HL Deb 14 May 1897 vol 49 cc453-63

Read a Second time.


moved:— That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill shall be referred (1) to omit Part IV. and Schedules; (2) to inquire into the advisability of extending the municipal franchise to all Parliamentary voters, and of providing that the burgess lists shall be revised and made up by the same persons and at the same time as the Parliamentary register, before the increased powers proposed to be given by the Bill are conferred upon the Corporation, and to make provisions in the Bill for same; and that they have power to make provisions for an amendment of the law as to the election and tenure of office of aldermen councillors, and as to the appointment and tenure of office of any officers annually elected by the Corporation, or appointed by any persons nominated by the Corporation. He said that on no less than three occasions hail a Bill of a similar character been presented to Parliament, and the Bill might appear at first sight innocuous and harmless. The first three provisions were as follows: (1) to borrow money for tire brigade purposes; (2) to enable the Corporation to compel the owner fir occupier of vacant land likely to be a nuisance to fence it in; and (3) to make further provision, with regard to the supply of water. Those three provisions had the hearty support of the section of the community whom he represented. But the Bill went a great deal further than that, because it interfered with the municipal franchise as it at present existed. Now, he submitted that the question of the franchise could only be dealt with by Parliament, and not by private individuals bringing in a Bill to promote the interests of a certain section of the community, and interfering with the right of franchise at present enjoyed by other sections. In support, of that doctrine he quoted declarations made by the Lord Chancellor and the Earl of Morley, as well as the Speaker of the House of Commons. At present, the rating qualification in Dublin was represented by the very smallest coin of the realm. It was divided into two sections, the ratepayers who paid £8 and over, and those who paid less. The ratepayers of £8 and over were automatically placed in the list or roll of burgesses, subject to their having paid their rates and fulfilled the residence qualification. In the case of those who paid less than £8, they had to prove the same conditions, but what he particularly drew attention to was that these rates were invariably paid by the landlord. Of course it might be said that these rates were taken into consideration in the rent, but the answer to that was that the rent taken would in no way be altered whether the rates were paid by the landlord or by the tenant. Consequently the tenant got considerably the better part of the bargain. But what was the result? The result was that those ratepayers who paid no rates whatever formed the great majority of Dublin burgesses. What would be the situation if his Instruction were not accepted? In the first place, the Town. Clerk would be forced to place on the roll every occupier, no matter what might be his period of residence. The real ratepayer who paid rates as tenant would be placed on a far worse footing, and at a great disadvantage as compared with the occupying tenant who paid no rates whatever. The Town Clerk would be forced to place upon the roll men who, he knew well, should be disqualified from having a vote at all, for the simple reason that they had not been in occupation sufficiently long to qualify them for a vote. The onus of disproving the right rested upon those who objected, and what would be the result? He was told on good authority that in July of next year 50 per cent, of the new voters would have changed their residence and lost their qualification, with the result that 15,000 additional voters, mostly bogus, would be added to the list of those who enjoyed the municipal franchise. Of course, it might be said that these voters could be objected to, but under the municipal franchise this involved personal service of the objection, and to prove that 15,000 objections had been served on 15,000 people by hand was not only a very tiresome but a very costly business. There was another point. Under this Bill, the Town Clerk received remuneration for preparing the list of those whom he proposed to add to the municipal franchise, and while he had every confidence in the present Town Clerk, he was not so confident that the Town Clerks who might be appointed in years to come would discharge their duties with the same impartiality. The Unionist Party in Dublin maintained that if the municipal franchise were to be altered and ameliorated it should be done by Parliament, and not by a Bill which was ostensibly to deal with the water supply of Dublin, but in reality meant to eliminate the Unionist majority in Dublin from the representation they at present enjoyed. At the present moment they could boast, only of 11 members out of 60. But if these 15,000 further voters were enfranchised, the Unionists would be absolutely eliminated. Perhaps it would be said to him, connected as he was with the North of Ireland, that this was the procedure which had been followed in Belfast and other cities where the Protestant element was paramount. He contradicted that argument. A franchise Bill had been recently passed which had given to the very small Nationalist minority in Belfast considerable representation on the Corporation. The same thing had taken place in Armagh and Derry; and, therefore, if the Nationalist Party, which was in a minority in these cities, were allowed that representation which he maintained a minority should always be allowed to have, the Unionist minority in Dublin had an equal claim to representation. It might be said, Why did not the Unionist Party in the House of Commons reject the Measure? The Unionists in Dublin had fully believed that the majority which they had helped to return to Parliament would see that their rights were not taken away; and that this Water Bill, with political clauses tacked on at the fag end, would have been denounced by the Chief Secretary. On the 30th March a whip was issued by the Unionist Whips in the House of Commons, stating that the Dublin Corporation Bill would be taken at the time of Private Business, and that an Amendment would be moved by Mr. Carson. The Dublin Unionists imagined from that that the Government were going to protect their rights. He did not wish to say a word derogatory of the Chief Secretary, but his right hon. Friend could not have understood the importance of the question when he said that he did not regard it as a Party question, and that everyone was to vote as he liked. In consequence of that declaration, and the fact that the Dublin Unionists did not issue a whip — which they would have done, had they known what line the Chief Secretary was going to take—the franchise clauses were carried by a very small majority. The feelings of the Dublin Unionists were very strong. A meeting was held by them on Monday last, presided over by the President of the Chamber of Commerce, and attended by one of the Governors of the Bank of Ireland, and by the most influential Unionists of the city; and that meeting had requested him to move these Instructions in the House of Lords, declaring that as they helped to return a majority of 150 in favour of Unionist principles they could not understand why that majority should consent to the elimination of Unionists in Dublin. He knew that certain noble Lords and intimate friends of his in the House of Commons would like to see the franchise extended to women, and objected to the line taken by Mr. Carson, because it excluded women. He would tell their Lordships in strict confidence that he was a very anti-woman voter—[laughter] —but he was not so narrow-minded as not to recognise the strength of the convictions of his friends who thought differently from him on that point. But why did they not get a Bill brought in to deal with the question, instead of supporting a Measure which was ostensibly a Water Bill? It was the duty of Parliament to deal with the question frankly, and not to allow it to be settled in a Private Bill. He maintained that the action of his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees was not, according to his own showing, advisable, and, according to the ruling of the Speaker of the House of Lords, that it was very near the line where it would be out of order. He should be perfectly willing to support the Bill without the franchise clauses; but so unjust did he think the treatment of the loyal minority in Dublin, that unless I hose clauses were withdrawn, he should ask their Lordships to support his Instruction.


said that his action in introducing this Bill was merely a part of his official duties as Chairman of Committees. He was in no way responsible for all the Private Bills which he from time to time introduced. His practice was, if a Bill were opposed on Second Reading, not to move the Second Reading; but as he presumed that this Bill was not opposed in principle, but that only part of it was opposed, he thought it his duty to introduce the Measure to their Lordships' notice. He was in no way responsible for what it had contained. He need not enter into the long question of the franchise, but he would state the history of the Bill, and the position of the question generally. As to the Instruction of his noble Friend, it had not of recent years been the practice in their Lordships' House to move mandatory Instructions to the Committees to which Private Bills were referred; and though his noble Friend was within his rights, he rather deprecated such a practice gaining ground. The second part of the Instruction seemed to go far beyond the scope of the Bill itself, and direct the Committee to introduce into the Bill matters which would not be covered by the notices issued with the Bill in November last; and on that ground, the Measure, if amended, as his noble Friend desired, would not be in accordance with the Standing Orders. As to the Bill itself, his noble Friend said quite justly I hat it was a Water Bill, and he adhered most strongly to the opinion which he expressed last year, that these franchise clauses should not be introduced into Private Bills. But at the same time, it was necessary to consider the circumstances and reasons which had led to their being introduced in this case. Last year the Bill was introduced in the House of Lords purely as a Water Bill. During its passage through the House of Commons the franchise clauses were introduced under a mandatory Resolution passed by the whole House. When the Bill came back to the House of Lords, their Lordships had no opportunity of discussing the new question raised, and there was no tune for any opponent to I the clauses to be heard. As the new clauses were not covered by the notices issued with the Bill in the previous November, they were so obviously out of order, that the Standing Orders Committee refused to dispense with the Standing Orders in respect of that portion of the Bill, and the Bill was returned to the House of Commons with those clauses struck out. The consequence was that the Bill was lost, and the Dublin Corporation spent its money in vain. This year the Water Bill was I reintroduced, but with a view of avoiding the catastrophe of last year, the Corporation put the franchise clauses into the original draft, and they were covered by the notices issued with the Bill in the previous November. The Bill was introduced first in the House of Commons, where an Instruction was carried by the whole House empowering the Committee to introduce another franchise clause giving the vote to women. The Bill came back to the House on Report with this additional clause inserted, and then a Motion was made for the omission of the franchise clauses altogether. That Motion was rejected; and, therefore, the Bill came to their Lordships' House with, the old franchise clauses and the new one expressly approved by the House of Commons. Though he entirely adhered to the opinion he had expressed on more than one occasion that it was undesirable to insert measures of this kind having a party and political character attached to them into private Bills, he asked the House to consider whether it was desirable, after what had passed in the House of Commons, to send back the Bill with the clauses omitted from it, with the almost certain result that the Bill would be again wrecked, that the money spent in promoting it would be lost, and the long-standing quarrel about water between Dublin and the surrounding districts would be left unsettled. Their Lordships might say that the franchise was of more importance than water. ["Hear, hear!"] He would not argue that question, but he would point out to the House that if the principle was for the first time embodied in the Bill, he would agree that the clauses should be expunged. But a Bill attempting to prove the present admittedly unsatisfactory condition of the Irish municipal franchise having unfortunately failed to pass into law, owing to the change of Government a few years ago, the result was that individual Irish boroughs had taken advantage of gas or water Bills to introduce modifications into their system of municipal franchise. That was done in the case of Belfast, Londonderry, Armagh, Drogheda, Waterford, and in the districts around Dublin, Blackrock, Rathmines, and Kingstown. Therefore, having those precedents in view, it was doubtful whether it could now be argued fairly that the municipal franchise must not be altered in private Bills. He did not wish to argue with his noble Friend as to the effect of the clauses. They were rather difficult to grasp, but, as he understood them, they did not alter the actual qualifications of the municipal electors, but created a new mode for their getting on the burgess roll. No doubt that alteration in procedure would have a large effect, but the franchise was not altered, and, having regard to the fact that the Measure had been passed by the House of Commons, that it did not establish a precedent, because, unfortunately, the precedent had been established in many cases before, and having regard also to the fact that, if the Instruction were passed, it would mean the almost certain destruction of the Bill, he thought the House would have some hesitation before accepting the Instruction.


said he did not give way to the noble Marquess in regard to his principles as a Unionist, and he knew very well who were the people who had whipped up the Irish Unionist Peers in this matter. But, after all, considering the relative numbers of Nationalists and Unionists in Dublin, the question of Unionist representation in the Corporation of Dublin was not of great importance. He would point out that the ratepayers of Dublin had already paid £10,000 in the promotion of Bills of a similar character to this, but which had failed to pass, and if the Instruction of the noble Marquess were carried, this Bill would also be wrecked. It was all very well to say the Unionists should have a representation on the Corporation of Dublin, but they must take matters as they found them in Dublin, and so long as matters remained as they were at, present, the Nationalists would continue to run the show in Dublin. He thought the Irish Unionist Alliance, of which he was a member, was a little hysterical about this question. In another whip that had been sent out by another Unionist Party in Dublin—the Unionist Burgesses—it was said that the Bill, if passed, would seriously discourage Unionist activity in Dublin, and that it would imperil the safety of the Unionist representation of the Stephen's Green Division in Parliament. With all due respect to those people, he should say that that was rubbish. He hoped the House would follow the advice given by Lord Morley, and allow the Bill to go through. Things were carried on in Ireland in a different way than they were carried on in this country. There were not in Ireland such sticklers for order as they were in England. But the Bill, as it stood, would not do that immense amount of harm to the Unionist cause in Dublin that the noble Marquess seemed to apprehend, and, on the other hand, he, who worked a great deal with the people of Dublin in many matters, was aware that it was a good Measure.


said he was not converted by the arguments of his noble Friend, which were curious arguments coming from a Unionist source. This Bill was primarily a water Bill. He had no wish to stand in the way of a good water supply to Dublin, where, although he was not a rated occupier, he spent a good deal of time during the year, and used a good deal of Dublin water. But he considered that the franchise clauses were more important than the water clauses. His reasons for supporting the Instruction, of the noble Marquess were that the proposed alteration in municipal franchise procedure would have the effect of creating a large number of faggot votes. He did not agree with the noble Marquess that the 15,000 votes that would be added to the franchise would be all faggot votes, but it was clear that a large proportion of them would be of that character. The result would be that the Unionist representation of Dublin would probably be reduced to nothing, and the largest ratepayers would have no voice in the spending of the rates. He had always held that taxation and representation should go together. That was considered a sound doctrine when he was young, but it was not fashionable now. He, however, still supported it, and for that reason he intended to vote for the Instruction of the noble Marquess.


said he would not have intervened in the Debate had not the noble Marquess referred to the Government opposition to his Instruction. He therefore merely wished to say that there was no Government opposition to the Instruction, neither was there any Government, approval of it.


said he was not disposed to withdraw from what he had said on a former occasion as to the inconvenience and irregularity of amending the municipal franchise law by means of private Bills intended to supply communities with gas or water. It was calculated to reduce what was a great public question —the question of how the franchise should be exercised by the community — into a mere local question between parties. He could not deny that Parliament had in the past allowed a certain number of boroughs in Ireland to reform their civic electoral system by means of private Bills, and it might be argued that it would not be fair, after allowing it in one case, to disallow it in another. If the Committee to whom the Bill was referred thought there were inappropriate provisions in it, it would be competent for them to strike them out if they liked, but this was a mandatory Instruction to the Committee, which did not give them discretion in the matter. He had read the Bill with great care, and he thought it needed to be so read, and there were some objections which he should entertain very strongly if he were sitting on the Committee. It would be open to the noble Marquess to move an Amendment to the Bill even after the Committee stage. He confessed it seemed to him to be a somewhat precipitate course to take from the Committee any discretion. He suggested to the noble Marquess that he should divide the Instruction into two parts, and deal with the second part afterwards.


entirely concurred with the noble and learned Lord as to the objection generally to the practice. He thought it was obviously inconvenient to deal with such a subject as municipal franchise in a. Bill of this kind. If the Bill went to a Committee there would be ample opportunity to amend any provisions, and on the Third Reading the House might deal with it as it thought proper. He thought nothing was more objectionable than that municipal matters should be considered with reference to the divisions of political parties in this country. [Cheers.] An alteration in the franchise should not be made with reference to any consideration whatever as to whether the alterations would be in favour, or not, of the Unionist, Nationalist, or any other party in Dublin, but simply on the ground of whether the whole population in a municipality was or was not fairly represented. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he quite agreed with what had been said by the last speaker, and by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on the subject of introducing politcal considerations into gas and waer Bills; but the argument appeared to him to be an extraordinary one, that because the Houses of Parliament had committed an error once or twice—[cheers]—that error should be perpetuated for all time. That was an unfortunate position to adopt. He was quite willing to incur the slight inconvenience which might result from voting for the noble Marquess's Instruction and disregarding the other precedents.


said he entirely concurred with that part of the Bill which dealt with the subject of water, but he entirely disapproved of that part which dealt with municipal or political matters. He had desired to divide his Instruction into two parts, and if he had been defeated on the first part he had intended to divide the House on second part. He entirely dissociated from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he would ask the House to accept the first part of the Instruction, and if that wore carried he would drop the second part. He entirely disassociated himself from the political question, which he thought had been introduced for Party purposes.

The House divided on the Motion, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill shall be referred to omit Part IV. and Schedules."

Canterbury, L. Abp. Egerton, L.
Erskine, L.
Rutland, D. Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)
Hertford, M. Harlech, L.
Zetland, M. Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)
Hindlip, L.
Belmore, E. [Teller.] Hopetoun, L. (Hopetoun.)
Cranbrook, E.
de Montalt, E. Hothfield, L.
Feversham, E. Leconfield, L.
Minto, E. Lilford, L.
Rosse, E. Lingen, L.
Stanhope, E. Llangattock, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry).[Teller.] Loch, L.
Macnaghten, L.
Verulam, E. Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)
Bangor, V. Monckton, L. (V. Gulway.)
Falmouth, V.
Halifax, V. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Hood, V.
Sidmouth, V. Mostyn, L.
Templetown, V. Mount Stephen, L.
Norton, L.
Ely, L. Bp. Penrhyn, L.
St. Albans, L. Bp. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborouth.)
Ashburton, L. Rathmore, L.
Ashcombe, L. Bowton, L.
Barnard, L. St. Levan, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Shute, T,. (V. Barrington.)
Calthorpe, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.) Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Clarina, L.
Clinton, L. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Clonbrock, L. Suffield, L.
Colchester, L. Ventry, L.
Colville of Culross, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)
Connemara, L.
Cottesloe, L.
Halsbury, (L. Chancellor.) Brougham and Vaux L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Chelmsford, L.
Coleridge, L.
Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.) Digby, L.
Dorchester. L.
Hawkesbury, L.
Lansdowne, M. Heneage, L.
Herries, L.
Camperdown, E. Herschell, L
Ducie, E. James. L.
Kimberley, E. Kenry, L. (Earl Dunraven and Mount Earl)
Lauderdale, E.
Leven and Melville, E. Kinnaird, L.
Mayo, E.[Teller.] Lawrence, L.
Morley, E. Leigh, L.
Onslow, E. Magheramorne, L.
Romney, E. Monkswell, L. [Teller]
Selborne, E. Northbourne, L.
Spencer, E. Playfair, L.
Stamford, E. Reay, L.
Waldegrave, E. Sinclair, L.
Stanmore, L.
Oxenbridge, V. Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)
Powerscourt, V.
Teynham, L.
Balfour, L. Wenlock, L.
Belper, L. Wentworth, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and ordered accordingly.


Does the noble Marquess move the second part of the Instruction?