HL Deb 23 June 1868 vol 192 cc1913-5

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in moving the second reading of this Bill, I need not descant on its importance. Your Lordships will see at once that it is part of a great system of the Reform of the Representation of the People of the United Kingdom, being the part of that system which applies to the representation of Scotland. My Lords, I think it would be for your Lordships' convenience if I were not to go at any length into the Bill this evening, because I shall propose that your Lordships take it into consideration in Committee on Tuesday next, and I presume that is the stage in which any of your Lordships who may propose to move Amendments will find it most convenient to do so. I shall, however, give your Lordships a brief sketch of what is proposed to be done by this Bill, In the boroughs a vote will be given to all house holders who stand in the same position as the householders in this country to whom a vote is given under the English Bill—that is, who have paid their rates. With regard to the payment of rates, there is this difference between the English and the; Scotch Bills, that the assessment is not made in the same manner. At first it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to make the law in this respect identical in the two countries; but when the Scotch Members considered the proposition of the Government they unanimously gave it as their opinion that the law of assessment in Scotland ought not to be altered, and that therefore it would be better to arrive at the object in view by retaining the mode of assessment hitherto in operation in Scotland. In Scotland the valuation is by a system of county assessment, which secures the advantage of a more exact valuation than can be had by means of our more local system. But there are 100 parishes in Scotland which pay no poor rates at all. In those parishes the provision for the poor is managed by a voluntary arrangement. There has been no assessment in these parishes beyond the assessment of the county assessor. But under this Bill, while following up the present system of assessment in Scotland, it is provided that those 100 parishes shall be valued like others, and will have to pay poor rates, and that no one who is unable, from poverty, to pay those rates, and who is exempted on that account, will enjoy the franchise. Then, in the counties, there is the same provision with regard to the payment of rates as is made in the English Bill; but £14 is the figure fixed on as the qualification for the franchise, that being considered the equivalent in Scotland for a £12 rating qualification in England. So much for the franchises under the Bill, and the conditions under which those franchises are to be enjoyed. With respect to the re-distribution of seats, we propose a very moderate scheme. We propose that the Universities—of which there are four in Scotland—should return two Members—that is to say, that the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrew's should return one Member, and that another should he returned by the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen. We propose that the counties of Selkirk and Peebles, which are very small, should be united, and that a new district of burghs, consisting of Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk, should be created, and together return one Member. The town of Dundee and the counties of Lanark, Ayr, and Aberdeen will each return two Members to serve in Parliament in future; and certain counties named in the Schedule to the Bill, are to be divided. I do not know that I need say more at present with respect to the framework of this Bill, but if your Lordships have any Amendments to offer, either of principle or to any of the details of the Bill, I respectfully suggest that it would be better to do so in Committee; and if that proposal were assented to, I should propose that the Committee be taken upon this day week.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Privy Seal)


My Lords, this Bill, dealing with one of the subjects most important to Scotland that could come under the consideration of this House, was only printed and distributed to Members of the House this morning. In "another place" the Bill was debated for weeks, and it is exceedingly difficult for anyone who has not given the closest attention to the debates to follow all the changes, and all the consequences of the changes, which were made during that time. The Government now move the second reading of the measure. Under ordinary circumstancs, I should take objection to the proposal, not deeming it a fitting course, either as regards the Scotch Members of your Lordships' House, or as regards the House at large, that they should be called upon to approach a Bill of this magnitude without a full opportunity of considering its details. But I understand that there are circumstances which make it not unimportant that this Bill should go through Parliament as quickly as possible, inasmuch as some of its provisions affect not only Scotland but several seats in England, which the noble Earl forgot to mention. It, therefore, may he convenient to discuss any proposition which hereafter has to be made, upon the Motion for going into Committee, instead of upon the Motion for the second reading; and on that understanding, I am willing to assent to the proposition of the noble Earl. In the meantime there will be sufficient interval to examine and form an opinion upon the the details of the measure.

On Question? agreed to:—Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.