§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2ª."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)
said, he had taken great interest in the Reform Bill of 1867; it was read a second time in one night, although Viscount Halifax moved a Resolution against it. He (Lord Denman) would never move a Resolution; but he held in his hand the Reform Bill of 1831, with the words, in his Predecessor's handwriting—"The first of the Reform Bill was drawn by me." It contained 60 clauses and 10 Schedules, and it was stated that at first His Majesty King William IV. only approved of Schedule A. Every Commission was included in the Bill, which consisted of 60 clauses and 10 Schedules. This Bill of 28 clauses and eight Schedules was faulty in principle and detail. The principle of single Members was proved faulty by the two Members for 597 South Derbyshire (Sir Henry Wilmot and Mr. Evans) joining to restore, as far as could be the old names to the divisions; and the attempt to reject students of Dublin University past 21 years of age was an attempt to reject duly qualified persons as voters, while the exclusion of duly qualified women showed that those who inhabited their houses might vote rather than their employers, who unlike them, paid rates and taxes. He especially condemned the mode in which the counties were cut up into slices by the Bill as utterly fallacious; and pointed out that what rendered Mr. (afterwards Lord) Brougham, so formidable in the House of Commons was the fact that he represented the whole of Yorkshire. The late Lord (since Earl) Cairns in 1807, notwithstanding the opposition of the Government, carried a scheme for representing minorities by preventing voters from giving more than two votes out of three; and he (Lord Denman) tried to prevent Birmingham from having more Members than Sheffield. He hoped their Lordships would condescend to look into Hansard—especially Vols. 291, 292, and 293—for what he said on the Franchise Bill, and not trust to any newspaper report, as all his remarks were perverted. He gave Notice that when the Motion was made for going into Committee, he would move, as an Amendment, that the House should go into Committee that day six months.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I am anxious to place the Committee stage of the Bill for an early day. There are really very strong reasons why the Bill should pass through its various stages quickly; because it is obvious that registration depends upon the timely issue of the precepts to the officers of the different districts. I should, therefore, have been very glad to have induced the House to proceed with the Bill at once, believing there would not be much difficulty in Committee, although I daresay there will be some discussion of Amendments in regard to the names, which have excited an enormous amount of discussion in the other House. I am afraid that the noble Marquess and noble Lords opposite may think, in the circumstances, that it would be impossible to proceed with the Bill in Committee on Monday; and, that being the case, I shall hare no alternative but to 598 yield to the wishes of the noble Marquess on the subject.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I feel very strongly the force of the considerations to which the noble Earl has alluded, and how necessary it is that this Bill should pass early into law. At the same time, it is necessary to remember that this Bill has been under very careful consideration in the other House; and I think it would not be proper for a Bill of this character to pass without being subjected to the most careful consideration of Members of your Lordships' House. I think such a course all the more necessary, because the Bill came into existence by a somewhat abnormal process. It came, so far as its main provisions are concerned, into existence by the agreement of the Leaders of the two Parties in both Houses of Parliament; and, therefore, it becomes all the more necessary that the other Members of the House should have the fullest opportunity of discussing, examining, and deciding its details, lest it should seem that we had taken upon ourselves a responsibility and power which we had no right to take, and which we could not claim, and should appear to hustle the Bill through. I think, in order to avoid any suspicion of that kind, it is not of much importance the saving of a few days to which the noble Earl refers. I hope the noble Earl will allow us till the first or second day after the holidays to go into Committee. I believe after the Bill has been examined and dealt with by the House no formidable alteration will be made in it, and that the main stage will be got through with considerable rapidity.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he still felt, and he was glad to see the noble Marquess himself felt, the real urgency of passing the Bill. At the same time, the considerations to which the noble Marquess referred had considerable weight, especially as to the mode with which, no doubt, this Bill was originally agreed to. He confessed it was not unreasonable on the part of the House that they should require a fair time for the consideration of the Bill; and, no doubt, if they proceeded with it at once, it might possibly have the appearance of haste. It was unfortunate that the Whitsuntide holidays intervened and caused a break in their 599 Sittings; but, upon the whole, he thought he had no choice in the matter but to yield to the request of the noble Marquess, and to fix Monday, June 8, for the Committee on the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
expressed the hope that with regard to a Bill of this importance, the noble Earl would be prepared, on the Motion for going into Committee, to make a statement in regard to its provisions.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he thought that in the present small attendance it would be more respectful and more convenient to the House to make his statement on going into Committee, because the Bill was essentially one of detail.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2ª accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday the 8th of June next.