§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, as this is a Bill of considerable importance, I must ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes whilst I endeavour to outline its main provisions. The object of the Bill is a very simple one. It is to confer on the electorate of London the same right of successive occupation which the electors of other great cities, such, for instance, as Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow, already enjoy. To those members of your Lordships' House who have contested Parliamentary elections the term "successive occupation" is no doubt a very familiar one, but as the majority of the members of this House have not had that experience, I may, perhaps, be allowed to explain what the expression "successive occupation" means. It is this. Where a voter in a Parliamentary borough changes his residence to another part of the borough, even although that part is situated in a different Parliamentary constituency or division, he retains his vote; but in London when a man changes his residence from one Parliamentary division to another or from one borough to another, he loses his vote. Say, for example, that a man changes his residence from Dover-street to Jermyn-street or from Bond-street to Piccadilly; he then loses his vote for at least one year and possibly even for nearly two years, according to the time when the removal is effected. And this brings about this very curious anomaly, that a man when he changes his residence, while retaining his vote for county council elections, borough council elections, and guardians elections, yet loses it for Parliamentary elections. Surely, my Lords, it is really an absurd and wholly indefensible thing to say to a man that he shall retain his vote for borough council, county council, and other elections, while he loses his vote for Parliamentary elections, and it is this really extraordinary anomaly which this Bill seeks to rectify.
Let me take the example of what takes place in another great city. I will take the case of Liverpool with which the noble Earl opposite. Lord Derby, is much more familiar than myself. In Liverpool there are nine divisions—Kirkdale, Walton Everton, West Derby, Scotland, Exchange, 498 Abercromby, East Toxteth, and West Toxteth. A man can change his residence as often as he pleases in any of those divisions, and he yet retains his Parliamentary vote. London is divided into twenty-eight different boroughs, and a man by changing his residence will lose his Parliamentary vote for from one to two years. The object of this Bill is to make the law practically the same in London in this respect as it is in Liverpool. Therefore, I think it will be admitted that there is really no startlingly novel proposal in the principle of this Bill, and I do not think any member of this House, however much he may dislike His Majesty's present Government, will be able to detect even a taint of Socialism or the germs of revolution within the four-corners of this very modest measure. For really what it does is to bring London into line with the other great cities of this country with regard to this matter of successive occupation.
We have been charged elsewhere with an attempt to gerrymander the London constituencies in favour of the Liberal Party. [Ironical cheers.] I am grateful to noble Lords opposite for their kindly encouragement. But I hope I may be believed by some members of this House when I say that that is not the case; that the object of this Bill is, as I have stated it, to remove disabilities with regard to this matter of occupation which the electors of London, and practically of London alone of our great cities, suffer under at the present time. There are one or two other arguments which I would like to cite as showing that a measure of this kind is really due to London. In the first place, one has to consider that a large proportion of the London population is a migratory population. I am told removals amount in some Parliamentary divisions to as much as thirty per cent. of the population. In 1908 the revision of the lists in Camberwell revealed the fact that in Camberwell in 44,000 separately assessed hereditaments there were 32,000 cases of removal. I do not say they were all cases of removal from that particular Parliamentary division, but I quote it to show that the population of many Parliamentary divisions in London is largely migratory in its character. There is also this fact to consider, that the proportion of voters in the metropolis as compared with the population is less than that in the rest of the country. On the 1907 register the proportion of voters to population in London was 144 per thousand. For the rest of the United 499 Kingdom it was 176 per thousand. I think these figures show that very disadvantageous treatment is meted out to London under the present system of registration.
This injustice—for it really, to my mind, is an injustice—we propose to remedy under Clause 1 of this Bill by creating London a Parliamentary borough. Were that to take place it would have these two very important effects. In the first place, elections in London would take place on the same day; and, secondly, the number of plural voters in and around London would be very greatly reduced. First of all, with regard to holding elections on the same day, that is already the law with regard to municipal elections; it has been found, I understand, to work well, and I submit that holding Parliamentary elections on the same day would result in less confusion and less dislocation of trade than the practice which obtains at present of holding those elections on different or on successive days. There are somewhere about 800,000 voters on the register of the London County Council. There are some 600,000 on the register of the Parliamentary divisions of a corresponding area. The London County Council elections are all held on the same day and no inconvenience arises from it, and therefore I think it is fair to conclude that the same practice would be equally convenient for Parliamentary elections.
Now with regard to plural voting, this Bill would, of course, restrict the plural voting powers of persons residing in London. But I would ask the House to note this fact. I do not use it as an argument for the Bill, but I want to put quite frankly before the House what the effect of the operation of the Bill will be. Whilst restricting, as I say, the plural voting power of persons residing in London, the operations of this Bill will allow a considerable number of persons living outside London but having qualifying premises in London to obtain the right to vote in London which they have not hitherto possessed. That comes about in this way. In order to be registered as the occupier of an office in a Parliamentary borough it is necessary for a man to reside with in seven miles of that borough. Thus, I will take the case of the Strand. In order to vote for business premises or an office in the Strand, the voter must reside within seven miles of the Strand. If, as would be the case under this Bill, the division of the Strand were merged into the much larger 500 Parliamentary borough of London, then the distance of seven miles would be measured from the new boundary of the Parliamentary borough of London, and therefore that would include a large area which is not included at the present time. Take the case of a person living, for example, in Richmond who has also business premises in the Strand. At present he has not a vote in respect of his business premises in the Strand, but if this Bill were to pass he would have an additional vote for the reason which I have just stated.
While I am on the subject of plural voting, I should like to quote what the late Mr. Gladstone, speaking some seventeen years ago in the city of London, said on this subject. He used these words—The case of London is a very peculiar case. No place suffers as London Buffers from the defective state of the law. It suffers more than any other place from plural voting. The constituencies of the metropolis are bloated on the one hand and starved on the other; bloated by the plural vote and starved by the fact that successive occupation does not run throughout the whole area of London.We all know that in these days many noble Lords opposite and even many noble Lords on the Cross Benches, profess a high regard for the authority of Mr. Gladstone. May I suggest that they will have an opportunity of proving it this evening. We may also be told by noble Lords opposite that what this Bill proposes to do can be done, or ought to be done, in a Redistribution Bill. I hope I have shown to the House—I have done my best to do so—what a very serious anomaly does already exist in this matter of successive occupation in London, and for my part I cannot understand the frame of mind which admits of the existence of an anomaly, but yet which refuses to remedy that particular anomaly because it is impossible for the moment to remedy other anomalies which we also know to exist elsewhere.
As the principle of this Rill is contained in Clause 1, I do not think it is necessary for me, at any rate now, to go further into details or attempt an explanation of the other clauses of the measure. And I am not encouraged to do so by observing on the Notice Paper that a Motion for the rejection of the Bill stands in the name of a noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite. I think I might be entitled to use an argument which is sometimes used against us, when it suits them, by 501 noble Lords opposite with regard to the Division Lists of another place. I might point to the fact that only fifty-one members of the House of Commons were found to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, and only twenty-nine against the Third Reading; or I might endeavour to emulate an example that was set during the debates on the Irish Land Bill by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkinson, who in an eloquent speech on the subject of congestion pleaded for the long line of congests waiting at the door of this House for relief from their unhappy plight. I think I, too, may be entitled to plead for the long line of London electors, thousands of them, waiting at the door of this House in expectation of relief from the disability with regard to the franchise under which they suffer at present through no fault of their own.
But I fear that arguments from this side of the House will be of little avail, and that this measure, so modest in its scope and moderate in its provisions, will share the fate of many other Liberal measures, and will shortly be done to death by noble Lords opposite, and we on this side are Powerless to do more than register our protest against this proceeding. But before I sit down I must say this. I regret to notice that a Motion for the rejection of this Bill stands in the name of the noble Earl opposite, Lord Derby, a representative in this House of a family connected, if I may say so with all sincerity, by long and honourable traditions with the great city of Liverpool, for in putting an end to this Bill he will deny to the electors of the metropolis that privilege which the electors of the city of Liverpool already enjoy; and I would like to ask him just one question. I have no right to ask him a question, but perhaps during the course of his remarks he will be so courteous as to give me an answer. Would he approve of a man who changed his residence from, say, the Everton district in Liverpool to the West Derby division losing his vote for eighteen months or two years for doing so, and, if not, why does he refuse this privilege—it is not a privilege it is a right—why does he refuse this right to the electors of London? I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Denman.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY, who had given 502 notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move that the Bill be read 2a this day three months, said: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long in moving the Amendment that stands in my name, and that for several reasons. In the first place, the noble Lord who has introduced the Bill has left it already in what I might call a dying condition, as he has evidently, perhaps rightly, forecasted its early demise. In the second place the arguments that apply as against this Bill are already well known to your Lordships, because it will probably be within your Lordships' recollection that about three years ago my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn in this House moved the rejection of the Plural Voting Bill. He did so in what was known as a reasoned Amendment, asking your Lordships to reject the Bill because it was piecemeal legislation, because it destroyed ancient landmarks, because it altered the compromise arrived at between the two great Parties in 1885 with regard to the franchise of this country, and because it at the same time was not accompanied by a redistribution of seats. I hold that every word that applied to the Plural Voting Bill applies with redoubled force to the Bill now before your Lordships' House, because while that was piecemeal legislation, this is only a fragmentary piece of piecemeal legislation.
§ I shall follow the noble Lord's example and not go into any of the details of the Bill. I shall deal only with the principle; and as I believe in your Lordships' House, as in another place, the principle is dealt with on the Second Reading, and only the principle, I hope I shall be in order in confining myself to that. Now what is the ostensible object of this Bill? The ostensible object of the Bill is to make it easy for a man who changes his residence to take, so to speak, his vote with him—that his vote should be part of his household furniture, and that wherever he goes that vote should go with him; and it is held that there is especially in London an injustice owing to the great number of changes that undoubtedly take place in residence during the course of a year. I dare say there is a bigger proportion of changes of residences in London than in other parts of the country, but I doubt whether it is so very large as some noble Lords may think. I therefore hold, although I quite agree that there may be 503 a hardship in London, that it is also a hardship which applies with equal force all over the country; and if the only question was to do away with that period of disfranchisement which is said to exist for two years—I never could make out how that calculation is arrived at—if that is the ostensible reason, if that is the real reason for bringing in this Bill, it could easily be remedied by a one-clause measure applicable all over the country, and which I venture to think your Lordships would be only too willing to accept. But that is not the real reason.
§ The noble Lord who introduced the Bill was frank enough to tell us that the real reason was to do away with plural voting in London. It is the Plural Voting Bill which was intended for the whole of the country and which was rejected by your Lordships' House made applicable only to London. The noble Lord in introducing this Bill spoke of it all through as an enfranchising Bill, as a Bill for giving votes. He absolutely ignored the fact that while you are giving votes, while you are allowing the easy transfer of votes to men who are continually changing their residences and who may be looked upon, perhaps, as having the least interest in the constituency in which they live, the Bill at the same time disfranchises thousands of voters who, having two residences in the present area of London, are entitled to vote in both places, and can be held, I think rightly, to have more stake in the country than those of the changeable and migratory order. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, when he spoke against the Plural Voting Bill, referred to the cynical humour of the author of that measure, Mr. Harcourt. The author of that Rill is the author of this Bill, and the cynical humour is just as apparent in this Bill as it was in the other; and it may be a curious coincidence which rather emphasises the humour, that the Second Beading of this Bill was taken in another place immediately after the transfer of a vote in London from Mr. Harcourt's side of the House to the other, and the Second Reading in this House is taken immediately after a similar process also in London. I have no doubt whatever in my own mind that Mr. Harcourt, whose knowledge of Parliamentary organisation is of the kind that what he does not know is not worth knowing, sees in this Bill a chance of getting through, under the guise of making 504 the transfer of votes easy, a Bill which will disfranchise many thousands of those who, perhaps rightly, he holds to belong to the opposite Party to himself.
§ The whole principle of this Bill is contained in the first clause, which makes London one borough. In the words of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill, and who incidentally paid a great compliment to Liverpool and Manchester, it is to bring London in line with Liverpool and Manchester. Now is there any justice in attempting to make of London one borough the same as in the case of the other larger cities of the United Kingdom? Do remember this, that none of those boroughs have ever been anything else but single boroughs. The whole of their Parliamentary existence has been as one borough, which as their population has grown has been gradually divided into more constituencies. On the contrary London has been diametrically opposite. London has always been from the very outset of its Parliamentary life a series of boroughs, and you now propose to do away with their ancient traditions. Your Lordships have of late years accentuated the fact that London is not one gigantic borough. Both Houses of Parliament have passed Bills that have divided London into boroughs and given to each of those municipalities the same organisation—mayors, aldermen, councillor—exactly the same in every single one of those boroughs as exist in the large towns in the United Kingdom You now want to abolish the whole of that and to make London one borough, and you do that only for the purpose of depriving those who have plural votes of the extra votes to which they are at present entitled. You are going, you say, to remove an anomaly, but while you remove one anomaly by this Bill so far as London itself goes, you create another by depriving the dual voter in London of a vote which, if you compare like with like, is possessed by similar persons in other parts of the country.
§ You cannot, it seems to me compare London with a town like Liverpool or Manchester. You must compare like with like, and if you do that, let me just show what the effect of this Bill will be. The noble Lord said that I knew Liverpool well, and asked whether I would like to deprive those who change their residences from one constituency to another of their votes. No I should not; but I should like to make 505 it equally easy for men all over the country who change their places of residence to take their vote with them. Compare Liverpool with any area in London which contains the same population. If your Lordships will take the trouble to look at the figures you will find that there are exactly the same number of Members for Liverpool as there are, not for the whole of London, but in the one part which is known as the Tower Hamlets. Surely, if you endeavour to put both on the same footing, you must look at like with like. I will continue that still further by asking you, if it is a question of distance as from one constituency to another, to test on a map of this country the area that London as you would now create it would occupy if put down in another part of England. I will give the noble Lord two cases. Let him put down the area of London where Birmingham now is and he would find that it would comprise not only Birmingham but five Parliamentary boroughs, not to mention the county constituencies which intervene. Then let the noble Lord put down the area in London where Manchester now is. He would there find that it would cover not only Manchester but seven other boroughs. I could go on giving your Lordships instances; but Liverpool is surely an example that may be worth quoting. A man lives in Westminster and has his business, we will say, in Southwark. He has now two votes. Under this Bill he is to lose one. A man lives in Liverpool and has his business in Birkenhead. Under this Bill he is not touched, and he will still have his two votes. I do not know that there is any difference between the two. One river is a little broader than the other, and I do not think it is much dirtier; otherwise there is no difference between the man who lives in Liverpool and has his business in Birkenhead and the man who lives in Westminster and has his business in Southwark.
§ I know perfectly well that the answer will be, "If we had our Plural Voting Bill that we asked for three years ago that anomaly would not exist." Yes; but you did not have your Plural Voting Bill of three years ago. It was rejected by this House. We are always told when your Lordships throw out a Bill that there is going to be a conflagration; but I noticed that there was no deep commotion caused by the rejection of that Bill. That Bill was rejected on the advice of my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn. He asked your Lordships to reject for the 506 whole country what I now ask your Lordships to reject for London in particular. I cannot pretend to speak with anything like the weight or the influence of the noble Viscount, but I hope I have been able to show to your Lordships that this Bill is not a Bill for enfranchisement, but a Bill for disfranchisement. It is a Bill for introducing into the limited area of London the principle of the Plural Voting Bill which your Lordships rejected three years ago.
To leave out the word 'now' and to add at the end of the Motion the words 'this day three months.'"—(The Earl of Derby.)
§ LORD WELBY
My Lords, from long experience on the London County Council I have come to the conclusion that this Bill is a very desirable measure in itself. I see in it the completion of measures which have already been passed by Parliament in order to consolidate London and to make the capital of the Empire what it ought to be, one great consolidated city. I heard with very great regret the speech of the noble Earl opposite in which he moved the rejection of the Bill, and I cannot help feeling that the arguments, forcible in themselves, which he put forward with great moderation, did not really touch the root of the subject with which this Bill deals. I know it has always been said by opponents of a measure like this, and it has been repeated on the present occasion, that London is different from other cities, that it is not a consolidated city, that it is not fitted to be a consolidated city, that, in fact, it is a loose confederation of municipalities with no common interests, and, therefore, that those separate municipalities may be treated as separate units with no claim to a common government of any sort or kind.
The noble Earl called attention to the Act which was passed by the late Government creating the borough councils, but it struck me that there was a very considerable omission in his allusion to that matter, because he never mentioned a very important measure—probably the greatest measure affecting London that has been passed within the last century—the Act which created the administrative County Council of London. The County Council of London was brought into being by the Party opposite. It was, I believe, a very wise measure, for it realised the fact that these different districts of London have common interests, that it was necessary to provide for those 507 common interests, and that that could only be effected by having one unified London. I venture to think that that Act of the Conservative Party, which I believe to have been an extremely wise one, is an effective answer to the arguments which have just been addressed to your Lordships by the noble Earl when he maintained that London did not permit of being made a unified city, and when he pleaded that the different municipalities and districts of the metropolis were absolutely independent of one another. The action of the Conservative Government in passing in the year 1888 the Act to which I have referred established the fact that all the districts of London have common interests, and that those interests can only be provided for by a common government; and the creation of the borough councils, so far from being an argument in favour of the breaking up of London is an argument entirely in a contrary directtion, inasmuch as they were created merely as subordinate authorities, entrusted, and rightly, with the management of their own local affairs, but subject to the control of the London County Council and forming part of the great central administrative county.
I cannot help feeling a little surprised at the line taken by noble Lords opposite in speaking thus disparagingly of the Capital of the Empire. I cannot understand how noble Lords who most consistently argue as to the dignity and duties of the Empire should make it their object to, if I may venture to say so, degrade the Capital of the Empire, to deny practically that there is a Capital of the Empire, and to argue that that Capital consists merely of a number of loose confederated municipal boroughs. But, further than that, I do venture to think that the policy of the Conservative Government in the Act of 1888 and in subsequent measures has been an extremely wise one. The effect of that Act has been to go a very long way in obviating a great danger which was threatening London—namely, the creation of cities of the rich and cities of the poor—and in teaching the richer districts that they have some connection with the poorer districts and impressing upon the public mind that the richer districts have not only a material but a moral interest in the welfare of the poorer districts. I would ask this question: If that policy of 1888 was a true one, if it was good policy to create a central consolidated administrative county of London, if it was 508 desirable to give to London in that respect consolidated government, can the Party that brought in that measure bring forward any valid argument against the slight extension of the principle which is proposed in this Bill?
The noble Earl opposite has referred to the Plural Voting Bill that was rejected a few years ago by your Lordships' House. That was a Bill to put an end to plural voting generally; but in this case is it not the fact that London is put to a great disadvantage compared with cities such as those of which the noble Earl has spoken? There are very few chances of plural voting in the cities to which reference has been made, but it is the fact that a man may have thirty-six votes in London. Of course, that is an extreme case, but a man in London may have the power of qualifying under the various qualifications and so obtaining that number of votes. For a long time past it has been the general policy of Parliament to put an end to plural voting within a borough or within the same constituency. London alone, for some reason or other, has been left outside that provision, and it seems extraordinary that noble Lords opposite should contend that what is good in that respect for Liverpool and Manchester for some reason or other should not apply to London. There is no question whatever that the existence of plural voting in London is a matter which puts London to a very great extent at a disadvantage in regard to other parts of the country—perhaps I ought not to say a disadvantage, but it creates an anomaly against London which I think it is very difficult for noble Lords opposite logically to defend.
If we pass to the other important question dealt with by the Bill—successive occupation, which I think the noble Earl opposite has spoken of, I will not say contemptuously, but has rather passed by as unimportant—I venture to think that a disqualification which has been found by an analysis of the voting in five London boroughs to amount to a loss of 10,000 votes out of 160,000 is no light disqualification, and that the evil of which we complain is one that needs an early remedy. Nor can I see that there is any ground for saying that in order to remove these anomalies we must wait for a general measure. These anomalies are patent, they are very easily removed; they are anomalies which it is impossible for noble 509 Lords opposite logically to defend; and I therefore cannot but express my great regret that noble Lords opposite should feel it necessary to perpetuate those anomalies for objects which I think at all events are quite insufficient, and for which up to the present no valid reason has been put forward.
§ LORD FARQUHAR
My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I venture to address your Lordships on this occasion, but my excuse must be that I feel strongly the injustice of this Bill, the rejection of which has been so ably moved by the noble Earl, Lord Derby, with whose arguments I entirely concur. I do not see why London should be selected and treated differently from every other part of the country, and why the Government should, by this Bill, deprive the citizens of London of their votes in the constituency in which they carry on their business. It would be turning business into a burlesque by arriving at the farcical position that the Parliamentary representatives of the city of London, the greatest banking and commercial centre of the world, would be elected, not by the great bankers, financiers, merchants, and trades people, but by their caretakers and watchmen. That would be degrading London.
I have been connected with London municipal affairs ever since the existence of the London County Council; I had the privilege of introducing the Bill for the creation of the borough councils into this House, and I know something of the feeling in regard to the present Bill. I can safely say that besides the City Corporation seven-eights at least of the banking, financial, mercantile, and tradesmen's communities in the metropolis are strongly opposed to the Bill. I would like to know what evidence there is to show that there is any demand at all for this change which would place the London elector on an inferior basis to that of an elector in all provincial boroughs. Such an act of injustice as is proposed would only go to increase the want of confidence now existing in the city of London caused by the Socialistic tendencies of the present Government, and especially those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which so seriously threaten the credit and financial supremacy of our country.
It is this point, a some what indirect one, 510 I admit, which has influenced me most, although I agree most cordially with every argument used by the noble Earl who has moved the rejection of the Bill. If we look at the price of Government, railway, and industrial stocks of this country, and make inquiry as to the markets in these stocks, we find that what used to be large and active markets are to-day small and lifeless ones, and that the holders of these stocks have difficulty in realizing them, even at a sacrifice, to re-invest in foreign securities, the dividends on which are payable abroad. Millions and tens of millions are being sent out of the country for this purpose which will never return in any shape. No wonder at such a moment the Government would like to confiscate the votes of the citizens of London, who are sure to record them for their destruction, and mostly for the reasons which I have ventured to lay before your Lordships. This Bill is really a Party attack on the stronghold of Unionism, and, should it pass, it would be a great injustice to, and against the will of an overwhelming majority of the people of London.
§ THE MARQUESS OF NORTHAMPTON
My Lords, I listened attentively to the speech which has just been delivered by the noble Lord opposite, who, I think, was under a misapprehension as to the Bill we are discussing. At the commencement of the proceedings this evening a First Reading was given to the Finance Bill, and I think the noble Lord's speech would have been more appropriate at that time than at the present moment. We are not discussing now the question of taxation, but we are discussing a question of equal importance to a very large number of our fellow-countrymen. Both noble Lords who have spoken against this Bill seem to me to have lost hold of the most important principle of the measure. Are we in favour, or are we not, of continuing the policy which was initiated by the Conservative Government in 1888 in considering London as one whole?
§ THE MARQUESS OF NORTHAMPTON
The other large cities in the United Kingdom are one for municipal and Parliamentary purposes. London alone differs. We have in London one municipal unit, but not one Parliamentary borough, and that is what we are asking you to grant 511 by this Bill. It was not the Liberal party who brought about the existence of the London County Council. The London County Council possesses larger powers than any other county council in the United Kingdom; it not only has all the great municipal functions, but it has the right to collect and spend the larger part of the rates. The London County Council is practically the municipality of London; and I cannot understand why noble Lords opposite should lose sight altogether of the great importance of having this unit in the Capital of the Empire, just as much as we have it in other cities. London was made one for municipal purposes by the Unionist Government. And may I say that it has been very rare when a political Party has taken a high-sounding name for a political purpose that it has had the chance of proving its right to that name in such a short space of time as was the case when the Unionist Government passed the Act creating the London County Council?
We are referred to Birmingham, Manchester, and Salford, and it is said, Why not do the same thing for them? But the circumstances are totally different. We support this Bill coming before your Lordships for one purpose and for one purpose only—to obtain for London what every other large town has obtained. It seems to me that any one who is in favour of every qualified inhabitant of London having the power of exercising his vote at general and by-elections must be in favour of the principles of this Bill. Will any noble Lord get up and say that he is opposed to that principle? It is that which we are going to bring about by this Bill. I should like to deal with one or two of the objections that have been raised. The principal objection has reference to plural voting, and the chief reason why noble Lords have come down to this House to-day to destroy this Bill is that by it plural voting would be done away with in the area of London. I believe that is the sole reason of the objection of noble Lords opposite to this Bill; because I do not fancy for one moment that they object to the voter if he is qualified having the power to record his vote. I do not believe any single noble Lord opposite wishes to disfranchise any inhabitant of London, but they desire to preserve the plural vote, and that is the only reason for their opposition to this Bill.
512 Now, as regards the plural voter, we are told that the Government have introduced this measure not for the sake of carrying out the principle which I have ventured to lay before your Lordships, but for the sole purpose of gerrymandering and in some way gaining seats in London. I am aware that when that statement was made before it was met with cheers, and I am wondering whether it will ever be possible for noble Lords opposite to believe that there are some honest gentlemen in the Liberal Party. I support this Bill considering myself as responsible as any member of the Government as far as that charge is concerned, and I will say this, that I consider it would be just as fair, although I would not do it, for me to stand up in this House and accuse noble Lords opposite of dishonest conduct or gerrymandering, or whatever it may be called, because they oppose this Bill thinking it may lose them some seats. We ought not to have any idea in our minds as to whether one bit of London goes to one Party or another. That, in my opinion, is a small matter. I think that the Party opposite have a political supremacy in the constituencies in London. I have never looked upon London as a Liberal city. I have had some experience, because I contested a division and I also sat on the London County Council for some years. I believe that if you had to give some political title to London you would have to call it Tory-Democratic. London is to my mind instinctively Conservative. I have regretted that fact many a time. I do not believe there is a question of your getting one seat or losing one seat, or of our gaining or losing a seat. Londoners will settle that for themselves. I do not believe the abolition of plural voting would make much difference as regards the representation of the constituencies.
I want to get away from the Party point of view altogether. This ought not to be, and I do not believe it is, a Party Bill. It is a Bill to give justice to those who are disfranchised at present when elections take place, and it gives the possibility of holding all elections on one day, which is of supreme importance to the trade of London. As regards convenience and everything else this Bill would be a blessing to us all. I shall probably be told that, after all, nothing can do away with the point that we have introduced this Bill for some sinister Party motive. 513 This House is rapidly gaining for itself a reputation, which it did not formerly have, of attacking subjects and measures from a purely Party point of view. There, is nothing more regrettable—and I believe noble Lords opposite will agree with me—than that the two great political Parties in the State should be so unequally divided in this House. It is because we are so unequally divided, because we who sit here are in such a small minority whilst noble Lords opposite are in such an overwhelming permanent majority that I think you ought to be a little more generous to the minority in the accusations which you bring against them. If I thought for one moment that His Majesty's Government had introduced this Bill simply in order to try and win a few seats, I for one would at once separate myself from them and would be one of the first to denounce them. But it is because I believe that the Cabinet is composed of men as honest and straightforward as any members on the opposite side of the House, because I know them as my personal friends to be perfectly honest, straightforward gentlemen, that I refuse to think for one moment that this is in any sense a Party measure and I ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading as a measure of justice.
§ THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
My Lords, as one who for a good many years represented one of the constituencies in London and who was returned on four separate occasions as the representative of the borough of Lewisham, which is so often quoted in this connection, containing, as it does, a population of 127,000, I desire to oppose this Bill. The noble Marquess who has just sat down suggested that the sole objection we have on this side of the House is on the question of plural voting. I will give him another objection. I refer to the manner in which your Lordships' House has been treated in this matter, of which I think we have a right to complain. If this Bill is of the importance that the noble Lord who moved its Second Reading and the noble Marquess who has just spoken appear to think and if there is this great injustice done to London as a whole, why is it that we only get the Bill on the 8th of November?
I think when we consider how the Bill has been treated in another place we have a right to complain. The First Reading was moved under the ten-minute rule, and 514 if it had not been for the impassioned speeches to which we have listened in this House we should have thought that it was one of those elaborate jokes so dear to the family of Harcourt, carefully elaborated in their home and reproduced for the edification of the House of Commons. The First Reading took place in April, the Second Reading in June, and it is needless to remind your Lordships that the Second Reading was closured. One of the stock charges always brought against those who sit on this side and who agree with us is that we are always pressing for redistribution. I take it that until redistribution comes we shall always press for it. Mr. Harcourt in another place accused Sir Henry Kimber of being so obsessed with a desire for redistribution that if anybody had brought in a Bill for the revision of the Book of Common Prayer he would have moved for a redistribution of the Ten Commandments. There is no necessity for any redistribution of the Ten Commandments now. That has already been done. So much prominence by recent events has been given to the ninth commandment that it has assumed a position of importance which was never intended by the original framer of the Decalogue.
Then we come to the next stage of the Bill—the reference of the Committee stage to Grand Committee. The Bill was sent to Grand Committee in spite of a distinct pledge given by the late Prime Minister that no measure of that kind should be so treated. In the discussion that took place in the other House the present Prime Minister said that no measure such as this was in the mind of the late Prime Minister when he gave that promise. I wonder how he knows that. The only explanation I can suggest is that he has obtained this knowledge by adopting a system to which reference has been made and by which a good deal of support is supposed to be obtained for other Government measures—by the assistance of Mr. Stead and the Julia Bureau. I venture to say that where a pledge is given the Party to which it is given has a right to say something when it is broken. I submit that the sending of this Bill to Grand Committee was a distinct breach of a pledge. Then we come to the Third Reading and the Report stage. That took place on October 18, and it is now on November 8 that we are asked to read the Bill a second 515 time. I object most strongly to the Second Reading for the reasons I have given, and I object equally strongly on account of the measure itself.
I do not propose to go at any length into those reasons, but we have heard that the object of the Bill is to secure successive voting. Comparisons have been made over and over again with regard to London as an entity and to other large towns in the provinces, and it has been shown, I think conclusively, that there is no comparison; and, of course, as long as we have electoral boundaries any constituent who passes over those boundaries will lose his vote. Personally I should like to see this proposal as to successive voting given to the whole country and not to only part. The same with regard to polling taking place on the same day. That I believe to be a good thing, and I should like to see it extended so that every county and every borough recorded its vote on the same day. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Welby, compared the present Bill with what was done by the Conservative Government in the formation of the London County Council. These two proposals are hardly on the same plane. There is no intention on our part to disparage London, but we do not see why a man in London should alone be deprived of the undoubted right of plural voting. Those, I believe, are the principal objects with which the Bill has been brought in. As I have said, I do not for one moment believe that the Bill is necessary. I do not believe it is a good Bill; and putting Party feeling entirely on one side, and largely on the ground of the manner in which the Bill has been presented to your Lordships' House, I shall support its rejection.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, one form of argument has been used by the noble Earl who has just sat down which I think is somewhat novel, and I am not sure that it is very expedient. He told us what had happened to this Bill in the House of Commons. He did not say that it had reached this House too late to receive adequate consideration, because that obviously is not the case. So far as I know there is very little, if anything, for your Lordships' House to do for ten days or a fortnight to come. He complained of the Bill having been sent to a Grand Committee of the House of Commons. Is the House of Commons not to be permitted 516 in the same way as this House is permitted to manage its own business in its own way and to conduct its internal affairs in its own fashion? On one former occasion I adverted to this subject, and I cannot help thinking there is some danger and some inconvenience, not to one Party or one Government only, in constituting ourselves censors and arbiters of the manner in which the other House chooses to manage its own business. Apart from that I am afraid that there is no use in prolonging the debate, because as soon as any Amendment to a Government measure has been moved from the Front Opposition Bench—I might almost say from any Opposition Bench—its obituary notice alone remains to be written, and obituary notices are proverbially short.
What is this Bill? It is not a Bill applying to the whole country and to all constituencies. It is an exceptional Bill, applying only to London, because the conditions under which Londoners vote are exceptional, and differ from those in other parts of the country. Can any one deny that, while London has a County Council transacting the business of the county, the whole of London is a city, one corporate whole? Lord Derby admitted—I think he is the only member of the Opposition in this House who has admitted—that there is a hardship. Of course there is a great hardship, which results in the disfranchisement of thousands of people in London every year through no fault of their own. He says that the same thing exists in other towns. With great respect to him, I think he is completely wrong. In all Parliamentary boroughs except London, all boroughs, that is, which return several Members of Parliament, electors in one part of the borough can remove to another part of the borough and yet retain their votes by the rule of successive occupation. In London they cannot. In every other town an elector can vote in respect of one qualification only, though he may have six or nine qualifications, and all elections in a borough take place on the same day.
In London there are fifty-nine constituencies returning members, and there are twenty-nine boroughs, the City of London excepted, and the City is the only one of them of which the municipal and Parliamentary boundaries are coterminous. In all others the boundaries overlap—in many of them to a very large extent. The consequence 517 is that an elector loses his vote, for example, by moving from Bond-street to Piccadilly, though both streets are in the same metropolitan borough. On the other hand, if he moves from a street in the metropolitan borough of Poplar to one in Bethnal Green he preserves it. What can be the reason for maintaining anomalies of that kind? An elector who has offices in Bond-street, Charing Cross, and Parliament-street—all within a few yards of one another—may vote for three members of Parliament, but he can only vote at one County Council election. On the other hand, in the Tower Hamlets he may vote in five different borough elections, but only for one member of Parliament. What aggravates this mischief and anomaly is that Londoners move more freely and constantly from one part to another than do the people in any other part of the kingdom. I believe it is the case that in many of the constituencies thirty per cent. of the electors move in the course of a year. It is estimated that no fewer than 40,000 electors in London lose their votes every year by reason of this. That is the state of things which we seek to remedy.
The result, I agree, is that those who have plural votes within the area of London will lose all but one vote. That is the inevitable result, but that is not the object of the Bill at all. The object is to do away with the inconvenience, mischief, and injustice which undoubtedly exist in London. It has been recalled that Viscount St. Aldwyn moved to reject the Plural Voting Bill, and that the motion was carried in this House. We make no secret of the fact that we are against plural voting. At the same time, I cannot see how any parallel can be drawn between this Bill and a Bill that dealt with plural voting all over the country. This is exceptional in its character, dealing only with anomalies which apply to London.
It has been suggested that in order to remove those anomalies we should bring in a Redistribution Bill for the whole of the United Kingdom. That is a colossal task. The noble Earl was a member of the Government which attempted it in the year 1895, and the difficulties which arose at that time were such that, after adumbrating a scheme, the Government made haste to drop the Bill and to leave the subject alone. It is impossible to tack to a Bill of this kind a redistribution scheme even for London, but to do so for the whole of the country 518 seems to me to be almost a reductio ad absurdum. I am sorry to have taken up so much time in the fruitless task of putting what I am afraid will be a very unsuccessful argument, as I have so often had to do before. For my own part I am heartily glad that the Bill should contain provisions having the effect of ending plural voting, but the main purpose of the Bill is to remove the anomalies I have described. Merely in justice the electors of London should be able to use their franchise on the same conditions as other citizens of the country.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, the speech to which we have just listened was, we shall all agree, moderate and cautious; but I do not believe that the noble and learned Lord is justified in his assumption that because an amendment has been moved from this side of the House, therefore whatever be the course of the debate the Bill would be rejected. But I think that the noble and learned Lord by the admirable speech which he has delivered has done much to minimise the issue which is before us and to direct your Lordships' consideration, not to the results of the Bill, which we are bound to consider, but to the objects of the Bill which exist in the minds of His Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess opposite justified those objects and called upon us for generosity. I do not think that those who have studied the speeches of members of the Government in the country have any reason to admonish your Lordships upon the subject of generosity. I believe there has hardly been a speech at the end of a session in which prominent members of the Government have not boasted before the country of the exceptional amount of legislation—and novel legislation—they have passed into law; and I think the noble Marquess and his friends ought to have had the generosity to admit that many of the Bills, which have been faulty to the last degree and have not received the support of many noble Lords opposite, have been put in order by this side of the House, and been given to the country in a much more effective condition than when they came to this House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF NORTHAMPTON
When I asked for generosity it was not in connection with the passing of legislation; it was in connection with defamation of character.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
It is a little hard to tell us that we are never to see in 519 what is so obviously, or seems on the surface to be, a Party gain—that we are never to see anything of the dictates of Party when one single question is taken out of all others, and when one only of the many anomalies existing in our electoral laws is singled out for redress. The noble Lord who introduced the measure said this was not, unfortunately, the moment when other anomalies could be redressed. I submit that this Bill is unique; that it violates every tradition on which reform Bills which have passed through both Houses of Parliament have been founded. Past measures have been national and universal; this Bill is local and partial. Past measures have added to the electorate and have been most careful of votes which were already given. Mr. Gladstone himself, in a most pregnant sentence, said, with regard to the Franchise Bill of 1884, that it did not interfere with the right already legally acquired, however illegitimate it might seem to be. But this Bill, while it undoubtedly, as Lord Derby pointed out, might by a single registration clause have given to all parts, of the country, with probably the universal consent of your Lordships, the enfranchisement which it proposes, this Bill is a measure of disfranchisement, and an exceptional proposal for London. There is no denying, moreover, that once on the Statute Book it would be made the jumping-off place for a further extension of the same principle to other parts of the country.
Then past measures which have been introduced have also preserved communities. I do not think that either of the great Reform Bills of 1867 and 1885 would have spared the smaller boroughs but for the fact that, as the introducer of each of them pointed out, the past tradition of Great Britain had been to represent communities and not to represent classes, to avoid putting one class against another. I believe this to be the kernel of our electoral laws. An American writer the other day pointed out, in a most studied and admirable work, that the reason that all classes in this country understand each other so well as compared to America and other parts of the world is that in matters like sport they are all engaged together and learn each others difficulties and become mutually acquainted with each other. If in a matter of that kind there is this gain, I ask your Lordships what is to be the result if you adopt legislation which is going to divide constituencies into rich and poor, which is going to prevent the 520 east from joining hands with the west, to divide men whose interests ought to be in common, and separate sympathies which ought to be mutual? No greater change could be made in our electoral laws than if you force all employers to vote in one place and all employed to vote in another. That would be the effect of this Bill so far as London is concerned. In London, in the boroughs of long standing, there is a great deal of local patriotism, and blending them into one vast whole is certainly not likely to be conducive to that local life which was set up, not by the establishment of the London County Council, but by the formation of the borough councils with separate constitutions and all the appanage of separate constitution.
Past Bills have decentralised the administration of our electoral laws, and have trusted the local authorities. This Bill proceeds on the novel practice which seems to infect every Government measure at the present time of uniting all power, patronage, and responsibility in one official sitting in the neighbourhood of Westminster. In this case the over-worked permanent head of the London County Council is to be made responsible for the lists for an electorate of 700,000 voters—the largest electorate in the world—and I am surprised at the proposal to make one revising barrister responsible for the preparation of the whole of these lists. I sincerely hope that if the Lord Chief Justice ever has to name this one unfortunate individual he will see that he has some detective experience, for I notice that on the list for London there are seventy-nine men of the name of John Smith alone and forty-nine of the name of David Jones. How is any one man to take up in the centre the work which has always been done in the locality of separating men of the same name? I have only to state these facts to show how difficult would be the labour.
The noble Lord opposite, Lord Welby, urged that we should pass this Bill on the ground that London was a borough; but he made that appeal to your Lordships after he had spent some minutes in explaining how great was London as a county. If London is a county then obviously it is to be treated like other counties and other organisations which in the same compass have a large number of independent seats. The noble Lord opposite said, Why not redress one small anomaly. But 521 there are anomalies in electoral law infinitely worse than those which have been referred to. Is it not an anomaly that you should have 103 members to 4,400,000 inhabitants in Ireland, while there are seventy-two members for 4,500,000 inhabitants of Scotland, and fifty-nine for nearly 6,000,000 inhabitants in London? But those anomalies remain untouched by this Bill. Again, half of the present House of Commons are elected by close upon 5,000,000 electors; the other half are elected by 2,000,000 electors. Is not that an anomaly worthy of the attention of His Majesty's Government? Again, the borough of Wandsworth has 27,000 electors, whilst the borough of Kilkenny has only 1,600. Is not that, too, an anomaly? Such is the distribution of electoral power at this moment that His Majesty's Government at the General Election obtained a majority in the House of Commons of 354, but, reckoned by votes, their majority should only have been ninety-four. If that had been the majority most of the Bills with which your Lordships have had to deal would never have been sent here at all. I ask your Lordships whether the anomalies used with such skill by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack are to be compared with those which I have just described under an electoral law which was pronounced by the late Sir William Harcourt sixteen years ago to be full of glaring defects, and which he said it was the business of a Liberal Government to amend, and amend sooner than later. I cannot help wishing that that strong pronouncement had been present to the mind of the First Commissioner of Works, and that he had not allowed his political zeal to outrun his filial piety.
The noble Lord opposite said that although the Plural Voting Bill had been rejected by this House, the people who would gain their votes by this Bill were appealing to your Lordships' House for justice. Where do we find that appeal? Have any Petitions been presented? There has not been a single Petition presented to this House in favour of the Bill. I believe three have been presented against the Bill. I cannot say that even in the appearance of the Benches opposite we find an exaggerated desire on the part of supporters of this Administration to record their votes in favour of this Bill. And certainly if we are to make other glaring inconsistencies of our electoral law more 522 grotesque by the introduction of this principle for one city, then clearly it can only be done or could only be done, in deference to a large amount of popular support, of which, I venture to say, there is not the smallest evidence in this House or outside.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that London was exceptional, and was therefore a proper subject for exceptional legislation. Now I venture to say that if your Lordships pass this Bill you will take a step which is unprecedented in the whole history of Reform Bills. Look back at any of the great Reform Bills. Were there no exceptions which might have been made to the Bill of 1831? I think those who have read the Debates of that day will bear me out when I say that in regard to that Bill a landslide which almost became a revolution could have been avoided if the Minister of the day had been willing to tinker with the matter and to make exceptions which would have spoilt perhaps the general effect, but which would have prevented the immense public feeling aroused. Look again at the Bill of 1867. I do not suppose there ever was a Bill upon which there was so much doubt or so much reason to make exceptions. It was before national education had been introduced and when communications to newspapers were comparatively scanty compared with what they are at the present day; certainly the difference between towns like London and Manchester and the more remote parts of the country in education and political fitness was enormous, but the statesmen of the day gave to those remote parts, despite many protests, the same privileges which they bestowed on the centre of the Empire.
Still more so was that the case in 1885. Many sitting round me will remember a great discussion which was aroused in the House of Commons as to the leaving of Ireland out of the Bill, and I well remember the brilliant oratorical effort made by a noble Lord, Lord Rathmore, who, unfortunately, too seldom speaks in this House, to whom great justice was done by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, in his "Life of Gladstone." He pointed out that if you gave to Ireland the franchise which was then proposed for England, it would be given to men thirty or forty per cent. of whom were illiterate, and the Ballot Act would be defeated because they would be bound to make their declarations in 523 public and undergo that very intimidation which it was the object of the Ballot Act to avoid. So great was the effect produced by that speech that I remember a member of the present Government telling me that it had convinced even the members of the Party opposite, and that an Amendment would have been carried except for the intervention of Mr. Gladstone. His argument was that in matters of franchise you could not make exceptions; the more remote a man was the more necessary it was that his grievance should be considered, and he convinced Parliament that without regard to political fitness or education it was necessary to give with an open hand and fully to all concerned the franchise to which all had a common claim. Will the strongest and warmest advocate of this measure say that that principle can ever be carried out if you are going to make the sort of exceptions which it is proposed to make to-night?
There are, no doubt, great reasons for a new Bill if you maintain that the workingman, because of his habit of moving by reason of the necessities of his life, is unduly deprived of political power; then I cannot see on what principle a man is not injured who removes form Manchester to Salford, Liverpool to Birkenhead, or Newcastle to Gateshead, which boroughs are one indeed in reality although not so in name, much more than St. George's in the East and St. George's, Hanover Square. The First Commissioner of Works said he objected to the property qualification. If you think that the payment of rates and taxes is a thing which you can ignore, and that a man is to be regarded as fit to vote simply because he exists, and if it is to be said that property has nothing to do with the matter, then I say the change ought to be effected by a Bill which deals with all constituencies, and ought not to be brought in by a side wind. To say to a man, You must give up your political power; to deny a man representation in the place where he works among those with whom his whole fiscal interests are bound up, is a course which Parliament ought not to adopt except after mature consideration and as a general measure.
Before I sit down I would appeal to your Lordships not to regard this question from any of those smaller standpoints to which allusion was made by the noble Marquess opposite. Measures of reform surely cannot be considered in this House from the point 524 of view of their effect on any election or even on a succession of elections. Many of those who based themselves on these considerations have been disappointed in the past, but in any case your Lordships' House would lose, I submit, all title to legislate if we did not attempt to have regard, not to passing sentiment, but to the permanent conclusions of the people. You will not do that by dividing constituencies between rich and poor, by encouraging people to consider how they can best represent their class rather than their community. It is very easy to tell a democracy that they are infallible, that they need no steering gear, that property is no test and education no guide. Who, however, can guarantee political stability, which is vital to any progress in our home affairs and equally vital to any permanent policy in Imperial questions, if the people are left to work out everything by themselves without the help of others who are associated with them?
I ask your Lordships, Is not this a practical question for everyone? Is it not already becoming more difficult every year for a Government to maintain a continuous policy owing to the shiftings of popular opinion, and is it not a serious matter to weaken in any case the electoral stability which has given something like a reasoned popular opinion in the past? If you are going to adopt this policy I would say, let us have it as a considered policy to be adopted throughout the country and not bring it forward at almost I the last moment of the longest session on record, as the last experiment of a harassed Government to administer a narcotic to one portion of the electorate, while not touching another very large portion who have an equal claim. My Lords, I believe that this measure has been shown by my noble friends who have I already spoken to be partial and unprecedented. I think it is a retrograde measure in which the interests of a part have been preferred to the interests of the whole, in which local considerations have been allowed to outweigh Imperial prudence, and I urge your Lordships to refuse it a Second Reading.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
My Lords, I only propose to say a few words in concluding this debate, and I certainly shall not attempt to follow the noble 525 Viscount over the very wide field which he traversed in his interesting speech. The noble Viscount dealt skilfully and broadly with the whole subject of Parliamentary reform, illustrated by historical instances, and he wound up with an appeal for a general policy of Parliamentary reform. But, my Lords, the noble Viscount seemed to me—I will not say to fall into an error, because I have no doubt he did it intentionally—but to take a course which is only too familiar to us on this side of the House, and it is this. When some anomaly is mentioned, and it is proposed by a Parliamentary measure to remove it, we are continually met with the argument:—"What is the use of dealing with the matter in this piecemeal fashion? If you are to remove anomalies, you must sweep them all away at once."
But the whole custom of legislation in this country has been towards piecemeal legislation. All the reform Bills to which the noble Viscount alluded were unquestionably piecemeal measures, full of exceptions, hedged round with safeguards, and conferring the trust of the franchise on one limited class at a time. My Lords, it is all very well to say that you must deal with all anomalies at once. The noble Viscount is prepared to repeal the Union between Great Britain and Ireland in order to redress what he considers to be the electoral disproportion between Ireland and Scotland; and he is prepared also apparently for something like equal electoral divisions all over the United Kingdom. That is all very well, and it may come. A great number of things may come, although these particular things may not come within the lifetime of most of us here. But that is really no argument for saying that if you have a chance of meeting a particular grievance, the existence of which is not denied, you should not take that chance, provided, of course, that you can show that in doing so you are not inflicting a worse grievance on anybody else. And I think it is not difficult to show in regard to this measure that this is the case.
The noble Viscount said, and we all appreciated his saying it, that it is as well not to impute Party motives in relation to a measure of this kind, and he alluded to the protest so well made by the noble Marquess behind me. Yes, my Lords, but we did not begin it. The charge was 526 brought against us that this measure was introduced by reason of the fact that a certain number of plural votes would be lost, and there was an implication, and even more than an implication, that we hoped to gain some electoral advantage by the manoeuvre. My noble friend the noble Marquess behind me pointed out with great force that this is a double-edged argument—that if it were true that we were only guided by electoral considerations in desiring to deprive a certain number of voters of the plural vote, it might be equally true to say that noble Lords opposite only valued the plural vote because they believed it would be given in their interest. I do not make that charge, and I am equally desirous that the other charge should not be made against us. If there is no great moral beauty in the one attitude there is no great moral beauty in the other, and I think we can leave the matter there and cry quits, disclaiming on both sides, as I am quite sure we can, a Party motive in the matter. Anyone who is disposed to be cynical might further point out that if this Bill is an attempt to gerrymander, it is a very poor attempt, and one which, so far as I have information, would be of very small service from a Party point of view. I think it would be very difficult for anybody to I point to a London seat which would be gained to one Party or lost to another, or even endangered, by this measure if it were passed.
Now, the line of demarcation between the two Parties is a clear one. We stand for the recognition of the unity of London, whereas noble Lords opposite show, not for the first time—for indeed they have shown it, I was going to say, hundreds of times before—a mistrust of a great London and a desire to see London disintegrated into the component parts out of which it is no doubt true the great London as we know it has come together. Noble Lords opposite would like to go back, I have no doubt, to the days of the village of Kensington, the quite separate city of Westminster, and the other hamlets and villages which crowned the northern heights. The noble Viscount used what seemed to me a somewhat strange argument in relation to this question of one London or the many boroughs forming a federated London. He said that if all the workers voted in one part and all the employers in another part that would be destructive to the sense 527 of community of interest and anything like corporate life. I should have thought that nothing could have done so much to destroy the sense of unity of corporate life as this incessant dwelling on the existence of the different cities and boroughs of London. If a man is taught to think more of himself as a resident in Westminster or St. George's Hanover-square, than as a citizen of London it must weaken his sense both of pride in London as a whole and his sense of duty towards the more remote parts of London which he has, perhaps, scarcely ever seen. Our desire is to accentuate in every way the unity of the great city in order to quicken the sense of pride in citizenship of the greatest city in the world, and also to stimulate the sense of duty of those who live in the richer quarters towards the great mass who live in the poorer quarters.
The noble Lord, Lord Farquhar, dwelt on the importance of the metropolitan boroughs. I have no desire to say a word against the organisation of the metropolitan boroughs, but it is not accurate to think or speak of them as if they were comparable to or commensurate with boroughs as we understand them in other parts of England. It is true that they are decorated with the appanage of boroughs, with the robes and chains which distinguish officers of boroughs all over the country, but none of the municipal powers which we understand as belonging to great boroughs are conferred upon them. It is necessary, therefore, to draw that distinction, because when you speak of Liverpool and Birkenhead on the one hand, and Westminster and Poplar on the other, you must remember that Westminster and Poplar are under one municipal management. Liverpool and Birkenhead are two absolutely distinct cities differently governed in every way.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Perhaps not in everyway, but the London boroughs would be more fitly compared with the relations which exist between a county council and a district council in an ordinary county area. Now, my Lords, it really comes down to this. We frankly admit that we do not like plural voting. Plural voting is objectionable to us from two points of view. We do not think that property, as such, demands separate representation, but we say that, 528 if it does, plural voting is not the way to give it, because one man might own the whole area of a large county constituency and have only one vote there, whereas another man having the most trivial property interests in twenty or twenty-five constituencies in different parts of England is supplied with a vote for each, and is able to exercise a great number of those votes by the fact that the elections are not held on the same day. I noticed in the strong desire of the noble Earl opposite, Lord Dartmouth, that all elections should be held on the same day, a sign of grace which I was very glad to observe on the Benches opposite. As I say, we do not like plural voting, but if it exists, as it does exist, it may be argued that it is a hardship that a particular set of plural voters who have a qualification in one London borough where they live and another qualification in another borough where their businesses are carried on should lose their vote. Admitting for the purposes of argument that that is a hardship, surely it is an infinitely smaller hardship than that of the man who loses his vote altogether because there is no successive occupation in London. I do not see, hardship for hardship, how it is possible to compare the two, and that seems to me to be a complete defence of our measure as we bring it in.
The time may come, as we hope it will from our point of view, when there will be no plural voting, and until that time does come noble Lords opposite have a right to point out what appears to them to be a hardship; but if we are to be told that we must wait until all the historical anomalies of our electoral law can be swept away in one measure, I doubt nobody's good faith, but I cannot believe that anybody who takes such a view can be seriously anxious that any kind of electoral reform should be instituted in any way. The noble Earl who moved the rejection of the measure pointed out how simple it would be to make voting easy for everybody by introducing a registration Bill. The noble Earl must know, I am sure, and noble Lords opposite know, that there is no subject more baffling and more difficult, and which has given more trouble to those who have studied the question, than the problem of how to get a really reasonable system of Parliamentary registration. The noble Earl said, amid some applause from his own friends, that everybody would be in favour of such a system. Noble Lords opposite had ten years of office, not altogether overburdened 529 as we think with fruitful legislation, and they might have devoted some part of that ten years in considering this question of registration. If they did not do so, no doubt it was partly owing to the difficulty and the complexity of the subject.
My Lords, I need say no more. I greatly regret the conclusion at which noble Lords opposite have arrived, and I cannot help thinking that reflection might induce some of your Lordships to wonder whether you
§ are not making a mistake in guarding so carefully the rights, as you conceive them to be, of a few voters and thereby preventing a far larger number of voters, of a humbler class it is true, from exercising in any way the right of voting which ought to be theirs.
§ On Question, whether the word "now" stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 40; Not-Contents, 157.531
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Allendale, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Armitstead, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Northampton, M.||Boston, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Brassey, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Shaw, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Eversley, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Farrer, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Kimberley, E.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Haversham, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Russell, E.||Hemphill, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Temple, E.||Lucas, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Lyveden, L.||Welby, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||MacDonnell, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Jersey, E.||Addington, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Kilmorey, E.||Aldenham, L.|
|Newcastle, D.||Lathom, E.||Alverstone, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Lauderdale, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Lichfield, E.||Ardilaun, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Lindsey, E.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Ashcombe, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Lucan, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Bath, M.||Lytton, E.||Basing, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Malmesbury, E.||Belper, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Mayo, E.||Blythswood, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Northbrook, E.||Borthwick, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Onslow, E.||Braye, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Plymouth, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Radnor, E.||Camoys, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Rosslyn, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Cadogan, E.||Rothes, E.||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Shaftesbury, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Carnwath, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Stradbroke, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Cawdor, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Verulam, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Colchester, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Wharncliffe, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Curzon of Kedleston, L.|
|Derby, E.||Colville of Culross, V.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Devon, E.||Falkland, V.||Deramore, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Goschen, V.||Desborough, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Digby, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Hood, V.||Dunalley, L.|
|Ellesmere, E.||Iveagh, V.||Dunboyne, L.|
|Essex, E.||Milner, V.||Dunleath, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Ridley, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Huntingdon, E.||Elphinstone, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Abinger, L.||Farnham, L.|
|Farquhar, L.||Llangattock, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Lovat, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Sanderson, L.|
|Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)||Monk Bretton, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|North, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Northcote, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Harris, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Ormathwaite, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Hindlip, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Playfair, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Poltimore, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)||Tennyson, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Vivian, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Rathdonnell, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Knaresborough, L.||Revelstoke, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Lamington, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Rothschild, L.||Wynford, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative accordingly, and Bill to be read 2a this day three months.