HL Deb 07 July 1868 vol 193 cc803-10

Bill read 3a (according to Order), with the Amendments.


, in moving the Amendment, of which he had given notice, relative to the Boundaries of Glasgow, said, that the districts which he proposed to add to that place were virtually parts of the city, Govan comprising part of the harbour, and Partick containing the site of the now University, and were so identified in every way with the city that they ought to form part of it for electoral purposes. This could hardly be accounted a party question, for the Corporation of Glasgow, which was, he believed, one of the most liberal Corporations in the country, had petitioned in favour of the extension. It was true that some of the inhabitants of these districts objected to the proposal, their fear being that it would be followed by their inclusion within the municipality, and that they would so become liable to taxation for municipal purposes; but that could only be done by a special Act, when they would have an opportunity of showing cause against it. He believed they would be unable in that case to show any sufficient cause, for it was very important, for drainage, police, and other purposes, that every portion of what was really one city should be comprised in one jurisdiction. At present, however, only the Parliamentary boundary was to be dealt with, and the House of Commons having decided this question by a narrow majority of 5, it seemed to him fair to give them an opportunity of re-considering it. Amendments had been already adopted, the consideration of which would probably occupy the House of Commons only a few minutes, and he did not anticipate that there would be any protracted discussion on this point—so that the progress of the Bill would not be delayed; for, in the event of the other House refusing to agree to the Amendment, he should not, ask their Lordships to insist upon it.

Moved, at the end of the Bill to add the following clause:— That the Boundaries of the City of Glasgow shall, until otherwise directed by Parliament, be those specified in Schedule (K.) hereunto annexed."—(The Lord Redesdale.)


said, he was not sorry that the noble Lord had given him an opportunity of discussing the general bearings of the Bill, on which hitherto no observations had been offered in their Lordships' House, it not being usual to debate the principles of a measure brought in by the Government and accepted with trifling alterations by the Opposition. He regarded it as, on the whole, a very satisfactory solution of the Reform question with regard to Scotland. On some points, indeed, the Liberal party had been unsuccessful in the other House; but on others the Government had been defeated, and the Bill he thought might be regarded as very much of the nature of a compromise. He was glad that the Government had as regards Scotland been obliged to give way on the question of a rating franchise in counties. A rating franchise had two meanings; in counties its object was to take the rateable instead of the value column, while in boroughs its object was to make the payment of rates a condition of the suffrage—and this was quite a different question from rateable value in the other sense. In Scotland a rating franchise in counties would have been quite unworkable; and after full discussion the Government had agreed to a franchise founded upon actual value, which was the basis of almost all rates in Scotland except the poor rate, and was, he believed, the best system. Had it been necessary to raise the question in this House, it could have been shown that the anomalies and absurdities of a rating qualification would have been greater in Scotland than in England; and the Government, by accepting a £14 rental instead of a £12 rating franchise, had shown that they could easily have accepted a similar basis in the case of England, and that no "principle" is involved except that of public convenience. In England the tenant might pay through his landlord or any other person, but must pay the full rate, compounding being abolished; whereas in Scotland the practice was for the tenant and the landlord to pay half the rate each—and this system would continue in force. As regards the borough franchise he thought the Bill had satisfactorily settled the question, for he did not deny the expediency of excluding from the borough franchise those who were unable to pay even half the poor rates. A noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) complained a few nights ago of the English Act of last Session having been tampered with, and of Scotland having invaded England and carried off blackmail in the shape of seven seats. Now, he (the Duke of Argyll) had never contended for a re-distribution of political power as between the two countries, founded either on taxation or population, for he did not consider that Scotchmen had any special grievances, and they were allowed by their English friends to manage their own affairs very much as they pleased. He wished, therefore, for no re-distribution founded on taxation or population, though if such grounds were considered Scotland could make out a fair claim for additional scats. The only claim he had ever made was that particular constituencies of such magnitude and importance that were they in England they would be allotted a second or third seat, ought not to be denied that privilege simply because they were in Scotland. He did not think the independent Members of their Lordships' House had any great reason to complain because seven seats were taken from England. He did not believe there was anyone who in his heart supposed that it would be possible in the next Parliament that all the small boroughs in England should retain their Members. Up to the present time no county in Scotland had had two representatives, while several of the smallest in England had two Members, and some of them had more. It could hardly be considered unreasonable, therefore, to give a second representative to a few counties in Scotland which had made such enormous advances in wealth and commercial importance. Many Conservatives thought it a point of policy that county constituencies should be composed almost exclusively of landed proprietors and tenant farmers, and that the urban element should be eliminated. It was on that principle that the Amendment to extend the boundaries of Glasgow was sustained. But that was a very dangerous policy, even from a Conservative point of view; because it should not be forgotten that there were many boroughs which were called town constituencies, but which were nothing in reality but small counties and belonged as exclusively to the agricultural interest as any county in England. If, therefore, they were to have a revision of boundaries, any Commission that might be appointed should be left perfectly free to deal with these so-called boroughs. Now, the case for the extension of the boundaries of Glasgow was, instead of being very strong, a very weak one. It was perfectly true that in the other House the Government proposed to include Govan and Partick within the Parliamentary limits, and upon that they were defeated; but they never ventured to propose such an extension as was contemplated by the Amendment that was now submitted to their Lordships, Such an Amendment had indeed been placed upon the Paper, but it had never been carried to a division. The noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) had talked of part of these suburbs being within the natural boundaries of Glasgow; but he (the Duke of Argyll) could assure the House from his own knowledge that these districts extended far beyond what could be at all considered as properly included within it. His noble Friend had appealed to the desire of the municipality of Glasgow to take in the suburbs; but in February last a Petition had been presented from the magistrates of Glasgow, in which they prayed that four Members should be given to the city, and if it was decided not to give four Members then that the Parliamentary boundary should not be enlarged. It might be said that they had changed their minds when they found they could get only three Members; but the reason for that was because they wished to bring the whole of the inhabitants of the outlying districts within the area of Glasgow taxation. The inhabitants of those districts, on the other hand, resisted because they had a taxation of their own, and they feared that if brought within the municipality of Glasgow their taxation would be grievously increased. The population of Glasgow was somewhere about 450,000; and if this area, which had about 62,000 inhabitants, were added to it, the whole population of the city would be largely in excess of 500,000, and the number of voters would be between 60,000 and 70,000. A great many people therefore said that they would be entirely swamped by this immense mass of voters; and most of the intelligent inhabitants of the outlying districts did not desire to be taken within the city, because they would lose their county votes. On these and on other grounds, he thought it would be very inexpedient if that House was to interfere with the natural right of the House of Commons to define the boundaries of its own constituencies.


said, he must defend the Government against the charge of having abandoned their fundamental policy of taking rating instead of rental as the basis of the franchise. The state of Scotland was so peculiar and so different from that of every other part of the United Kingdom, that it would have been impossible to adhere in that country to all the provisions of the English Reform Bill; for there were parishes in Scotland where there were no rates at all, and consequently had the rating principle been adhered to it would have introduced nothing but confusion. But with regard to the essential principle of the payment of rates, the Government had adhered to their principle in the other House, and had successfully vindicated that principle. But with regard to the proposal of his noble Friend (Lord Redesdale), he could only repeat what had been already stated as to the course the Government intended to pursue. What the opinion of the Govern- ment was had been sufficiently indicated by the Amendments proposed by the noble Duke at the head of the Post Office (the Duke of Montrose) in regard to the Boundary Bill. But the same considerations which had weighed with the Government in the case of the Boundary Bill had weighed with them also with respect to this Bill—they did not think it right to interpose any obstacle in the way of passing those measures which they considered absolutely necessary to be carried before the close of the Session. Under these circumstances, he would appeal to his noble Friend not to press his Amendment; and if his appeal should be unsuccessful he should be compelled to divide against him.


said, he would not say more than a few words, as the Government had announced their intention not to support the Amendment. But he must say he felt some little surprise that the noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) should be the person to bring forward this Amendment—particularly after the part which he had taken in respect of the English Reform Bill of lost year. On that occasion the noble Lord said that for this House to deal with the question of enfranchising or disfranchising boroughs was almost unconstitutional; it might be within the letter of the law, but certainly was a strain upon the Constitution. But was not an interference with the limits of boroughs in principle the same, seeing that you thereby affected one way or the other the franchise of a great number of persons? He thought that it was a mere question of degree between the enfranchisement or disfranchisement of boroughs and the alteration of borough limits.


said, he did not see any inconsistency at all. What he stated last year was that it was a very delicate thing to disfranchise a borough which had perhaps enjoyed the franchise for centuries, and which the other House of Parliament, to which the question more especially belonged, did not think should be disfranchised. On the other hand, to say that in determining the question of Reform this House had not a right to give an opinion upon the boundaries of one of the boroughs affected by the Bill was really to limit the power of this House to an extent which he thought would not be contemplated by anybody in his senses. He should press his Motion to a division, because he felt bound to assert the independ- ence of this House, which had been most unfairly treated with regard to this Bill. Every Member of the Government admitted that his Amendment was a proper one; it could not interfere in any way with the passing of the Bill, and being admittedly a proper Amendment he hoped that their Lordships would support it.


wished to say a word on the inconsistency of the Government, who proposed this year the very thing which they strenuously objected to last year. Last year there was to be no disfranchisement of boroughs; but this year seven boroughs were taken away from the English representation by one small clause in the Scotch Bill, and no reason whatever was assigned why it was done. He thought some notice ought to have been taken of this before the third reading, and nothing but the necessity of passing the Scotch Bill at the present time would induce him to acquiesce in it.

On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 13; Not-Contents 53: Majority 40.

Resolved in the Negative.

Northumberland, D. Churston, L.
Rutland, D. Clarina, L.
Colchester, L.
Bristol, M. Denman, L.
Exeter, M. Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Coventry, E.
Romney, E.
Selkirk, E. [Teller.]
Cairns, L. (L. Chancellor.) Halifax, V.
Hawarden, V.
Sydney, V.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Templetown, V.
Grafton, D. Belper, L.
Mar. lborough, D. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Richmond, D. Camoys, L.
Abercorn, M. Churchill, L. [Teller.]
Airlie, E. Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)
Camperdown, E. Clinton, L.
Clarendon, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Dartrey, E. Cranworth, L.
De Grey, E. Crofton, L.
Ducie, E. De Tabley, L.
Effingham, E. Ebury, L.
Granville, E. Foley, L.
Kimberley, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Minto, E.
Nelson, E. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Portarlington, E.
Russell, E. Leigh, L.
Spencer, E. Lyveden, L.
Monson, L.
Mostyn, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Northbrook, L. Suffield, L.
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Raglan, L. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Saye and Sele, L. Wenlock, L.
Silcheater, L. (E. Longford.) [Teller.] Wentworth, L.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.