HL Deb 08 June 1885 vol 298 cc1360-74

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


My Lords, in rising to move that the House do resolve itself into Committee on this very important Bill, I think it is right I should give a very brief sketch of its principal provisions. Your Lordships will doubtless remember that when the Franchise Bill, which it is calculated will give the voting power to not less than 2,000,000 additional persons, was under discussion, it was considered just that it should be accompanied by a Redistribution Bill, and accordingly Her Majesty's Government gave a very strong pledge that they would use their utmost efforts to introduce and carry such a Bill during the present Session; and in redemption of that pledge the present Bill has been passed through the other House, and has now reached your Lordships. The difficulties attending a Bill of such minuteness and of so far-reaching a character could hardly have been overcome, so as to allow of the Bill being passed, had it not been for the Government having the advantage of free communication with the Leaders of the Party opposite with regard to the principal provisions of the measure. Those communications have resulted, as your Lordships are aware, in an agreement as to the main principles of the Bill; and the agreement come to has been most honourably and faithfully followed by the Party opposite; and it is a matter for congratula- tion that, by their agreement and the general support which has been accorded to the Bill, it has now reached its present stage. The principle of the Bill is to redress the great inequalities which have existed, up to the present time, in the distribution of seats, and especially the very great inequalities which have existed between county and borough representation as regards the population of the several constituencies. In a matter of this kind, it was impossible to produce exact equality unless we had done what I am sure your Lordships would not have approved—arbitrarily divided the whole country into electoral divisions, without any reference to ancient practice or tradition. We have not pursued that course, but have endeavoured, as far as possible, to respect the ancient divisions of the country, and to make no unnecessary changes. The result is that certain anomalies, as between some constituencies and others, exist in the Bill; but they are very few in number, and of no great extent, the general result being to adjust the inequalities I referred to in a manner that, upon the whole, is to be regarded as substantially equitable and fair. I may mention that, under the present system in England, the proportion of seats to population is, in counties, one to 70,800 persons, and, in boroughs, one to 41,200. Under the Bill the proportion will be one to 52,800 in counties, and one to 52,700 in boroughs. To obtain these results it has been necessary that the Bill should be of a far-reaching character; and, accordingly, the present Bill deals with a much larger number of seats than either the great Reform Bill of 1832 or the Bill of 1867. The plan pursued has, in the first place, been that boroughs have been disfranchised in which there was not a population of 15,000. In the second place, what are known as the Hundred Boroughs, such as Cricklade, and large rural boroughs like Stroud, have been merged into the counties. Thirdly, one Member has been taken from every borough which has not a population of 50,000, and one Member has also been taken from each of the three counties of Herefordshire, Rutland, and Sligo. In addition to that, the boroughs of Macclesfield and Sandwich, which had been disfranchised for corrupt practices, have been merged in the counties. Besides the seats which have been thus made available, it has been determined to increase the number of Members of the House of Commons by 12, in order to obtain a sufficient number of seats for redistribution. By these operations 162 seats have been gained—namely, 134 in England, 2 in Scotland, and 26 in Ireland. To these must be added the seats taken from the disfranchised boroughs of Beverley, Bridgwater, Cashel, and Sligo, 6 in all. With the 12 additional Members to which I have alluded, the total number of seats available for redistribution is therefore 180. The seats have been distributed in this way—97 Members have been given to the counties, and 83 to existing and new boroughs and the Metropolis. The result of the operations is as follows:—At present, in England and Wales, the counties have 187 Members, and the boroughs 297; under the Bill the counties will have 253 Members, and the boroughs 237. In Scotland at present there are 32 county seats and 26 borough seats; under the Bill there are 39 county seats and 31 borough seats. In Ireland the present distribution is 64 Members for counties, and 37 for boroughs; under the Bill there will be 85 for counties, and 16 for boroughs. The totals for the United Kingdom are as follow:—There are now 283 county seats and 360 borough seats; whereas, under the Bill, there will be 377 county seats, and 284 borough seats. There is another point which your Lordships will probably regard as of some importance. The rural and town constituencies have been kept separate as far as possible, and towns have not been unnecessarily merged with the counties, so as to deprive the counties of their rural character. Of course, under the Bill, a large number of small towns are merged in the counties; but, on the other hand, large additions have been made to boroughs. It may be important that the House should known exactly the results. In England and Wales the population taken from the counties is 185,627; in Scotland, 45,205; and in Ireland, 13,478—making a total of 1,244,310. On the other side of the account, the population merged in the counties is—in England and Wales, 924,039; in Scotland, 23,903; and in Ireland, 168,070—making 1,116,012, as a result of the whole operation. I ought also to mention what has been done as regards the Metropolis. At the present time there are only 22 Metropolitan Members; under the Bill there will be 59 Members. An addition has been made throughout the Metropolis, and a diminution in one case only—that of the City of London, which now has 4, and will in future have 2 Members only. The original plan of the Bill was to take the districts under the Metropolis Management Act, and to follow those divisions to a considerable extent; but, in some cases, this plan has been altered in the House of Commons. I need not allude in detail to the different cases. But although there has been a considerable increase in the number of Metropolitan Members, even now the Metropolis will not have its full proportion of Members as compared with other parts of the United Kingdom. Under the Bill the Metropolis will have one Member to 65,000; whereas the proportion in the rest of the Kingdom will be one to 52,800. There is another point with regard to the Bill to which I may direct the attention of the House. We have introduced a plan to divide constituencies returning several Members into single-Member districts. Many have held that is necessary to respect the right of minorities to representation; but, although many ingenious schemes have been propounded—so ingenious, in fact, as to be rather difficult to understand—what has been adopted, in order not to neglect this important part of the subject, has been what is known in France as scrutin d' arrondissement. In boroughs, however, where there are only 2 Members, those 2 are still left. That, no doubt, is an anomaly, and no one can deny that it is so; but it is not essential to the working of the Bill that everything should be perfectly logical. I believe that now I have explained, all the really important parts of the Bill. There is, however, another large part of the Bill—that which deals with names of divisions—upon which, I think, your Lordships will not require me to say much. All I will say is, that there is no general system whatever with regard to these names; every kind of plan has been adopted with regard to different parts of the country. In some counties the names are compass names alone. In others there are alternative names; and in others, again, the districts are named from towns only. I will only add that, from the Amendments proposed to this Bill, which are not very numerous, I think it is clear that your Lordships are disposed generally to receive it with satisfaction; and I may congratulate the House and the country upon a work of this extraordinary magnitude having been brought to a satisfactory conclusion mainly through the good sense and moderation displayed—with the exception, perhaps, of a short period at the close of last Session and the earlier part of the Autumn-—upon both sides, which, in my opinion, forms a most happy augury for the continuance and good working of our Constitutional Government in the future. I now beg leave to move that the House resolve itself into Committee upon the Bill.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee."—(The Earl of Kimberley..)


in rising, according to Notice, to move, as an Amendment, that the House do resolve itself into Committee that day six months, said, it seemed as if their Lordships would rather encourage the advocacy of anyone than his (Lord Denman's). In 1856, the Earl of Clancarty had waited on him stating his intention to, and afterwards moved the rejection of the Life Peerage Bill, against which he (Lord Denman) had already given Notice; but, in every case, either a vote in "another place," or a reaction on the part of their Lordships, had justified his early opposition. On another occasion the Earl of Malmesbury had opposed, and succeeded, on third reading, m defeating, a Bill for 28 Life Peers; while, against the second reading, not a Teller could be found by him (Lord Denman). In the first-mentioned Bill his advice had been followed, and Lord Wensleydale became an hereditary Peer in July, 1856, and Lord Kingsdown in 1858, and for 20 years the appeals were well decided without any paid Law Lords. On the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill he (Lord Denman) had given Notice of opposition to the third reading; but the late Duke of Marlborough took it out of his hands, and, to his great honour, succeeded in rejecting the Bill by exertions which might be supposed to have shortened his valuable life. On the present occasion he (Lord Denman) could not hope to succeed at first; but, on a measure on which opinions were always fluctuating, opposition would arise hereafter. On June 26, 1855, Lord Lyndhurst, in a most remarkable speech, said that— No man can admire more than I do the extraordinary eloquence of the right hon. Gentlemen … but I must say that I do not regret … that they (Sir James Graham and Mr. Gladstone) have retired from the Cabinet. With all their talents they do not appear to me to possess that manly character, that vigour of mind, and that fixity of purpose, which arc essential to a Cabinet Minister at a period like the present, though in a time of calm and peace nothing could he more ornamental or useful than their services."—(3 Hansard, [139] 136.) But how, in time of peace, could such a vague measure as the present be useful? The multiplication of new boroughs and of candidates made it an object to name a talking lady for Camberwell. The names of counties were not according to the definition before the 7th Schedule, as it originally stood in "another place." "High Peak" was confined to a small part of that well-known district. The City of London was deprived of two Members. Sheffield was cut into small divisions. The minority vote had not prevented all votes being given on one side. Where there were four Members, four votes should be given to each voter, and so the hearts of all men be unanimous. He was convinced that what Mr. H. Drummond called the "counting of noses" was carried too far, and felt sure that before the completion of the registration much alteration would be made by the maturer judgment of the people.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Lord Denman.)

On Question, That the word ("now") stand part of the Motion?

Resolved in the affirmative.


who had the following Notice upon the Paper:— To ask, "What are the intentions of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the giving a Member to the Royal University of Ireland? said: My Lords, in accordance with the Notice I have given, I rise to ask my noble Friend below me (the Earl of Kimberley) to explain why, by this Bill, the Royal University of Ireland is excluded from Parliamentary representation? I ask this question on behalf of the Senate of the University. Our case is surely a reasonable one. We ask your Lordships to deal with us as you dealt with the University of London in 1867. Our claims, I shall show you, are much stronger than theirs were then. They obtained their Member, without depriving any other University of any of its privileges; and we entirely repudiate the suggestion made in the other House that our Member should be taken from the University of Dublin. We shall be the foremost in defence of its present right of representation, which all, without distinction of Party, admit that it uses so well. I am confident, my Lords, that if you will give me your attention for a very few minutes, I shall be able to show that, from the number of the graduates as compared with that of the Universities that have Parliamentary representation, from its peculiarly representative character, and by the precedent passed 17 years ago, a serious and palpable injustice will be done to the Royal University if it is not given a Member. I know the difficulty which the compact between the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) and Mr. Gladstone opposes to an)' alteration in this Bill; but a compact to commit injustice is immoral, and can bind nobody's conscience. Now, putting aside Durham, which has only a few hundred graduates, and Victoria, which, I believe, has none, every University in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the Royal University, is given by this Bill Parliamentary representation. Let your Lordships compare the London with the Royal University. I have a Return here from which the names of the deceased members of each have been eliminated; and I find that while the London University has only 2,400 electors the Royal University would have 2,700. Again, the annual increase in the Royal is double that in the London University. In the four years beginning with 1881, the London University increased by 300, the Royal by 600; so that in 10 years the electors of the latter will probably be double those of the former. Then, my Lords, I ask you to recollect that the London University is merely a supplement to the existing Universities, while the Royal University is pre-eminently national, embracing, as it does, large classes who would otherwise be excluded from University education. It is the University of the Catholics and Presbyterians, constituting the vast bulk of the population of Ireland. On its Senate sit the Representatives of all the religious Bodies of Ireland; and it is the only University in Ireland to which large numbers of the Catholics of Ireland can go without violating their consciences. Then, again, while the London University is only an examining Body, the Royal University teaches through its Fellows, and among those Fellows are many who have won the highest distinctions, such as Professors Cunningham, Hopkins, and Arnold. Now, my Lords, I come to precedents. In 1867 your Lordships gave a Member to the London University, which then had somewhere about 1,300 electors. You did so by acclamation, without an objection, without a division. I recollect that Mr. Bright on that occasion said that, although he was opposed to any University representation, because he found that University Members always voted against him, he would vote for London University, seeing that other Universities had Members in the House of Commons. How can that precedent be got over? Is it wise, my Lords, especially at this time, to inflict a glaring injustice on the flower of the middle classes of Ireland; on the young men among them of the highest spirit, culture, and abilities? Is it wise to flash before their eyes the comparison of London University, with some 1,300 or 1,400 electors, 18 years ago getting a Member by acclamation, with Dublin, with nearly double the number, now contumeliously refused; and is this the equal justice to Ireland of which Her Majesty's Ministers are the special Representatives and patrons? My Lords, what is the argument that will be used against me on the other side of the question? Some doctrinaires are opposed to all University representation, and object to its being extended. I reply to them as Mr. Bright did—"Refuse all, or admit all." It is difficult for me to well conceive how any rational man can believe that high learning and culture are likely to be too largely represented in the next Parliament, or that the educated classes in Ireland will be masters of so many constituencies that it is necessary to perpetrate an injustice to deprive them of this one. Such a course reminds me of an answer given in 1874 by an elector in a Southern county in Ireland to a friend who en- treated him not to vote for an uneducated candidate. "Sure," he said, "the educated men have had the country long enough." Another argument I have heard is—Ireland is not entitled to have three University Members. Surely, my Lords, we are still, thank God, a United Kingdom. You cannot refuse a Member to the only unrepresented University, otherwise entitled to have one, on account of the particular part of the United Kingdom in which it happens to be placed. You might as well disfranchise an English town because there are so few urban constituencies in Ireland. This, I repeat, is the only unrepresented University in the United Kingdom. I thank you sincerely, my Lords, for having allowed me to plead the cause of this University. It was founded by the late Government, Its success has been greater than the most sanguine could have-expected it to be. Many of the best men in Ireland of every school in politics, and of every religious denomination, have laboured, and are still labouring hard, to raise it to the level of the best of your ancient Universities. Do not, I entreat you, allow the mark of inferiority to be branded on its brow; do not allow it to be left alone of all the Universities of this United Kingdom without the distinction of being represented in Parliament.


said, he thought the noble Lord who had just spoken (Lord Emly) had made out a good case on behalf of the Royal University of Ireland. He (Viscount Powers-court) would call their Lordships' attention to the fact that the Universities having representation—notably the London University—had always sent to Parliament distinguished Members. He could not think that the Royal University would be an exception to the rule. If, as he conceived it was, it were held worthy of the franchise, he heartily supported the proposal.


said, that the Royal University had realized much of the anticipations of its founders; but there could be no doubt that, if the present demand were resisted by the Government and their Lordships' House, it would be such a slur upon the institution that its prosperity and success in the future would, be materially affected. He considered it a gross anomaly that, when the franchise was being extended, and it was already possessed by other Universities, such a University as this, consisting of a Body so learned and so eminently fitted to exercise the franchise, should be debarred from the privilege.


said, he also supported the proposal of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Emly). He wished their Lordships would take note of the fact that it was supported not only on the Liberal, but also on the Opposition side of the House. He thought it would have been easy to afford a Member for the Royal University, which, from its numbers and from its national position, was eminently entitled to consideration in this respect. He, therefore, regretted that the Government had not seen their way to give a Member to the Royal University of Ireland.


suggested that out of the 10 supernumerary Members that had been allotted to Ireland provision might be made for a Representative of the Royal University.


said, he cordially concurred in regretting that Her Majesty's Government had not thought fit to accord representation to the Royal University. Although a recent creation, that University was an institution of great and increasing importance, and represented a large proportion of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland. As such a representative institution, it certainly was entitled to representation, and he very much regretted that the Government had not seen their way to afford it at least one Member. At the same time, he and those who agreed with him would object altogether to any re-adjustment or increase of the numbers of Members at present fixed by the Bill for that purpose, and which would necessitate an interference with the number of Members which the University of Dublin now returned with so much credit to itself and such advantage to the country.


said, he cordially supported the proposal to give a Member to the Royal University of Ireland.


said, that, taking, as he did, a great deal of interest in the question, he hoped the noble Earl in charge of the Bill (the Earl of Kimberley) might find it in his power to facilitate the application of his noble Friend. He did not disguise from himself that there was a great deal of practical difficulty surrounding the question; but, however much it might be, it could be overcome by the Government if they felt inclined to yield to the manifest wish of the Irish Peers. He agreed with the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn) that those who supported this proposal felt no hostility whatever to the existing representation of Dublin University, and he would appeal to the Government to leave this question to be decided by their Lordships. Indeed, if interference with that institution were necessarily involved, he should hesitate to adopt the present proposal. He would remind the Government that it was exceedingly desirable at the present time, even outside the merits of University representation, that wealth, education, and devotion to the institutions of the Empire should be represented, and the only place they could look with confidence for such representation would be the giving of a Member to the Royal University of Ireland. He would point out that the whole of the middle class education of Ireland which was not covered by the Dublin University was in the hands of this Royal University, and strongly appealed to their Lordships to give favourable consideration to the proposal of his noble Friend (Lord Emly).


said, there was such a general concurrence of opinion from those persons in the House who were willing and able to speak on behalf of the Royal University and its interests that it gave him great pleasure to hear that that institution was so successful. It had been said that the refusal to give the Royal University a Member in this Bill was to be regarded as casting an insult or slur upon it. For himself, he could not conceive a more unfortunate mode of looking at the matter, because the question was really one of the granting of a new privilege, and not of taking an old privilege away. If it had been a question of the taking of a privilege away, of course it would have been another matter, and then the argument might have held good. He had not a word to say in disparagement of this University Body. He had had no personal opportunity, of course, of acquainting himself with the working of the Royal University; but all that he had heard on the subject showed that the University was pursuing a most successful career. If anything could be done to strengthen the position of that University he should certainly be found a warm supporter of such a project consistent with other considerations of public policy; but, on the present occasion he was compelled to offer opposition to the wishes of the noble Lords who had preceded him. The reason why the Government could not accede to the request to give this University a Member was not owing to any considerations peculiar to that University; their refusal was based on broader grounds. Reference had been made to what was done in 1867, and to the contrast between the University of London and the present case. This was exactly the point of the whole question, because the contrast was with regard to the feeling which prevailed with regard to University representation generally. No doubt, 18 years ago, there was a general desire to give Members to Universities; but that feeling had materially changed since then, and at the present time there was a considerable and growing feeling against University representation at all—not only as regarded the representation of a new University like the Royal University of Ireland, which he admitted was worthy of great consideration, but against representation being continued in any form to the different Universities in the Kingdom. In the face of that feeling, therefore, Her Majesty's Government could not propose to Parliament any addition to the existing number of University Representatives. It was enough if the Universities could keep the Members they at present possessed, and no doubt they would have to fight hard to keep them; but to add to this representation was a proposition which could not be acceded to. Indeed, he was of opinion that to propose to give further University representation anywhere in the United Kingdom was a thing which anyone cognizant of the general feeling of the country would regard as impracticable and impolitic.


said, he did not take so gloomy a view of the prospects of University representation as the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley); and if it were true, as might be inferred from the speech of the noble Earl, that they would have to fight for their separate representation in the future, he ventured to hope, and almost to predict, that the Universities would find adequate assistance in their Lordships' House. He should, therefore, have been glad if it had been possible to have fulfilled the wish, which was entertained by many connected with the Royal University, to give it a Member; and he heartily echoed all that had been said as to the excellent work which this University had done, and the success it had achieved, and which had more than rewarded the anticipation of its promoters. Judging from that, it was heartily to be desired that some day or other the wisdom of Parliament should see fit to give this boon. He believed that the University Members, in view of the changes that were taking place in the bases on which Parliament was founded, would be more and more an important and salutary element in the Constitution and Councils of the nation; and he, for his part, thought they should be increased, and would be glad to see it done. The real difficulty to his mind, however, consisted in the fact that, being asked to give a University Member in this Bill which was already framed, the House was asked to undertake a series of changes which would lead their Lordships far astray, and plunge them into considerable difficulty. The House of Commons had been unwilling enough to make the increase in the numbers which had been asked; and he thought there was no chance of their giving this additional Member to oblige the Royal University. If, however, they were to give this additional Member, it must be taken from some other constituency; and where were they to find this constituency? He had been told that the first community to be considered in this respect was the flourishing town of Belfast. If that was the case, he fancied that the proposal to take a Member from Belfast was one which would hardly be consistent with that absolute unanimity in Ireland which they hoped for on Irish questions. He thought, therefore, that, without the slightest slur being cast upon the University, it would be impossible to assent to the proposal. He would ask his noble Friend (Lord Emly), should he think there was anything in the nature of a slur, to bear in mind that many years elapsed before the University of London received its Member. It had also to be remembered that Ireland had not suffered in any comparative inferiority in the number of University Members. She had a University Member to 2,500,000 of population; England had a University Member to every 5,000,000 of population. He did not think, therefore, they could be accused of any indifference to the claims of the Royal University, if they did not, at the present moment, in face of the difficulties which surrounded them, introduce the representation of this University in the Bill. He wished now to make an observation as to some of the Amendments which lay before their Lordships in Committee. They belonged principally to a class which he did not think excited the same passionate enthusiasm inside the walls of Parliament as they had excited outside. They belonged to the class of questions concerning the names of the future constituencies. It was very difficult to adjust the rival claims which, during the last few days, had been poured in upon them from all quarters. It was difficult to reconcile statements that often seemed to be conflicting; but there was one ground of consideration which seemed to him to be a predominant one, and that was the decision of the Royal Commissioners. One of the results of those colloquies to which the noble Earl had referred, with which Parliament had most reason to be satisfied, was the appointment of this Royal Commission. He did not believe, whichever Party were in power, that a more satisfactory system could have been adopted than that which resulted from the appointment of those impartial Commissioners, whose decision should be rigorously adhered to. As to the boundaries, that had been done. No one had impugned either the ability, or industry, or impartiality of the Commissioners. Indeed, he never knew a public body which performed so difficult a task in so short a time and with such general satisfaction. The House of Commons, to the great satisfaction of men of both political Parties, refused to interfere with the boundaries laid down by the Commissioners; and what had been done in that respect, it seemed to him, should also be done in the less important matter of the names. Several changes had, however, been made with regard to them; and while he confessed that he considered the principle which was good in the one case was good in the other, he should personally retreat from the responsibility of deciding on claims which he could not measure, by supporting, in all cases when pressed to a division, the decision of the Commissioners.

House in Committee.


Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.

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