§ Commons Amendment in lieu of a previous Amendment disagreed to by the Lords and Commons Reason for disagreeing to one of the Lords Amendments to the Commons Amendments to the Lords Amendments considered (according to order).
§ Commons Amendment to Lords Amendment.
§ After clause A, inserted by the Lords as a consequential amendment, insert the following new clause D—
§ D. Every payment of an assessment by an owner under or in pursuance of the provisons of the immediately preceding section shall, notwithstanding any deduction which the assessing authority is required to allow therefrom, be deemed a payment of the full assessment by the occupier for the purpose of any qualification or franchise which depends on such payment. Provided that where an owner who is responsible therefor omits or neglects to pay any such assessment, the occupier may pay the same and deduct the amount from the rent due or accruing due to the owner, and the receipt for such assessment shall be a valid discharge of the rent to the extent of the assessment so paid. And provided further that all provisions of any Act with respect to notice to be given of occupiers' assessments in arrear shall apply to occupiers of premises capable of conferring any franchise are aforesaid, although the owner of such premises are responsible for the occupiers' assessments thereon.
§ The Commons do not insist on this Amendment, to which the Lords have disagreed, but propose to insert in lieu there of the following new clause D, viz.:—
§ D. Every payment in pursuance of the provisions of the immediately preceding section shall be deemed a payment of the full assessment by the occupier for the purpose of any franchise which depends on such payment: Provided that where an owner who is responsible therefor omits or neglects to pay any such assessment, the occupier may pay the same and deduct the amount from the rent due or accruing due to the owner, and the receipt for such assessment shall be a valid discharge of the rent to the extent of the assessment so paid; and provided further that all provisions of any Act with respect to notice to be given of occupiers' assessments in arrear shall apply to occupiers of premises capable of conferring any franchise as aforesaid, notwithstanding that the owners of such premises are responsible for the occupiers' assessments thereon.
§ Lords Amendment to Commons Amendment to Lords Amendment.
§ In new clause A inserted by the Lords—
§ Line 96, after paragraph (iii) insert the following new subsection, viz.:—
§ (4)—(i) If an owner who has undertaken by agreement with the occupier to pay any assessment on his behalf omits or neglects to pay it, the occupier may pay the same and deduct the amount from the rent due or accruing due to the owner, and the receipt for such assessment shall be a valid discharge of the rent to the extent of the assessment so paid.1379
§ (ii) An owner shall not be called upon nor be liable to pay any assessment imposed by a parish council on behalf of an occupier under or in virtue of the provisions of this section until after the twentieth day of June next following the imposition of the assessment.
§ (iii) All provisions of any Act with respect to notice to be given of occupiers' assessments in arrear shall apply to occupiers of premises capable of conferring any qualification or franchise, although the owners of such premises are responsible for the occupiers' assessments thereon.
§ The Commons disagree to this Amendment for the following reason:—
§ Because the Amendment combined with the consequential omission of Clause D, previously inserted by the Commons, would cause financial inconvenience to parish councils, and would operate to disfranchise occupiers who pay parish rates by instalments along with the rent.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (LORD PENTLAND)
My Lords, I beg to move that this House do agree with the new Clause D which is printed in italics on the Paper issued to your Lordships. Perhaps it may be permissible for me, in making this Motion, to explain very briefly why the Government propose to take up this position. My noble friend the Lord Steward pointed out, in the discussion on the Development Bill, that the Government are at a disadvantage in these discussions from the fact that the Amendments to which they have either here or in another place agreed are not brought to your Lordships' notice on this the last occasion on which these Bills will be before your Lordships, at any rate this session; but I do not think it is necessary for me to quote particular Amendments to support the statement that the House of Commons have, on the earlier occasions during which this Bill has been before them, accepted various Amendments which your Lordships proposed to this Bill, and which have, in effect, substituted for the original compounding system the scheme of compounding which now finds a place in the Bill founded on the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892. While acquiescing in these changes I must remind your Lordships that the Government at the time agreed to them with some reluctance, which they indeed entertain still, as to the wisdom of these changes. They are not satisfied that the arrangements proposed will be entirely satisfactory, but, as I have said, they have accepted the change. There is one thing, however, to which they find themselves unable to agree, the effect of which would be in their opinion to hamper the free operation of this Bill by retaining in their entirety the existing statutory provisions 1380 relating to the payment of poor rate as a qualification for franchise.
I entered so fully into this matter on a previous occasion that I may possibly be excused from again enlarging upon it; but I may remind your Lordships that this change, to the necessity of which the Government adhere, was found necessary in England when the same question was raised and decided in the year 1869. It was then provided that payment of poor rates by an owner under a system of compounding should qualify the occupier for the Parliamentary franchise. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton, on the last occasion when we discussed this Bill, pointed out that the comparison with England was weakened in his view by the fact that this Bill contained higher provisions for rent of the houses than the English provisions to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention. But I think the noble Lord has forgotten that, under the occupancy franchise of the Reform Bill of 1832, in all houses of £10 and upwards personal individual payment of poor rates is not insisted upon as a qualification for franchise. A full system for compounding is permitted in houses of £4 and under, so that there is, I think, very little weight at all in the contention of the noble Lord so far as principle is concerned. We are still dealing, as we were at first, with occupiers of houses of a rental of £5, £6, £7, £8, and £9, and £9 is, if I remember aright, the exact limit of the compounding provisions in England. So it does remain true that in principle this matter has been settled for England as the Government wish to settle it now for Scotland, so long ago as 1869, on precisely the lines which the Government wish to take up on the present occasion. Your Lordships did not take that view. The Bill was returned to the House of Commons containing a clause the practical effect of which would be, in the opinion of those qualified to advise, to disfranchise a large number of persons who would have in fact paid their poor rate with their rent.
§ LORD PENTLAND
No, I mean by the operation of the Bill there would be practical disfranchisement of persons who now enjoy the franchise. An occupier must pay his poor rate by June 20—that is to say, before the obligation imposed on the owner arises, and it is obvious that he will have to face one of three courses. First, he will have to give up the advantages of this Bill, to give up the adoption of a system of short lets which your Lordships purport to be giving him by this Bill, he will have to go on in the old way taking his house by the year and paying his rate direct. That is one alternative. Another alternative is that he shall pay the rate twice over, that he shall go on paying his instalments and at the same time have to pay direct to the authority the whole rate for the year with what power of recovery he can find, and, as I pointed out to your Lordships on a previous occasion, if he has removed he may even be paying instalments on his rent in a new house. That is the second alternative. The third alternative which is before him is to refuse to compound with his landlord who has every inducement under this Bill to institute a system of compounding with all his tenants. With this variety of courses before him and with the dislocation which undoubtedly this will impose on the collection of rates by parish councils, there can be nothing but confusion if the noble Lord's clauses are still retained and insisted upon in this Bill. I have heard no reason whatever except this particular fear that the noble Lord has about the franchise, no justification whatever for separating in treatment the poor rate from the other rates. Suitable facilities are given in this Bill as regards other rates with the direct object of facilitating the working of the Bill with regard to the introduction of a system of short lets. The effect of the provisions regarding the poor rate, as I do not think the noble Lord can possibly deny although he may think they are necessary for other reasons, must be to have a direct opposite influence and tendency—namely, to discourage the adoption of the very system which the majority of your Lordships profess to wish to introduce.
I know the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, has on previous occasions objected to my characterising his scheme as compounding. He says it is not compounding because he goes first to the occupier; the liability is laid first upon he occupier to pay the rates, and after the occupier comes the owner. 1382 Compounding is a system under which the owner pays the rates with the right of recovery against the tenant. It will be perfectly legal under the noble Lord's clause for that to go on. He himself says that he wishes to encourage voluntary arrangements, which shows that the very system which operates in England will be a perfectly legal course in Scotland under the noble Lord's proposals. There are two very strong inducements which he leaves in the Bill towards the adoption of that course. In the first place parish councils must be considered. Parish councils will want, in the presence of these short lets and frequent, removals of working men, as good security as they can for the payment of their rates; they will look to the best security, no matter in what order the noble Lord places it. It cannot be denied that the owners of the houses, who do not remove monthly or quarterly or half-yearly, must inevitably be considered by parish councils a sounder and safer security for the payment of the rates than working men who may remove under this Bill at very short periods. What is more, the noble Earl explicitly allows parish councils the right of recovering against the owners for rates. Then there is the question of the tenants. The tenants want to pay their rates with their rental. Your Lordships allow them to pay their municipal rates with their rental, but you refuse to allow them to pay their poor rates with their rental, except with the heavy penalties which the noble Lord adds in his clause requiring that the whole poor rate of the year shall be paid by June 20. My Lords, I have little hope that anything I can say will alter your Lordships' mind on this matter, but you are, unintentionally I have no doubt, inflicting a very serious injustice upon a large body of people in Scotland by these provisions. As a matter of fact, the large majority of people affected by this Bill are men who have under the present system, with the inconvenience which they have hitherto suffered and which this Bill seeks to remove, paid both their rent and their rates on a yearly system and up to now have thereby qualified for the franchise. Why should they not be qualified under the new system? You are saying to these people, "For your convenience Parliament is now going to give you what you have asked for, a system of short lets with power to remove, as they have in England without losing the right to the franchise." Why should you inflict now upon them this risk of losing their right to vote? Let me remind 1383 your Lordships that this matter was not raised in the House of Commons in the first place; it was not discussed in the House of Commons until it had been raised in your Lordships' House. It was never put forward as an objection to this Bill by the Opposition in the House of Commons.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I think not, but if I am wrong I am, of course, open to correction. The noble Earl insists on this, and your Lordships have supported him because it might enfranchise a few people who under the old system would not have been enfranchised. Otherwise, he cannot fairly call this an enfranchising measure. Now, who are these few people? They are people who the noble Lord imagines will have paid instalments of rates with their rent not covering the whole year and who will find themselves on the register of voters. In the first place, these are a very small and disproportionate minority of those whom this Bill seeks to benefit. In the second place, to support his theory the noble Earl must suppose that the removal of each of these men who are to be enfranchised is to take place within the same Parliamentary division. As a matter of fact, he knows that there will be a directly opposite tendency under this Bill. If you give people an elastic system which will allow them to give up their house in Glasgow and go to Belfast because shipbuilding happens to be slack in Glasgow and flourishing in Belfast, that will have the direct effect of encouraging removals, and will therefore operate to reduce the number of working men who are placed on the roll. The noble Earl has said that he will not allow the Franchise Acts to be interfered with. I do submit that that is an evasion of the real point which I seek to put before your Lordships—that a number of men who are, perfectly properly, under the present system allowed to exercise the franchise will be disfranchised by the system you are now insisting upon.
All the experience which we have both in England and Scotland shows that you cannot have a system of short lets, as they are called, unless you have compounding in some form. The noble Earl accepts compounding in principle although I know the distinction which he draws between one system and another. My Lords, you 1384 are meting out to Scotland a harder measure than you have hitherto meted out to England, and I am only expressing the view of the Government when I say that we feel strongly that it is taking an unfair advantage of the necessities of working men who will benefit by this system to impose upon them a disability which the Amendment of your Lordships must inevitably impose upon them. If your Lordships are not prepared to agree to the clause as now sent up from the House of Commons I fear there will be no prospect of placing upon the Statute Book an Act which is very anxiously desired by a great number of the working-classes in Scotland. I may point out to your Lordships that the Government have been most anxious that no opportunity should be lost of endeavouring to place this Bill upon the Statute Book. The new Clause D which has now come up from another place differs very little from the original Clause D which was sent to the House of Commons by your Lordships' House, but it does differ sufficiently to leave the door open to your Lordships if you so will to refuse your assent to the Bill. But I would again venture to assert that if you decline to assent to what the Government now propose your Lordships are denying to Scotland what Parliament gave forty years ago to England, and the sense of unequal treatment and injustice, which is thereby conveyed, will assuredly remain and be heard of in the future.
§ Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment inserted in lieu of new Clause D.—(Lord Pentland).
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I suppose I am correct in inferring that unless the House agrees to drop its own Amendments and to accept this Clause D, the Government will not proceed with the Bill. I very deeply regret that decision. The Government in taking that course are giving up a Bill which deals with an admitted grievance in house-letting simply because the House is not prepared so to alter the conditions on which rates are paid as to place upon the Parliamentary register persons who might never have paid their rates at all. Let it be clear, therefore, that it is on one point only—that in regard to rating—that the Government are prepared to drop their Bill. Its purpose is to make illegal certain arrangements made between some owners of houses and their tenants which made it necessary to take 1385 houses for long periods before they are actually required, and to give security that they would be occupied for at least a year. That was an undoubted grievance which was dealt with by this Bill, and not a word in the measure relating to house-letting or the grievances which are connected with house-letting has been altered in any way by your Lordships' House. The Bill as it came to this House' was in a state of great confusion. Grave exception was taken to it by Scottish municipal authorities, and great cure was bestowed upon it both in your Lordships' House and outside in order to make the Bill a workable measure. So anxious were we to accept, as far as was possible, the Amendments of the House of Commons that against our own better judgment we agreed to parish councils being brought into the Bill, thereby for the first time giving those authorities power to recover rates from the owners of houses; but we said that the scheme must be carried out in such a way as not to interfere with the law relating to the franchise. That was the sole alteration which your Lordships made in regard to this matter. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland said that the franchise question was not discussed in the House of Commons.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
It was raised on the Report stage of the Bill in the other House, and Sir F. Banbury moved an Amendment which was practically the same as that which your Lordships inserted. It was discussed at considerable length, and Mr. Ure said it was because the Government desired that the measure should not be a Franchise Bill that they could not accept that Amendment. If those words had been used by anybody but Mr. Ure only one possible meaning could be attached to them; but in regard to Mr. Ure's utterances it is necessary to see what other possible construction can be placed upon them. What in charity it might be supposed that Mr. Ure meant was that, although he did not alter the law in regard to the franchise, in so many words, he was going to alter the law in regard to the payment of rates in such a way as to get round the franchise law and place upon the Parliamentary register persons who might not have paid their rates. If the words are taken literally there is no doubt they are absolutely incorrect. 1386 According to the noble Lord, and according to the meaning which is placed upon it by Mr. Ure, he has reinstated compounding certainly in fact, and almost in words, just exactly as it would have been if we had left the original clause in, because Mr. Ure in this Amendment which your Lordships are asked to adopt inserts words which would attach an interpretation to Clause 345 of the Burgh Police Act, 1892, which is not in accordance with the interpretation given to that clause up to the present time. Moreover, the noble Lord said that this is a matter of extreme injustice to the working man. That is not contended even by their own supporters. Mr. Barnes, who, I believe, was the originator of this whole matter, said the other day in the House of Commons—So far as these rating provisions go, that is a matter upon which the working man does not feel keenly.I quite agree with him. I do not believe the working man does feel it keenly, and I cannot for the life of me understand what the noble Lord means when he says we disfranchise people. Your Lordships have disfranchised nobody. We leave the law exactly as it is. A person who pays his rates is now entitled to have his name upon the register and will continue to have exactly the same right as at present.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Will the noble Earl continue the quotation from Mr. Barnes, so that we may get his full meaning?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Mr. Barnes proceeded—Yet I am glad to find that the Lord Advocate has disagreed with this Amendment of the Lords, which would have had the effect of disfranchising a good many men.I will put to Mr. Barnes exactly the same question that I put to the noble Lord, and I shall be much obliged if he will answer it: "Whom do we disfranchise?" We do not alter the law in any kind of way. If a man by paying his rates at the present time in connection with his rent is entitled to get on the register, that right remains to him exactly as it is at this moment.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Does the noble Earl deny that that right is accompanied by the difficulties, if you like to use the word, or, as I describe it, the penalties, which this clause attaches to the exercise of that right in future?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
The person at present entitled to be on the register will continue to have the same rights as he has at the present moment, whatever those rights happen to be. We do not enlarge those rights, we simply leave the law as it is. As the noble Lord said, it is very hard on a man who pays his rates in connection with his rent to be disqualified, but if your Lordships will look at the clause in the Bill as it went from this House you will see that we did go the length of saying that any man who paid his rates in his rent and whose owner did not pay them should, on receiving notice, have a right to pay those rates himself and to deduct them from the rent, and that meets the exact case which the noble Lord has put. I am very glad the noble Lord has given us his reasons to-day. I must say that they were given much more fully and much more satisfactorily to my mind than on previous occasions. But, my Lords, I wish to reiterate this, that your Lordships have in no way touched anything which relates to the house-letting portion of the Bill and that so far as that is concerned it departs from this House quite as favourable to the new occupier as it entered it. That is all I wish to say with regard to this Amendment. I greatly regret that the noble Lord is determined to drop the Bill. All I can say is, the responsibility of dropping it rests with the Government and with them alone. With regard to the house-letting portion of it, as the Bill is apparently to be dropped, I do wish to give a word of advice to house-owners. I took a considerable amount of trouble to examine into their relative rights and the claims of municipalities and others, and therefore I do feel that I am able to offer a word of advice with regard to the house-letting portion of the Bill, which I believe is the really valuable part and the part which occupiers care most about. I venture to hope that house-owners will be wise enough although the Bill does not become law, to themselves carry out the house-letting sections of it in their entirety. I believe, if they do that, there will be nothing more heard with regard to these rating provisions. If I were a house-owner that is the course I should take, and I venture to think if my suggestion is adopted these disagreements will be met by private arrangement, and this appears to me to be a much better way of settling these matters than by the provisions of a Statute.
§ LORD CLINTON
My Lords, I should like to say one or two words on the principle that underlies this measure, because I think it important that the position of noble Lords on this side of the House who are connected with Scotland should be made perfectly clear. I think also the position of your Lordships' House generally should be made clear. We are entirely in agreement with the main objects of the Bill. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Scotland, has admitted that. We are in favour of the alteration in the system of house letting because we know quite well that the present system of letting for long periods is an undoubted hardship upon a large number of occupiers, who, owing to some change in their employment, have to leave their houses before the expiration of their term and may have to pay a full year's rent. But there are many details in the Bill with regard to which we disagree with His Majesty's Government for reasons which we have stated perfectly clearly and which were supported by persons in Scotland best qualified to deal with the matter, and who would have had to do with the carrying out of the Bill if it had passed. We moved Amendments, with regard to every one of which we have given way with the exception of the Amendment which is now the subject of discussion as to the principle, and it is a big principle, of compounding.
The matter really is a very simple one. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland described perfectly correctly, but in most complicated language, the effect of the Amendment before your Lordships' House. The system of compounding is vastly important, first of all because, whatever may be said to the contrary, the Bill alters the whole basis of the principle on which our franchise rests. It rests on two qualifications—on residence and on payment of rates. The payment of rates with regard to a considerable number of houses disappears as a qualification. It is really so great a change that I think it is perfectly reasonable that we should have asked the Government to state fully and clearly their intentions and their objects in this part of the Bill and not to have brought in this big change of the franchise as a side issue. If the Bill had passed in the form which the Government desire we would have an entirely different franchise in the burghs and in the country districts, and considerable inconvenience would be caused. In some 1389 divisions you get two different qualifications, the burgh occupier, who is not bound to pay rates, and the country occupier, who is bound to pay rates. That is a state of things obviously unfair to the country occupier, who is placed in a worse position than the burgh occupier.
These compounding clauses we claim are not necessary to the Bill; they are really an excrescence upon the Bill, put in for some purpose of the Government. I know the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland does not agree with that. He says it is essential to any system of house letting that you should institute also a system of compounding. I do not want to go over this ground again. I stated on a former occasion that although that was the view of the Secretary for Scotland it was not the view of Lord Guthrie's Departmental Committee which took a very considerable amount of evidence on the matter. Of course, if the Government choose to risk this Bill for considerations which really have nothing to do with the Bill, then the measure, as the noble Lord said, will be lost. But I think it does show very little desire on the part of the Government to pass the measure when they are willing to lose it because they have failed to get established a principle of compounding which every authority has condemned and which a Departmental Committee have stated is not essential to the carrying out of the Bill. There is absolutely no attempt to defend compounding upon its merits. It has been condemned by every authority—by Royal Commissions, by Departmental Committees, by those who are working among the poor, and I think within the last year by noble Lords on both sides of your Lordships' House. It is condemned as demoralising to the poor themselves, because it must and does take away the interest of every man who so compounds for rates in the proper carrying out of the local government of the place in which he resides. His rent remains fixed from year to year, and he has no knowledge of or interest in the way in which the expenditure of his district and the government is carried on. It takes away from him the true sense of responsibility of citizenship which your Lordships are anxious to place upon everybody in the country, and it does lead to very great extravagance in municipal expenditure. There is complaint everywhere of the enormous amount of municipal indebtedness which is being created and which is becoming 1390 so great as to be almost a national danger. That extravagance in expenditure we notice to a very much greater extent in England than we do in Scotland, because in Scotland we have not at present the same system of compounding.
§ LORD PENTLAND
The objection that has been taken to the system of compounding has been entirely on the question of the franchise. The noble Lord cannot ride two horses. Noble Lords who oppose the Bill as we would have it have accepted compounding in principle.
§ LORD CLINTON
On that we absolutely disagree. We say it is not compounding, and the noble Lord says it is. We shall never come to an agreement on that head.
§ LORD PENTLAND
The noble Lord will not deny that compounding is a perfectly legal operation under the Bill as he would have it—that the owners should pay the rates by compounding up to the full limit, and he will not dispute the desirability of voluntary arrangements being come to to that effect.
§ LORD CLINTON
Exactly. Under the Amendments to the Bill these things can be done in cases of agreement, and in cases of agreement only. Just one more thing. I believe it is apparent that we shall lose the Bill. I regret it exceedingly, but it is not essential, even for next year's purposes, that the Bill should pass at this moment. We are apparently on the eve of a General Election, and one Party or another will be returned to power, whether it is the Party of noble Lords who sit on this side of the House or the party of noble Lords opposite. In the latter case they may be returned in a more chastened spirit and more ready to accept Amendments from your Lordships' House, and there is no reason why this same measure, with the exception of compounding, should not be pressed through all its stages without any difficulty whatever in a few days next session in time to affect next year's house letting.
§ THE EARL OF DUNMORE
My Lords, I wish very shortly to endorse the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Camperdown. This Bill seems to me to be not a House Letting Bill but an enfranchising Bill. The effect of Clause D would be to enfranchise 1391 a man in spite of the fact that he might not intend to pay one penny of the rates of the house which constitutes his qualification. Your Lordships have met the Government in every respect, and we are prepared to meet the Government in every respect now, except one, which has no bearing on the Bill. We only object to an owner being compelled to enfranchise a compounding ratepayer who may not even pay his rates. It is with some diffidence that I question an assertion made by the Lord Advocate, but as to his statement that the Amendments which were sent down to the Commons would have disfranchised any occupier, I really cannot understand it, and I cannot understand it even now after the explanation from the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland. I would ask the noble Lord how and under what Act would we have disfranchised anybody? Is it under the existing Scottish law as to the franchise, or is it under some new franchise which is contemplated by this Bill? The noble Lord's justification for this change apparently is that he is applying the English Act to Scotland—the Poor Kate Assessment and Collection Act of 1869; but, as my noble friend Lord Clinton has already pointed out, the compounding clauses in that Act have been condemned by every competent authority in the country, and I cannot conceive why they should be applied under different conditions, as they are, to Scotland. If this Bill were passed into law, as amended by the House of Commons, we should abolish the franchise disqualification for non-payment of rates in every burgh throughout the country. If the Government wish to after the franchise, they should bring in a Franchise Bill. The attitude of the Lord Advocate with regard to this question has been very clearly shown in his replies to Sir Frederick Banbury. I do not wish to go into the question of the Amendment moved by Sir Frederick Banbury except to point out that it only dealt with this question of franchise; it did not interfere in any way with any of the proposals as regards house letting; it did not interfere with the question of compounding, it dealt only with the franchise; but the Government refused to consider that Amendment just as, ever since, they have refused to consider any Amendment which is designed to protect the present franchise law of Scotland.
§ LORD PENTLAND
The noble Lord 1392 asked me to point out to him how this could be fairly characterised as a disfranchising proposal. I have already explained my view on that point to your Lordships, but I will put this very briefly to him. If persons avail themselves of the proposals of this Bill in regard to having shorter lets for their houses, it will undoubtedly be more difficult for them under the clauses of the noble Earl opposite than it is now to qualify themselves for the exercise of the Parliamentary vote.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I do not wish to detain your Lordships. It would not be right, after the courtesy you have extended to me this afternoon, that I should say anything more on this subject, but if I might be permitted to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, who enlarged on the system of compounding and the difficulties which would be introduced owing to the disparity of the position between country voters and burgh voters. I would put it to him that all those difficulties have already been faced in England.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I am talking of facts; the noble Lord is talking of opinions. Forty years ago none of these objections were thought strong enough to bar the way to granting to the people of England what we are asking should be granted to Scotland and to Scottish working men. The noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, was good enough to give some advice to the house-owners. Let me remind him of the progress this Bill has made. I think when he first took it in hand in this House he put two or three different sets of Amendments on the Paper before he arrived at a conclusion. The last set went through three editions and that brought him to the point where the Government started from in the introduction of this Bill.
§ LORD PENTLAND
In my opinion it did. I may tell the noble Lord that nearly two years ago, with all the influence I can command from the position which I hold, I uttered the same warning to the house-owners without any effect, and I can 1393 only say that the insistence of your Lordships in destroying this measure seems to me to throw a very curious light upon your confidence in referring any question to the judgment of the people.
§ Motion negatived accordingly.
§ LORD PENTLAND
From the first the Bill has been taken almost completely out of the hands of the Government, and the Amendment which has been insisted upon has, I think, been twice before the other House and twice rejected by it. In those circumstances your Lordships must see that it is hopeless for me to trouble you with any further proceedings in regard to this Bill, which must be added to those on which your Lordships have imposed a sentence of death. I ask leave to withdraw the Bill.
§ Bill, by leave of the House, withdrawn.