HL Deb 20 May 1890 vol 344 cc1382-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have postponed moving the Second Reading of this Bill until to-day, as there was some delay in the printing of it, and I very nearly had a somewhat similar Bill thrown out on a former occasion on account of its not being in the hands of Members of the House. This Bill is drafted from a small Local Government Bill for Belfast. Before the time of the introduction of that measure, there was, I believe, a system of cumulative voting. People had not in that part of the Kingdom rights such as are possessed in England, and the Earl of Erne introduced into that Bill a clause that women should count in the same proportion as men as voters. That measure was passed. If the Bill which I have now laid before your Lordships were carried the women would have more votes than the men, but that is very far from my wish in this or in any proposal I have ever made for extending the franchise to women. Your Lordships remember the play of Aristophanes, in which the women robbed the men of their clothes, appeared in them, and outvoted their husbands, and the poor men were left to put on the women's clothes. I do not wish the women to have any undue advantages. I only contend that this is a measure of justice. As the Duke of Buckingham said to me on presenting my Bill applying to women, "It is a step in the right direction, but the country is not yet ripe for woman suffrage." The principle of this Bill has, I believe, been the foundation of the Local Government Bill of England—the right of voting given to women both in England and in Scotland is founded upon this small, piece meal measure. As ratepayers, they have as much right to vote as men. L find that the right to vote extended to married women in Scotland is not exercised by them, and that very little enthusiasm has been excited amongst them at the possession of that right. My Lords, if you pass this Bill you can do no injury to anyone. I would urge your Lordships to do away with prejudice and grant the Bill a second Reading, as an innocent measure, a small instilment of justice, and something of which you may be proud rather than ashamed. We have great facilities for bringing forward and passing measures in this House; whereas in the other House of Paliament, where I am told there is a similar Bill pending at the present time, there are great and constant obstacles.

Moved, "That the Hill he now read 2ª".


My Lords, in the somewhat general observations which the noble Lord has addressed to the House he did not say much—hardly anything at ail-about the Bill he has introduced, or the clauses it contains. I think it would probably be in accordance with the wish of the House, and probably of the noble Earl himself, that I should implicitly follow his example. As far as I have soon, the Bill is almost identical with that which he introduced last year. I told him on that occasion that his method was merely fragmentary, dealing with but a small though, perhaps, not unimportant portion of the much larger subject of the Municipal Franchise in Ire-land, and I also told him that the subject was not one which could be dealt with in a Bill of the character introduced by the noble Lord. I have nothing to add to the answer I gave on that occasion, and I am afraid I am under the painful necessity of again moving the rejection of this Bill. I move that the House read this Bill a second time this day six months.

Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months") (The Lord Privy Seal [E Cadogan]): On question that ("now") stand part of the Motion, resolved in the negative: Bill to be read 2a this day six months.