly desirable, I only venture to propose that three Members should be given to the Inns of Court. By this part of my proposal I have disposed of three seats. With regard to the remainder, I would venture to suggest that a third Member should be given to the largest and most populous counties or divisions of counties and to the largest and most populous boroughs. I propose, therefore, that all counties, and divisions of counties possessing more than 150,000 inhabitants should have a third Member given to them. These counties and divisions will be Middlesex, the North Riding of Yorkshire, West Cornwall, North Durham, East Kent, two divisions of North Lancashire, two divisions of South Lancashire, and three divisions of the West Riding. That will give twelve additional seats to the counties. I propose to adopt the same figure in the case of the boroughs, and to give an additional Member to Bristol, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Marylebone, Finsbury, Lambeth, Westminster, and Southwark. I ought, perhaps, to say that in one case the population is not quite as large as the figure I have taken. This increase of electoral power in the counties and boroughs I have referred to is, I think, due to their wealth, to their population, and to the intelligence and activity of their inhabitants. Under the clause adopted at the instance of the noble and learned Lord, too, my proposal will, I think, insure the return of men who may be depended upon as men not holding extreme views and who, while they represent the opinions of a large and important class of the community, will not be in any way likely to lend themselves to sudden and violent changes. In the boroughs it will, I think, have the effect of giving representation to a very important class in this nation who are now altogether unrepresented. I will first take the case of the metropolis. I know that many persons view with extreme alarm any increase to the Members for the metropolis. But what is the present state of things? In point of fact the representation in the metropolis is monopolized by one single class of opinions; and men of the highest intelligence are practically deterred from attempting to exercise the electoral privileges which they theoretically possess because they know that it is impossible to secure the return of persons with whose views and opinions they sympathize. So that there is a large class now practically disfranchised. By the proposal I have made, therefore, in conjunction with that of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), you will in reality enfranchise men peculiarly qualified to enjoy the right of voting, and enable them to return to the House of Commons a most useful class of representatives—men who, without being Conservatives in the party sense of the word, may, in a higher sense, well lay claim to the title. I have now, my Lords, laid before you, as clearly as I can, my proposal for amending the re-distribution portion of this Bill, and I have not proposed it to your Lordships without consulting others, better acquainted with the facts of the case, and more competent to form a sound judgment than myself. I am, however, far from being wedded to this particular scheme. I am quite willing—I am quite ready—to join with your Lordships in rejecting preconceived notions, in considering carefully, dispassionately, and indifferently what is the best mode of applying the seats which may be found available, with the view to secure the best representation of the people in the House of Commons. And if Her Majesty's Government will take up this question, and will, with the more extended means and information at their command, undertake to revise their scheme and provide for a more adequate change than that which is contained in the present Bill, I shall be only too glad to resign the task into their hands, and leave them to suggest to the House the best mode of accomplishing what I believe to be our common object. But, my Lords, I do submit to your Lordships that you will be throwing away a great opportunity of doing a most material service to the country, of averting a serious future danger, and of earning for yourselves a new title to the respect and esteem of the country if you decline to make a more adequate revision of the existing distribution of the political power of the nation. I venture to say that the country looks to you for this. The people know how much private and local influence necessarily warps and biases the House of Commons in dealing with such a question; and they know that your Lordships are free from those disturbing influences. Therefore they look, and they have a right to look, to your Lordships to use the advantages you possess to make this portion of the Bill more acceptable to the country, and better calculated to ensure its future good government. My Lords, these are the observations which I venture most earnestly to press on your consideration. By adopting my scheme you may not provide an absolutely permanent arrangement of political power; I am not sanguine enough to expect that to be the case. In order to accomplish that object it would be necessary to make far more extensive changes in the Bill than we could make now. If I had only my own opinion to consult, the changes I should ask you to adopt would be considerably larger; but the propositions which I have submitted to your Lordships can be adopted without departing from the principle of the Bill. They merely involve an extension of that principle. I do trust that your Lordships will not neglect the opportunity now afforded to you—that you will not allow the question of re-distribution to stand over to the future. I believe that the scheme I have laid before you, if it do not insure—and I have admitted that it does not—absolute permanency of arrangement, will establish an arrangement which for many years at least will be found equal to the wants of the country, and which when the necessity for revising the system hereafter arises will render Parliament more capable of dealing with the question than it would be if the Bill were left in its present incomplete state. In conclusion, I beg to repeat that the vote given by any of your Lordships for the Amendment which I am now about to propose cannot be regarded as pledging you to my ulterior views in respect to re-distribution, or as implying any intention on the part of those who may agree with me so far, to support my subsequent Amendments.

An Amendment moved in page 7, line 14, to leave out ("Ten thousand") and insert ("Twelve thousand").—(Earl Grey.)


said: My Lords, I must confess that when I came down to the House this evening, at some personal inconvenience, I was under the apprehension that your Lordships might be induced by the arguments of the noble Earl who has just sat down, to consent to an Amendment which would place Her Majesty's Government in a position of very considerable embarrassment. But I must add that having heard the statement of the noble Earl, and having heard his arguments, I am in a great degree relieved from my apprehensions, because I cannot believe it possible that your Lordships on the 1st of August will enter on a plan so extraordinary, so immature, so crude, and so absolutely incomplete, even in the mind of the noble Earl who has proposed it, as that which he has sketched out for your Lordships. I cannot imagine for a single moment that with the view, as the noble Earl says, of settling this great question, which has occupied Parliament for six months, you would enter upon the consideration of what is practically a new Reform Bill—that you would undertake a re-examination of the whole distribution of the voting power of the country—that you would take up new and wholly untried principles, opening up a range of speculation which, had it been brought before your Lordships on the 1st of May instead of the 1st of August, might well have occupied your attention, and taxed all your energies, for the three months of the Parliamentary Session then before you. I object, my Lords, to the incompleteness of the measure proposed, or rather suggested, by the noble Earl; but I object, in the first place, to the principle on which he proceeds. The noble Earl tells us—I deal first with his original proposal—that he would first increase the number of the towns which are to lose one Member by taking one from each town which has fewer than 12,000 inhabitants, instead of allowing the partial disfranchisement to be confined to towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. My Lords, the principle on which Her Majesty's Government proceeded in framing this measure of Reform, was that the principle of disfranchisement must be subject to the principle of enfranchisement — that we should look out first to find those great bodies, whether in counties or commercial towns, at present unrepresented, or requiring additional representation, and then ascertain how we could with the smallest possible sacrifice of existing rights, supply that want. In considering the wants of enfranchisement, we took into consideration, not only great counties and great towns, but the due distribution of representation among the manufacturing, commercial, and landed interests. Our main principle was this—that we would not, except in cases of gross corruption, deprive any Englishmen of the rights they at present enjoy of contributing to the representation of the country at large, beyond what was absolutely necessary to enfranchise those great communities which have grown up of late years, and which are now not adequately represented in Parliament. That is the principle on which we proceeded. But the principle on which the noble Earl proceeds is exactly the reverse. Proceeding further than the House of Commons, which has decided that all boroughs with a population of less than 10,000 should lose one Member, the noble Earl proposes to partially disfranchise every borough which has between 10,000 and 12,000 of population. Now, why? The noble Earl has not favoured us with the slightest reason why we should partially disfranchise boroughs of that size, which, as far as I am aware, have exercised the franchise respectably and honourably. I find there is not one of those towns that the noble Earl speaks of with such contempt, which has not grown in population and importance since 1838. They are not declining towns. If they were, that might be a legitimate reason for saying they had forfeited their right to that share in the representation which they have hitherto possessed. I find that there is not one of them which since the year 1831 has not largely increased in wealth and population; yet, for no reason on earth, except that they have a population of between 10,000 and 12,000, the noble Earl—without their representatives having been heard, without the House of Commons being consulted—because at this time saying that the House of Commons can be consulted on the matter is next to a mockery—proposes to deprive them of one-half of their representation. I thought at first that the partial disfran- chisement of boroughs with a population of less than 12,000 was the extent to which the noble Earl was prepared to go. But, the noble Earl goes further. He turns round to the noble Lord behind him (Lord Lyveden) and announces his readiness to support the noble Lord in his proposal for the total disfranchisement of a number of small boroughs. I recollect the noble Lord spoke the other night very much in favour of small boroughs, and said he did not think they ought to be deprived of their present share in the national administration. But the noble Lord behind him has declared that he proposes totally to disfranchise all boroughs, whatever may be their merits, which have a population of less than 5,000, and the noble Earl says he will accept that proposal, not as a substitute for his own, but as an addition to it.


I never said so. I said that I deprecated such a measure, and that I should prefer another scheme; but that I should rather accept it than pass the Bill in its present form.


But what was the other plan of the noble Earl? He said that he was prepared to accept a scheme which was submitted to the House of Commons last year, and which then met with universal disfavour — namely, a scheme which would really, although not nominally, disfranchise those small boroughs by grouping them with other boroughs, and thus overwhelming their present voters. The noble Earl says that is not disfranchising the small boroughs. But, at all events, the noble Earl will recollect that that is a matter quite beyond the scope of his original Amendment as he has placed it on the Notice Paper.


I beg the noble Earl's pardon: it stands on the Paper.


I see on referring to the Paper the words "and at the end of the clause add 'the boroughs enumerated in the second part of the said Schedule shall only return Members to Parliament jointly in the manner therein described.'" I beg the noble Earl's pardon—I was not aware that he had given that notice. But the noble Earl's project is this—he proposes, for no reason at all that I can understand, to partially disfranchise every borough having a population of between 10,000 and 12,000, and he says that his Amendment will prevent the Bill of the Government from being so inadequate and incomplete as it is now. Let me remind your Lordships that this Bill goes further in the way of partial disfranchisement than any Bill which has yet been submitted to Parliament. In 1854 it was proposed to disfranchise nineteen boroughs and to take one Member from thirty-three boroughs, with populations under 10,000. I will not say anything about the Bill of 1859, because the noble Earl probably would not admit that to be an authority. [Earl RUSSELL made an observation.] I am talking of the question as between boroughs with a population of 10,000 or 12,000, which was the original Motion of the noble Earl; and I say that no Bill has been introduced into Parliament which proposes partially to disfranchise boroughs above 10,000. The Bill of 1860 took one Member from each of twenty-five boroughs with populations under 7,000. The Bill of 1866 took away one Member from all boroughs with a population under 8,000, returning two Members at present, and grouped certain other boroughs together. Therefore, when the noble Earl proposes to take away one Member from all boroughs under 12,000, on the ground that the limit of 10,000 would be too insignificant, he has no warrant whatever for the assertion in any measure brought forward by either side of the House. And what has happened in the other House of Parliament? Her Majesty's Government, acting on the principle which I explained to your Lordships at the outset, that disfranchisement should not be carried further than was absolutely necessary to provide for pressing claims for enfranchisement, proposed to fix 7,000 as the limit of population for the return of two Members. The House of Commons entered upon a discussion, and the result was that an Amendment, emanating from the Liberal side, was carried against Her Majesty's Government, extending the partial disfranchisement to boroughs not of 12,000, but of 10,000 population. The House of Commons jndged that the withdrawal of one Member from towns of 10,000 would be an amply sufficient measure of partial disfranchisement. I have, therefore, the authority of all former precedents — the authority of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell), the authority of all noble Lords, wherever they may sit, who were Members of preceding Governments that have proposed Reform Bills, and I have the sanction of the House of Commons, deliberately expressed this year, for the assertion that 10,000 is a fair and sufficient basis to take as the limit below which towns shall only be entitled to return one Member. It would require, accordingly, a very strong case on the part of the noble Earl to show why the House of Lords should go beyond the House of Commons in insisting on a large measurement of disfranchisement. And I may add that although on the question of disfranchisement your Lordships may feel a strong interest and possess a perfect right to exercise your judgment, the question, from the fact that it affects the seats of individual Members and the influence of particular constituencies, belongs at least as much to the House of Commons. If they are of opinion that 10,000 is a fair and reasonable limit, at any period of the Session, I say that more especially on the 1st of August, it is unreasonable to ask the House of Commons to go back on the consideration of a question to which they have given long and serious deliberation, and to review a decision which they have deliberately expressed. But the noble Earl does not confine himself to this question of extending the limit of partial disfranchisement in boroughs, important though that may be, but he says—"I will obtain twenty-three seats in all, twelve by disfranchisement and eleven in other modes." Suppose he obtains them; for what purpose? Why, my Lords, for the purpose of introducing an entirely new principle of re-distribution. The principle, as far as it was carried by the Amendment of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns), which was adopted the other night, went to but a very limited extent, and affected only a few special constituencies; but the noble Earl now proposes to extend over the whole of the country a principle which is new to the British Constitution—namely, the representation of minorities. If I had been present the other night I should have had great difficulty in acceding to the proposal of my noble and learned Friend, supported though it was by a large majority of my political Friends; but the experiment then proposed was to be tried on a very limited scale, and applied equally to borough and county constituencies. It was a matter unquestionably of very considerable difficulty and doubt; but as long as the application of the principle was so very guarded and limited it might, no doubt, be safely adopted. But as to the extension of that principle all over the whole country, nothing could be more mischievous or more inconsistent with the prin- ciples of the Constitution and with the prevalence and predominance of that system of majorities by which all our institutions are carried on. Nothing could be more obnoxious, nothing could work more harshly or unequally than a representation of minorities carried out by means of a system of three-cornered constituencies. I will not enter upon a discussion of this question; it is not raised here, further than the noble Earl himself raises it, by his admission that one of his objects is to obtain a certain number of seats, whereby in counties above a certain population, and represented mainly by Conservative Members, he may introduce a third Member, and thus, under the pretence of protecting the minority, secure a proportion of Liberal representation for these counties. When the noble Earl comes to say what he will do with the seats of which he seeks to obtain possession, in one way or another, without saying where he proposes to obtain them, he reads out immediately a list of the boroughs that would be partially disfranchised by the limit of population; but he does not read to us the list of the boroughs that he proposes partially to disfranchise by the system of grouping. Now, on the 1st day of August, he invites your Lordships to consider this extensive measure of partial disfranchisement, and comes to the question of what he is to do with the seats thus obtained, he sees all the difficulties of the case; he admits that he is not possessed of the information requisite to enable him to frame a scheme himself, but he invites Parliament, and he calls on Her Majesty's Government, at the very close of the Session, to take up his crude, indigested, ill-concocted scheme, and to make sense out of what at present is nonsense. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, at all events, it is not a scheme, for it does not give us the slightest idea or sketch of a scheme. I should like to know what the noble Earl would have said if Her Majesty's Government had come down to this House and had made the proposition which he now makes; if now, on the 1st of August, we had invited the House of Lords in opposition to the House of Commons to assent to a general proposition for partially disfranchising twelve boroughs, and destroying in some other way the influence of other boroughs, and had declared that when that general proposition was assented to we should then be prepared to state what boroughs we proposed to enfranchise, the names of those that would be partially disfranchised, and what others we had it in contemplation to group. Why, such a proposition, coming from Her Majesty's Government, would have been scouted, and justly scouted; and yet that is the very proposition which your Lordships are now invited to accept, and that, forsooth, with a view of settling the question! How it could ever have entered into the conception of the noble Earl to bring forward a proposition which, if carried, can only throw everything into confusion, undo all that has been done or agreed upon in the House of Commons, and launch a new plan impossible to be carried out in the present Session, I am at a loss to understand. The only result must be to leave everything unsettled, in confusion, in absolute chaos; and yet this is proposed, in the hope perhaps that in some future year somebody may throw light on the darkness, and produce order out of all this confusion—a result to which the noble Earl has certainly lent no assistance. If the noble Earl had brought forward a proposition of this kind three months ago, backed up by the power and ability which he always displays, and the attention which he always bestows upon questions of this kind, it would have been a very fair subject for the House to take into its consideration; and I might then have asked for an adjournment to enable the noble Earl to lay before the House his scheme, and enable the House to judge of it as a whole. But when at this time of year, at this period of the Session, and in the present stage of the Bill, the noble Earl brings forward a proposition such as was to-night submitted, I say that its adoption can be productive only of one result—to throw the whole subject into confusion, and to put an end to the great progress which has been made towards the settlement of a very doubtful and difficult question. I have no hesitation in saying—I hope I shall not be considered as using the language of menace—that if, unhappily, so crude an Amendment as that of the noble Earl be carried, it will be at once my duty to move your Lordships to report Progress in order that I may consult with my Colleagues what course we should pursue. [Earl GREY: Oh, oh!] The noble Earl cheers; but I say I cannot undertake on the part of my Colleagues to accept an Amendment that appears to unsettle everything and settles nothing—that introduces the vicious principle of disfranchisement for the sake of disfranchisement alone—that casts us blindfold into a struggle for the disposal of seats which have not been forfeited by any misconduct on the part of those who at present hold them, and that holds out no clear and intelligible view of the manner in which those seats are to be disposed of.


said, the noble Earl who had just sat down had hardly done justice to the proposal of his noble Friend. His noble Friend at the head of the Government seemed to forget the great object of that proposal. The House had, by a large majority the other night, virtually declared that it attached very great importance to the principle that they should endeavour—especially in the very large constituencies—to secure the representation of the different classes of society by providing a third Member, who should not be elected by the votes of the majority. Their Lordships saw in that principle a means of escape from some of the evils connected with that Bill. Was the noble Earl blind to the dangers of that measure? Did he or did he not share any of the apprehensions of those who thought it too democratic? Did he or did he not share in the feeling common to almost every man in that House, and to very many out of it, that the Bill required to be looked at very closely indeed in order to see if some element of safety might not be introduced into it? Many of those who voted the other night for the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) in regard to three-cornered constituencies did so in the hope of its being extended to other large places, and in the belief that to be of any avail it ought to be carried further. That proposal was not one for the mere purpose of disfranchisement, but for enfranchisement. It sought to afford representation in large constituencies to educated men of moderate, independent, and Conservative opinions, who would otherwise be without representation. That was the sentiment which induced so many of their Lordships to vote with the noble and learned Lord the other night. It was a Conservative, and not a revolutionary proposal, its object being to extend the influence of the Conservative element in those large constituencies—using the term Conservative not in a party but in a broad, constitutional sense. Unless they did something of this kind, what security had they for the free expression of different opinions in the large towns? By that Bill they were absolutely handing over the representation of every Parliamentary bo- rough to the lower and least instructed classes, and those who had the least sense of responsibility. The protection for the stability of our institutions was to be looked for in the counties; yet as compared with the Bill of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) in 1854, the present Bill gave twenty-one fewer Members to the counties, while at the same time it lowered the franchise much further. Another defence was the development of the Conservative clement in the large towns. The proposal made for the representation of minorities was therefore carried the other night not from the mere desire of change, or only for the sake of experiment, but in order that they might accompany the great and fearful changes which that measure would effect with some degree of security and stability.


thought that both sides of the House had some reason to complain of the intimation made at the close of the speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, which placed them in a difficult and very unfair position. That intimation amounted to telling them that they were not free to discuss the great question of the distribution of seats—it amounted to telling them that, in regard to that part of the Bill which, he must remind them, lay more near to the root of Reform than the question of the franchise, the mouth of the House of Lords was closed; and that, too, in respect to a measure which had come up to them at a period of the Session as early as they could ever expect a measure of that character to come up to them. Remembering that, he did trust that a great majority of the House, and of both sides of the House, would assert their freedom and independence by voting, if they thought it right, for the Amendment of his noble Friend on the cross-Benches. He said "of both sides of the House," because he believed the feeling of both sides of the House was in favour of the Amendment of his noble Friend. He deeply regretted the other night that the Motion of the noble Viscount (Viscount Halifax) was regarded by noble Lords opposite as in the nature of a party Amendment. Perhaps under the circumstances of the case that impression on their part was unavoidable, notwithstanding the earnest and sincere protestations of the noble Viscount that he was not actuated by any party spirit; because the Benches on which a noble Lord sat might be thought, after all, to give a certain character to any Motion he made. But that night they had a Motion which was substantially the same as that of the noble Viscount, except that it went into more minute details, and pointed out the manner in which the general principle of his noble Friend (Viscount Halifax) ought to be enforced—that night they had a Motion coming from his noble Friend on the cross-Benches, whom no man could accuse of party feeling, who had viewed that question in all its aspects in the character of a political philosopher, and who unquestionably made that proposal, in the highest and best sense of the word, in a Conservative spirit. One of the most serious objections brought against the Reform Bill of last year was that the late Government attempted to divide the two subjects of the franchise and the distribution of seats. Their Bill on that ground was complained of as an incomplete measure, and it was demanded that both branches of the question should be dealt with at the same time. Their object in desiring to separate those two branches was, as stated at the time, that it was almost impossible, from the personal and party feeling which was invariably developed in the House of Commons when they came to the question of the distribution of seats, to carry through in one Session of Parliament a measure which should be complete upon both branches of Reform. But an unfortunate speech made by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), advising that course with a view to what was called "a greater leverage" in the new Parliament for a further re-distribution of seats, inspired men's minds with such fear and suspicion that they, perhaps not unnaturally under the circumstances of the case, refused to deal with the question of the franchise without a complete measure of re-distribution. If, however, they were to deal with the question of re-distribution at all, they ought to do so in a sufficient manner. They ought not so to deal with it as to insure that it would be raised in the new Parliament elected under the new franchise. But that was exactly what Her Majesty's Government were now doing. No man pretended that the re-distribution of seats in that Bill satisfied any theory or even any of the practical demands made by the country. He did not object, so far as it went, to the principle of the re-distribution of seats proposed by the Government. There was, indeed, no essential difference in point of principle between any of the plans of re- distribution which recent Governments had recommended to Parliament. But he affirmed confidently with his noble Friend on the cross-Benches that this Bill did not go far enough, that it did not satisfy the demands and the expectations which the Government themselves had raised and encouraged, and that it left many constituencies in this country which it would be the first object, and, he would add, the first duty, of the new Parliament to deal with under that extended franchise of which so many noble Lords were afraid. He did not say that any measure which could now be proposed would give them finality in respect to the distribution of seats; but surely they ought to look for something like a fair pause and breathing time on that subject; and they ought not so to frame their re-distribution as that by an infallible necessity it would be raised in the new Parliament in a spirit of considerable excitement, and certainly of great jealousy and hostility, as regarded those very small constituencies which he believed many noble Lords opposite were anxious to preserve. The noble Earl at the head of the Government said the principle they had gone upon was this—that they had measured their disfranchisement by the demands for enfranchisement. He begged to question that proposition of the noble Earl, at least so far as to say that it had not been carried out consistently. The Government had themselves promised to several large towns Members whom they were afterwards absolutely compelled to withdraw from them; he meant that they thought themselves absolutely compelled to withdraw them. The House of Commons thought that a certain number of the largest constituencies should have additional Members given them. The Government had determined not to gain a greater number of seats by disfranchisement; and in order to satisfy the demands of the House of Commons for the very large constituencies, they were obliged to cut off several towns of very great and rising importance to which they had promised representation. [The Earl of DERBY: That was the effect of a vote of the House of Commons.] All he said was that the Government had not cut their cloth according to the dimensions of their coat—that they had not met the demands and expectations which they themselves would infallibly have raised in the new House of Commons — again, the whole question of the Scotch representation had been placed by the Government upon the footing that it would be necessary to in crease the Members of the House of Commons if the most moderate claims of Scotland were to be satisfied. There were very great if not insuperable objections to such an increase, and it was more than questionable whether such a measure could be carried through Parliament. He had never set up the claim of Scotland as against England in the distribution of political power. That would be placing it upon a false issue. The principle he would lay down was that if there were either in Scotland or in England very large constituencies to which, on account of their wealth, population, and growing importance, Parliament would naturally give Members, they ought not to refuse to bestow such Members upon those constituencies merely because they were across the Tweed. Take, for example, the rising town of Dundee; the great county of Lanarkshire, with its mining and manufacturing interests, and a population very much greater than some English counties having a third Member, and the City of Glasgow with a population under the new boundaries of more than 500,000. Was it reasonable or just that they should refuse Members to those constituencies because they happened to be in Scotland? or would it be wise to insist that no Members should be given to those constituencies unless an additional number of Members were given to the House of Commons? With these demands upon them could the Government expect that all the very small English boroughs, decaying in population and importance, could retain the power of returning representatives as in the present scheme? It was impossible. The Prime Minister had not ventured to assure the House that the present was a scheme which would settle the question of distribution; but he had threatened their Lordships that if they exercised an independent opinion on this part of the scheme, he would abandon the Bill. If the plan of grouping were found impossible, he should prefer to vote for the total disfranchisement of a considerable number of these boroughs. His objection to the latter proposal was that if they drew the line at a population of 5,000, they would leave above that line many small, insignificant, and dwindling boroughs, which would be exposed to attack in the new Parliament. In grouping they must remember that many things were advisable that were not possible. There were many interests concerned in resisting grouping. Not only were the Members for the boroughs opposed to the scheme, but those who exercised a predominant influence in these small boroughs would often be found to prefer total disfranchisement to sharing the representation with others. In addressing their Lordships, most of whom were entirely disinterested in this question, he would avow that he supported grouping as a mitigation of the severity of disfranchisement. The grouping of boroughs of a small and insignificant character would still leave them some importance among the constituencies. The objection arising from the existence in small boroughs of some exclusive individual influence would to a certain extent be met by the plan of grouping. It was found in Scotland that local interest and influence was greatly neutralized, and that the constituencies became practically independent. Then, although it was not to be expected that the system of grouping would do away with the evil of bribery, yet it would at least tend to impede and diminish corruption. Another advantage of the system of grouping, which ought to have weight with Conservative Peers, was that it would tend to give greater permanence to the representative system. At whatever figure they might draw the line of total disfranchisement new demands would be made by the rising population of great towns, and successive crops would be taken away from the small boroughs—a process which could only lead to their extinction. He was able to state that the late Sir George Lewis, who had watched the system of grouping, was of opinion that it had worked favourably and well in Wales, as it bad worked well in Scotland, and that it ought to be extended to England when it was necessary to deal with the small boroughs. The plan of grouping, moreover, tended to mitigate the very large displacement of Members from different counties which would take effect if total disfranchisement were carried out to any large extent. As matters now stood the number of borough Members belonging to many of the counties was undoubtedly excessive, and could not be maintained. The county of Wilts, besides its county Members, had 14 borough Members, and under the new Bill would still have 11 borough Members, with a borough population of 95,000; Hants had now 14 borough Members, and would still have 11 under the Bill, with a borough population of 190,000, including Portsmouth with 94,000, and Southampton with 46,000 persons; Devon now had 18 borough Members, and would have 15, with a borough population of 213,000; Dorset had 11 Members, and would have 8 with a population of 54,000; Cornwall now had 10, and would have 9 Members, with a population of 62,000; Sussex now had 14 Members, and would have 12, with a population of 184,000, including Brighton with 87,000 inhabitants; North York now had 11 and would have 9 Members under the Bill, with a population of 100,000. Thus, if the small boroughs under the line of say 6,000 came to be wholly disfranchised there would be a much larger displacement of representation from these counties than if a system of grouping were adopted. There were two or three plans of grouping. One was to take boroughs of a certain population and amount of importance and group them inter se. That led to geographical inconvenience. Arundel, for example, was the smallest English borough. If it were grouped on the inter se principle, it would leap over several other boroughs, and the more convenient course would be to add that borough, if grouped, to the nearest town of Chichester. These, however, were questions of detail with which the Government were naturally the most competent to deal; and he believed he could sincerely say, on the part of noble Lords on his own side of the House, that if the Government would reconsider their scheme no factious opposition, but on the contrary every assistance and co-operation would be offered to them with regard to points of detail. It would manifestly be a great folly for those who desired a settlement of the question to take objections on such points; for within certain limits it might almost be said that one plan was as good as another, provided it afforded a prospect of settlement for a reasonable time. Noble Lords opposite should remember that public feeling might arise on this question as rapidly and as irresistibly as on the question of the franchise. Last Session no strong feeling was aroused in favour of a reduction of the franchise; but during the recess—partly owing to the resignation of the late Government—so strong a feeling was excited, that the present Government had been driven step by step to a much more extensive measure than had formerly been proposed. Such might be the case with regard to re-distribution, unless the question were settled at once, and on that subject, as on the franchise, noble Lords opposite might find their Leaders asking what right anyone had to suppose that Radical principles were the monopoly of the Radical party.


I venture thus early to ask your Lordships to consider the two very different questions which arise upon this Amendment — first the merits of the scheme of re-distribution indicated by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) as compared with that proposed by Her Majesty's Government; and secondly—and it is a very important question — the position in which you stand at the present moment, and the effect which any vote you may give on this Amendment may have upon the fate of the Bill. Now, with regard to the question of the re-distribution of political power—which is no doubt one of the largest questions connected with the Representation of the People—I may frankly say that there are many things in the Government scheme which I should gladly have seen different from what they are. I should gladly have seen a different arrangement with regard to the counties; and I should have been willing to embrace a proposal for a larger amount of disfranchisement of small boroughs. In that respect I agree with several remarks which fell from the noble Earl who proposed the Amendment. From one proposition, however, which he advanced—I mean the grouping of small boroughs — I must entirely dissent. Without going at any length into that question I may say that, in my opinion, you would contrive by that plan to obtain every vice and disadvantage attendant upon a small borough without obtaining a single benefit or advantage resulting from a large constituency. It may, indeed, be well to group boroughs which have never had a separate representation, as was the case with the Scotch and Welsh boroughs. They grew up under that System, and possibly its operation deserves all the praise which has been lavished upon it. If, however, you take boroughs which have for years had a separate existence, which have their own influences, traditions, and prejudices, nay, their own local expenditure—for that is a matter of no small importance—and if you group them together, you will not, I undertake to say, please any one of them; you will link together communities dissimilar in their feelings and sentiments, and you will obtain a constituency without a single homogeneous element, enabling it to exist with advantage to the State. As far, therefore, as the question of grouping is involved in the Amendment, I take exception to it altogether. But without supposing that any scheme of re-distribution could please everybody, or would not be open to some objection, let me ask your Lordships to turn to the much larger and graver question—the position in which you now stand. If Her Majesty's Government had thought it right themselves to propose alterations in their scheme of re-distribution, if your Lordships thought fit to assent to those alterations, and if, these changes having been adopted, the Government afterwards submitted them for adoption to the House of Commons, there might, indeed, be a reasonable probability of their acceptance by that House, and of no serious delay occurring in the progress of the Bill. But suppose your Lordships, against the wish of the Government, were now to enter on the consideration of what is practically a new scheme of re-distribution, I have no doubt that in the course of two or three weeks, by assiduous attention night after night, we might settle a scheme of re-distribution which possibly might be an improvement upon that contained in this Bill. But what is to happen afterwards? After those two or three weeks, in the middle or toward the end of August, the scheme would go down to the other House. It cannot be supposed that any scheme determined upon by this House would be accepted without discussion by the other. They were occupied, I believe, three or four weeks in serious discussions upon the scheme contained in the Bill, and as a matter of course, three or four weeks would be occupied in discussing the new scheme. Our Amendments would be met by counter Amendments, these if carried would come back to your Lordships, and you would have to consider them. Now, can any noble Lord seriously suppose that that process would be gone through in any period short of something like a month or six weeks? I believe it to be utterly impossible, and without referring to what the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government has said, your Lordships cannot fail to perceive that the result of any such undertaking would be that a Government put at this time of the year in that position would be obliged, honestly, to say that they could not hope to pass the Bill during the present Session. Not, therefore, from any menace on the part of the Government, but from the very nature of the case, the result would be an abandon- ment of the measure within a very short time. Then, again, I ask you to consider another view of the case which has weighed much with me. The noble Earl proposes to disfranchise twenty-two or twenty-three seats. Now, in the case of every one of those seats there are personal and individual interests which are deeply affected. I do not for a moment suggest that such interests should stand in the way of any measure of public advantage; but there is something like fair play in these matters, and it certainly seems to me that for us now to disfranchise twenty-two or twenty-three seats at present filled by Members of the House of Commons would have an aspect of the greatest unfairness. Observe how the matter stands. The Bill, as originally introduced in the other House, proposed to disfranchise twenty-three seats. An Amendment came from the Liberal side of the House, proposing a line which would disfranchise thirty-eight seats. That proposition occupied the House a considerable time, and the Members for the boroughs, both above and below the line, were all heard. They adduced their arguments, those below the line unsuccessfully and those above it successfully, and the proposition was carried. Now, I think the boroughs which thus ran the gauntlet and escaped disfranchisement might naturally think themselves safe, and might take it for granted that the House of Lords would not go beyond a proposition emanating from the Liberal side of the House of Commons, and that no further danger awaited them. The Members interested in those boroughs would make their arrangements under that belief. Now, any of your Lordships occupying the position of those Members would surely urge that, for a change affecting those seats to be made at this period of the Session, when it is impossible to collect the House of Commons together, to re-consider the question would bear the aspect of great harshness and unfairness. It is for these reasons that I am unable to vote with the noble Earl who proposed the Amendment. I say first of all that the Amendment involves the question of grouping, and commits this House, if adopted, to what I think one of the most vicious principles which could be introduced into English boroughs. I oppose it, secondly, because the Amendment, if carried, must of necessity lead to the destruction of the Bill for this Session—a responsibility in which I should be sorry to bear any part; and, in the third place, I oppose it because the Amendment would seriously affect the interests of individuals—interests which I admit ought not to stand in the way of the public advantage, but with regard to which the persons concerned ought to have an opportunity of stating their case and making their defence in the ordinary way in the middle of the Session.


My Lords, I cannot avoid saying that your Lordships are placed, as a House of Parliament, in a very extraordinary position. At the commencement of the Session both Houses of Parliament were told that the question of Reform was to be immediately brought forward. It was brought forward in the shape of Resolutions. Those Resolutions, after a time, were abandoned, and notice was given that a Bill would be introduced. A Bill was introduced, and that Bill, after a day or two, was abandoned likewise. The consequence was that, I suppose, at least a month was taken up at the commencement of the Session with those changes on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Well, the House of Commons for a very considerable period—I believe for about five months — was engaged in the consideration of this question, and when this important subject comes before us in Committee, changing as it does the Constitution of this country—a Constitution upon which the welfare of the nation depends — we are told that it is the 1st of August, and that it is impossible to consider any proposal made to amend the Bill. However useful the proposal may be, however much it may tend to the stability of the Constitution of this country, you refuse to entertain it; you say that it is the 1st of August, and you cannot consent to alter in any degree the propositions of the Government. I must say that I think no House of Parliament was ever placed in a more painful and humiliating position than this House of Parliament is placed in by the declaration of the noble Earl at the head of the Government. A proposition has been made by my noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey), who for some time past has taken no party views of public transactions, and it has been made in a spirit as remote as possible from anything like a party view, seeing that he has taken into account the welfare of the country only in his proposal. For my own part, I have carefully avoided making any proposition during the Committee for the alteration of the Bill as it stands. I know that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), having proposed certain Amendments in the Bill, was immediately placed under the ban of the Government, and the Conservative Members of the House of Commons, by a Circular addressed to them, were told that if any Amendments of Mr. Gladstone were adopted in Committee the Bill would be at once thrown up, and the throwing up of the Bill would be immediately followed by an appeal to the country. And that did not affect merely the great point of the franchise, which I must confess to be the basis of the Bill introduced by the Government; but among the propositions of Mr. Gladstone was one that one year instead of two years should be a sufficient term of residence for the voter. It was said that, if he carried that proposal, the Government would at once give up the Bill, and of course there would be a dissolution of Parliament. But another Member made the same proposal—the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets—it was carried against the Government, and then it was immediately accepted. Considering myself under the same ban as Mr. Gladstone, I thought all along in this Committee that if I ventured to make any proposition, however Conservative it might be, however useful it might be in the opinion of a great many in this House, the sole fact of my having ventured to propose it would be decisive against the Motion; and this Government, which, in the first month of the Session, so strongly recommended moderation and forbearance, which we were told were so absolutely necessary for the passing of the measure of Reform, reserved that moderation and forbearance entirely for the other side of the House, and have displayed no moderation, and no forbearance towards us. Well, let us now consider what is the proposition which my noble Friend (Earl Grey) has made in so temperate a speech. It resolves itself at once into this question — whether your Lordships wish to have a settlement of the Reform question or not? Last year, when we brought forward a measure dealing with the franchise alone, we were told by Lord Grosvenor in the House of Commons that the House was anxious for a settlement, and was ready to adopt propositions which would tend to a settlement. But if we talk of a settlement now, it is always said, "Do you think anything can be per- petual? Do you think you can make a perpetual settlement of the question of Reform?" Well, that was the question upon which 270 Members of the Conservative party supported Lord Grosvenor. We fully admitted that it was desirable to make a settlement. We said it might be better done in two years, instead of one, but they said, "The whole must be put together," and they would not allow us to propose the extension of the franchise without re-distribution; but I say, and everybody must admit, that it is still more faulty to have an imperfect distribution—a distribution which invites further change, and makes it, in the opinion of the country, absolutely necessary that the question should be considered in the new Parliament. Now, my Lords, I am most sincerely desirous of a settlement; but I say that this is an imperfect settlement. If you meant to propose a settlement next year I should be satisfied; but to propose a settlement which is no settlement, and to say that you cannot alter it in the slightest degree because it is the 1st of August, is hardly consistent with the dignity of this House or the importance of the subject. My noble Friend's proposition is, that you ought to go on to 12,000 instead of stopping at 10,000. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) says that such a proposition was never made before in any Reform Bill. Technically, so far as the numbers go, he is right; but in 1854 the Government of Lord Aberdeen proposed that fifty-eight seats should be taken, that four seats then vacant should be given to new places, and thus sixty-two seats were to be distributed. My noble Friend (Earl Grey) proposes that twenty-three additional seats should be given, which, added to the thirty-eight taken from the small boroughs, make sixty-one, and, with seven from the four disfranchised boroughs, would give a total of sixty-eight seats. Now, I confess it appears to me that there are great counties and cities whose population and wealth ought to be considered, whether you extend the three-cornered plan or not. Now, I observe that in the Bill of the Government which I have often remarked upon—namely, the unfairness with which the counties are treated. You have, as you all know, about 9,000,000 population in the boroughs, and about 11,000,000 in the counties, and these 9,000,000 have twice the number of representatives that the 11,000,000 have. Well, the Govern- ment have taken in the present plan of distribution the two towns of Darlington and Stockton, which have about 34,000 inhabitants in the whole, and they are to return two Members. Then they take a division of Lancashire with 340,000 people, and they give it only two Members. Therefore they require ten times as many people in a county to justify them in giving two Members, as there are in the boroughs. I say that it is not a fair distribution of political power. It appears to me that the great counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire ought to have in their several divisions a sufficient number of Members to represent the wealth and population. The question at present is not whether you would give three Members to one division, which I should like very well; but whether these great counties require more representatives than they have. To me it is quite clear that they do, and that it would be for the advantage of the country that they should have that increased representation. I should be quite ready to vote for the proposal of my noble Friend if he makes it as to the future distribution; but I do not think that I am bound to that distribution, nor is any one of your Lordships. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) said that if my noble Friend were to succeed he would at once move to report Progress. Well, if the Government were themselves to settle the question, I think it would be a very good Motion, and for my own part I would much rather consider the new plan which they might propose than that of my noble Friend. Then the argument recurs, and it is the only argument, that this is now the 1st of August. Well, I remember with regard to another Reform Bill fighting it through Committee in July, all through the month of August, and up to the 20th of September. Certainly I do not wish to go through that labour again; but if a measure for altering the Representation of the People in Parliament can be amended and improved, I do not think it is a conclusive argument to say that at the 1st of August we have arrived at so late a period of the Session that it is better to pass an imperfect Bill than a really complete measure. When Mr. Laing carried his Amendment, which I believe he would much rather have carried further if he could have hoped to do so successfully, and when this measure of partial disfranchisement was extended from towns of 7,000 to towns of 10,000 population, the Chancellor of the Exchequer took five or six days — certainly not a whole week — in order that the Government might consider their plan, and a new plan of re-distribution was accordingly brought forward. That may have taken some days for consideration by the House, but it was finally adopted by the House, and I really do not see why your Lordships upon a question of this kind are not to have the same privileges as the House of Commons—are not to be allowed to alter the Bill if you think proper, as the House of Commons did upon Mr. Laing's Motion. I do not see why your Lordships are not to undertake the consideration of the question in a fair and impartial spirit, and why we should not ask the Government to produce their amended scheme, and consider it by comparison with the scheme brought forward by my noble Friend. I do not know that I shall concur in the plan of grouping, because that leads to much dispute as to the particular boroughs to be joined together, and would really require a very long time for consideration and settlement. I think the plan of grouping is the better plan of the two; but it raises such difficulties that I should rather prefer the plan of my noble Friend behind me (Lord Lyveden)—total disfranchisement of small boroughs, as in 1832, and partial disfranchisement in the case of boroughs with a moderate population—that is a very fair plan—and, at the same time, I would give to the Government the choice of the counties or boroughs to which they would give representatives. If the scheme proposed in the Bill should be left unaltered, we are quite sure of renewed agitation; and that of itself is a great misfortune. If a cotton manufacturer could not furnish you with the stuff you require because his steam-engine was under repair, or if a farmer could not let you have the corn you wanted because his thrashing machine was out of order, you might take that answer once; but if it were repeated next year, you would have your own opinion as to the business capacity and the prudence of these persons. So, likewise, in this case, remembering, as we are bound to remember, that next year and in the year following Parliament will have to consider such questions as education, the state of Ireland, and the proposals which some persons will make for the re-organization of the army, it will be a serious thing if we then say, "We have not yet settled the question of Reform; we are obliged to re-open it now, and to re-consider the distribution of seats." For our side of the House it might perhaps be an advantage in a party point of view if this question should remain unsettled. But I am not disposed to look at it as a party question; and I own that, in my opinion, the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), whom we are all glad to welcome back among us in such health and vigour, will commit a great political blunder — not the least of those he has heretofore made—if he does not attempt a more complete settlement of this important question.


My Lords, I feel we have arrived at a very critical point in the progress of this Bill, and that your Lordships' decision upon this Amendment may determine whether we are to have a Reform Bill this Session or not. I give to the noble Earl who has brought forward this Motion (Earl Grey) entire credit for sincerity. I believe that he has not the least wish to impede or obstruct the progress of this Bill, that he really desires to amend and improve it, and that, regarding the re-distribution scheme of the Government as defective, he thinks that he can frame another which will be more worthy of acceptance by your Lordships, and which will lead to a permanent settlement of the question. Now, I am disposed to agree with the strong language of my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) the other night—that if an angel from heaven were to frame a scheme of re-distribution, it would not be satisfactory. I quite agree with the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) that it is extremely desirable that we should have some pause and resting-place: but why should not the present scheme furnish us with that pause and resting-place, and give us breathing time? Why should you now endeavour to disturb the arrangement which has been come to, and do so without the slightest prospect of thereby necessarily attaining a final settlement? As far as I can gather, not a single objection is urged to the Government scheme of re-distribution as far as it goes. The only objection is that it does not go far enough. In the very able, judicious, and temperate speech of the noble Viscount (Viscount Halifax), upon moving a Resolution before going into Committee, I did not understand that he objected to our enfranchisement of certain boroughs, but he thought we should extend the disfranchisement. When he said, "You have given a Member each to Stockton and Darlington, with populations of 16,000 or 17,000," he went on to urge that St. Helens, Barnsley, and Keighley should also be enfranchised, they having as large an amount of population; his argument was that having enfranchised certain boroughs, it was necessary to advance and extend the franchise to some others: but he made no objection to the scheme as far as it goes, only he claimed the franchise for other towns. Now, let us consider calmly and deliberately what prospect there is of a final settlement of the question if your Lordships adopt this Amendment. It has been said more than once that this scheme is the result of concession and compromise—and, as I consider, of wise concession and prudent compromise. That arrangement having been come to after considerable debate and discussion, has been sent up to your Lordships' House, and you are now to consider whether you will accept that scheme or not, or whether you will adopt another—and nobody has suggested that it is not open to you to do so—which is likely to be more satisfactory and more conclusive. Originally, as your Lordships have heard, it was proposed in the House of Commons to take one Member from all boroughs with a population of not more than 7,000, and thus, with the Members from the disfranchised boroughs, thirty seats were to be obtained. A Motion came from an independent Member on the other side of the House to extend the partial disfranchisement to towns with a population of 10,000. That Motion was agreed to, and there were then forty-five seats to be disposed of. Now, the noble Earl (Earl Grey) says that the limit of 10,000 is too small, and he proposes one of 12,000 as a final settlement. But why stop at 12,000? Why is that to be considered to constitute a final settlement when 10,000 is not? That is the difficulty. There is no particular reason why 12,000 should be accepted as a conclusive stand-point any more than 14,000, 15,000, or 20,000. In this very Bill there are elements which may unsettle the limit of 12,000, because you have given to towns containing a very large population only one Member. Why are other boroughs above 12,000 to have two Members, while some with a population of 40,000 are to have only one? It is perfectly clear that the elements of unsettlement are contained in all propositions which involve what is familiarly called a "hard and fast line." So far from the suggestion of the noble Earl being accepted as a final settlement of the question, my noble Friend opposite (Lord Lyveden) says that it will not do at all, that it is not enough to get twelve seats by taking one each from boroughs under 12,000, and he proposes to disfranchise all boroughs under 5,000, and thus to gain ten more seats. So much for the settlement provided by the plan of the noble Earl as a settlement which is to be final. Where, then, is the resting-place, where is the limit? There is not the least reason why you should stop at 12,000 and why this limit should be considered more a settlement than that agreed to by the House of Commons, after long debate and after concessions and compromise; and I do think it would be wisdom for us not to disturb this settlement, but to take, at all events, breathing time, see whether it is satisfactory, and not attempt anything which could not be otherwise than unsatisfactory after what has taken place. I object very strongly to the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl. It appears to me to disturb everything and to settle nothing; it leaves us in uncertainty as to the disposal of the seats which are to be gained. I quite concur in the praise bestowed upon the speech of the noble Viscount the other night (Viscount Halifax). In the course of it, alluding to the proposal to extend the limit of boroughs to 12,000, he said, "You must first decide upon the enfranchisement necessary, and then, and not till then, you will know to what extent to carry your disfranchisement." Now, the noble Earl (Earl Grey) has entirely reversed that order, and he asks you merely to disfranchise; and the noble Earl says he is quite content to obtain the twelve seats by disfranchisement, and to leave the disposal of them to future arrangement. I do not think that is a wise, prudent, and just manner of proceeding. Suppose any one of us had built a house, and a speculator came and said, "Your house will not last long; let me pull it down and build something else in its place;" the prudent answer would be, "I should like to see your plan; let me know what you propose to substitute." This is like the proposal of the noble Earl. He says, "First of all give me twelve seats, and let me group the boroughs in Schedule B, which will give me twenty-three seats, and then I will proceed to dispose of them on some plan which I have in my own mind, but which I don't give to the House until they concede the seats I require." The noble Earl objects entirely to the system of grouping; and therefore I think my noble Friend (the Prime Minister) was perfectly correct in calling the scheme of the noble Earl, which is at present undeveloped, a crude and undigested scheme. It may be digested in his own mind, but this House is not informed what it is. The noble Earl proposes to group the boroughs in Schedule B, which have had two Members and are only to have one; but he would leave ungrouped those boroughs which have now only one Member. That appears to me very extraordinary. The noble Earl proposes that the Government shall take the matter in hand. It is like the speculator saying, "Let me clear the site for a new building, and I will leave the design of it to you." With great respect, I think it is not right of the noble Earl to force such a task upon the Government. If the noble Earl thinks the scheme of the Government is so imperfect that it should be amended, and that its amendment is necessary for the tranquillity of the country and to prevent future agitation, and if he has in his mind a complete scheme, it is his bounden duty to bring it forward and to propose it as his Amendment. Of course it would be received at the proper time with great respect, considering the quarter whence it came. But if the noble Earl has no scheme, he has no right to force upon the Government a task which properly belongs to himself. I do think that the period of the Session at which we have arrived is an important consideration. I do not mean to say that if the noble Earl had presented a perfect and satisfactory scheme, likely to meet with acceptance here and in the other House, your Lordships would be indisposed to discharge your duty, and remain at your posts until the task was completed. I have had as much labour as any of your Lordships; but if I saw any way to the substitution of a scheme for that which is proposed, and its acceptance by both Houses, I would not grudge the time necessary for its discussion; but I think it is rather hard at this time to expect us to entertain an imperfect scheme, or rather the first and disfranchising half of one, and to trust to the future for the development of the other half. Suppose we mature another scheme, are we sure that the other House will accept it? Your Lordships will remember this scheme was adopted after long debate, and complete devotion to the subject; and do you think that the House of Commons will be content now to accept your scheme in substitution of their own? Would they not rather say, "We will adhere to the whole of our scheme?" and after a conference would not your Lordships' decision be reversed? Under the circumstances it seems to me that the noble Earl (the Prime Minister) was justified in saying that, suppose you agree to this Amendment, he would feel it to be his duty to consult his Colleagues before proceeding further with the Bill; and I am quite sure your Lordships would consider that to be your duty under similar circumstances. It is by no means a threat, but it is well that we should perfectly understand our position; and I am satisfied that if we were to accept the Amendment of the noble Earl, imperfect and unsatisfactory as it is, and if we were to take the first part, which is the disfranchisement part of his scheme, we have no chance, even if we agreed as to the disposal of the seats, of inducing the House of Commons to accept our scheme; which, after all, would be adopted without the deliberation which is required upon a matter of such extreme importance. The result would inevitably be that the Bill must be lost this Session; and, under these circumstances, I must oppose the Amendment.


My Lords, I differ in some respects from the noble and learned Lord who has expressed so forcibly his objections to the Amendment, and I wish to state shortly the grounds upon which I am inclined to support it; and I desire this all the more that I gather from the speech of my noble and learned Friend who has just addressed us that there is some misconception on the part of the Government as to the nature of the Amendment proposed. My noble and learned Friend argued as if my noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) proposed a scheme of disfranchisement, in the first instance, and of grouping in the next, throwing the seats as it were before the House, and leaving them to be scrambled for with no definite plan of his own. Now, I understand my noble Friend, in asking for these seats, to propose to apply them to a certain specific and well defined object, though I also understood him to say that he placed himself entirely in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and that if they will agree to his proposal for the partial disfranchisement of some boroughs and the grouping of others, he will be satisfied with any modification of his own views or with any reasonable scheme which they may bring forward for the employment of the seats. Now, my noble Friend divides his proposal into two parts. First of all, you have to consider what seats can be obtained; and, secondly, in what manner they should be distributed. Some of the towns which my noble Friend proposes partially to disfranchise are doubtless associated with historical names. Tamworth and Tiverton belong to the history of our country, and will live in our memories as long as our Parliamentary institutions endure. There are, however, others of a more doubtful character, and I do not think that any one would feel disposed to place Barnstaple and Bridgewater in the same category as Tamworth and Tiverton. With great respect to my noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government, I must venture entirely to differ from him when he says that a great proportion of these boroughs are towns of increasing growth and prosperity. That some of them are larger and more populous than they have been I will not for a moment deny; but I cannot admit that they have any of that material expansion and increase of prosperity which either deserves attention in itself, or which will bear comparison with the relative growth and increase of prosperity of other towns. If they are not actually diminishing they are being distanced in the race of numbers and industrial success. I ought to add, because I think it is strongly in favour of my noble Friend's proposal, that if we examine the last returns from these twelve boroughs, we shall find that they selected as their representatives twelve gentlemen who are nominally Conservative and twelve who are nominally Liberal. I do not think, therefore, that any fairer scheme of partial disfranchisement could be proposed than that which has been suggested by my noble Friend. But my noble Friend is repeatedly asked what is the reason for such a disfranchisement? I am afraid the only answer is the simple one—that the Bill of the present Session has entirely altered the state of things. Last year I should have opposed the disfranchisement for which my noble Friend now asks; but looking at the fact that the Bill of Her Majesty's Government so changes the whole condition of things under which we live, I feel that the only chance for securing permanence in any re-distribution scheme is to give that scheme as large, wide, and liberal a basis as possible. If the scheme of the Government passes unaltered you will infallibly have a renewal of agitation in one form or another which will lead to results which the wisest cannot foresee. These political agitations are fevers which consume, as it were, the public life of the country, and not only do they weaken the public life of the country, but they make the Constitution itself much more susceptible to future attacks. But then we come to the next part of the scheme, the grouping of boroughs. Now, there are two alternatives, which as a matter of fact are before the Committee—the grouping of a certain number of boroughs, or the total disfranchisement of all boroughs with less than 5,000 inhabitants, as proposed by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lyveden). In itself, it might, perhaps, be better to select the latter alternative; but I feel so strongly the argument used by my noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and which was so frequently urged in the House of Commons, that this is a Bill which is not open to the taunt of being a disfranchising measure, that, individually, I am prepared to accept the alternative of grouping. Now, I readily admit that there are many objections to be urged against a system of grouping—objections which my noble and learned Friend below me (Lord Cairns) has stated, as he always does, with great force and ability; but there never has been, and never could be, a scheme of this sort not open to objection of some kind. On the other hand, there is at least this argument in favour of my noble Friend's scheme of grouping—it has been tried with some success in Scotland and in Wales, and though, as my noble and learned Friend says, it has not been tried in England, that is obviously not an argument why it should not be, or why it should not work successfully. In the Welsh and Scotch boroughs to which this system has been applied there has not been, as far as I know, any pretence of intimidation and scarcely any charge of bribery. Indeed, the grouping system is antagonistic of bribery; and there is, amongst other reasons, this one in particular—As the House knows very well, bribery and corruption become most rife at the last hour and a half of an election, when a small number of voters are oftentimes enabled to determine an election; but in a constituency scattered over two or three towns at some distance from each other the means of intercommunication are sufficiently tardy to greatly diminish, if not altogether to put a stop to practices of this nature. On these grounds I think my noble Friend (Earl Grey) has a fair case in favour of his proposal as regards his system of grouping. But the more important question is the ap- propriation of the seats to be obtained. My noble Friend, as far as I understand him, proposes to get twelve seats by partial disfranchisement, and ten or eleven by grouping. Now, there is one point to which I wish to call for a moment the attention of Her Majesty's Government, because it seems to me that it is a point on which my noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government fell into error. My noble Friend proposes to distribute all these seats on the principle of the representation of minorities, which has been assented to by the House—with this condition, that the limit of 150,000 population should be adopted, and that the constituencies with that population should receive a third Member. We will take the case of the counties. My noble Friend proposes to give a third Member to five counties—to Middlesex, the North Riding, West Cornwall, North Durham, and East Kent. These constituencies are over 150,000 each, and are all of great importance. It must further be observed that these five counties do not receive any additional representation under the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. On these grounds my noble Friend (Earl Grey) rests, and most reasonably rests, his proposal. But my noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government said that my noble Friend on the cross Benches applied the third Member to the Conservative counties in order to insure the return of Liberal candidates. I cannot think that this argument is just or personally fair. If the House will consider which are the counties affected by the scheme of my noble Friend, they will find that so far from their being represented by Conservatives they are almost uniformly represented by so-called Liberals, Middlesex is entirely represented by Liberals, the North Riding returns one Conservative and one Liberal, West Cornwall two Liberals, North Durham two Liberals, and East Kent one Liberal and one Conservative. Injustice, therefore, has been done to the motives of my noble Friend, who certainly is not open to the charge of having framed his proposition from a party point of view. From my personal knowledge of his character I know that, in a matter of this nature, he could not be actuated by such considerations. But my noble Friend also proposes to give a third Member to seven Divisions of counties—the two Divisions of North Lancashire, the two Divisions of South Lancashire, the three Divisions of the West Riding—and to give a third Member to five of the existing metropolitan constituencies, and to three large towns possessing more than 150,000 inhabitants, bestowing the remaining seats upon the Inns of Court. My noble Friend at the head of the Government stated, in opposition to the scheme of my noble Friend on the cross-Benches, that it was a new Reform Bill. I cannot concur in that objection. The recommendation of the scheme, if I may so say, is its perfect simplicity. It disturbs no single arrangement under the Bill, it conforms to the general provisions on the Schedules of that Bill; and Her Majesty's Government may accept it without loss of principle, and without any alteration whatever in the character of the measure. I desire, however, before sitting down, to say a word or two on my noble Friend's proposal in reference to county representation. The representation given to the counties under this Bill cannot, I think, be considered adequate. Even under the Bill of last year there was a larger amount of representation given to the counties, and the Bill of Lord Aberdeen's Government would have given them a representation, larger by twenty-one seats, than that which is now proposed. On the second reading of the Bill now before your Lordships' House my noble Friend at the head of the Government pointed out the disproportion not only in population and wealth and rental, but in the number of Members returned by the counties and that returned by the boroughs. But under this Bill that disproportion is but slightly corrected, the number of county Members will be 186, and the number of borough Members 309—that is to say the percentage of county Members is 37½, and that of borough Members 62½. That of itself shows the disproportion which this Bill recognizes between the two classes of representation. On the other hand the percentage under the Bill of last year was 38½ to counties and 61½ to boroughs. I would further point out that, while you are thus feebly and inadequately increasing the county representation under this Bill, you are in many cases altering the character of the constituencies. Whether that is good, or the contrary, is another question; but of the fact there can be no doubt, as I can easily show by a few figures. I will not weary your Lordships with going through a long list of counties, but will take merely a few by way of example. I assume that the £12 rating adopted by the Bill of this year corresponds for all practical purposes with the £14 rental in the Bill of last year, of which we have statistics. In East Surrey the present electors are 9,913, the additional electors will be 12,984, making the percentage of increase 130; in West Kent, the present number 9,811, the addition 10,411—percentage of increase 105; in South Lancashire, the present number 21,555, the addition 14,751—percentage of increase 68; in Cheshire the present number 12,852, the addition 7,851—percentage 63; in North Lancashire, the present number 13,006, the addition 8,228—percentage of increase 64. But, my Lords, what class of men in the counties have been regarded as the especial representatives of the agricultural interest? I think it will be admitted that the £50 occupiers were that class. Well, what will be the proportion between the new constituencies in the counties to which I have referred, and the voters who are on the register as £50 occupying tenants? In East Surrey the addition will be 12,984, the £50 occupying tenants, 2,339; in West Kent, the addition 10,411, the £50 occupying tenants 2,060; in South Lancashire, the addition 14,751, the £50 occupying tenants, 4,076; in Cheshire, the addition, 7,851, the £50 occupying tenants, 3,645; in North Lancashire, the addition, 8,228, the £50 occupying tenants, 3,961. Let no one in the face of such figures deceive themselves as to the extent of the change which must take place in the character of the county constituencies. It is too late now to obviate this, though it may be partially corrected by the addition of third Members, whose function it would be to represent and protect the interests of the minorities. But the counties, changed though the character of the constituencies may henceforth be, may turn out to be the steadying principle in your new constitution, and it is still possible to remedy, in some degree, the inadequate representation accorded to them in the Government Bill, by accepting the proposals of my noble Friend. I would therefore ask your Lordships not to put off to another Session the grave question of re-distribution, when no man living can tell what the consequences will be of the change which is now being made in the franchise. We are now considering the question of re-distribution under very different circumstances from those of last year. Last Session I should have opposed the Amendment of my noble Friend on the cross-Benches; now I earnestly advocate it. Things which were objectionable last year are desirable now; things which were Radical last Session, have become Conservative this Session. We are making enormous changes in our electoral system, and our best chance of safety lies, not in clinging to the broken, and now meaningless, shreds of that system—not in sewing new cloth on an old garment and so making the rent greater; but in considering our position as a whole, and in bringing its different parts into such consistency as will at least save us from the jars and collisions of an impracticable Constitution.


My Lords, I am anxious to express a few words to your Lordships upon the question before you. I have been in Parliament nearly fifty years, in this House and the House of Commons, during the whole of which time I have firmly supported a Conservative Government, and I confess that I have been much surprised at the Radical and Liberal course which the present Government have adopted with regard to the Reform Bill. To such an extent has this gone that for some time I considered I could not support the Bill. But the question of Reform stands now in a peculiar position; it has been argued and discussed during a long Session in the House of Commons, and it does seem most desirable that the measure should be passed. The tide of Reform was stemmed for a long time by that great man, Lord Palmerston, but since his death the feeling for Reform has greatly increased, and I question whether now it would not be very dangerous to stop its progress; and I say, my Lords, we may hope for luck in this case which has before occurred in others. The question of the Repeal of the Corn Laws was greatly objected to and opposed; but I believe that in the results there never was a measure more thoroughly successful, and that it was one of the best measures which ever passed through the Parliament of this country, conferring a great benefit upon every class of the community. Hoping that we may have the same good luck with regard to the Reform Bill, I shall give my vote in favour of the Bill as it now stands, firmly believing that if this Bill were not successful we should only obtain a more Radical and a more dangerous one from the party opposed to us in Parliament.


said, he had watched with very great surprise the striking contrast between the speeches uttered by noble Lords opposite and the votes which they had given. To judge from their speeches, especially upon the second reading, they were the only real friends of Reform. Loyalty and affection to the institutions of the country were not, according to them, the possession mainly or exclusively of the upper classes, of the ten-pounders, or even of the seven-pounders; it was necessary to dig down to the substratum before finding the vein of virgin gold—the class of men who would rally round the Throne. But whenever any attempt was made to improve the scheme of re-distribution — and nobody yet, not even the noble Earl at the head of the Government, had defended that scheme upon its merits—whenever it was sought to distribute the voting power more equitably among the people, to remedy existing anomalies, and to give their just share of influence to great and growing constituencies, noble Lords opposite stepped forward with the objection that the scheme as settled by the House of Commons could not be touched; that it was a compromise must not be interfered with — nay, the other night it even assumed the sacred form of a compact. On the other hand, when the supporters of the Government came forward and proposed Amendments for raising the copyhold vote from £5 to £10, or for increasing the lodger qualification from £10 to £15, they heard no more of arrangements, or compromise, or compact, and the 1st of August was never mentioned. They were told that by accepting the proposal of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) they would be flying in the face of the House of Commons. But if their Lordships looked at the course taken by the House of Commons they would find that by accepting the proposal they would only be carrying out further the policy which the House of Commons had forced upon the Government. Those who sat on the same side of the House as himself had been taunted with being afraid of the democratic character of the Bill. Personally, he did not share in those apprehensions; for he believed that as the feeling of the country become more democratic, it was only right that the institutions of the country should be conformed to the growing sentiment. The new House of Commons, he believed, would be able to deal with many questions which were now coming to the surface much more satisfactorily than that assembly as at present constituted. Even yet, however, there were many glaring inequalities which the Bill wholly failed to touch. Take the representation of some of the Southern counties of England, and compare this with the representation of counties in the North. Berks, Wilts, and Dorset, with a population of 620,000, and a gross estimated rental of £3,500,000, returned thirty-three Members; Lancashire, with a population of nearly 2,500,000 and a gross estimated rental of £12,000,000 — that was to say, with four times the population and four times the rental also—returned exactly thirty-three Members. The case of Lancashire was the case of Warwickshire, Yorkshire, and Staffordshire — in fact, of all the great manufacturing counties; comparing these with any of the Southern counties, it would be found that the latter were enormously over-represented. The proposal of the noble Earl, if adopted, by getting rid of many of the small borough Members, would go far to remedy some of these inequalities. He believed that the existence of the small boroughs, coupled with the large extension of the franchise, would constitute no inconsiderable evil. In the large boroughs the voters who would be enfranchised by the Bill could at all events have their opinions, and it would be right that they should be represented; while the middling-sized boroughs were a valuable link between the town and the county representation; but in the case of the very small boroughs what were the political opinions of the lower class of voters? What, for example, were the opinions of the agricultural labourers in Ashburton, Arundel, and similar places? Some might think the small boroughs were a Conservative element in our system of representation, and a sort of counterpoise to an extended suffrage; but he believed that those who entertained that idea were leaning on a broken reed. From the history of the past they might judge of the future. The policy of resisting the downward extension of the borough franchise had now ended in capitulation, and the present Bill went a long way in the direction of manhood suffrage. In the same way, if they persisted in maintaining those small and half-rotten boroughs, which could not be defended by any reason or argument, they would give occasion to just dissatisfaction and well-grounded discontent, and sow the seeds of an agitation which he feared would begin almost before the measure passed the two Houses, and he thought that not many years would elapse before they would be forced to take a step, and that a long one, in the direction of electoral districts.


said, that in the earlier stages of that Bill they had to deal to a great extent with abstract Resolutions. One abstract Resolution was proposed on the second reading by the noble Earl (Earl Grey), and, on the Motion for going into Committee, another abstract Resolution was brought forward by a noble Viscount (Viscount Halifax); and on the present occasion they had had another of the same character, moved by the same noble Earl who had moved the first. On the two former occasions he had no difficulty as to his vote. He had a strong objection to abstract Resolutions on questions of that kind. He thought their tendency—he did not say their object—was rather to attack the Government than to improve the Bill. The present Amendment was one of a more practical character, and he was, therefore, prepared to give it a dispassionate consideration. Indeed, on coming down to the House, while reserving himself on the details of that question, his general disposition had been to give his support to the Motion of his noble Friend on the cross-Benches, feeling that the scheme of re-distribution proposed by the Government was defective, and that any practical scheme for its improvement deserved their attention. But with all respect for the eminent ability shown by his noble Friend (Earl Grey) on so many other occasions, he hoped his noble Friend would forgive the frankness with which he expressed himself if he said, as he must do, that his speech of that night seemed calculated to produce exactly the opposite effect to that which he must have intended. Although he thought his noble Friend was right in being specific as to the precise point up to which he wished to take away the second seats, he doubted greatly whether he was wise in going into such exact details as to the manner in which those seats to be obtained should be applied. The very reverse of that course had been pursued in the House of Commons, when it was decided, on the Motion of Mr. Laing, that a larger measure of partial disfranchisement than that originally recommended by Her Majesty's Government should take place. The Government proposed a limit of 7,000, and Mr. Laing proposed one of 10,000; and the latter was adopted; but, instead of proceeding to dictate to the Government, as his noble Friend now sought to do, how those seats should be applied, the House of Commons had invited the Government itself to take that subject into its consideration, and the result was that the Government proposed a scheme. It had been quite open to the House of Commons, as it would be to the House of Lords, to reject it; but the initiative of the scheme, as he contended, ought to rest in the first case with the responsible Advisers of the Crown. That was his first objection to the proposal of his noble Friend. Then, again, passing to another point, who could have supposed that any statesman at the present day would have introduced a proposal for the grouping of boroughs — a proposal which, more than anything else that could be named, had led to the downfall of the late Government? ["No!"] He saw that a noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) disputed that statement; but he could assert from conversations he had had on the subject that there was no part of the Bill of last year which inspired more dissatisfaction or was open to more general objection than the scheme for grouping boroughs together. Boroughs that, as it were, had never heard each other's names—that were scores of miles distant from each other—that had not the least affinity in trade or commerce, in their modes of industry, or their state of feeling — that were some of them most prosperous and thriving, and others sunk into decay—were suddenly startled by the news that they were henceforth to be united in one and the same representation. There was nothing like it except the freak of the ancient tyrant who linked dead bodies to living ones. Yet that was the scheme which, after such a complete and utter failure, their Lordships were now invited to revive. Then his noble Friend proposed to give three Members to Finsbury, Marylebone, and each of the other metropolitan districts. But, surely, had they not from past experience seen that two were enough? True, under the proposal of his noble Friend they would deal with those places according to the principle which, he rejoiced to say, the House affirmed the other evening. But he must observe that, confident as he was of the good working of that principle, there was no constituency to which he should see it applied with less of sanguine hope than to any of the London districts. He must admit in passing that he adhered most strictly to the principle which their Lordships had established by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday night; and so much importance did he attach to that principle that he said deliberately that if—which he trusted would not be the case—if they were invited to reverse that vote, or to go in any manner in opposition to it, he would prefer to risk the loss of the Bill rather than depart from it. But, on the other hand, he scarcely thought it right on the part of his noble Friend under the circumstances to seek to cut up the island into three-cornered constituencies. He scarcely thought it wise, just, or generous at the very moment when the victory had been gained, that they should try to push it to the very furthest and most extreme limit, by proposing such an extensive application of the principle which they had succeeded in establishing in spite of the strong opposition of the Government. Therefore, although he had entered the House with a favourable disposition towards his noble Friend's scheme, taken as a whole; although he knew that many noble Friends of his in that House had taken a similar view, yet having spoken with several of them since the commencement of that debate, he found their inclination to be the same as his own, and neither he nor they thought it consistent with their duty to support that Amendment. He confessed he should have been very well pleased if the Government had themselves been willing to give some extension to the plan before their Lordships; but there was the greatest difference between independent Members being able to force a measure of that kind on the attention of an unwilling Parliament and the Ministers of the Crown undertaking it on their own responsibility. Something had been said rather in derision of the argument that that was the 1st of August; and he admitted in theory that they ought to sit there as long as the public service required it, disregarding all personal considerations. But he put it to their Lordships whether in practice they could expect that to be done? He said nothing about the 1st of August, but he was afraid that when the 12th of that month came circumstances would not be favourable to the due consideration of questions like the present. There was great weight in the arguments urged by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns)—namely, that it would not be fair to deal with the seats of Members at a period of the Session when they would have no opportunity of defending them. He certainly should have been glad if his noble Friend (Earl Grey) had confined his Amendment to obtaining twelve new seats as an experiment. Among the dangers from an extension of the suffrage which threatened to come in the train of this Bill he was glad to see one security and safeguard in the increased representation of counties; but he did not think that full justice had been done to them in this respect. East Kent might well have claimed another Member, one or two more should have been granted to Suffolk, and West Cornwall ought not to have been passed by. It was strange, he might observe in passing, that in this country where the agricultural proprietors were sometimes said to carry all before them, the representation of the boroughs should be one-third greater than that of the counties. It would be well, moreover, if the Government had fulfilled the promise held out to Barnsley, Luton, and other towns, that they should have a Member, for it was vain to suppose that they would be satisfied when the promise once made to them was withdrawn. Considerable improvements might, no doubt, have been made in the Bill, but at this period of the Session they could hardly be made by any other hands than those of the Government. The part of his noble Friend ought consequently rather to have been to indicate the source from which increased representation should be derived than to draw up a positive plan of his own, and lay it before their Lordships for their adoption. In conclusion, he would say that he was not satisfied with the distribution scheme of the Government, but that he was still less satisfied with the Amendment of his noble Friend, and, upon the whole, he should feel it his duty to vote against it.


said, that the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) could hardly have listened to the speech of his noble Friend who moved this Amendment; for, while he certainly shadowed forth a scheme of his own, he said distinctly that he should much prefer to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, and to see the substitution for his own plan of any sufficient scheme proposed by them. The other night the noble Earl was opposed to abstract Resolutions; but now, when a scheme was proposed, the noble Earl exclaimed, "What imprudence, to bring forward a positive scheme!" The speech of his noble Friend (Earl Grey), in introducing the Motion, seemed to him careful, wise, temperate, and statesmanlike, and he regretted that the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) had decided to oppose the Amend- ment. The noble Earl supported the other night the proposal of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) with regard to minorities; but he seemed to have very little confidence in the application of the principle. He (the Karl of Kimberley) was not one of those who attached so much value, as a large majority of their Lordships appeared to do, to the representation of minorities; but he should not have supposed that the noble and learned Lord who introduced that Motion would have risked a difference of opinion between the two Houses upon a proposition which only affected eleven seats. If the argument were good for anything it was good for the London constituencies; but the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) declared his reluctance to apply the principle to them. Now, in his (the Earl of Kimberley's) opinion, these were the best constituencies to which they could be applied, for the minorities there comprised large numbers of wealthy, educated, and intellectual men. He must say he did not share the apprehensions expressed by some of the effect of the household suffrage to be established by this Bill. One advantage of adopting such a suffrage was that it would be a permanent settlement of the question. But no one supposed that the distribution scheme of the Bill was likely to be permanent; and the object of those who advocated a more extensive scheme was to avoid a re-opening of the question as soon as the new Parliament met. There could not be a greater misfortune than to be constantly changing our constitutional system; and a re-opening of the question hereafter, with the intention of making a moderate change, might lead to conclusions which no party now desired. When it was urged that the present golden opportunity should be taken advantage of, the answer was that the season of grouse shooting was at hand. He could not believe, however, that this argument had been seriously used, or that their Lordships were to slur over a measure affecting the political institutions of one of the greatest Empires in the world, merely because its proper consideration would extend the Session for a week or two. He did not impute to the Government the use of such an argument, for they were naturally desirous that the measure should pass without further alterations; but he thought that, after having made great sacrifices in the settlement of one part of the question, they should respond to the appeals of those who, acting in a friendly and not a party spirit, were anxious to settle for some time to come the other part of it also.


said, that there were, within his own recollection, several instances in which Parliament was engaged late into August, and he believed into September, on measures of comparatively infinitesimal importance. The question of the Bishopric of Manchester occupied their attention after the 12th of August. He could not see, therefore, why it was too late to entertain so large and important a question as the scheme for distributing the electoral power of the country. The plan of the Government did not do justice to the counties. It had been assumed as a matter of course that the rural population were in a condition of the grossest ignorance, which rendered it unsafe to enfranchise them, while the inhabitants of towns were in such a condition of enlightenment that they might be safely intrusted with the franchise. But a very interesting Return, lately presented to the other House, showed that, while in the boroughs the signatures to the marriage register were 21 per cent, they were 26 per cent in the rest of the kingdom, and that the signatures in Devonshire were 7 per cent more than in Lancashire, and 5 per cent more than in the West Riding. Education in the manufacturing districts was not, therefore, so superior to the average education of the country, or to that of the best rural districts, as had been represented.


My Lords, I flatter myself that I have at least one merit in your Lordships' eyes, and that is that when I promise to be short I perform it. I will be so on the present occasion. Your Lordships may recollect that I ventured the other day to urge on Her Majesty's Government the expediency of extending their scheme of re-distribution, and I expressed my conviction that in adopting that course they would receive the most liberal and cordial support from your Lordships generally. On the other hand, I endeavoured to show that, to an extraordinary degree, the present scheme gave no promise of a settlement of this great question, and that nothing could be so un-Conservative, or so opposed to the interests of the country and to the wishes of those who desire a moderate and reasonable measure of Reform in regard to the re-distribution of seats, as to neglect the present opportunity. Those opinions have received entire confirmation from what has taken place to-night. It is impossible to look upon the Government scheme as a settlement of the question. The noble Earl at the head of the Government declared his belief, on proposing the second reading of the Bill, that it would be a permanent settlement; but when I appealed to him whether he believed that the re-distribution part of it was likely to last even for three years, he refrained from committing himself to any opinion on the subject; nor am I aware that to-night he defended it as a settlement of the question. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), while offering reasons against adopting the Amendment of the noble Earl, admitted that the present scheme was imperfect in two principal characteristics, and the only argument we have heard in its favour proceeded from the noble and learned Lord who usually occupies the Woolsack. His argument was this—that to the extent it went it was the best possible scheme and the Bill the best possible Bill. He admitted, however, that the scheme might be amended, for he said, "Let us wait awhile and see what the people think of it—whether there will be any agitation on the subject"—thus going exactly in the face of the statement made by the noble Earl at the head of the Government in moving the second reading, when he said that to the best of his ability he had argued against "bit-by-bit Reform," inasmuch as he thought that such a mode of proceeding only stimulated change, unsettling everything and settling nothing. What was the other argument of the noble and learned Lord? That it would be impossible to pass this Bill through the House of Commons if the Amendment was adopted—alluding to "the 1st of August" argument, which was so admirably disposed of by my noble Friend behind me and the noble Earl opposite. I would not treat such a subject with levity, and therefore will not give as a reason why we might sit beyond the 12th of August that the grouse have this year anticipated the fate that usually awaits them. I will not discuss the validity of such a plea in a matter which is of such importance to the character not only of this House but of the other House of Parliament. The noble Earl (Earl Fortescue) reminded the House of instances in which Parliament sat much later—in the case of the Municipal Reform Bill it sat until the middle of September, and instances of the same kind could be multiplied. But with regard to the chances of passing this Bill through the other House of Parliament if an enlarged scheme were adopted, we are all on a pretty equal footing as to the formation of an opinion on that head. My own opinion is as strong as it can possibly be that if Her Majesty's Government, supported, as I am sure they would be, by a vast majority in this House, were to propose an adequate scheme of re-distribution—and I, for one, would sacrifice any bias of my own on the subject—the House of Commons, showing great gratitude for the enormous boon, would make no difficulty whatever about passing the scheme. But even if they did, what would that be compared with a new agitation in another Session, or still more in another Parliament, to the dangers of which I ventured to allude the other day? Now, if there be one characteristic of the present House of Commons which does them more honour than another, it was this — that though they patiently debated the details of the Bill they would not hear of personal interests in reference to the representation. If a Member got up to defend his borough they would not hear him, and Member after Member who did so had to sit down. But there is another question which concerns not only this side, but also the opposite side of the House. We heard a noble and gallant Earl on the opposite side (the Earl of Cardigan), yielding to that feeling of discipline which distinguishes the glorious profession to which he belongs, declare that though this Bill was Radical and dangerous, and fraught with the most evil consequences, he was determined to vote for it, and trust to good luck to escape those consequences. But we are not all military men, and we know there are Peers even on the other side who still adhere to their old opinions. Now, noble Lords on the other side appear to me like the Volunteers at the time of the Fenian attack on Chester. You remember how the Volunteers were anxious to do their duty, but they did not know whether they were to obey their officers or not, whether they were to use their arms or not, or even to defend their arms. They, therefore, demanded instructions from the Government. Well, I think that Conservative Peers opposite are entitled to know what course they are to pursue—whether they are to obey their officers or not, whether they are to defend their principles or not, when the fortress of the Constitution which they so dearly love is threatened from an unexpected quarter. But with regard to the House in general, I think we are bound to know what is the import of that warning given by the Prime Minister this evening. Turning to his Friends with particular emphasis—for I must say he addressed himself particularly to the opposite side—he said that if this Amendment were carried it would be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to move the adjournment of the House, in order that they might consider the steps which they were to take. For my part I cannot believe that after this measure has received so much consideration from the House of Commons, and after Her Majesty's Government have conceded so much, going from the limit of 7,000 to 10,000, if—in accordance with all our views and with opinions out of doors—we are to take a still higher limit and proceed to 12,000 — I say I cannot believe that without consultation with the House of Commons as to whether they would accept it or not, and without knowing what the feeling of the country is, they would throw the whole nation into confusion by throwing up the Bill. I believe that is impossible, and I do the noble Earl opposite the justice to think he did not mean it. But, perhaps, Her Majesty's Government only meant that if the sense of the House were strongly shown it would be their duty to consider in what manner they had better shape the re-distribution scheme. I believe that would be the most praiseworthy resolution for the noble Earl to take, and that it would do him infinite credit, and would be most satisfactory to the country at large.


My Lords, having already addressed your Lordships this evening, I will only trespass on your time for a few moments for the purpose of adverting to some of the arguments that have been advanced in this debate. In the first place, I must remind your Lordships that the objection which I have taken to the course proposed by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) is not only that he has brought forward an Amendment which would effect a very important change in the measure of Reform which we have brought forward, but that he has done so at a time extremely inopportune, when it was not likely to secure from your Lordships and the other House of Parliament that earnest attention which it would certainly require, but which cannot be expected after the long and laborious efforts of an expiring Session. If the noble Earl had brought forward this proposition in a rather more distinct shape in the month of May, when we should have had full oppor- tunity of discussing it, and of entering into the many arguments by which it is supported, it would have been entitled to the most respectful consideration on the part of the House and of the Government. But I objected also to the principle upon which the Amendment is founded—namely, of proceeding in the first instance to disfranchise according to an arbitrary line, on the mere principle of numbers. I thought it objectionable that we should adopt that arbitrary line for the purpose of disfranchisement, leaving it as a subject for after consideration in what manner that should be balanced by enfranchisements. It is quite true that the noble Earl had the scheme shadowed out in his own mind, and that it was afterwards — I suppose from previous communication with the noble Earl — very fully elucidated by my noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon). But I must say that that scheme appears to me to contain the elements of great discord and difference of opinion, introducing several new principles, and necessarily leading to the discussion of details in very lengthened debates. Now I did think that this question of distribution had been already disposed of between the two parties in the House of Commons, the Government having given way on the largest proposal, a proposal, too, which came from the other side of the House. I did think also that at this period of the Session it would be very unwise to send down a large measure of enfranchisement to be taken into consideration by the other House, affecting as it did the interests of a number of boroughs and constituencies which had seen the Bill pass through the ordeal of the House of Commons, and therefore supposed that they were safe for the present at least against further aggression. I think, before insisting on such a disfranchisement, it ought to be shown that there were a certain number of constituencies so important that their immediate enfranchisement was absolutely necessary. I do not deny that, in consequence of a change made by the House of Commons, some important boroughs were obliged to be struck out from our list, as it was decided that four additional Member's should be given to four large towns. I should be very glad to find an opportunity of redeeming on the earliest occasion the pledge which the Government had given to the boroughs which were struck out; but I do not consider that the case of those boroughs alone would render it necessary to re-open the question of disfranchisement and enfranchisement. I think that the scheme of the noble Earl, as it has been sketched out, is open to a great deal of comment and controversy. I do him the justice to say that though he did not name the boroughs and counties to receive more Members—[Earl GREY: I read a list of them]—I do not intend to impute to the noble Earl that he selected the constituencies with the design of favouring any political interest; but with regard to the question of the three-cornered constituencies, I thought on the whole that, inasmuch as the counties present a larger field for the introduction of the three-cornered principle than the towns, and in the main the counties are Conservative and the boroughs Liberal, the consequence of the application of the principle introduced by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns), and sanctioned by the House the other night, would, if carried to its full length, be to act unfairly to the Conservative interest of the country. I did not mean to impute to the noble Earl that in making his proposal he had any political object. My objection to the proposal is partly that I think the disfranchisement uncalled for, inasmuch as no sufficient case is made out for the increased enfranchisement; next, that any enfranchisement scheme should have been brought forward at an earlier period of the Session, when the House of Commons might have had time to consider it—though that, I admit, is not the fault of the noble Earl, but also because I think the noble Earl ought to have submitted a more definite scheme. I deprecate his saying that he will give us twenty-three seats to dispose of, for though the present Motion only gives twelve, a subsequent Motion proposes to obtain eleven more seats, and that by a system of grouping which will lead to a discussion of no ordinary length, and to great difference of opinion. The noble Earl says, "Here are twenty-three seats. I feel the difficulty of arranging details; I have not the information necessary for doing so; but I call upon the Government to deal with these seats, and to submit—first, to the consideration of this House, and then to the further consideration of the House of Commons"—a scheme founded upon nothing more than this—that a certain number of seats are vacant which you are to fill up to the best of your discretion. I said that, if a Resolution were carried pledging the House to a disfranchisement of twenty-three or twelve seats, thereby making so serious an alteration in the Bill, and imposing such a task upon the Government at this period of the year and at this stage of the Bill, I should hold it my duty to move to report Progress forthwith in order that the Government might have time to consider the new position of affairs, and the course which, under such circumstances, it might be their duty to pursue. I hope, my Lords, that is an answer to the question put by the noble Earl who has just sat down (Earl Granville), and who asks in what sense it was that I made use of these words. I said expressly that I had no wish to use anything like a menace, but merely indicated the course which I thought it absolutely necessary to take before undertaking to act upon, and adopt, a measure forced upon us in such a manner. My Lords, I should be glad to consider that the Bill, as it at present stands, and the system of re-distribution which it contains, was likely to prove permanently acceptable to the public; I cannot say that I entertain that expectation; but, on the other hand, still less, or quite as little, can I entertain the expectation that, if a plan founded on the proposal of the noble Earl were adopted, that would prove a satisfactory measure. Do whatever you will, you cannot lay down plans of re-distribution according to rule and measure; you cannot attempt to do away with every anomaly in the county and borough representation. All you can do is to correct flagrant abuses, to grant a fair share of representation to places which have risen up in wealth, population, and importance, and to supply the means for that enfranchisement in the best manner you can—namely, by taking away a certain portion of the representative power from the less important constituencies. It is impossible, however, to say of any scheme of distribution, no matter how wise the persons who frame, and how lengthened the time open for considering it, that even after the lapse of a single year there will not be some attempt to alter it. Now, although the Government have no proposal to make for the alteration of that which we have submitted to your Lordships as a fair and reasonable scheme of re-distribution, yet if, in the course of the next Session, a proposition—a definite and distinct proposition—should be submitted, in this or in the other House of Parliament, for a new and extended re-distribution, giving greater enfranchise- ment to certain places, and providing for it by a sufficient plan of disfranchisement, without pledging myself to adopt such a plan, or, on the other hand, to abide totidem verbis by the present system of distribution, we should be ready to consider any arguments for enlarging the present scheme or for correcting any inequalities. I do not wish to lay down the scheme we are now proposing as one absolutely perfect and unalterable; but I say it is one that, to the best of our judgment, the Government might fairly and rightly submit to the consideration and adoption of Parliament; it has been adopted cheerfully, cordially, and readily, by the other House of Parliament; and I do trust that your Lordships will not, at this stage of the Bill, throw any obstacle or impediment in the way of its passing through this House.


My Lords, as the noble Earl at the head of the Government has made two speeches, I hope that I shall be allowed the privilege of saying a few words—and they shall be few indeed—in reply. The noble Earl begins by objecting to the time at which I make this proposal. He says that it is brought forward too late, and that if such a proposal had been submitted in May it would have been entitled to consideration by the House, and would have been duly weighed by the Government. Now, allow me to remind your Lordships that in the month of March, in presenting a Petition to this House from Wolverhampton, I took the liberty of stating somewhat fully my views of what ought to be the nature of a Reform Bill. At that time the noble Earl found fault with me, and said that the question of Reform should be reserved until the Reform Bill came up from the other House, and that, while it was still under the consideration of that House, it was premature for us to discuss the principles of the measure. I humbly accepted the reproof, and said no more upon the subject. Though I took great interest in what was going on, I waited with patience until the Bill came up, and now, when it is before us, I am taking the legitimate opportunity of submitting my views for your Lordships' decision in Committee. The noble Earl proceeds to argue that I am entirely wrong in proposing disfranchisement first and leaving enfranchisement to come afterwards. Now, I am not the author of the Bill. I am governed by the form in which the Bill comes before us. The disfranchisement clauses come first in the Bill, and therefore, if I am to proceed on the foundation of the Bill at all, if I am not to propound a new Bill of my own, I have no alternative but to propose disfranchisement and enfranchisement in the order there suggested. I did not ask your Lordships to skip the 15th and proceed to the 16th clause, but I took the clauses in the order they appeared. I so far agree, however, with the noble Earl that, as I stated in my original speech, I have proceeded upon the plan of endeavouring to adjust disfranchisement to what I consider the valid claims of enfranchisement. I am afraid I have failed altogether to arrest the attention of the noble Earl, who seems to have misapprehended almost all I have said; but those of your Lordships who did me the honour to listen to my speech can hardly have forgotten that I distinctly stated that both in drawing the line of partial disfranchisement at towns with 12,000 inhabitants, and also in the extent to which I carried the principle of grouping, I was governed by what I thought the legitimate claims of enfranchisement. It was because I thought there were certain constituencies which had a claim to further representation—important districts in which the main strength of the country lies — that I endeavoured to devise a fair scheme for carrying further the proposals of the Government, strictly adhering to the principles they had laid down, but making disfranchisement somewhat more extensive than they did. In the next place, the noble Earl objects to my scheme because, he says, it is so indefinite. Now, I ask the noble Earl to reconcile that statement with the criticism of the noble Earl behind him (Earl Stanhope), who said his objection was that my plan was too definite and went too far. "You," said the noble Earl—"you, an individual Member, with no influence or power in this House, have no right to come and ask Parliament to agree to a cut and dried scheme. It is for the Government to originate such a scheme." Well, I wish with all my heart that the Government had originated it. I said distinctly that I was not wedded to these views, that I was perfectly ready to withdraw my Amendment if the Government would assure us that they would propose something a little more suitable to the demands of public opinion than the miserable measure they have brought forward. But the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) is more correct in his view of my proposal than the noble Earl the First Lord of the Treasury, because that proposal is certainly more open to objection on the score of being too definite than of being too vague. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that I stated in the fullest detail the whole of my scheme. I did not trouble you with reading the names of the boroughs to which partial disfranchisement would apply, because the list was on the table, and most of your Lordships had it before you; but I referred to that list, and you knew perfectly well which were the twelve boroughs that fell within the line I proposed. I also read the names of the various counties and towns to which I proposed to give additional Members; and I showed precisely how I intended to dispose of the twenty-three seats. The only point on which I expressed any doubt was as to the particulars of the scheme of grouping; but I stated very fully my views as to the principles on which the grouping ought to be effected. I said that without some further statistical information I could not satisfy my own mind as to the details of the scheme; but I will venture to say it would not take the able persons who have drawn up this Bill, with the required information before them, and your Lordships' assent to my principle, two hours to discover a satisfactory mode of applying it. I think these are all the important points I have to notice, except one in the speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government; but there remains a most important one. The noble Earl who preceded him (Earl Granville) asked most justly for some explanation of some rather vague and rather threatening expressions which had fallen from the noble Earl at the head of the Government. He asked what was the meaning of the statement that if this Amendment was carried the noble Earl would ask the House to adjourn, in order that he might consult his Colleagues? I do not know whether my noble Friend (Earl Granville) is more discerning than I am; but I confess, after having heard the reply that he elicited, I am almost more in doubt than I was before I heard it, as to what is the real meaning of the noble Earl. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) said, and said most justly, that if the meaning of the Prime Minister was that, if the House decided on the partial disfranchisement of the twelve boroughs he would ask the House to adjourn with the view of consulting his Colleagues, as to the best mode of adapting the Bill to the determination of the House, nothing could be more proper than the course contemplated. My noble Friend asked whether this was what was meant by the noble Earl, because his words admitted of a different interpretation, and might be taken to imply that the Government intended to drop the Bill, if the Amendment should be carried. This was the question put by my noble Friend, and I wish to know from those who heard the answer of the noble Earl which of those two meanings they understand from it that we ought to put upon his original words? For my own part I am totally ignorant. At one time I thought the noble Earl meant to adapt the Bill to the decision of the House if it should agree to my Amendment. Then there came at the end of the speech some expressions which seemed to imply the contrary—which seemed to imply there would be so much to do, and so much difficulty in doing what was required, that he should be obliged to ask the Cabinet to drop the Bill altogether for this Session. I will not take upon myself to say what was the meaning of the language of the noble Earl — that is a riddle which is beyond my solving. But I will venture to say that if it was meant as an intimation to the House that they would risk the Bill by adopting my Amendment — if it was meant by a threat of that kind to induce them to reject that Amendment—it is a threat which can only produce any effect upon noble Lords of very small experience in political matters. It is quite true that if this Amendment should be carried, it will be for the noble Earl and his Colleagues to consider what course their duty to the Crown as Servants of their Royal Mistress and their duty to the country imposes upon them. That question must be decided by their own judgment, and it is not for me to say to what conclusion their judgment may lead them. Although I am aware, from the experience of this Session, that Her Majesty's present Servants take a very different view of what the duty of persons in that high situation is from the view adopted by most preceding Ministries, and although they have shown by their course in the present Session that their view is a very lax one, still I will not believe, if the question arises, even they would think themselves justified in abandoning the Bill, because this House has come to a vote the effect of which is to give more efficiency to the Bill, and to carry into more complete operation the principles upon which it is founded—because it has taken a course which we all know would be supported by public opinion. I say it is impossible for me to believe that on this ground Her Majesty's Ministers would think themselves justified in advising the two Houses of Parliament to throw the country into confusion, and to create all the mischief and all the disturbance which would result from allowing this Bill to be shipwrecked. My Lords, this is a course which is impossible, as impossible as it is for the House of Commons to reject the opinions which public opinion is in favour of. It is because I know public opinion is in favour of a larger measure of re-distribution — because I know, if you adopt the Amendment I now suggest, the opinion of the country will be at your back, that I say, by adopting that Amendment, you do not run the slightest risk. My Lords, I apologize for having detained you by a longer reply than I had intended; but I could not allow the speeches of the noble Earl to pass without making these few remarks upon them.

On Question, That ("Ten Thousand") stand Part of the Clause? their Lordships divided:—Contents 98; Not-Contents 86: Majority 12.

Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Powis, E.
Shrewsbury, E.
Stanhope, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Stradbroke, E.
Tankerville, E.
Marlborough, D. Verulam, E.
Wellington, D.
Bolingbroke and St. John, V.
Abercorn, M.
Bristol, M. Exmouth, V.
Exeter, M. Hawarden, V. [Teller.]
Westmeath, M. Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)
Amherst, E. Strathallan, V.
Bathurst, E. Templetown, V.
Beauchamp, E.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Cadogan, E.
Cardigan, E. Oxford, Bp.
Dartmouth, E.
Derby, E. Arundell of Wardour, L.
Devon, E. Aveland, L.
Eldon, E. Bagot, L.
Ellenborough, E. Berners, L.
Gainsborough, E. Bolton, L.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Haddington, E. Cairns, L.
Hardwicke, E. Churston, L.
Harrington, E. Clarina, L.
Home, E. Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)
Lucan, E.
Malmesbury, E. Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.)
Mansfield, E. Clinton, L.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. Cloncurry, L.
Nelson, E. Colonsay, L.
Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.] Northwick, L.
Penrhyn, L.
Congleton, L. Raglan, L.
Crofton, L. Ravensworth, L.
Delamere, L. Redesdale, L.
Denman, L. Rollo, L.
De Ros, L. Saltoun, L.
De Saumarez, L. Sherborne, L.
Digby, L. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Dunsandle and Clanconal, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Egerton, L. Sondes, L.
Feversham, L. Southampton, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.) Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.) Stratheden, L.
Strathnairn, L.
Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.) Templemore, L.
Heytesbury, L. Tenterden, L.
Kingston, L. (E. Kingston.) Walsingham, L.
Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Wharncliffe, L.
Lytton, L. Wynford, L.
Monson, L.
Cleveland, D. Stratford de Redcliffe, V.
Devonshire, D. Sydney, V.
Grafton, D.
Manchester, D. Chester, Bp.
Rutland, D. Peterborough, Bp.
Somerset, D.
Belper, L.
Camden, M. Blantyre, L;
Salisbury, M. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Westminster, M.
Abingdon, E. Camoys, L.
Airlie, E. Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)
Albemarle, E.
Camperdown, E. Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)
Carnarvon, E.
Chesterfield, E. Churchill, L. [Teller.]
Chichester, E. Clermont, L.
Clarendon, E. Clonbrock, L.
Cowper, E. Cranworth, L.
De Grey, E. De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
Denbigh, E. De Mauley, L.
Ducie, E. Dunfermline, L.
Effingham, E. Ebury, L.
Fitzwilliam, E. Foley, L.
Fortescue, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Granville, E.
Grey, E. [Teller.] Harris, L.
Harrowby, E. Hatherton, L.
Kimberley, E. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Lichfield, E.
Lovelace, E.
Minto, E. Leigh, L.
Morley, E. Londesborough, L.
Morton, E. Lyttelton, L.
Romney, E. Lyveden, L.
Russell, E. Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Selkirk, E.
Shaftesbury, E. Mostyn, L.
Sommers, E. Overstone, L.
Spencer, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Zetland, E.
Romilly, L.
De Vesci, V. Saye and Sele, L.
Eversley, V. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Halifax, V.
Hardinge, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.) Vernon, L.
Wenlock, L.
Taunton, L. Wentworth, L.
Truro, L. Wrottesley, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative.


rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice—namely, to insert at the end of the clause words depriving all boroughs with less than 5,000 inhabitants of the right of returning Members to Parliament. The noble Lord proceeded to disclaim the intention of doing anything that would be likely to endanger the passing of a measure which he would have regarded with great satisfaction were it not for the manner in which the Government, in dealing with it, had degraded the Executive and demoralized the House of Commons. If the noble Earl at the head of the Government meant to imply that he would have thrown up the Bill if the Amendment on which they had just divided had been carried, he thought that it was an unwarrantable course, and would have added contempt of their Lordships to the mode in which he behaved to the other branches of the Legislature. There could be no doubt that in our electoral system the influence of the large and important boroughs was counteracted, to a great extent, by the existence of small and thinly-populated towns which were permitted to return representatives to Parliament. The House had, by the vote just arrived at, decided against the system of grouping—a system which had been discussed and rejected by the House of Commons, and which, he believed, whenever proposed, had been repudiated by public opinion. His proposal, however, he believed to be in harmony with the general feeling of the country, and one peculiarly fitted for their Lordships' consideration, as they were free from the selfish interest that unavoidably, and perhaps not quite unconstitutionally, affected Members of the House of Commons upon this subject. In 1832 all boroughs with less than 2,000 inhabitants were totally disfranchised, and one Member was taken away from boroughs with less than 4,000 population. What he now proposed was to advance in the same direction. They had decided to take one Member from boroughs with less than 10,000 inhabitants, and the proposition which he now suggested for the total disfranchisement of the smallest boroughs was in the same proportion as that which had been adopted in 1832. It could not therefore be said that the propo- sition was a new-fangled one. On the other hand, it was one that had the strongest show of justice. Wednesbury, the new borough in the Black Country, had 92,633 population. The ten boroughs which he proposed to disfranchise had only 39,704. He might remind their Lordships that when the proposition which he now made was brought forward in the House of Commons, it met with no very strong opposition from the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he could not assent to it unless the opinion of the House was expressed very decidedly in its favour; but the right hon. Gentleman brought forward no arguments against it. He believed that no good argument could be adduced in favour of the retention of those small boroughs. He admitted that there was something to be said in favour of the nomination boroughs under the old system, because, although they gave rise to abuses, by their means distinguished men were returned to Parliament who otherwise might have been unable to procure returns. They were a substitute too for official seats; but among the ten boroughs which his Amendment would disfranchise there were not more than one or two to which the term could be property applied. He admitted that in the case of re-distribution there could be no permanent resting-place; but a good measure of disfranchisement offered a prospect of something like permanency, and a scheme that did not embrace it offered none. Without a clear necessity for it the public would not be anxious to have fresh disfranchisements. He asked their Lordships to take this matter up before it was made a party question. Assuredly, it would be made a party question if Parliament left the question of disfranchisement as it now stood. He asked them also for their own honour, as they were about to vote for so much as a mere register of the other House, to show they had their own opinions on Reform, upon which they were as well or better entitled to be heard, and for whose advocacy they claimed the approbation of a Liberal public. He hoped the Government would not allow it to be said that the only Amendments they were willing to accede to were such as restricted rather than extended the franchise. He should certainly press his Amendment to a division, for he wished to give their Lordships an opportunity of recording their opinion now upon a subject which was certain to become one of permanent interest hereafter.

Moved at the end of the Clause to insert— And every Borough which had a less population than Five thousand at the said Census shall cease to return any Member to serve in Parliament."—(The Lord Lyveden.)


reminded their Lordships that they had already sanctioned the principle of having minorities represented. The borough of Arundel was a small one, but its Member represented the largest constituency in England. He represented 1,000,000 Roman Catholics. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out that peculiarity of the borough of Arundel some years ago, and the case remained the same up to the present hour.

On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 37; Not-Contents 93: Majority 56.

Somerset, D. Camoys, L.
Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)
Airlie, E.
Albemarle, E. Cranworth, L.
Chichester, E. De Mauley, L.
Clarendon, E. Dunfermline, L.
De Grey, E. Foley, L.
Ducie, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Fortescue, E.
Granville, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Grey, E.
Kimberley, E. Harris, L. [Teller.]
Lovelace, E. Houghton, L.
Minto, E. Lyttelton, L.
Morley, E. Lyveden, L. [Teller.]
Russell, E. Mostyn, L.
Spencer, E. Romilly, L.
Saye and Sele, L.
Halifax, V. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Belper, L. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Vernon, L.
Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Chesterfield, E.
Dartmouth, E.
Derby, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Devon, E.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)
Manchester, D.
Marlborough, D.
Rutland, D. Effingham, E.
Wellington, D. Eldon, E.
Gainsborough, E.
Abercorn, M. Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)
Bristol, M.
Exeter, M. Hardwicke, E.
Salisbury, M. Harrington, E.
Home, E.
Amherst, E. Malmesbury, E.
Bathurst, E. Mansfield, E.
Beauchamp, E. Morton, E.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Cadogan, E. Nelson, E.
Powis, E. Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]
Romney, E.
Selkirk, E. Congleton, L.
Shaftesbury, E. Crofton, L.
Shrewsbury, E. Delamere, L.
Stanhope, E. De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
Stradbroke, E. Denman, L.
Tankerville, E. De Ros, L.
Verulam, E. Digby, L.
Egerton, L.
Bolingbroke and St. John, V. Feversham, L.
Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
De Vesci, V.
Hardinge, V. Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Heytesbury, L.
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.) Londesborough, L.
Monson, L.
Sidmouth, V. Northwick, L.
Templetown, V. Penrhyn, L.
Raglan, L.
Gloucester and Bristol Bp. Redesdale, L.
Saltoun, L.
Oxford, Bp. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Arundell of Wardour, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Bagot, L. Sondes, L.
Berners, L. Southampton, L.
Bolton, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Stratheden, L.
Churston, L. Strathnairn, L.
Clarina, L. Templemore, L.
Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.) Walsingham, L.
Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.)
Cloncurry, L. Wharncliffe, L.
Colonsay, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the Negative.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 16 (Certain Boroughs to return Three Members).


moved the omission of the clause, with a view of transferring the new seats which would thereby be taken from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leeds, to Barnsley, Croydon, St. Helens, and Torquay, and said, that if he were as he had been—an elector for the City of London—he should feel much aggrieved by having only three votes for four Members.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 17 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.

House resumed: and to be again in Committee To-morrow.