HL Deb 07 March 1884 vol 285 cc824-6

, in rising to ask the Lord President of the Council, Whether he can state when the County and Borough Franchise (Ireland) Return, ordered by the House on the 7th February, 1884, is likely to be laid before the House; and whether steps will be taken to hasten its production, so that it will be available for reference in both Houses of Parliament during the progress of the Franchise Bill? said, he would wish to explain the object he had in view, and in doing so he thought they might assume, from what they had heard, that it was intended by the Government to introduce a household franchise for the whole of the United Kingdom. He did not, of course, intend to allude to any actual measure that had been introduced "elsewhere;" but he desired to obtain some information as to the classes who would, under a household suffrage in Ireland, acquire a vote. The real part of the Return was, that not only the number, but the value, of the inhabited houses in Ireland should be given. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Carlingford), on a former occasion, when he (the Earl of Limerick) asked for the Return on the 7th of February, refused to grant it, on the ground of the trouble and burden it would impose on the Department that would have to prepare it, and also because of the cost that would be incurred in producing it in a limited time. Under ordinary circumstances, these reasons might apply; but the circumstances now were not ordinary. He need hardly say that their Lordships had been of opinion that the Return was one which it was desirable to produce; and, that being so, he thought it was desirable that it should be produced, so that it might be used during the debate on the Franchise Bill for the purposes of reference. A very voluminous Return on the subject had been laid on the Table of the House the other day; but it did not meet the point he laid stress on, inasmuch as it did not give the rating of the houses, or indicate the class of persons who inhabited them. He might say that the reason he desired the Return was because he believed it was intended to extend household suffrage to Ireland. Ireland, it was said, was to be included on some broad, general principles. He did not know what those broad, general principles were, unless they were, indeed, some treaty or understanding between certain persons and the Government to facilitate the passage of the Bill. It was said that excluding Ireland would make the law unfair between the two countries; but he would venture to say that household suffrage in Ireland would mean something very different from the same franchise in England. If the voting power in Ireland, now numbering 230,000, was increased by 500,000, a class of voters would be introduced that did not exist in any very great numbers in England; and, in the name of household franchise, a poor and illiterate class would be introduced to such an extent that it would give the control of a very great number of the constituencies in Ireland to the occupants of mud hovels, and these mudhovellers would not only control numbers of Parliamentary elections in Ireland, but would very greatly influence legislation in the Imperial Parliament. For these reasons he desired to get immediately this Return, which would throw light on the whole matter.


, in reply, said, that he would not argue at present the question of the franchise with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Limerick), as they would have ample opportunities to do so in due time. He thoroughly understood the object of the noble Earl, even before he declared it in his speech. As to the Returns, he had to say that the noble Earl was under a misconception in fancying that the information was in the hands of the Government and that it could be produced without a great amount of labour. He (Lord Carlingford) had not over-rated, but, on the contrary, had rather underrated, the trouble and cost of preparing the Return. The House had ordered it, however, and he had to tell the noble Lord that special means had been taken to hasten its production, and that every effort would be used to produce it with all reasonable speed.

House adjourned at a quarter past Five o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.