§ House in Committee (according to Order).
§ Clauses 1 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
§ On Clause 13 (As to constitution of polling districts).
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY,
in moving, as an Amendment, in page 9, line 13, to leave out from the word "districts" to end of Sub-section 2, said, that, by the part of the clause in question, it was proposed to deprive magistrates in Quarter Sessions of the power of fixing the polling districts for the whole of a county. They enjoyed this power by the present law, and he wished them to continue in the enjoyment of the power, as he did not approve the provision in the clause that the magistrates in Quarter Sessions should appoint for each division of a county a special committee of justices resident in the division to fix the polling districts in it. This proposal was not in the original draft of the Bill, but was introduced in Committee in the other House without much discussion; and it was a change in the law which, in his opinion, might tend to great inconvenience. Further than that, it was totally uncalled for, and must lead to considerable delay. Polling districts were now, in many counties, fixed by committees, to whom the magistrates, as a body, delegated the duty. Many such committees were already at work, and their labours would be rendered fruitless if the clause were not amended. To reject his proposal 890 would be tantamount to suspending the power of fixing polling districts until the end of June. Such a postponement was very undesirable, seeing that everybody was most anxious that the machinery of registration should be got into order as soon as possible. A better course would be to revert to the existing law by which the polling districts were fixed by magistrates in Quarter Sessions. Moreover, supposing, after the committee had been named, one of the members changed his residence, and left the division, he apprehended there would be considerable doubt whether all the proceedings of the committee would not be vitiated by that fact.
§ Amendment moved, in page 9, line 13, to leave out from ("districts") to end of Sub-section (2).—[The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he thought that the loss of time to which the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had referred would not be so serious as he imagined, and that in a great degree it would be obviated by the other provisions of the Bill. For instance, the clause would not deprive the justices in Quarter Sessions of the jurisdiction which they now possessed with reference to polling districts; for the printed reports of the committee would have to go before the magistrates for consideration; and now that counties were to be divided, it was surely desirable that the duty of fixing the polling districts in each division should be imposed, in the first instance, upon persons intimately acquainted with the locality. If the Committee left out that portion of the subsection, as it stood, he thought it would be necessary to introduce an Amendment which had been moved by Mr. Stanhope in the other House with regard to county divisions extending over more than one area.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he thought that suggestion reasonable. But with regard to the other matter, as he understood it, the Court of Quarter Sessions was to appoint a committee, and it could only do so when it met at the end of June. Then the committee had to report, and it could only report 891 when the Court of Quarter Sessions met again in October. There was no Court of Quarter Sessions in the country which did not act on the principle of appointing to perform a duty those magistrates who were most conversant with the subject. He was not sure that in Lancashire there were magistrates resident in all the Parliamentary divisions; and, further than that, there might be only one magistrate in the division, who would thus be the committee under the clause.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
said, that the Court of Quarter Sessions was to take this matter into consideration not later than one month after the passing of the Act, and it was expected that the Bill would be passed in a day or two; therefore, there would not be the delay which the noble Marquess opposite anticipated. It must be desired by noble Lords on both sides that the polling places should be as convenient as possible; and, therefore, it would be necessary to have local inquiries as to the most convenient places.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that the justices might do those things at any time, at a special Sessions held for the purpose; and need not act in Quarter Sessions, properly so called.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, that already the county divisions had ample opportunities of making their wants known, for there were officers who were acquainted with every district; and to have travelling committees, going about making inquiries in different districts, would not be required. It was much better to leave the law as it was, and to throw the responsibility on the Court of Quarter Sessions.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, that the magistrates assembled in General or Quarter Sessions were fully cognizant of local requirements, and quite competent to determine what the polling places for the county should be. They possessed all the knowledge required for the purpose of arranging the districts to suit the geographical convenience of the county. In his own county of Kent the polling places had been already arranged, and were to be finally adopted at Sessions on June 25. If such an Amendment as proposed were carried, it would lead to great loss of valuable time, and the work would not be done as well. At present only the convenience of the new 892 voters was considered, with the concurrence of both political Parties, in determining the necessary polling places.
§ On Question? Resolved in the negative.
§ Amendment agreed to.
On the Motion of The LORD CHANCELLOR, Amendment made by inserting at end of clause—
Provided that in divisions of counties which extend over more than one area, the authority having power to fix polling stations shall he at liberty to combine with justices of the other area for that purpose.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 14 (As to expenses in case of divided county jurisdiction), agreed to.
§ Clause 15 (Repeal of s. 78 of 2 Will. c. 4).
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that in the Reform Act of 1832, by an anomaly of a strange character which it was not easy to understand, the University buildings of Oxford and Cambridge had been excluded from the right of furnishing an occupation qualification in the borough in which they were situated. That anomaly had remained undisturbed to this day, and it had only been called into prominence now because there had been an attempt made to produce an equality in this respect between the two Kingdoms, and to extend the same disqualification to Dublin. The extreme absurdity of the matter had then been brought to light, and the view was adopted that not only Dublin University, but Oxford and Cambridge also, should have an occupation franchise for University buildings like any other buildings. The obvious common-sense arrangement was adopted that no matter what station a man occupied he should be entitled to the occupation franchise; but at a later stage, by a small majority, that decision had been reversed, and the curious disqualification had been put into the Bill that persons of 21, who were occupiers of buildings in the boroughs of Oxford or Cambridge, should be disfranchised if it happened to be the case that they had not taken a certain degree in the University of Oxford or Cambridge. At a time when they were admitting almost to manhood suffrage many uneducated labourers in all parts of the country, and when they had made the suffrage so wide that it 893 was difficult to see how it could be made wider, at this time they were laying down this exception—that the only people who wore not capable citizens were persons at Oxford and Cambridge who had not passed a certain educational examination.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, his noble Friend beside him (Viscount Cranbrook) suggested that it was a "fancy franchise"—in his own opinion it was worse than a fancy franchise, it was a fancy disfranchisement. It was difficult to conceive what could have induced the other House to accept it. He knew that certain dignitaries at the Universities had objected to the extension of the franchise to undergraduates, on the ground that it would interfere with the discipline of the University; but that was a matter for those excellent dignitaries themselves to take care of. A more extraordinary argument had never been submitted to them before than that Parliament should be asked to refuse a right, and to disfranchise people who were as capable citizens as any, because it would interfere with the dignified persons who managed the discipline of the two Universities. Nor was this opinion universal on the part of the rulers of the Universities. He had received a memorial from Queen's College, most earnestly deprecating the setting aside of the franchise upon grounds of this description. He had very little doubt that the House would remove this unmerited stigma from the undergraduates. The Amendment which he would propose would remove not only the action of the Reform Act, but also that of certain local Acts, which, travelling on the lines of that Act, had renewed the disqualification. He would, therefore, move a provision that no person should be excluded by the operation of any Act of Parliament from the Register of voters in respect of the Colleges and Halls of Oxford or Cambridge. This provision would affect not only undergraduates, but all others.
In page 11, line 5, to leave out ("entitled to "be,") and insert ("prevented by any other Act from being.")—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."894
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had maintained that it was impossible that any argument could be brought against the arrangement which he had proposed, and that the anomaly of the existing system was utterly absurd. It seemed to him (the Lord Chancellor), however, that there were reasons which might induce their Lordships to think that it was not so entirely anomalous and absurd as the noble Marquess would load their Lordships to believe. The noble Marquess had spoken of a fancy disfranchisement. If he (the Lord Chancellor) had himself thought that these undergraduates were disfranchised because they were supposed to be less capable citizens than any others, he would not have had one word to say for the clause; but it appeared to him to be practically consistent with the full recognition of their capacity. They must bear in mind the University franchise, which enabled the Universities to return two Members each to the House of Commons. These young men were there, not because they were inhabitants of, or in any natural or permanent way connected with the town, but because they belonged to the University. For his own part, he rejoiced that the separate representation of the Universities had been maintained; but he thought that, when it was retained, their Lordships ought to be very careful how they mixed up these young men in statu pupillari with the town or borough franchise. It might be a serious grievance to the electors of the town or borough of Oxford or Cambridge if they wore swamped by these young men coming upon the Register. Again, it was of the greatest importance that there should be no ill-blood or ill-feeling between the town and the University. The elder members of the University might be trusted to behave themselves in such a manner as to avoid any chance of exciting such feelings; but he felt certain that the interference of 3,000 persons in statu pupillari, comprising an addition of a really and substantially extraneous body to the town constituency, was a thing that would be resented as an injury, and would interrupt the harmony which it was so important to preserve between the University and all its members on the one hand and the town on the other.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, he would point out that graduates as lodgers in the boroughs would be entitled to vote. Not only that; but he thought that it was an extraordinary thing that the Government, after assenting to the students of Trinity College, Dublin, having votes, should object to students under similar circumstances at Oxford or Cambridge being enfranchised. The noble and learned. Earl had brought forward as an argument against it the fear that the undergraduates would conduct themselves badly. In the first place, it would not be the case that all these 3,000 students would have votes; in fact, very few would have votes. Then, again, those that would have them were educated young men, and Ministers of the Crown did not scruple to stimulate them to be enthusiastic in political affairs. What else, he would like to know, could be the meaning of the Prime Minister and the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville) going down to the Palmerston Club at Oxford and enforcing upon its members the high, importance of their giving vent to their political opinions? Now, however, the very first opportunity they had of giving those gentlemen the franchise, the Government turned round upon their young protégés, and said that these highly educated Liberals were not to be entitled to vote. He trusted that their Lordships would not be led away by the arguments which had been brought forward. It was proposed practically to impose a fancy franchise, by only allowing those to have a vote who had taken a degree—a course which had been so strongly condemned by the present Government. The fact was that when they had gone that length it was quite absurd to shut out those young men. It would be a most unseemly exclusion, and he hoped that their Lordships would scout it.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, this was not a Party question, and, on the whole, although he saw some objection to undergraduates being allowed to vote, yet he thought the arguments against disfranchisement prevailed, and he would vote for the Amendment.
said, he wished to put the case that, under the Amendment, a Peer, who was an undergraduate, might be entitled to vote.
said, that the right of a Peer to vote at elections for Members of Parliament had often been claimed by the late Duke of Buccleuch; and his (Lord Denman's) noble Predecessor had always maintained that Peers had the right to vote, being only illegally prevented by a Resolution of the House of Commons, and it was quite clear the right of a Peer to vote was intact. He trusted they would not allow themselves to be bullied by one-sided Resolutions from either House of Parliament. With regard to students at all Universities, if of age, they should be allowed to vote. At the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow even minors, who attended classes, voted for the Lord Rector, as they had happily done in the candidature of Sir Stafford North.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that after the discussion which had taken place, seeing they were divided amongst themselves, he would not put the House to the trouble of dividing.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On the Motion of The Marquess of SALISBURY, further Amendment made:—In page 11, line 8, by leaving out from ("Cambridge") to end of clause.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 16 (Repeal of enactments).
in rising to move the omission of the clause, said, it would make the first inroad upon what he thought was a most important principle. That principle was that the acceptance of Poor Law relief should entail such a dependence as to disqualify a man for the exercise of the franchise; and he hoped that Parliament would be very careful before it broke down that principle. At least, the onus of proving that it was desirable rested upon those who wished to make that very great change. It had been attempted to argue that the acceptance of medical relief from the rates was quite different in its essence from the acceptance of other parochial relief. He could not admit that to be so; and, moreover, he knew that the acceptance of medical relief was I very often the commencement of the acceptance of poor relief upon a much 897 larger scale. It was therefore most important, as far as they could, to keep up the idea that the acceptance of that relief did degrade a man, and made him dependent on others in a way which unfitted him for the franchise. If that clause were allowed to stand in the Bill, there would grow up in the country a feeling that the acceptance of parochial medical relief did not imply the same degradation as the acceptance of other forms of parish relief, and Boards of Guardians would be led into giving that kind of relief where it ought not to be given. It was said that it was very hard if a man, on account of the illness of his child, or of his wife, or through meeting with an accident, took medical relief, and found himself disfranchised in consequence. But, on the other hand, it was very undesirable that Parliament should give any colour to the idea that men were not to make provision for such emergencies, whether by means of friendly societies, clubs, or provident institutions; and he was assured that, if that clause were allowed to remain in the Bill, great damage would be done to that kind of society in many parts of the country. In some of the lower class of benefit clubs, there was a rule that no assistance should be given until a man had done all he could to get something out of the rates; and if that clause were passed there would be an additional premium offered to societies to adopt rules of that kind. As to the alleged hardship of disqualifying a man who had accepted medical relief, it should be remembered that the man might afterwards recover his independence, and that the disqualification would only attach to him for one year, and he would be in no worse position than if he had changed his place of residence from one part of the country to another. That clause was not in the Bill when the measure was first introduced by the Government. It was proposed in Committee in the other House on May 6, and after considerable debate, in a full House, it was rejected by 170 to 102 votes. Only sis days later, at a subsequent stage, the proposal was renewed in a much smaller House, and almost by surprise during the dinner hour, with the result that the clause was inserted by 87 against 50. The division comparatively was a very small one, and, he considered, afforded no test of the real feeling of the House of Commons; 898 and he claimed the support of the Government to his Amendment on the ground that in both the divisions in the other House the only Cabinet Minister present, Sir Charles Dilke, voted against the clause, as also did the Attorney General and various subordinate Members of the Government. He would also point out that no such proposal as this was made for Scotland; and, judging from what ho knew of the nature of the Poor Law in that country, ho did not think it was possible for such a proposal to be made. He knew that he would be told that it was dangerous for their Lordships to take away with the one hand what was given with the other; but he ventured to say, from what he knew of the working classes chiefly affected by the Bill, especially in Scotland, that they were the last people who would desire to see persons enfranchised who accepted aid out of the rates. He maintained that a provision of that kind constituted a great breach of the principle which had always been adhered to by Parliament up to that time, and he believed no material hardship would be inflicted if his proposal was agreed to. The history of the clause gave it no title whatever to any great consideration at the hands of their Lordships, and he hoped they would agree to the omission of the clause.
§ Moved, "To leave out Clause 16."—(The Lord Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, "That Clause 16 stand part of the Bill?"
THE EARL OF BELMORE
said, that inasmuch as the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill contained a similar clause, and he was sure it would lead to great abuse in Ireland, and inasmuch as the retention of that clause would be governed by the decision of the House with regard to the English Bill, he should support the Motion.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR,
in opposing the Amendment, said, that the Government were influenced in the course they had taken in the other House by a desire to keep out of the Bill contentious matter, especially where it related to questions not germane to the principle of the measure. Though he would not say that the Government would not take a division on the clause, they preferred to leave the question to be determined on its merits, and he 899 thought they were acting quite consistently in not making themselves parties to its omission. The clause had not been maintained in the Bill exclusively by votes of adherents of the Government; the assistance of Conservatives as well as others had been given in favour of the provision. He had no disposition, however, to conceal from their Lordships the fact that there were arguments to be brought forward on both sides of the question. The general argument urged by the noble Lord who moved the omission of the clause (Lord Balfour) was entitled to considerable weight—that was, the sound and general principle that persons who came on the poor rates should not exercise the franchise. But the question really was whether that was, in principle, a material departure from that sound and general principle; and whether there were not reasons which tended to show that that was a case in which an exception might be made. An important consideration in favour of the clause was that, by the Franchise Act, they placed the householders of the county in the same position as the poorer householders in the borough. In boroughs and cities it happened, certainly not universally, but, at all events, so frequently as almost to be the general rule, that there were hospitals or dispensaries, easily accessible to persons in need of medical relief, where they could, and did, obtain that medical aid with reasonable and proper facilities, and who were not disfranchised for obtaining relief of that kind. In counties similar institutions were not so easily accessible; and if they struck out the clause they would place the poorer householders of the rural districts at a disadvantage in comparison with the poorer householders of the boroughs, who would be enabled to go to the dispensaries or the hospitals, and there obtain what in rural districts could only be obtained by means of the Poor Law medical officers.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
supported the omission of the clause. He could not altogether agree with the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack that the poor electors in towns would be placed in a better position than the poor householders in the rural districts, inasmuch as in the towns there were dispensaries and other 900 modes of obtaining medical relief which were not accessible in the same way to the poor inhabitants of the rural districts. He objected to the clause, because it gave a wrong impression as to what would be its effect. It provided that.—Medical or surgical assistance, or the giving of medicine, shall not be deemed to constitute parochial relief within the meaning of the Representation of the People Acts.He wished to know, however, whether the noble and learned Earl was aware of the fact that in almost every ease in which a poor person, either for himself, or wife, or child, received medical relief it was almost invariably connected with the receipt of wine and meat on behalf of the person who was unwell? They could not lose sight of the fast that in most cases the doctor prescribed not medicine alone, but wine and mutton chops and other medical comforts. The result would be that, in rural districts, whereas one labourer receiving medical assistance only would retain his right to vote, another, living next door, if ordered in addition meat and wine, would, under the clause, be disfranchised. In trying to evade it there could be little doubt great abuses would arise.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he was quite ready to admit that persons receiving what the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) termed "medical comforts" would not come within the benefit of this clause, and that they would consequently be disfranchised; but it would be very hard if, because a man broke his leg and obtained surgical assistance, he should be disfranchised.
said, that the noble Duke the late Lord President of the Council (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon), on a former occasion, had stated that Poor Law relief, being contrary to the principle of the Poor Law, must be a disqualification; but he (Lord Denman) thought that in a measure of enfranchisement it ought not to deprive householders of their votes.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that both the clause under notice and the statement of the noble and learned Earl upon the Woolsack fully illustrated the extreme inconvenience of the course taken by the Government. If a 901 change in the law was to be made on an important point like that, it ought to be made by the Government themselves, carefully drafting a clause. Instead of that, the Government, after resisting, apparently ineffectively, a clause proposed by a private Member in the House of Commons, when it came to their Lordships' House, at once turned round and insisted that that House should also adopt it. Even if their Lordships passed the clause, the difficulty complained of by his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) would not be removed, as "medical comforts" would still disqualify a man; and, as a matter of fact, there seldom was a case in which a person who mot with an accident and received surgical assistance did not receive medical comforts in the form of wine and other things, as well as medicine. And since, as the noble and learned Earl opposite said, the receipt of such things would disqualify a voter, that clause was a mere mockery, for it would seem to enfranchise where it really would not, for that which was only a portion of the treatment of a case would disqualify a man. If they meant that medical relief should not disqualify from the franchise, they should, at least, go so far as to say that all that was necessary to the cure should be included in the enfranchising clause. This was a half-measure, which would merely disappoint people; and, though calling in question an important principle, would practically enfranchise no human being. It seemed to him to be a very unwise proposition to put into an Act of Parliament.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
desired to point out again that the effect of the clause would be this—that one man who received medical assistance and medicine would get a vote; while his neighbour, because his illness had been more severe, and he had received wine and other medical comforts, would be disfranchised.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, the arguments of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) only went to show that the clause would not enfranchise so many persons as was at first sight supposed. He agreed that the clause would not cover medical comforts.
§ On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 47; Not-Contents 72: Majority 25.903
|Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Hammond, L.|
|Howth, L. (E. Howth.)|
|Bedford, D.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Kenmare,L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Kenry,L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Northampton, M.||Lawrence, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Leigh, L.|
|Derby, E.||Lyttelton, L.|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Jersey, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Morley, E.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Sydney, E.||Sandhurst, L. [Teller.]|
|Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)|
|Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Acton, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]||Thurlow, L.|
|Carlingford, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Crewe, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Ettrick, L. (L. Napier.)||Wrottesley, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Hawarden, V.|
|Grafton, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Richmond, D.||Melville, V.|
|Abereorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Strathallan, V.|
|Bristol, M.||Amherst, L.(V. Holmesdale.)|
|Balfour of Burley, L. [Teller.]|
|Bathurst, E.||Borthwick, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)|
|Belmore, E. [Teller.]|
|Camperdown, E.||Bramwell, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Braybrooke, L.|
|Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)|
|Feversham, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Harewood, E.||Clinton, E.|
|Harrowby, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Northesk, E.||de Ros, L.|
|Orkney, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Powis, E.||Forester, L.|
|Ravensworth, E.||Gerard, L.|
|Redesdale, E.||Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetown.)|
|Stanhope, E.||Howard de Walden, L.|
|Exmouth, V.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Leconfield, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Monk Bretton, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Norton, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Raglan, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Rayleigh, L.||Tollemache, L.|
|Rowton, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)||Watson, L.|
|Saltoun, L.||Winmarleigh L.|
|Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative; clause left out of the of the Bill.
§ Remaining Clauses agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ The Report of the Amendments to be received To-morrow; and Standing Order No. XXXV. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with: Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 120.)