HL Deb 22 January 1918 vol 27 cc905-1010

House again in Committee (according to Order).

[The EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.]

Clause 18:

Modification of method of voting in certain constituencies.

18.—(1) If at an election for one member of Parliament there are more than two candidates, the election shall be according to the principle of the alternative vote as defined by this Act.

(2) At a contested election for a university constituency, where there are two or more members to be elected, any election of the full number of members shall be according to the principle of proportional representation, each elector having one transferable vote as defined by this Act.

(3) At a contested election for a university constituency in England or Ireland, the voting paper shall be signed by the voter in the presence of one witness who personally knows the voter and attests the fact of the voting paper having been signed by the voter in his presence at the place therein mentioned by signing his name thereto, and adding his designation and place of residence.

(4) His Majesty may by Order in Council frame regulations prescribing the method of voting, and transferring and counting votes, at any election, according to the principle of the transferable or of the alternative vote and for adapting the provisions of the Ballot Act, 1872, and any other Act relating to Parliamentary elections thereto, and with respect to the duties of returning officers in connection therewith; and any such regulations shall have effect as if they were enacted in this Act.

(5) Nothing contained in this Act shall, except as expressly provided herein, affect the method of conducting Parliamentary elections in force at the time of the passing of this Act.

Discussion resumed on the Earl of SELBORNE'S Amendment to insert, at the beginning of Clause 18, the following new subsection:—"(1) In a constituency returning not less than three nor more than five Members of Parliament any contested election of the full number of Members shall be according to the principle of proportional representation, each elector having one transferable vote as defined by this Act."


Last night the debate was rather singular in character, because all the speakers and all the arguments were on one side; and, although there has been a night in between, I should hesitate to think of troubling your Lordships with the general arguments over again were it not that there are one or two special points to which I wish to ask the attention of the House.

I propose to deal with the three speeches which have been made in opposition to Lord Selborne's Amendment—namely, the speeches of Viscount Peel, of the Earl of Lichfield, and of Viscount Harcourt. I want to summarise shortly, under two heads, the question of principle—first, as regards what proportional representation really means as an electoral method; and, secondly, what in substance are the expectations of those who strongly support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. I would state this as a proposition if you are considering proportional representation as an electoral method. I say that the test of an electoral method is the extent to which it gives every elector an equality of oportunity to give an effective vote. That is the true test, I think, of what an electoral method ought to be in a real representative system. In other words, you must have a franchise which is a reality and not a sham.

In order to illustrate exactly what my meaning is, I want to contrast in this respect, by one or two figures only, the difference between what I call the disfranchising effect of the single-Member constituency and the enfranchising effect of the principle of proportional representation. I will put it in this way on these figures, and then apply them shortly to the illustrations which Lord Selborne gave. I will take a single-Member constituency and 100 votes, because that is an easy matter. It is clear that fifty-one of those votes would return a Member; the other forty-nine might have no effect at all because they had not been given for a candidate who could possibly be elected. That 49 per cent. is the maximum of disfranchisement.

When we look into the illustrations given by Lord Selborne yesterday, we find that they run up to 30 and 36 per cent., with the result that substantial minorities have been almost permanently disfranchised under certain conditions, to the enormous detriment, according to my view, of national or Imperial interests. Before I go into those illustrations let me say what is the difference in figures as regards proportional representation—because, after all, we want to know why these things happen. I will take a five Member constituency for the sake of convenience. Instead of the minority being a maximum of forty-nine, the maximum of people whose votes will not be effective is only fifteen. The result is that, in all these cases which Lord Selborne gave, instead of having an unrepresented minority, which is a cause of friction and trouble in representative institutions, you have practically a representation in accordance with the proportional wishes of the electorate.

I will take the illustrations given by the noble Earl yesterday. Lord Selborne took South Africa, a part of the world with which he is specially acquainted. He gave the illustration of the Orange Free State, the representation of which was, I think, wholly against General Botha, although there was a considerable minority. Suppose that this minority, instead of being disfranchised to the extent of 49 per cent., had been disfranchised only to the extent of 15 per cent. Instead of the minority—Botha's representatives—in the Orange Free State being unrepresented they would have had a representation in proportion to their numbers.

Exactly the same thing would happen in the case of the Quebec Province of Canada. The late Earl Grey was referred to last night in a speech to which we all listened with great admiration. The late Earl Grey, with whom I had constant correspondence on this topic, regarded this question very largely from an Imperial standpoint, and it appears to me that we must so regard it if we are to keep our Imperial position and our Imperial ideas. What would be the effect in Quebec now? There is a minority of three. Instead of having the whole Province substantially united, as regards their representatives, against Sir Robert Borden, you would have a very substantial minority in his favour; thereby having, in the place of a false representation, a true expression of the opinion of the electorate in the Quebec Province. It is not only the actual votes. I will ask your Lordships to consider what is the real effect of representation in a matter of this kind. Is not the whole atmosphere different? Whether you have a province in Canada or a State in South Africa apparently adverse for the moment to our Imperial interests, you will find that even in those places there is a very substantial minority favourable to our Imperial position and to our Imperial ideas. It is hardly necessary, I think, to say that you do not create the truth by stating two untruths. You do not get over a misrepresentation of this kind by quoting a further misrepresentation in some other direction.

I want to be as short as I can, although the matter is one of enormous importance. But just the same thing obtains in this country, as was illustrated by Lord Selborne. It is no reparation to the Unionists in South Wales who are not represented that in some other constituency—such, for instance, as London or Birmingham—you may have the opposite tendency, equally untrue, equally false, as regards a true representative idea. I must say I agree fully with what the late Prime Minister said, that people who talked of a virtual representation because you had a balance or might have a balance between different districts did not understand and could not appreciate the first object of true representation—namely, that people should have an effective vote and be able to give it in an effective manner. I hope that I have explained now what I meant by speaking of proportional representation as an electoral method.

The more important matter to consider is, of course, what is the effect of electoral method; and we have to put two different results side by side. You may either have, by a proper electoral method, a representative body which is the expression of national life and national opinion—that is what I think is the right principle—or you may have an expression which is inaccurate, although it does represent the majorities for the time being in a large number of single-Member constituencies. I agree with what Lord Courtney said in his speech on the Second Reading on this subject. I say you have there all the difference, which is most vital at the present time under this Franchise Bill, between true and false democracy. You have, what is very dangerous, on the one side what is called the proletariat; you have on the other side representation of all interests, all classes, all ideas, and all opinions, and I, for one, believe you can trust that and trust it well, having regard to the history of our own country and our Empire.

I wanted to find a way in which I could put this point very shortly, and I found a passage by a writer whom I regard with much reverence on this class of question. Lord Acton, writing in favour of proportional representation, says— It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands who would otherwise have no voice in the Government. I have shown by figures that this is perfectly true, comparing proportional representation with the single-Member system. Lord Acton goes on to say this— It brings men more near an equality by so contriving that no vote shall be wasted— That is what I have already pointed out— and that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament a Member of his own opinions. And then near the same passage he says— There are many difficulties ahead. One of the great difficulties is to combine independence of labour on the one side and security of property on the other. —two principles which you must combine in the future if we are to continue a prosperous and a great country. And what does he say is the only way in which that can be done? He says there is one way and one way only, and that is by equality of opportunity of every interest, whether labour, land, or capital, in order that it may have its fair proportionate voice in the great representative Assembly by which we are governed under our representative institutions. That is a great matter.

I look on this question of proportional representation as in a certain sense the parting of the ways when we are dealing with such a great Franchise Bill as is now before your Lordships' House. We have to choose between the mere majority proletariat on the one side, and the people as a whole on the other. There is no halfway house. Single representaton leads in the one direction; proportional representation in the other. Upon that point I should like to give an answer to an argument which I listened to last night. I forget for the moment which speaker brought it forward, but the argument was this—and we have often heard it in the course of our debates—namely, Is it not a pity to have proportional representation introduced during war time? What is the answer? We have already determined to have a Franchise Bill. Are you going to argue that because it is war time you are going to place the Franchise Bill upon a wrong basis? I imagine that none of your Lordships would listen for a moment to an argument of that kind. Therefore I beg of you, as far as I have any influence, if you think the arguments in favour of proportional representation are sound, to support the Amendment of Lord Selborne and once again in the history of this country show that the mixed qualities ot stability and progress can be found under the œgis of the House of Lords. I think I have put shortly, but as succinctly as I can, what appears to me to be the kernel of the matter.

I pass now to deal with the arguments which were addressed to your Lordships on the other side last night. The protagonist was Lord Harcourt. I am sorry that the noble Viscount is not here at this moment, because I should be sorry to misrepresent in any way what he has said and I hope I shall not do so. I cannot profess to go through the whole speech—it would take too much time—but I am going to say this, that Lord Harcourt's speech, to use an expression which has come rather prominently before us in the last few days, was a "butting in" against the whole principle of representative institutions and representative government. His speech was that from top to bottom. I will show what I mean under two heads. He said that it was no good to tell him—of course, I am parpahrasing his argument—that single-Member constituencies gave distorted representation. He said. "I want distorted representation, and I wish I could get further distortion." Why did he wish that? In order that we might have a Government as autocractic and as bureaucratic as we could possibly have it. It is no good arguing in detail against any one who takes a view of that kind. If you want to destroy representative institutions do not vote for proportional representation. If you want an autocratic and bureaucratic system do not vote for the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. But I take a different view of what you mean by a strong Government. The noble Viscount said himself that it was rather in foreign policy than in home policy that he urged the need of a strong Government. My Lords, a Government is strong which has the united opinion of the people at its back. A Government is strong which is supported by truly representative institutions. It is not strong as the result of distorted opinion; it is not strong by mere distorted majorities. If in dangerous times you want your Government to be really strong and great, it must have behind it the united opinion of the people of the country. I think that is the answer to my noble friend Viscount Harcourt. I will refer a little later to the speech of Viscount Peel.

There was a very interesting speech made by the Earl of Lichfield, which raised a very important topic, but I think it is capable of a fairly easy answer. I wish Lord Lichfleld had been present at a meeting of the Committee of members of your Lordships' House who are dealing with this matter when a great representative body of agriculturists came before them. I am sure that had he been there he would have been convinced, as all of us were, of the genuine feeling of the agricultural community that they desired, and earnestly desired, a general scheme of proportional representation. I do not, however, rest my case there. I rest my case again, as I did in laying down the foundations of proportional representation, on truth and fact. I think there is too much bandying of opinion sometimes on one side of the House or the other. What is the truth? The truth is this, that in an industry like agriculture, which is spread over the whole country and not concentrated in any one district, it is utterly impossible under the principle of the single-Member constituency to have a fair share of agricultural representation. The difficulty which has existed in the past in this respect will, of course, become exaggerated in future under this Bill.

I should like to put two matters to the test. Mr. Walter Long, whom we all respect—certainly I respect him very much—seemed to be satisfied with the conditions of agriculture when the war broke out, satisfied that it had been sufficiently represented and sufficiently regarded. I take the contrary view. I think it was one of the misfortunes of our country when war broke out that the agricultural industry had not been sufficiently regarded in past times, and I do not think the evil is over. I do not want to say a word, particularly in his absence, about the Food Controller, but I ask to-day, when you are wanting the agricultural industry in this country to produce all it can and when (in my experience, at any rate) every farmer is eager and anxious to do all he can for national purposes—can he be sure that the conditions of this industry have been sufficiently regarded? We know perfectly well what the view of the farmer is. If he would take my advice I would say, "Make sure under the system of proportional representation that your industry will have a proportionate representative authority, and unless you do that you will never have any guarantee that your interests are properly safeguarded." Now I come to the last speech about which I wish to say a word or two—namely, the speech of Viscount Peel. The noble Viscount told us that he was speaking in a neutral and dispassionate spirit.


I do not think I used the word "dispassionate."


Well, neutral. I have far too much respect for the noble Viscount to throw any doubt upon his view of neutrality, but it was an armed neutrality, armed, if I may say so—for I have great respect for his powers—with somewhat potent weapons. Although it is unfair to attack a neutral, perhaps he will allow me, regarding him as an armed neutral, to say one or two words in opposition to the views that he put forward. The main and the most important point was, I think, the Schedule point. Every one must admit that what Lord Peel said as regards the Schedule requires careful consideration, and I am going to make my answer to it. In the first place, I want to read what the noble Earl (Earl Curzon) said in this House. It was referred to by Lord Selborne, but I want to read it again. He will forgive me, but I think the noble Earl is going to speak and I want his attention to be particularly drawn to these words. The question was raised of the difficulties of proportional representation, and whether we ought not to get the authority of this House to give Instructions to the Redistribution Commissioners to draw up a Schedule on a proportional representation basis. Some of us thought that we ought to take steps in that direction. This is how the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, addressing the House as a whole, reassured us You will be entirely free to discuss and to reintroduce proportional representation in any form that you please. That, of course, is the neutrality doctrine, which I have no doubt the noble Earl will follow when he addresses the House. Now I want to read this. I am not reading it in criticism, but in admiration, if I may say so. Lord Curzon proceeded— I go further and say that if your Lordships, when the Bill comes up here, decide to act in that way— That is, to carry the Amendment, the Government will gladly render you any assistance in their power— Now what is the assistance for?— either in the drafting of the Bill or in framing those parts of the Schedule that may be affected by your action. Now the noble Earl did not mean by that what I may call a mere sham assistance. I would not say that for a moment. I am certain he did not mean that. He meant to give such assistance in framing "those parts of the Schedule that may be affected by your action" that the Amendment, if carried by us, would become effective.


I will not intervene now, but perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to explain later exactly what I did mean when I used those words.


Of course. I do not want to press the words one iota beyond what they seem to me to bear in their natural meaning. The noble Earl knows I should be the last person to do it. I would not try to do it for a moment. Just let us consider how the matter stands. It was suggested by the noble Viscount that to readjust the Schedule would take some time. He said that yesterday. As he put it, "it might delay the Bill."


"Three months," he said.


Never mind about the time. I will deal with that when I come to it. What is the answer to that? Assuming, as one has to for this purpose, that the House of Commons agrees with us, as I believe they will, and accepts the principle of proportional representation. Just assume that for a, moment. Is there any noble Lord here who believes that, if the two Houses express that opinion, there will be any real difficulty in providing an adequate and effective Schedule? Of course, there will not. I want to go two steps further on this point. First of all, as the noble Earl (Lord Selborne) has pointed out, we have a Schedule, and of course are prepared to place it at the disposal of the Government. A great deal of that Schedule is mere re-grouping, but I agree that upon a point of this kind it must go ultimately before the Redistribution Commissioners. We always knew that from the beginning, and the noble Earl knew it when he made the statement which I have read. There is no mystery or difficulty about that.

Let us see whether there would be any delay; it is an important point. I am assuming that the two Houses are in agreement. That is the position which I hope for and expect, and it is the position in reference to which I am putting my argument. Supposing the two Houses are in agreement there is not the least difficulty, as was pointed out by the noble Viscount yesterday, and as is known by every one who has studied the Bill, in beginning registration at once, because registration does not depend on proportional representation or not; it depends simply on the registration units. It would be precisely the same thing in all respects whether you had one system or the other. It is not for me to say how it is to be done; there are so many ways of carrying it out. But can anything be easier than this that in order to prevent all questions of delay let the Bill be passed so that registration can begin. There is not the remotest difficulty of any sort or kind in bringing in a Schedule at a subsequent date. It would not affect one single bit of the Bill so far as delay is concerned at all. I challenge any one to answer that statement.

But I wish to go a little further. Supposing your Lordships agree with the principle of proportional representation, as I desire to put it forward; supposing the other House also takes the view that at this great crisis of our franchise discussions proportional representation ought to be introduced; and supposing both Houses were determined that, as in the past we were the pioneers of representative government, so now we should take it in hand and send it forward to meet the new democratic opinions of the time; supposing we come to that conclusion, is there a single noble Lord who thinks that the argument regarding delay put forward by the noble Viscount ought to interfere with the acceptance of a great principle and a great idea of that kind? I am sure no one would do so, and I know the noble Viscount would not support a view of that kind.

May I give one illustration. It is rather a curious illustration, although owing to certain conditions it did not become as effective as it ought to have done. Lord MacDonnell and myself, acting together, proposed proportional representation, not in portions of the Home Rule Bill, but throughout it, from top to bottom. What happened? Officialism got up in this House and said, "What is the good of doing this? Why, under the Parliament Act this can never be accepted, because to change a single word under the Parliament Act means doing away with the measure." Your Lordships did not listen to an argument of that kind. When the Division was called there were no "Tellers" found against the principle of proportional representation; and I am bound to add this on the authority of Lord MacDonnell, that but for the fact that the war broke out shortly after that occasion, the Government had agreed to accept the Amendment which your Lordships had sent down. I go one step further, regretting that that was not done, and I say that if it had been done, and if the view of your Lordships had become effective, you should have been saved a vast amount—I do not say all—but a vast amount of the unfortunate difficulties which now surround the Irish question, because you would have had a fair system of representation, in which all interests might have been fairly expressed, instead of the present untrustworthy representation, particularly so far as Sinn Fein is concerned. I hope I have answered the noble Viscount on the question of the Schedule. If I have not, I can say no more; but there are one or two other observations of his upon which I should like to say a word as I have great respect for any opinion the noble Viscount expresses.

With regard to what he said about London, it was chiefly said on an obvious misapprehension, and I am bound to correct him in one point. The scheme which we, as proportional representationists, have is to preserve the borough spirit in the metropolitan boroughs. That is what we desire, and when the noble Viscount spoke of cutting across the line of local and municipal spirit in London, he was not aware that our scheme is based on this—namely, that all these borough divisions should be maintained, and the most that would be done would be to combine two boroughs together for representation purposes. So far from Wandsworth, and all the other places, losing their local life, why, it is recognised in the most effective manner possible. Let me also say this. Many of your Lordships perhaps care as much for county government and county life as I do myself. I think it is one of the grandest features of our constitutional system; but is it dividing up our county life by having representatives for the whole of the county area? I deny it absolutely. I say it is one of the incidental advantages of proportional representation that you can give full opportunity for the vigour which ought to characterise our local institutions, and which does characterise them, I believe, at the present moment. Therefore, so far as London is concerned, the criticisms were made under a misapprehension.

There were two other points, the question of expense and the question of by-elections. By-elections are a by-product. I want to express my own view that what the Conference did was the right way of dealing with the by-election. I have said before, and I say it now with all the experience, and all we have heard of the work of the Conference, that I agree with the recommendation that they made. But supposing that it is wrong. It is just one of those points that can be readily put straight if experience shows that some other system is preferable. It is almost impossible to appreciate the mental attitude which would attempt to destroy proportional representation because perchance you might have a difficulty as regards a by-election here or there. As to the question of expense I ventured to say, in speaking on the Second Reading, as one who had fought five contested elections all in county areas, partly with success and partly with failure, that in my opinion the scale of expenditure allowed in the Bill was grossly exaggerated; and I say it again. Your Lordships may have noticed that an Amendment has been put down which will very much decrease the suggested expenditure. I will not go into that at the present time. It is, of course, a matter which the House of Commons will have to determine for themselves. I think that I have dealt with all the arguments presented to your Lordships yesterday against the Amendment. Is there one argument of real substance, when you once grasp what the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Selborne really means, which would tell with you if you are convinced that proportional representation is necessary, not only in fairness to the voter, but in order to have a true democracy as contrasted with a mere proletariat? I do ask you most earnestly, if you are in favour of the general principle, not to be led away by the suggestions of minor difficulties, which may be useful for argumentative purposes but which in the great scheme of our progress fall into utter insignificance.


My Lords, I need hardly say that I do not rise at this stage of the debate with the smallest idea of closing, or even of contracting, the discussion in which I believe that several very important members of your Lordships' House still desire to take part. I rise now because so far, with the exception of my noble friend Lord Peel, who spoke in the main last night about the practical difficulties that might arise if the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Selborne was carried, no one has yet addressed your Lordships from this Bench, and although this is a debate, as we have been told many times, in which noble Lords are free to speak and act and vote as they please, it would perhaps be unbecoming if, during the greater part of two days' discussion, no opinion was expressed on the merits of the case from those who represent the Government in this House.

This debate has presented two somewhat remarkable features. The first of them is this. It has not applied to the speech to which we have just listened, but it did apply to the greater part of the speeches yesterday. The principle speakers on that occasion devoted a considerable part of their time and energy to demolishing the arguments which had been used one way or another about proportional representation in another place. They identified the names and quoted the actual language of the speakers. I do not say that this was an improper, but it was rather an unusual, proceeding in your Lordships' House, and the spectacle of speeches in one House of Parliament being answered seriatim six or eight months later in another House of Parliament is, I venture to say, somewhat of an innovation in our Parliamentary procedure. The second point was this. With the exception of the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, who made a most powerful attack upon proportional representation, and Lord Lichfield, who at a later stage in the discussion spoke against proportional representation as affecting the agricultural interest, all the speakers, all the arguments, were on one side; and indeed at a late hour of the evening a noble friend of mine, Lord Muir Mackenzie, rose in his place and somewhat pathetically asked if he was to go on repeating the arguments that had already been addressed to your Lordships' House, or if somebody would not provide him with fresh pabulum with which to deal. He encountered the difficulty very successfully by making a clear statement of his own views.

What am I to deduce from the general character of the debate so far as it has gone? Does it mean that the greater part of this House, or the whole of this House, has already made up its mind? Or am I to attribute the character of the debate so far as it has proceeded in the main to the excellent management of my noble friend Lord Grey? In passing, may I say of that noble Lord what I am sure the House will endorse. I was told—because I did not, unfortunately, hear his speech, having to be absent—that he made a most admirable and successful first contribution to our debates.


Hear, hear.


Worthily representing and carrying on the traditions of his eminent and most regretted father; while I am bound to say that, in his flittings about this House, and still more in the capable arrangements that he has made outside, he seems to me to have shown a capacity for organisation that should argue very favourably for a successful career. If your Lordships have already made up your minds, there is probably not much more to be said; but I suspect that a good many of your Lordships are still in a rather uncertain and puzzled frame of mind, and indeed on this question the decision is far from easy. There is no political controversy—if that is not too strong a word—in our time in which the two sides seem to be more confident—there was a note of great confidence in the speech to which we have just listened—of the soundness of their own arguments and the incredible obtuseness of their adversaries.

I have listened already to many speeches in favour of proportional representation in the course of this debate. The speaker gets up and starts upon a perfectly sound basic principle. He argues on true democratic lines, because we are all of us democrats now. He demonstrates the foibles, the inequalities, the injustices, the anomalies of the present system. He shows us the example of other communities—it is true, somewhat small and not always very relevant—in which this system has been tried with success, and he points out to us (and I believe it to be true) that wherever it has been tried, or at any rate in the great majority of cases where it has been tried, it has been persisted in and not abandoned.




He then produces his rival panacea which is to be the solution for every evil. In the course of his argument, like my noble friend who has just sat down, he analyses and dissects and completely eviscerates every argument of his opponents, and then he sits down, as did my noble friend, with a glow of conscious pride and amid the loud plaudits of his audience.

Then we turn to the other side. The rival protagonist gets up, and he opens his batteries. He disputes every proposition that we have heard from the advocate of proportional representation, and he discounts the cases where it has been tried. We heard last night a long list of eminent statesmen during the last fifty years, with great political experience, who have pronounced against this change. He deplores the sacrifice of many interesting and valuable features in our public life. He shows that a fresh group of anomalies, injustices, and difficulties would spring from this system; and he, also, eventually sits down with the consciousness of a good piece of polemical work well done.

In these circumstances what is a man to do who has no very strong partiality one, way or the other, but who simply wants to introduce into our electoral system the arrangements and devices which on the whole would work best for the future Government of the country? That is my position. I have never, so far, given a general vote for proportional representation. At the same time I have felt that in certain instances a very strong case could be made out for it; and, as far as I remember, in the discussions on the constitution of a new Second Chamber and in the proposals connected with the Home Rule Act, I was in favour, and even voted in favour, of some system of proportional representation. Therefore, my Lords, I am in the position of one who would like to see the experiment of proportional representation tried, and I approach this clause in the Bill which deals with the matter on the whole with an inclination to give it the fair trial of which I have spoken:

Now let me place before your Lordships, briefly, what I may call the principal landmarks in the recent history of the case. I am going back no further than the Speaker's Conference. I am not one of those who attach pontifical value to the pronouncements of that Conference. I think its findings have been invested on the one hand with a somewhat exaggerated value, while on the other hand attempts have been made to minimise them with which I certainly have no sympathy. We cannot get away from the fact that the findings of the Speaker's Conference with respect to proportional representation were unanimous. Further, the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, speaking last night with the interior knowledge of a member of the Conference, said that proportional representation was regarded by them as an essential part of the scheme. He went a little further, and said that the Report would not have been accepted unanimously unless it had contained proportional representation. I do not know whether in so saying he was speaking in the main for himself and his friends, or whether he was speaking for the entire body of those with whom he was associated. [Lord BURNHAM indicated dissent.] No, he was speaking in the main for himself and those with whom he acted. Of course, the scheme for proportional representation to which the noble Lord referred, and to which he attached so much importance, as affecting his final vote at the Conference, was not the scheme put before us by my noble friend Lord Selborne. It was something very different, and I think before we quote the authority of the Speaker's Conference in favour of Lord Selborne's scheme we ought to distinguish very clearly as to the difference between those two proposals.

What was the proposal of the Speaker's Conference? It was that proportional representation should be given first to London, secondly to other large boroughs, either to boroughs returning from three to five Members or to groups of contiguous boroughs, and thirdly to the Universities. Proportional representation was not to apply to the counties or to the agricultural districts, of which we have heard so much in the course of this debate. It was therefore clearly and undeniably only a partial, experimental application of proportional representation to which Mr. Speaker's Conference gave its assent. Now, my Lords, that is a very intelligible proposal. I do not think it was a logical one, and its want of logicality was effectively pointed out by my noble friend Lord Selborne. But, on the other hand, we are seldom guided in our political actions, and still less, perhaps, in our constitutional and administrative arrangements, by pure logic. I do not imagine that there exists in the world a more illogical system than that upon which we have been and shall probably continue to be governed in this country.

That was the first landmark in the recent history of the case. The second was the action of the House of Commons. In that House the matter was three times debated and divided upon. All the best speakers took part on one side or the other in the debates, and I imagine there has seldom been a greater display of Parliamentary ability than was shown, notably on the second and third of those occasions. Well, my Lords, the proposal was, as the noble Earl reminded us last night, three times rejected, by majorities starting with 8 and increasing successively to 32 and 76. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, with a note of anguish, complained that the size of the majority on the third of those occasions was due to the absence of his friends the advocates of proportional representation in that House. I can only think there must have been nobody corresponding to Lord Grey in that House to bring his men up to the poll. But in any case, my Lords, if that be the true explanation, it is one that does not speak very favourably for the amount of zeal and enthusiasm which is felt for the scheme by its advocates in another place.

But, my Lords, what struck me most in the debates in another place was, not the result of the Division Lobby, but the remarkable aversion which was displayed even by those who were in favour of the scheme to be made the victims of the first occasion on which the experiment was to be applied. I could not help recalling to my mind an incident which happened to me when I was in India. A large body of advanced opinion in India was in favour of a scheme for the separation of the Judicial and Executive functions, as it is called in that country, and this was a scheme with which the Government generally were not in favour because they thought it would weaken the Executive. At the same time, my position was very much then what it is this evening in your Lordships' House. The experiment was one that I thought I should like to see tried, and I therefore selected a suitable area and sent for the principal landowner, a very important man, in the area concerned. He, I may say, had been one of the principal advocates of the change. I said to him, "The Government are thinking of introducing experimentally this change, and in looking about the country they find no area more suitable than that in which your estates are situated and in which your influence is paramount." "Oh no, for heaven's sake," he said, "whatever you do don't try it in my area and upon me."

Somewhat the same attitude was adopted in another place in the earlier stages of this discussion. In the first place the whole of London rose in revolt; and we were told last night that on the last occasion, out of sixty-one Members, I think, for London, only three voted in favour of the proposal. My Lords, you cannot coerce the metropolis, you cannot defeat London, and London accordingly dropped out of the consideration of the case in the later stages. As regards other great boroughs likely to be affected, a remarkable difference of opinion was expressed by the Members who represent those constituencies, and the broad result, I believe, was that the great majority, I believe an overwhelming majority, of the Members of Parliament in another place who voted for the change were those who were not going to be directly affected by it themselves.

Now the third landmark is the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. The Amendment itself, in the form in which it stands on the Paper, is formless and void, and it will only assume substance and shape when backed up by the Schedule which, I believe, he and his friends have in preparation. He himself described his proposal as one for a complete system of porportional representation. He proposes to take the whole of the United Kingdom: I am not quite certain about Ireland, but I think he included Ireland as well.


I did not mention Ireland. Ireland is, of course, in suspension at present.


Yes, of course, Ireland is in suspension, but I imagine that in theory the noble Earl would be in favour of dealing in this way with the whole of the United Kingdom.


He mentioned it in his speech.


He mentioned it in his speech. My noble friend took the whole of the United Kingdom, and he proposes to divide it up into a number of large constituencies returning three, four, or five Members, with only certain small and limited exceptions. There would remain, I understand from what he said, a few single-Member and double-Member constituencies. There would also remain certain counties—for instance, in the Highlands—because of the great difficulty of grouping them together. And there would remain some cities which have a peculiar character, history, and individuality of their own. I think he named the City of York, the City of London, and Westminster.


I did not purport to give a list. I only gave those as illustrations.


Quite so. Those were illustrations, and no doubt there would be others as well. My first remark is this. Lord Selborne's proposal goes far beyond the findings of the Speaker's Conference, and indeed it may be said to go against them. Secondly, it goes far beyond anything that the House of Commons has, so far as my recollection goes, discussed; and it goes, I think it would be fair to say, against the vote which on three occasions, although on a narrower issue, the House of Commons has given. And, thirdly, the noble Earl is proposing in the final stages of this measure to introduce, on the responsibility of your Lordships' House, if you accept his advice, a complete and far-reaching scheme of electoral redistribution.

Now, may I briefly turn to the arguments with which the noble Earl enforced his advice. With many of them I was in great sympathy. He drew a vivid picture of the great and exasperating anomalies which are the result of our present system. He pointed to the cases of Wales and Scotland, with the almost complete absence of representation for important interests and parties. I think he gave also the illustration of Quebec, in another part of His Majesty's Dominions. He argued, with, I think, a good deal of force, that proportional representation would probably render a House of Commons so returned a more faithful representation of the different strata in the formation of our public life. It is true, of course—if I may for a moment adopt the metaphor of a geological formation—that under our present system some strata get flattened out, others get distorted and tilted at inconvenient and unfair angles, and others get squeezed out of existence altogether. That point I concede to him, and if we lived under a system of proportional representation I imagine the horizontal relation of these strata to each other would be much more perfect than it now is. He further argued with force that in this way you would obtain representation for important minorities that at present suffer from the lack of it. And there was a point that either he did not make, or, if he did make it, he attached no great importance to it, but which is, I think, worthy of some notice, and that is that you might by proportional representation get back into the House of Commons some of those powerful and independent spirits who, under the somewhat cruel tyranny of our present electoral system, sometimes lose their seats in the House of Commons and find it difficult to return to a Chamber which no one is better fitted than themselves to adorn. Then he also pointed out with force that this system would probably prevent the very large, swollen, and exaggerated majorities under which we sometimes live—I will not say from which we suffer—but which are undoubtedly not always in correspondence with the real public opinion of the country.

But although I am in a good deal of sympathy with the noble Earl on those points, there were certain respects in which he failed to carry conviction to my mind. I am not going to take the point about the supposed stupidity of the electorate, because I do not think it is quite a fair one, for I think our electorate are getting sharper and more intelligent with every day that passes. The system of proportional representation is not a simple one. It is a complicated one, but I agree that it is not unintelligible. It is a difficult one to be put into operation, but it is not impracticable. I can quite believe that in the earlier stages you might have a number of spoilt papers, a good deal of confusion among the voters, difficulties and delays in the counting, and so on. But I think that there would come the familiarity that is bred of experience, and that gradually people would settle down to a full comprehension and fair working of the system. Therefore I do not take that point.

The points on which the noble Earl did not convince me were these. I think that he minimised the strain that would be placed on the physical strength, the time and the purse—although I do not desire to lay much stress upon that—of the candidates for these enormous constituencies in the future. I do not, for my own part, envy the position of a man who is either one of many candidates, or is one of several Members, should he be returned, for one of these large electorates. I do not envy his position, either during the Election, when we consider the number of speeches that he would have to make, and still less after the Election, when we consider the number of letters, appeals, and so on, with which he would be inundated, and to which he could only turn a deaf ear to the detriment of his own position. I think either the noble Earl or somebody else argued last night that in such a case any one out of five Members could afford to leave these matters alone, and to trust to his colleagues to do what he failed to do himself. If he did so he would lose his seat. There will always be among the five or six Members returned men who will devote themselves, just as they do now, to the active keeping up of the political life of the constituency and of their own connection with it; and the man who fails to do that work and to maintain that connection will find that he will go to the wall when the next Election comes round. Then, again, while I have admitted that this system would admit to the House of Commons some very desirable Members, I am not certain that these great constituencies and the labour involved would not exclude others. I cannot see how under these conditions the middle-aged, or, if that be too narrow a limitation, the elderly men, or the men with great business avocations, would be able or willing to take part in these contests.

So far, I have been speaking from the point of view of the candidate or of the Member. Now take the point of view of the constituent. I think my noble friend greatly minimised the position of bewilderment in which the constituents themselves would be placed. Take the constituency with five Members. When the war is over we all realise that everything will be changed; that Parties will assume different forms, and, perhaps, wear different names. Whether there will be fewer or more Parties it is impossible, to say. I think myself that there will be a larger number of Parties. I doubt very much whether the existing three Parties will disappear; and I think, particularly under a system of this sort, that they will be replenished by many others. Now think of the electors who are confronted, in a constituency returning five Members, with fifteen or twenty candidates; called upon to read fifteen to twenty election addresses; supposed to attend the meetings addressed by fifteen or twenty candidates. As it is under our present system each elector goes in all probability to the meetings addressed by the two rivals; he listens to both Parties and makes up his mind between them. I shudder at his lot if the greater part of his existence at election times is to be spent wandering about listening to all these gentlemen, trying to find out what their respective views are, and endeavouring to make up his mind in what order he is to place "1," "2," and "3," when he goes to the polling booth.

If I exaggerate that, the point takes me to another one which is really of much greater importance. The advocates and opponents of this measure both speak as if the system of wire-pulling and caucus—which we all in theory so much dislike—were going to be affected. I think that the noble Earl himself used that argument.




At any rate, it is an argument which is used by some. Is it not perfectly certain that with these vast constituencies, and with these ignorant voters, they will fall more and more into the hands of the wire-pullers, who will direct them which way they are to vote and what they are to do; and you will have the spectacle of a lot of wandering sheep shepherded by clever and unscrupulous men into this or that fold, very likely very much perturbed when they realise the destination into which they have been finally led.

I think that the noble Earl unduly depreciated the advantages of the present system. Surely in the majority of single-Member constituencies there is a very close and happy relation of intimacy between the Member and his constituents. This is possible with an electorate of about 12,000 voters; absolutely impossible with an electorate of 100,000 or 120,000. The noble Earl yesterday drew a picture, with which I did not at all agree, of the present relations between a Member of Parliament and his constituents. He described the Member as very likely more or less unknown to a great many of his constituents; at any rate, as not being personally known to all of them; as not having seen or met them all; very likely not having addressed them all; and as though their relations to each other were in many cases conducted by canvass or by the Press. Surely that is not what happens. In the old days I have stood for two classes of constituencies. I stood first, under the old system, for one of the large county constituencies in my own part of the country before the change came in 1885. It was a constituency not approaching in size or numbers to those which are now contemplated, but still it was a very big one. All I can say is that I found the labour of going round the whole of that constituency, and of making the acquaintance of the people, of addressing village and town meetings, and so on, almost insupportable, even though it lasted two or three years before the Election came. Then the change came in 1885, and I found myself representing a county constituency with one large borough in it. I can truthfully say—and I am not taking any credit to myself; because what is true of me is true of almost everybody else—that I was known to every elector in the constituency. Most of them I visited; the whole of them I addressed; and I think that the relationship between us, fortified by successive Elections, was of the most intimate character.

Thus under the single-Member system I cannot help thinking that there does grow up between the Member and his constituents a familiarity and an intimacy and a confidence which it would be a very great pity to weaken or to destroy. The same thing applies—I think my noble friend Lord Peel argued upon that point—equally and, perhaps, still more to the great boroughs—the boroughs which are divided into separate constituencies. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, spoke in very eloquent language about the corporate spirit of London; and I am one of those myself who, living in this great metropolis with all its historic traditions and interest, feel (although I have nothing but a municipal vote here) a sense of the dignity and the traditions of the surroundings in which I live; and no doubt those who represent it in Parliament feel it still more. But I think that Lord Selborne made a confusion, or, rather, he failed to distinguish, between corporate patriotism and local patriotism. Surely there does exist in these smaller areas in London, created by the Act of 1885, a local civic spirit invaluable in its character and manifestations. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, said just now that this will be maintained under the change.




No, indeed, it will not. It will be maintained in those boroughs in the area of London which are large enough to return three or four or five Members.


You will see in the Amendment that the local administrative boundaries are to be preserved.


No; that is quite inconsistent, as I understand it—although I am open to correction—with the proposal of my noble friend Lord Selborne. Lastly, I am not convinced that the change which Lord Selborne proposes would give us a more stable Government, or a stronger Executive, or a better Administration.

I turn now to the point—and I shall deal with it in one or two sentences only—about the representation of agriculture. I fully realise the strong feeling that exists in this House, and among spokesmen of that interest outside, in favour of this proposed change. I would not venture for one moment to side either with Mr. Walter Long and Lord Lichfield on the one hand, or with Lord Chaplin and other equally eminent spokesmen of that cause on the other. But there seems to me to be in Lord Selborne's argument a strange hiatus on one point. What he gained on one hand in the representation of the agriculture interest he seemed by his proposals under another head to throw away. He realised, nobody more quickly, that an entire system of regrouping areas would be required, and that in many cases county areas would have to be regrouped with boroughs and urban areas. In those cases, does he think that he is going to maintain the unity and identity of the agricultural vote?


I think I did specifically say that the cases I alluded to were in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where we have industrial county divisions and boroughs.


I will take another case. I will take the case—I think it is a fair one, but if not I will withdraw it—of a constituency like that of Barnard Castle, in Durham. That. I believe, is largely an agricultural constituency. Under a system of proportional representation the noble Earl would, I think, have a fair chance of returning an agricultural Member.


I think it is a mining constituency.


No, I am informed that there is a large agricultural element, sufficiently large to secure the return under this scheme of an agricultural Member. Now, under this scheme, it is perfectly certain that that division would have to be grouped with the neighbouring urban areas of Seaham, Durham, Spennymoor, and Bishop Auckland; and with a population of 300,000, mainly consisting of miners, any chance of an agricultural Member being returned would. I think, be out of the question.

The noble Lord who addressed us just now brushed aside the question of by-elections. He said it was a very small matter and need not affect our views upon the whole case. I wonder if it is so small a matter. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, attempted to meet the difficulty by saying that he and his friends would like to repeal the Statute under which Members of Parliament accepting Office have to seek re-election. I have a good deal of sympathy with that attitude, but I have no idea what view the House of Commons take of it; but even supposing you reduce the number of by-elections by this change in the law, there will still remain a pretty large number of by-elections occurring throughout the year. Will any noble Lord tell me what is going to happen to the minority should its representative die or retire? The vacancy so caused being followed by a by-election, there would then be voting 120,000 electors. Is it not perfectly certain that the advantage which the minority had gained at the General Election would be utterly lost? The minority representation would disappear. The noble Earl, Lord Grey, in his remarks the other night, said, paraphrasing the words of the poet, that it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all; in other words, that it was better to have a minority representative as long as you can keep him, and if he dies or disappears you must get on the best you can in his absence. That is not a very strong argument for proportional representation.

I come last to the question about which I was directly challenged by the noble Lord who preceded me, and I will deal with the point enlarged upon by my noble friend Lord Peel yesterday—namely, the difficulties with which you will be faced in carrying out the scheme of my noble friend Lord Selborne. He (Lord Selborne) did not deny the existence of those difficulties, but I think was hardly aware how great and perplexing they will be. In the first place, there is the re-grouping of the counties. Some of these cases will be quite easy. In other cases it will be very difficult indeed. Then there is the regrouping of the great towns—Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, and so on—which, if you divide them up into larger groups, will require very careful consideration of local opinion and great care that you produce fair results. There is also the grouping of the counties with the adjacent boroughs. In all these cases you will require prolonged local inquiries. You will excite a good deal of local opinion. You may find great difficulty in securing general assent. Those are the difficulties which you will have to face in the country.

Next, my Lords, let me take the difficulties that will occur in Parliament. If the noble Earl carries his Amendment, he and his friends will have to draw up—I believe they have already commenced drawing up—a new Schedule. At the present moment eighty-five pages of this Bill are occupied by the Fifth Schedule which contains the scheme of electoral redistribution drawn up by the Boundary Commissioners and accepted by the House of Commons. At an earlier stage, not of this discussion, but of our proceedings at some date last year, I used the words which have been twice quoted, first by Lord Selborne and secondly by Lord Parmoor, and perhaps I may be allowed to read them for the third time. This is what I said— You will be entirely free to discuss and to reintroduce proportional representation in any form that you please. I go further and say that if your Lordships, when the Bill comes up here, decide to act in that way, the Government will gladly render you any assistance in their power, either in the drafting of the Bill or in framing those parts of the Schedule that may be affected by your action. Those words were, I thought, perfectly explicit. They were drawn up by the Home Secretary and myself in consultation, and I delivered them to your Lordships' House without any idea that any misunderstanding could arise, and I am not clear that any misunderstanding has arisen. What I stated quite clearly there was that if you should accept an Amendment like Lord Selborne's, and if the Schedule would have to be entirely refrained, as it would have to be, the resources of the Government—of their draftsmen—would be placed absolutely at your disposal. I believe they have been so placed. I am speaking subject to correction, but I believe that the representatives of the Government, the officials, have already helped some of the friends of the noble Earl in making the necessary reconstruction of the Schedule.


We were not given the help of the Redistribution Commissioners.


I never said anything about the Redistribution Commissioners. I was speaking of the drafting of the Bill or the framing of the Schedule. Is it contended that the Boundary Commissioners ought to be set at this stage upon the work of framing a Schedule in anticipation of a scheme which has not been accepted by the House of Commons?


I certainly thought you would give us the assistance of the Commissioners and of the draftsmen as well.


I am sorry if there was any misunderstanding. Neither the Home Secretary nor I, in drawing up the reply to which I have alluded, made the slightest reference to the Boundary Commissioners. What we meant was that the noble Lord would probably find difficulty in dealing with the reconstruction of the enormous Schedule, and that any assistance which the Government could give him to put his case in a form which would find acceptance in this House would be gladly given.


If I may remind my noble friend, that answer was given after a debate in which we had asked that the Boundary Commissioners should be instructed to form alternative Schedules, and it was as part of that answer that those words came.


Yes, my Lords, but I am perfectly clear as to what was in my own mind. If I had meant that the Boundary Commissioners were to re-start their work, should an Amendment of this description be carried, I should have said so. I do not suffer ordinarily from lack of explicitness in explanation, and if I had meant it, or if the Home Secretary meant it, I should have said it.

Well, my Lords, I was speaking about the difficulties that must await the noble Earl—I have no doubt he is prepared to confront them—both in this House and in the other House of Parliament should his Amendment be accepted. Let me add this further amplification of what I mean. Say the Amendment of the noble Earl is carried and it goes down to the House of Commons; if the House of Commons accept proportional representation in some form or another, the Schedule, whether it is the noble Earl's or whether it is some modification of it, cannot be inserted straight away in the Bill, until the local inquiries of which I have spoken have taken place and until the Commissioners have received their Instructions based on the decisions arrived at by both Houses. That is perfectly clear. There we are brought to the point of delay. The noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, argued as if no delay in our proceedings need ensue from the acceptance of this Amendment. My Lords, that is not the case. If the Bill cannot become law this session—and the Bill cannot become law this session if it is to include a new Schedule—either the Bill must be carried over by a special Act, as to which I offer no opinion, but which certainly would consume a certain amount of time, and would, of course, delay Registration in itself, or the Bill becomes an Act and the Schedule is carried over and laid on the Table next session. I do not think anybody who knows the House of Commons can doubt for a moment that that Chamber would refuse to part with the Bill until the areas of the constituencies had been finally settled. That, my Lords, is the position as I understand it.

Your Lordships will in the course of another hour or two have to decide the vote that you will give. I put no pressure upon you in either direction. I would only point out this, that I think that this is a matter which the country wants settled, and wants settled as soon as possible. There is a good deal of lurking agitation and discontent in the country. The postponement of the Register has itself caused a good deal of feeling. I am afraid, my Lords, that you cannot carry this Amendment with all that it entails—if you do, as you are at liberty to do—without still further postponing the completion of that Register. I am told by those who are competent to speak that the completion of the Register would inevitably be postponed until the end of the present year.


It need not be postponed at all.


That is what I am informed, and I speak on authority. If that be not the case, so much the better; but if it be the case, let your Lordships be aware of the position in which the country is likely to be placed and of the feeling that will in all probability be aroused. I think, therefore, that your Lordships should pause before you start out on this career. I should have myself liked, and I should have been prepared to vote for, the experiment on the more modest scale that was contemplated by Mr. Speaker's Conference. I should like to have seen a trial made in a limited number of areas. If it had been successful it could afterwards have been expanded; if it had failed it could have been withdrawn. Had the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, moved an Amendment of that description, or had any member of the Speaker's Conference moved it, so far as my vote is concerned I would have given my vote for it.


I beg your pardon.


I said that had the noble Earl proposed an Amendment introducing proportional representation on the limited scale suggested both in Mr. Speaker's Conference, and, I think, in the House of Commons at one stage, I believe by the Home Secretary—my noble friend (Viscount Peel) reminds me that the suggestion was made in another place that proportional representation might be introduced obviating all need for local inquiry in those constituencies which return three, four, or five Members.


Borough constituencies.


That I say is a proposal which, if it had appeared on the Paper, I personally would have been willing, on the grounds I have stated, to support, but I cannot vote for the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. He is proposing a very great and extensive change about which I do not raise the point that it is proposed in time of war. I think the answer to that of the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, is sufficient. It is, however, a change about which the country has not been consulted, and which, so far as I know, has not yet got what we often call a mandate behind it. It is a change which has not only not been approved by the House of Commons, but, in so far as they have indicated any opinion, has been disapproved by them; and it is a complete upsetting of the old arrangement which has subsisted since the year 1885, and which I think has generally justified itself to the opinion and sense of the country. Therefore, my Lords, I cannot follow the noble Earl in the course which he asks your Lordships to pursue, and although I would gladly accompany him, or, indeed, any other member, into the narrower and safer waters which I have indicated, I cannot go out with him into the great deep in which he asks us to follow him.


I can promise, I will detain your Lordships for only a few minutes in making one or two observations on this clause. There are, I feel sure, many of your Lordships who, in the somewhat unusual progress of this Bill through the House, have desired to give a steady and uniform support to His Majesty's Government. I, at any rate, have been one of those, and I shall so continue until the close of the Bill, except of course on certain minor points on which we may entertain differences of opinion. It is, of course, a special feature of the Bill that those points in it which have, excited the greatest interest in your Lordships' House have been those on which His Majesty's Government have not been unanimous themselves, and have therefore not endeavoured to impose a definite view upon the House. But even in those cases—as in the case of woman suffrage and in the present one—the line which, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, your Lordships ought to take has been by no means obscurely indicated. It was clear when Viscount Peel was speaking that he did not touch upon proportional representation as an abstract proposition, but laid stress on the difficulties of its application in the present circumstances, and came down quite definitely on the other side. The same result has been no less apparent in the speech of the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, to which we have just listened. He has made it quite clear, indeed he developed the abstract objections more strongly than did the noble Viscount, that he cannot support the Amendment of the noble Earl.

From what I have said of my desire to support the Government, I should be doing violence to my own views if I were to vote for this Amendment, and I am unable to do so. At the same time I confess I have not very much patience with those who speak lightly of this proposition for proportional representation as though it were simply a system for the election of cranks, by cranks, and for cranks. I prefer to regard it as a serious proposition, made by serious people, which deserves the closest examination, and in my own opinion there are a number of cases in this country in which it may profitably and usefully be applied.

But there are three reasons which prevent me, as a practical man, giving my adhesion to the Amendment of the noble Earl. In the first place, I share the doubts which have been expressed by the noble Earl who leads the House on the matter of the Schedule and the consequent redistribution, not on the technical grounds of Parliamentary delay, on which I am not qualified to speak, although the noble Earl did so with the greatest authority, but on the general possibility, in the condition in which the Bill now is, of producing a satisfactory electoral system of proportional representation in this country. In my own judgment, through no fault of their own—indeed I think they deserve sympathy in the matter—the advocates of proportional representation had, this time, to begin at the wrong end. If proportional representation is to become part of our Parliamentary system the principle should first have been adopted, and on that principle those responsible for redistribution should have had to work. But precisely the opposite has been the case. The single-Member constituency has by those responsible for the framing of the Bill, been taken as the foundation of the system, and now the Boundary Commissioners are to be asked, for the sake of the introduction of proportional representation, to group together a certain number of constituencies and to leave others as single-Member constituencies, on a plan which I venture to think would have been quite different if proportional representation had been the original scheme adopted.

To me, not professing to have more than a superficial knowledge of the subject, it is somewhat amazing that the figures of three and five Members should have been selected for this purpose. I have always supposed that, if and when proportional representation came to be the accepted system, constituencies of five, seven, and nine, or even a larger number of Members, would have been adopted, and I should have also supposed that it was only through constituencies of that kind that the special merit claimed for proportional representation—namely, the probable selection of distinguished persons, not popular in the sense of representing large bodies of opinion—would have been possible. I cannot help feeling that in these new constituencies of three and five Members the elections are bound to become, I was going to say the prey, but perhaps that it too harsh a word, but they will become at any rate the subject of Party management, and of what is called the reign of the wirepuller, to a far greater extent than the single-Member constituencies are at present. That at any rate is my fear, and I have not heard so far in this debate anything which would be likely to relieve it.

Then, in the second place, I confess I share the doubts expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Lichfield, yesterday, and more or less echoed, although somewhat differently expressed, by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, on the subject of agricultural representation. That is a matter on which I feel strongly, and if I believed that a due proportion of representatives of agriculture, whether they be landlords, farmers, or labourers, could be thereby secured over the whole of the country I should regard the Amendment with much tenderness. But I confess, so far as my knowledge of certain parts of the country goes, and roughly estimating in my own mind the effect of the grouping of constituencies in those parts of England of which I know something, I cannot see that the proportion of Members directly representing agriculture is likely to be increased by the adoption of the Amendment. There has been a certain amount, under instruction, of quite reasonable and legitimate gerrymandering on the part of the Boundary Commissioners in favour of agriculture. Perhaps there has not been quite enough. There certainly has been some; perhaps there ought to be more, and my opinion is that it is by that means, quite legitimate and above board, rather than by the adoption of a system of grouping constituencies, that the agricultural interest will obtain that proportion of representatives to which it is entitled.

In the third place I am compelled, holding the views that I do, to say a word about London. My noble friends Lord Selborne, Lord Burnham, and Lord Parmoor all made the most manful attempts to show that London would in no way suffer by the adoption of this principle. Unluckily, how-ever, London with an almost unanimous voice does not think so. The figures have been already stated—I will not trouble the House with them again—so far as the votes in the House of Commons are concerned. But I do find myself agreeing with what fell from the noble Earl opposite as to a certain confusion in some of the speeches that have been made between the general patriotism of Londoners and the local patriotism which a Londoner feels for the particular district or area of London in which he lives. That is most fully recognised by the movers of the Amendment as regards the City of London and as regards Westminster. Everybody knows that if you were to group for Parliamentary purposes the City of London with the Tower Hamlets or with Finsbury you would raise a not inconsiderable outcry. You would also, I think, raise a not inconsiderable outcry if you were to group Westminster with Paddington or Kensington. But do not suppose that the patriotism of Londoners is confined to those two historical cities. There is just as much local patriotism in Kensington or Mile End or Bermondsey—perhaps not just as much in the sense of historical pride, but any difference that there is is a difference only in degree not of kind—and it will be found that the London Members do, and in so far as I know will continue to, object strongly to the grouping of several London constituencies in order to produce the proper number of representatives for the purposes of proportional representation. That is a difficulty which, so far as I can see, will not be got over, and among the various noble Lords in the House who are entitled to express an opinion as regards London I shall be greatly surprised if there be one of them who does not bear out what I say, in spite of the great authority which my noble friend Lord Burnham, as we all know, possesses in any matter reflecting upon the metropolis.

Further than that, on the London County Council we are greatly disturbed at the difficulty of adjusting our own electoral relations with those of the new constituencies. As your Lordships probably know, the system is that any Parliamentary area which returns one Member to Parliament returns two Members to the County Council, and that which returns two Members to Parliament returns four to the County Council, and so on. It is quite evident that if the system of proportional representation is introduced you will be confronted with the difficulty, either of adopting it for the London County Council or of setting up a new system of election for the municipality which would ignore the Parliamentary system. That would be a great departure from the present practice, and it is one which I am sure a great many Londoners would regret. For these different reasons I am, like the noble Earl opposite, unable to give a vote for my noble friend's Amendment, though I have no desire to be taken as one of those who, like my noble friend Lord Harcourt, objects root and branch to proportional representation wherever he sees it.


It is only with a very few words that I shall trouble your Lordships, because I am aware that there is a desire to go to a Division as soon as possible. The one topic to which I wish to advert is one which has not, I think, been fully stated, although some remarks were made upon it both by my noble friend Lord Harcourt and by the noble Earl who leads the House. I happen to be in the position of a person who has had the experience of representing both a one-Member constituency for many years, and a two-Member constituency for five years, and I want to say a few words upon the merits of those two systems from the point of view of the Member as differing from that which regards the interests of the country.

The opinions expressed in the House of Commons must be considered with some reference to the feelings which are entertained by Members themselves, and the opinion which a Member himself entertains cannot help being more or less affected by his ideas of his own comfort, his own convenience, and his own advantage. We are all liable to be biased by feelings as to how a thing affects ourselves, and we all know that members of the Legislature are not altogether exempt from that kind of influence. There is a very great difference between the position as regards the Member and the point of view which regards the general interest of the nation. The Member himself has every reason to desire a single-Member constituency. Speaking from my personal experience I should say that there is nothing more satisfactory to a Member than to have a constituency all to himself. He is complete master of the situation. He has nobody else to think of. He can make all his own arrangements without regard to anything except his own interests and those of his Party. But when a Member has a colleague—and of course the argument is probably at least as strong, if not stronger, if he has a number of colleagues—he has another source of discomfort and annoyance which is never absent. If his colleague is of the opposite Party to himself, he is obliged to watch the conduct of his sitting opponent and to do everything in order to satisfy his own people which is done by the Member who represents the opposite Party. If the Member of the opposite Party goes to two or three bazaars every week, or gives very large subscriptions, the Member is obliged to imitate him, and is reproached by his own Party if he does not do so; and even if the colleague is of the same Party, a colleague is not necessarily nor always a friend. A colleague may be quite capable of playing his own game with a view to the next Election, and sometimes requires to be watched pretty carefully.

Therefore, I should like to put it to your Lordships that the opinions which are expressed by members of the House of Commons in favour of one-Member constituencies do require to be a little discounted by their personal feeling and sentiment. I do not at all assent to the argument which was used by my noble friend Lord Harcourt that it is impossible for a Member for a large constituency—a constituency I think he said of 350,000 population—to be in proper touch with his constituency. I was Member for five years for a constituency which in 1885 was divided into six constituencies, and which at the time when I was Member had a population of about 500,000, and I think I can say that I was in sufficient touch, quite sufficient for all political purposes, with the constituency, which was, as I say as large as six constituencies would now be in the same part of London. Therefore it is not at all necessary for every Member for a constituency to be in what is called that close, personal, intimate touch with everybody in the constituency which seemed to be regarded as necessary by my noble friend Lord Harcourt.

In fact, my Lords, it is possible to be in too much touch with a constituency. I do not know whether your Lordships know that the two countries in which single-Member constituencies have long been the rule are the two countries in which the Member is expected to render more service to his constituents and to be more absolutely their slave, at their disposal for every purpose, than he ever has been in this country. Certainly in one of those countries the desire has been constantly expressed to go back from the one-Member system to a system of election in larger areas in order that the Member might be set free from the local influences which enslave him and which oblige him to fetch and carry and do all sorts of work for his individual constituents. The Member is expected to advise them about investments, find places for their sons, and even buy an umbrella in the capital for them. These are hardships in the life of a Member which are constantly dwelt upon by all those in that country who have desired to have larger constituencies in order that they may get as Members persons of wider minds who would be less subject to the individual desires and proclivities and petty cliques which naturally have so much power in one-Member constituencies. I think this side of the question—I do not say it is a decisive factor—ought to be borne in mind by your Lordships when you are considering how this will affect the character of Parliament as a whole, and whether under the system of large constituencies you are not more likely to get men of large mind, of wide views, men who are less disposed to earn their place and keep their place by subservience to small local interests and to small local cliques, evils which clearly will be very much less in a large constituency than they are in a small one.

Let me add that this wider-minded type of Member is a thing which we must desire. I think it is with some disappointment that those of us who remember Parliament as it was forty years ago see that it does not seem to contain now that very much larger number of men of wide views and high attainments which it was expected that the enlargement of the franchise would give us. I will not say there has been any decline, but I will say there has not been that great improvement which we expected forty years ago. May I, on this part of the subject, refer to what was said by my noble friend Lord Harcourt as regards the result which large constituencies would have. He said in one part of his speech—if he will permit me to say so, an extremely ingenious and entertaining speech—that this system of proportional representation would be likely to give us many so-called cranks and faddists—he used the word "fad," I think, repeatedly—persons who represent some extreme and exceptional type of opinion and who consequently make themselves very tiresome in a deliberative Assembly. He also said the independent Member under this plan would have no chance; no one would have a chance unless he was taken up and run by the caucus. Clearly both those results cannot come true. The crank is the very last person a caucus will take up, and if the independent Member is to have a chance he certainly will not be a crank.

There is another point I should like to put upon this question. Our great cities have now grown so vast that large areas within them are inhabited entirely by one class of the population. That, I suppose, is the necessary result of growth; but it has had this very unfortunate result, that the poorer and less educated part of the population are socially separated from those who are better off and more highly educated. In that way there is less political touch between different strata of the community. They come less together for political purposes. There is a want of that enlightened leadership which is required. I know large areas in some of our great towns, like London and Manchester, where there is really nobody who by leisure and by educa- tion is fitted to be a leader. I am not speaking of differences of class. It is not merely the class; it is that the occupations and conditions of the people do not give them an opportunity for that development of leadership which is essential, which is if possible more essential in a democracy than in any other kind of government. Therefore it is aggravating that evil if you, for electoral purposes, cut up a large city into a number of Divisions which are purely artificial, which have no social unity among themselves, and where one class in a community is not in touch with another class. Your polities is weakened and becomes more narrow, less enlightened, if it is entirely in the hands of one particular class instead of being run by a mixture of classes, instead of having in your political party committees persons of different classes who are able to enlighten one another and work together for the common good.

Further, my Lords, is it not true that all communities prosper most and are strongest which are based upon nature and upon history, and that if you have nature and history dictating the formation of a community you ought to endeavour to keep it one as much as possible, as compared with dividing communities artificially by purely arbitrary lines? That was the old system of this country. Our representative system, coming down from the thirteenth century, was based upon taking the natural aggregations of men. Boroughs returned members, counties returned Members. Those were the natural areas which had grown up and which represented the associations of the people for social and economic and municipal purposes, and that was the basis of representation. One of the best features of our system was that there was local life in all these places which expressed itself in the choice of representatives in Parliament. Compare that with the system of artificial divisions to which we have resorted. We have taken a large town and cut it up by perfectly artificial boundary lines and created aggregations, sometimes for the purposes of local government where it may be necessary, but also, where I submit it was not necessary, for the purposes of Parliamentary representation. Any one who knows Manchester will feel how much better Manchester was when it was one city returning a number of Members, and all of them Members for the city, and the city interested in those Members, and the city desiring to choose eminent men who were representative of Manchester in one way or another, rather than when it was cut up into divisions. Who can feel any local patriotism or interest in Rusholme or Ardwick or in any other of the divisions of Manchester. Some noble Lords have spoken of the local interest which is felt in the new boroughs of London. I am very glad to hear it. I confess I think it must be a thing of very recent growth.


May I say, in answer to my noble friend, that I was not speaking of the new boroughs. I was speaking of the old districts. No one can speak of Kensington as a new borough, or Bermondsey if it conies to that.


No, I was going specially to except certain boroughs. I was going to except, for instance, such areas as Westminster and the City, and, I dare say, Kensington. But I must say that I lived for twenty years in Marylebone, and I was never able to feel a passionate patriotism towards Marylebone, and I do not think those of my friends who lived there succeeded in reaching that high pitch; but if there is a local patriotism for Marylebone one is glad to hear it. I confess I should have thought it was confined to those who took an active part in the local government of the borough. But it is not proposed by the Schedule, which my noble friend Lord Selborne proposes to submit, to divide the London boroughs. I understand that that Schedule is being drawn so as to abide by the boundaries of the local boroughs, except in so far as two smaller ones may require to be united. But I should like to make my point, such as it is, especially with a view to a certain class of our large towns in this country. I have taken here a note of certain boroughs. There are fourteen of them, which return from three to six Members under the Schedule to this Bill, with a total of fifty-four Members. Would it not be better that each of those boroughs, returning from three to six Members, should be kept as one body, and return their Members all together, instead of being divided into compartments which are purely artificial, and which represent nothing whatever in the feelings and associations of the people.

My noble friend Lord Harcourt poured some scorn upon the whole plan of proportional representation as if it was a fad confined to certain persons in this country. But the fact is that over nearly all the free countries at this moment men's minds are very much exercised upon this question of proportional representation. There is hardly any considerable country popularly governed which has not been confronted with the very same difficulty which proportional representation is meant to meet as we are trying to grapple with here. The experiment is being tried in an additional number of countries almost every year. New Zealand has just adopted it. I was in Tasmania a few years ago and I can tell my noble friend Lord Harcourt that the opinion of Tasmania was in favour of the plan which has been adopted, and that. I did not hear of any desire to depart from it. The same thing is true about other countries which I will not enumerate. And the reason is this, that political conditions have been changing. My noble friend quoted the opinions of Lord Beaconsfield, Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Bright. It is thirty-eight years since Lord Beaconsfield died. Our politics and our Party system have changed completely. We have now got three or four Parties and we cannot tell whether the process of dividing up Parties, which has gone so far in some countries, may not fall upon us also. Under conditions so different it has surely become desirable to find new expedients for meeting the new difficulties we see arise. I think these considerations justify my noble friend in the proposal he has made—a proposal which is capable of modification, which need not be extended to that amplitude which he indicated, but which can well be adopted in more modest form, and which in one form or another well deserves to be tried.


May I be allowed, as a member of the Speaker's Conference, to explain my position with regard to the vote that I am bound to give. Being a party to the compromise, I desire to keep to that compromise. It has already been made clear by the noble Earl who leads the House that the Amendment now before the House is not the proposal, or anything like the proposal, passed at the Conference. I have the confirmation of the noble Earl who moved the Amendment that the House of Commons have never had before them yet any scheme such as that which he is going to ask you to adopt, and further, he said he was going to ask you to adopt a complete scheme of proportional representation for the whole country. Well, that was not the scheme that was approved of by the Speaker's Conference I should like to have answered Lord Bryce in what he has been saying about London constituencies and so forth, but the speeches which have been made by the noble Viscount Lord Peel, my noble friend Lord Harcourt, who is a past master in everything regarding organisation and the knowledge of Elections, and other noble Lords who have spoken, have expressed my view. With regard to London, I had the honour of representing a London constituency for twenty-two years, and I do not agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, said about rich men being sought for as candidates. They have not been sought for, certainly by the Liberal Party. You have only to look at London now, and you find that the representatives of London are those men who have worked hard on local matters, and who have become personally known to their constituents; they have been elected on that ground, not because they have spent money, or possess wealth. My brother Whips used to say, "No, we want all the rich men to go and fight the counties, and the poor men with smaller expenditure in London will do for us." I shall vote against the proposal of the noble Earl, and I am perfectly satisfied that in so doing I shall be voting as any other member of the Speaker's Conference would have done.


I wish to say, in reply to the noble Earl who leads the House, that, when he expresses those tremendous apprehensions about some of the results of this proposal, the experience we have of all other countries which have this method should be sufficient to meet his objections. In no case has it been otherwise than satisfactory, and never has there been a demand for the repeal of proportional representation wherever it has been tried. The noble Earl referred to agriculture, and quoted the case of Barnard Castle. That, I think, was an unhappy selection for him. Who is the representative of Barnard Castle to-day? Mr. Arthur Henderson—and a very pretty representative agricultural Member he is. It is because the farmers of England are at present left out of this Bill—the counties are not dealt with under the proposals of the Government—that I desire to press their claims upon the House. If there be anybody in the country who can help the farmers it is only your Lordships' House. This appeal is made after a campaign which began at Fareham in Hampshire twelve months ago under the Presidency of the late Lord Portsmouth, whom we have unhappily lost since. The campaign was an immense success, and spread through England to Scotland; and those who know what a hard-headed lot the Scottish farmers are will understand that this made the agricultural community throughout the kingdom complete. In these circumstances I ask your Lordships to give your help and support to the agricultural community at the present time, because nobody else can do it; and I am sure that if you do you will never regret it in the future.


I am sorry to interfere with the desires of other Peers to address the House, but perhaps I may be excused if I occupy your Lordships' attention for a very short time. I have no intention whatever to prevent the House rapidly coming to a decision which, I believe, is the wish of most. The friends of proportional representation might well appeal to your sympathy, for it appears that, whatever they do, they are unfortunate in the course of their procedure. They have been censured by the noble Earl the Leader of the House and by my noble friend Lord Crewe for not acting otherwise than they have done in putting their case before your Lordships. Lord Curzon told us, indeed, that if the scheme had been recommended unaimously by the Speaker's Conference he would have given his vote in its favour. I claim the benefit of that admission. It may yet be that the noble Earl will find it possible to carry out the intention he has thus conditionally expressed, and may have a chance of putting into the Bill something which shall be, if not exactly identical, more or less in correspondence, with the suggestions of the Speaker's Conference.

But in respect to this general question I am comforted—despite the ill-favour with which the Leader of the House and my noble friend Lord Crewe have received the proposal of my noble friend Lord Selborne—with the remembrance that on a former occasion we had pretty nearly the same expressions of uncertainty, of criticism, of dislike, of impossibility to make up their minds to adopt what was suggested, but that in the end we, had a practically unanimous vote of the House affirming the propriety of acting in the way from which the Leader of the House, and, I think, the then Leader of the Opposition, dissented. I am alluding to the case referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor—the action of the House on the Motion of Lord MacDonnell with regard to an Amendment to the Home Rule Bill.

We are unhappy in not having amongst us representatives of Irish opinion. They would have been very powerful in recommending the principle of proportional representation to your Lordships, as they were on a former occasion when the House ended with practical unanimity with reference to the adoption of proportional representation in respect of Ireland. And it would have been difficult for your Lordships to have refused to adopt proportional representation in respect of Great Britain when you found Irish Peers urging its adoption in respect of Ireland, and, indeed, persuading the House to an agreement of unanimity in its favour. I beg your Lordships who are going to vote on this question to remember that Ireland should always be in your thoughts; and that it is impossible to affirm the propriety of this principle universally in Ireland, or even on a large scale in that country, without affirming the propriety of the principle here. I wish to press upon your Lordships the absolute necessity of some kind of consistency in dealing with the sister island and with the island of Great Britain; and if you feel (as you must feel) the constraint of your Irish fellow members in respect of Ireland, you must also be prepared to do something in respect of Great Britain.

There was another admission made by the noble Earl the Leader of the House which I welcomed with great pleasure. He said that he thought it was a good promise on the part of proportional representation that it would secure in the House of Commons persons independent of authority who would not be disturbed in their positions there, and who would maintain, amid conflicting voices and often amid a confused wrangle of Parties, the expression of opinions formed by themselves, but commanding by their honesty and thoroughness the adhesion of their fellow Members. He regretted that this good result which he apprehended from proportional representation could not be secured. That also was affirmed just now by my noble friend Lord Bryce, and I would like to press it upon your Lordships in connection with that constituency to which Lord Bryce referred.

We have heard something of Manchester already. If I dwell a little on Manchester also it is for the sake of illustrating the general argument, and for pressing upon the House conclusions which go far beyond Manchester. Mr. Balfour was once a Member for Manchester. If he had been a Member for Manchester under the system of proportional representation he would be a Member for Manchester now. He lost his seat because he could not command in the division which he represented the continuance of a majority of the electors of that division. If he had been one of five Members representing a five-Member division of Manchester he would have remained a Member for that division until this day, undisturbed and secure. He has found, no doubt, a seat of reasonable permanence; but how much better it would have been for him and for the country if he had not been dismissed from the one and become, indebted to a friend for admission to the other. The noble Viscount in charge of the Bill (Lord Peel) was once a Member for a division of Manchester. He, too. I think I may say—but I would not speak with the same conviction of certainty with regard to him as with respect to Mr. Balfour—if he had been a Member for Manchester under a scheme of proportional representation, would have continued a Member for Manchester.

Let me go back a little, still in connection with Manchester, to illustrate a larger truth. Mr. Bright was Member for Manchester. Mr. Bright went athwart the opinions of the majority of his countrymen, and he lost his seat as Member for Manchester. Yet we know—it is confessed now—that Mr. Bright in that case was right and the majority of his countrymen were wrong. You were told at this Table by a voice to which you paid (and justly paid) the utmost respect and deference, and told with language which he himself said all your Lordships would understand, that we had put our money on the wrong horse. Mr. Bright, strange as it may seem, was the man who ought to have been the favourite. He was dismissed from Manchester and had to spend some time out of Parliament, and then came back as Member for Birmingham; but we know by the votes given to him in the Election in which he failed to get re-elected, that even in those days had he been one of five or four or even three Members for Manchester, he would have retained his seat. That is to say, a man of the character of Mr. Bright would have kept his place in spite of the fact that he differed very materially from the large majority of his countrymen upon the cardinal question of the hour.

Do your Lordships desire that men of width and intelligence and large grasp of affairs, such as Lord Bryce has suggested for your consideration, should enter Parliament? Do you desire that they should retain their seats in Parliament? If they are to enter, their best method of entering is by the method of proportional representation, which enables a, fraction of the constituency, finding themselves of the same mind as the candidate, to return that candidate, and the same fraction of the constituency would keep him in his place. If you desire that you can get it in this way and I venture to say in no other. I am so persuaded of the great importance of the permanence which you would give to principles such as I have described, under the process I have delineated, that I have often wondered that the argument has not been turned against us—that if proportional representation had been introduced we should be oppressed with the tyranny of Elder Statesmen. No, we should have had great men of wisdom and authority at our command, and we should have had their guidance in days of great anxiety such as are before us.

I am not going through the different grounds of objection which have been put forward to the adoption of proportional representation. It is vain now to talk of the difficulties of the elector, although, by the way, the noble Earl who leads the House did refer to them—the difficulties of the elector in making his choice. They have been overcome in the most difficult circumstances. I entreat the noble Earl, the head of the Government in this House, who thinks it would be impossible for an elector to make out a list of those for whom he wishes to vote, when there are sixteen candidates for eight or nine places—I entreat him to reflect a little upon the elections held repeatedly more than once under the system of proportional representation in the municipality of Johannesburg—a municipality composed of all sorts and conditions of men of varied origin, varied education, and even varied languages, with a long list of candidates before them. Yet they have gone through elections with the minimum of mistakes and with a result which is only questioned in this way, that the capitalists think the working men have got too many successful candidates, and the working men are of opinion that the capitalists have got too many. Both sides get and keep their representatives and representation of both divisions of opinion are secured and maintained. There is no difficulty in that way. So again with the Returning Officers, all these difficulties have been got rid of.

The difficulty now dwelt upon is the difficulty of size. Lord Harcourt referred to his own experience as a county member and said how difficult it would be in the proposed enlarged constitutencies for a candidate to go through the work of his candidature. I am sorry to say, in respect of that difficulty as in respect of so many, that there is a failure of a little imagination. Realise how much the conditions of fighting a constituency vary with the conditions which obtain as to the election to a constituency. I was member for a constituency of 800 voters. I was also member for a county constituency which had ten to twenty times as many. I had to go through much the same amount of labour in the one case as in the other. In the one case the candidate makes the acquaintance of every member of every household, and in the other of every town and village. The whole of your time has to be given up—neither more nor less while you are at the work of winning the constituency.

But take the process of wooing the constituency under proportional representation. The whole scheme of action is changed. You do not then go for winning the support of a majority of a half plus one; you go for winning the support of a quota, and if you can make up your quota of people of a particular state of opinion concurring with your own you address your energies to them and they will return you as their member. In fact, under proportional representation, in our great towns you would get working men members, capitalist members, employer members and professional members, or at any rate standing as candidates, and they would appeal to the particular men whose interests and opinions and aspirations coincided with their own. If they got a sufficiency of such support then they would secure election. It is not necessary to go through the whole constituency. The matter would be done by appealing through the Press, through workshops, churches and chapels, and local associations. In the case of the agriculturist through agricultural societies, farmers unions and such like. As in the agricultural districts you would woo the agricultural voter, so in the big boroughs you would take up those who are in agreement with you, and you would secure your election.

As to size, reference has been made to Yorkshire more than once. I wish some of you would carry your thoughts to the Antipodes and think of the size of the electoral areas there. Think of the almost incredible fact that the whole of a state is a constituency—that the whole of Western Australia is a constituency, and that Queensland is a constituency. They are separate constituencies for the purpose of electing senators to the Australian Senate. Six are returned for the whole electorate. There is practically universal suffrage, and I believe in all eases men and women vote throughout these vast areas. Yet the size of the constituency is not found excessive, because the labour is reduced to the conditions under which the labour is spent, and people who have to go through it do as much as they can and no more. It is done not only with no excessive expenditure of labour but also with great frugality and cheapness. In fact, the whole procedure changes with the different characteristics of the mode of election adopted.

I will not go on to say anything—I am sorry to be so long—as to the character of the Government or of the Parliament which would result from the reform I am advocating. I will only say this, that so far from thinking that there would be any danger of a weak Executive and a divided Parliament, I am satisfied you would give Parliament new life and the House of Commons would be strengthened to keep the Executive in order, while the Executive would have the adherence of men thinking for themselves and be strong enough to carry out their policy as they conceived it. We should get no landslide, no swing of the pendulum to change the whole aspect of political life. We should got no great over-turnings. I, for my part, do not like them. I said long ago, and I repeat, that they are things which do not give us a healthy, continuous, and stable political condition. We should get a coherence of method, a steady development of education, and a movement which could be relied upon as slow perhaps but as sure from one position to another of political advancement. If at any other time I advocated this with energy I would do so more powerfully than ever now, because, though not afraid, not quailing before possible political changes, I cannot look forward without some grave anxiety as to what may be in store in the immediate future of this country. It is not only that we have to get out of the desolation which war has brought upon all the nations of Europe—we yet want a man of light and leading who shall lead us from that horrible situation—but we have to look forward to a period of reconstruction when the wildest theories and the most extravagant action will be impressed upon the electors and the people of this country. It is not only capital and labour. You can see what that may lead you to, elsewhere. But the principles of taxation, the principles of contract, the principles of citizenship which now bind you one towards another, are all to be brought into discussion, and it is well to have men whose voices may be heard to guide you in this dark future which now lies before us. My Lords, I have trespassed upon you. I beg your pardon for keeping you so long. I will only add that if your Lordships assent to this Amendment the difficulties in the way of amending the Schedule are, I think, such as could be completely removed without risk to the Bill, and without that terrible loss of time which the Leader of the House prognosticated.


I will stand only for three minutes between your Lordships and the Division, but I think, by the custom of your Lordships' House, I have the right of reply. I would in the first place remind your Lordships that the noble Earl who leads the House, when he spoke to-night, spoke for himself and not for the Government, and I am allowed to say that my noble friend his colleague, Lord Milner, who sits by his side, is going to vote for my Amendment. I want also to emphasise this point. It has been a remarkable feature of this debate that practically there has been no answer to the case on which I based my Amendment. There has been criticism to any extent of the technical and practical difficulties of proportional representation. No answer, however, has been attempted to what I said, that the dangers in front of this land and of all democracies at the present moment are the elimination of important minorities and the swing of the pendulum.

Then, my Lords, I want to remind you of the fact that all the statistics you have heard about the voting in the House of Commons are worth nothing, because since those votes were given agriculture has made its voice heard, and the effect of the opinion of agriculture on the Members of the House of Commons has yet to be seen. Next, I sweep away altogether the objections of delay which my noble friend Viscount Peel put before this House. Is there one single member of your Lordships' House or any member of the other House who does not know that if the two Houses agree to introduce proportional representation in any form a way will be found out of all these difficulties?

My last point is this. I do not recede in any way from my own scheme, because I believe it to be vital to the interests of

agriculture to get proportional representation for the counties. When my noble friend opposite says he would have voted for a smaller scheme but would not vote for my larger scheme, I would remind him that my Amendment is just as essential to a smaller scheme as it is to my larger scheme. If he really wants a smaller scheme, he should vote for this Amendment and we can fight it out over the Schedule.

On Question, whether the proposed new subsection be here inserted—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 131; Not-contents, 42.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Stamford, E. Faber, L.
Strange, E. (D. Atholl.) Faringdon, L.
Argyll, D. Verulam, E. Forbes, L.
Marlborough, D. Waldegrave, E. Forester, L.
Northumberland, D. Glenconner, L.
Rutland, D. Bryce, V. Grenfell, L.
Sutherland, D. Canterbury, V. Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)
Wellington, D. Chaplin, V. Harris L.
Churchill, V. Hawke, L.
Bath, M. Falkland, V. Hindlip, L.
Camden, M. Gladstone, V. Hothfield, L.
Cholmondeley, M. Halifax, V. Inchcape, L.
Exeter, M. Iveagh, V. Islington, L.
Lansdowne, M. Knollys, V. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Salisbury, M. Knutsford, V. Kinnaird, L.
Mersey, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Albemarle, E. Milner, V. Knaresborough, L.
Ancaster, E. Templetown, V. Lambourne, L.
Beauchamp, E. Lamington, L.
Leigh, L.
Brownlow, E. Bangor, L. Bp. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Cairns, E. Carlisle, L. Bp. Monk Bretton, L.
Camperdown, E. Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Chesterfield, E. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Clarendon, E. Airedale, L. Northbourne, L.
Cottenham, E. Anslow, L. Parmoor, L.
Dartmouth, E. Ashton of Hyde, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Bucclench and Queensberry.) Atkinson, L. Penrhyn, L.
Avebury, L. Plunket, L.
Durham, E. Balfour, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Eldon, E. Beresford of Metemmeh, L. Pontypridd, L.
Forteseue, E. Blyth, L. Ranksborough, L.
Grey, E. [Teller.] Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.) Rayleigh, L.
Hardwicke, E. Burnham, L. Rhondda, L.
Jersey, E. Carnock, L. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Lindsay, E. Charnwood, L. Saltoun, L.
Lindsey, E. Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.) Sandys, L.
Loreburn, E. Cheylesmore, L. Somerleyton, L.
Lucan, E. Colchester, L. Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)
Lytton, E. Courtney of Penwith, L. Stuart of Wortley, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Crawshaw, L. Sudeley, L.
Minto, E. De Mauley, L. Suffield, L.
Morton, E. Denman, L. Sydenham, L.
Northbrook, E. Des borough, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Weymss.)
Northesk, E. Digby, L.
Rosslyn, E. Dinevor, L. Wolverton, L.
Sandwich, E. Dudley, L. Wrenbury, L
Selborne, E. [Teller.] Dunleath, L.
Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.) Russell, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Curzon of Kedleston, E. (L. President.) Scarbrough, E. Coleridge, L.
Wicklow, E. Farrer, L.
Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.) Gainford, L.
Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.) Gisborough, L.
Chilston, V. Hylton, L.
Crewe, M. Devonport, V. Kenyon, L.
Lincolnshire, M. Haldane, V. Leith of Fyvie, L.
Hambledon, V. Rathcreedan, L.
Bathurst, E. Harcourt, V. [Teller.] Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Derby, E. Hardinge, V. St. Davids, L.
Halsbury, E. Peel V. Southwark, L.
Harrowby, E. Stanmore, L.
Kimberley, E. Basing, L. Swaythling, L.
Lichfield, E. [Teller.] Buckmaster, L. Tenterden, L.
Plymouth, E. Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.) Weardale, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

VISCOUNT GALWAY moved to leave out subsection (1). The noble Viscount said: I hope to prove to your Lordships that I have substantial reasons for moving this Amendment. It is a question regarding the alternative vote, and is not included in the Report of the Speaker's Conference. I sincerely hope when the time comes, whether we divide before or after dinner, that your Lordships will support me in the Division. The principle was adopted in the first place in the House of Commons by a majority of one vote only. That, I think, is a very important fact for us to remember.

I should like, if your Lordships will permit me, to explain in a few words the principle of the alternative vote. Subject to correction, I think that if there are three candidates and A polls, 2,400, B, 1,600, and C 1,000, A has not a majority of votes. The votes of the last candidate are then taken and added. What is the result? Supposing that A only gets fifty of those votes, it means that B is elected Member for the constituency, although in the first case A has beaten B by 800, and C by 1, 400. That, I am sure, is not what British electors like or want in an election. They prefer to have a straightforward vote and to let the first man win. I may be told that now that proportional representation has been carried there is not the same desire for the alternative vote. In reply to that I would point out that in any case the alternative vote will be operative in all those single-Member constituencies which are left under any scheme. The alternative vote involves three kinds of elections, supposing that both Houses of Parliament agreed to pass proportional representation. I think that in this matter I have the right to claim the vote of the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Harcourt, for my Amendment, because he said yesterday that there was a case of endeavouring to force a dangerous fad on the country. I would appeal to him whether this vote does not come clearly and more plainly under that definition.

I desire also to call attention to the fact that this measure at present is most incomplete. In the House of Commons, when it came to the method of carrying it out, Schedules were introduced by Major Chapple. After the orignial Schedules were carried these were at a later Division rejected by a majority of thirty-two. The question then arose, what was to happen? The Speaker was called upon to explain matters, and I should like, with the permission of the House, to read what he said. His decision was as follows— The House has given two contradictory decisions. By one they accepted the principle of the Schedule proposed by the hon. Member, and now they have rejected it. I am afraid that I cannot assist the House with regard to the other Schedules which are proposed, the scheme of the hon. gentlemen having already been rejected. If the right hon. gentleman the Member for North St. Pancras, who has a scheme which differs from the others, proposes it, it can be discussed, but if he does not, I am afraid that I am unable to assist the House and the Bill will have to go on without the eighth and ninth Schedules being in. That is the state in which the Bill has come up to this House. It has not the eighth and ninth Schedules in it, and it seems to me very extraordinary that this House should be asked to pass a principle which is without a Schedule or any machinery for carrying it out.

With regard to the scheme in New Zealand a Committee was appointed to see if it could be worked, and it unanimously decided that it could not possibly be worked, and they would not have it. Clearly, it increases all three-cornered contests. Not only that, but it would increase the number of candidates. I am justified in making that statement, for the Royal Commission on electoral reform stated this— It is important to bear in mind that an expedient which removes the present obstacle to three and four-cornered contests will increase their number, and thus the number of cases in which it will be requisitioned may be expected to grow to a point where defects will become important which in existing circumstances would be negligible. The statement goes on— We are bound to draw attention to the fact that in Australia the opportunities for Party intrigue and the gratification of personal ill-feeling which are conferred both by the power of using and by that of withholding preferences have been found to produce regrettable results. Sir George Cave also said in his speech that "there is no doubt that this will lead to more three or four-cornered contests than we have ever had before."

What does the preference vote mean? Does it not obviously mean that we shall have bargaining introduced, and when we have once begun to have that, it goes on to very much more than mere bargaining. It leads to influence, and occasionally to what one might describe by the use of the word "considerations." It must lead to a great many more triangular contests, and to a great many more candidates being introduced. What is the position at the present moment? If you take the alternative vote in the Bill as it now stands in Clause 18, and as defined in Clause 36, it will only have the words "capable of being so used." That is all that the House has to go upon.

On the Second Reading of the Bill I protested very strongly respecting the number of questions that were being deferred to be settled by Orders in Council. This is clearly one of those cases which will have to be settled by an Order in Council. As your Lordships will notice, Clause 18 refers to Orders in Council. It practically means that the whole of our electioneering system is to be dependent for its being carried out upon Orders in Council. Suppose that both Houses of Parliament do not agree, and that proportional representation did not become the law of the land, every election in this country would depend, for the organisation and machinery to carry it out, upon Orders in Council. I am sure that that cannot be either the wish or the intention of Parliament, and I would ask your Lordships to consider whether it is right that such a thoroughly incomplete scheme should be brought before us. The House of Commons has shown itself most undecided in the whole matter. It only carried it in the first instance by a majority of one. It gave two adverse, decisions, and left the Bill most incomplete. We have nothing to show us that this is the wish of the constituencies, or to show us in what way it is to be carried out. I hold, therefore, all the more strongly that it is not worthy of the dignity of Parliament to pass so thoroughly incomplete a scheme, and one which a Royal Commission has admitted to be dangerous.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 15, leave out subsection (1).—(Viscount Galway.)


I venture to say one or two words upon this proposal. The introduction of the alternative vote, as I understand it, is the result of experience in other countries which have found it desirable to have a second ballot. In this country, when there are more than two candidates and only one vacancy, we have found by experience that very often a minority candidate is returned and for the whole of a Parliament, and perhaps more frequently at by-elections for the remainder of a Parliament, a constituency has been misrepresented—that is to say, an individual has been returned who has not the sanction of a majority of the electors behind him. When representatives of that kind address the House of Commons I know from experience that there has been a general pervading sense, when they have listened to that individual, that he is speaking for himself rather than for the constituents he is supposed to represent. We have found by experience that a Second Ballot would be very undesirable in this country. Not only would it add enormously to the expense, but it would increase the period of General Elections and would further dislocate trade. There is another argument against the Second Ballot, and it is that you would not on every occasion appeal to the same electorate as was appealed to on the occasion of the first Election. Therefore the rough-and-ready method of the alternative vote was suggested in order to prevent a constituency being misrepresented.

I think if I may give one illustration of how it would work in many cases, it should satisfy noble Lords that there is real justice in the system of the alternative vote as compared with permitting a constituency to be misrepresented during the whole Parliament by the Member securing only a minority of the electors who vote. Let me take a case where an extremist secures one-third of an electorate of 20,000; that is, he receives at the poll 6,666 votes. There are two other candidates at the Election; one receiving 5,001 votes and the other 4,999 votes, making an aggregate for what I may call the two steady politicians, one representing the Unionist and one the Liberal Party, of 10,000 votes. Without the alternative vote you would have the extremist returned to Parliament. With the alternative vote you would have the 4,999 Liberal voters voting for the steady candidate who had received 5,001 votes, and therefore instead of the extremist having a majority of 1,665 you would have the Unionist returned by 3,334, or just twice as many votes in the majority as the extremist would have been returned by. Moreover, you would have more than half the electorate voting for what I call the steady political candidate of one Party or the other, rather than for the extremist who might be returned at the head of the poll. I have given that merely, of course, as a hypothetical case.

I am quite conscious that in days that have gone by the Unionist Party, under the system which has hitherto existed, have far more often been returned by a minority vote than have either the Liberal or Labour candidates; and it has generally been due to the fact that the two Progressive candidates—the Liberal and the Labour—have disagreed between themselves as to which candidate should be run against the Unionist. But I look forward to a time when Labour will aspire to much greater representation than has occurred in the past. With that natural aspiration of Labour it is quite certain that on many occasions very extremist views may be espoused by certain candidates, and I think it very likely that such an illustration as I have given your Lordships may work out more satisfactorily to the country if we have the alternative vote than has occurred in the past. Therefore I suggest that your Lordships ought to hesitate before accepting the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Viscount.


I hope that your Lordships will be able to support the Amendment. The noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships has put forward some very interesting cases of what may occur in the future and what have occurred in the past, but as a general rule I think I may say there is a feeling among the electors that they consider the man who comes in first ought to be the winner. Whether they be reactionary forces or whether they be progressive forces who cannot make up their minds between them and quarrel among themselves and so split their votes, that has nothing to do with the matter. So far under our electoral law the man who comes out at the head of the poll is declared the Member. He, prima facie, has the greatest support of any single candidate in that constituency. You now by this manœuvre put into this Bill at the last moment a scheme, which in the Bill is absolutely unworkable, in order to prove that in certain cases the man who comes in first does not win, and some one else is to be declared the winner a number of days afterwards.

Certain hon. Members in the other House, including some who have been Senior Wranglers and others who are most learned in electoral law, put their heads together and were utterly unable to come to any conclusion as to how the alternative votes were to be counted. That is a very strong argument, if there were no others, for rejecting this proposal. But to my mind it is absolutely alien, and absolutely unknown to our electoral law, that some two or three days after an Election has been held, and the poll declared, a man who was second or third on the list should be declared the winner. It is impossible to tell what Parties there may be in the future. The noble Lord on the Front Opposition Bench has stated that in all probability there will be in the near future two steady-going candidates standing against a very extreme man. I do not see any particular prospect of that. My own idea is that it is much more likely that the steady-going people will agree together than some of the extremists. I generally find it is the extremists, with the strange dreams they dream and the strange visions they see, who are much more likely to disagree among themselves as to which is the shortest way to Paradise, than the steady-going Parties which have had some experience of politics and are much more likely in future to arrange what differences they have and pull together to win the elections.

It is all prophecy, of course, as to what the effects of these different methods of voting may be, and really I do not think that a prophet has any more honour in the House of Lords than anywhere else. But that is not the case in point. The two great arguments against the alternative vote are that the House of Commons is entirely unable to state how the votes should be counted, and that it is absolutely alien to our electoral law that the man who comes in first should not be declared the winner.


I hope your Lordships will agree with the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Galway has just moved. This matter came before the Speakers Conference, and there was a very great division of opinion upon it. Unfortunately, the Speaker, in reporting what had happened, omitted to say that there had been that great difference of opinion, and that is how it came into the Bill. Ever since this proposal for the alternative vote has been in existence there have been constant Divisions against it in the House of Commons. It was only carried, on going into Committee, by one vote—125 to 124. There have been several close Divisions since, and on two occasions it has been beaten. I believe that if you add the votes that were taken in all those five Divisions you will find that there was very little difference between those who were for and those who were against it. The next thing about this Bill is that there is no Schedule in it. The Government did propose to put in a Schedule but that was thrown out by the House of Commons. Then there was another Schedule proposed by a Colonel Chapple; that also the House of Commons threw out. The result was that finally the House of Commons was unable to arrange any way of carrying out this matter, and they appealed to the Speaker, and the Speaker said he was quite unable to help them.

How would this proposal work in practice? Your Lordships have just passed a proportional representation Amendment, which is to go down to the House of Commons. Let us suppose what will happen if that Amendment is accepted, and what will happen if it is rejected. If it is accepted by the House of Commons, all the Elections for seats with three, four or five Members will be conducted under the principle of proportional representation. Then we come to another set of Members—those who represent two-Member constituencies, who will continue to be elected on the same principle as hitherto. That is two systems of election. Then you come to the single-Member constituencies. I do not know what this proposal is, because the White Paper, on which it was contained, has not been kept in the Bill but I will tell you how I understand it would operate. Let us say, for instance, that there are three candidates, A, B, and C. According to this proposal it is necessary that one of them, in order to be elected, should obtain the majority of the votes at the first poll. Supposing that none of them do that, then you proceed to eliminate the man who is lowest on the poll, but you take his second preference votes and add them to the poll of the man to whom they have been given alternatively. Suppose the man with the lowest poll is C. You take C's second preference votes and give them either to A or B. In that way you give B two votes. That is the effect of it, and it is very possible that although A may have had far more first preference votes than B, yet B will be returned over his head. This is the negation of the first-past-the-post principle.

Take the other case, and suppose that proportional representation is rejected by the House of Commons. All the seats except those two-Member constituencies will be cut up into single-Member constituencies, and those single-Member constituencies will all vote under this alternative vote system. Proportional representation will, of course, have disappeared, and as we do not know what this alternative vote system is, the only possible thing will be to say that His Majesty may by Order in Council frame regulations prescribing the method of voting, the transferring and counting of votes at any Election according to the principle of the transferable or of the alternative vote. In other words, the Order in Council will settle the manner in which the very large proportion of Elections of this country are to be conducted. That appears to me to be entirely wrong.

Let us look at another side of the question, and that is how this alternative vote will affect the electors. If there are A, B, and C, and none of them is likely to get a majority of the whole votes polled, is not it almost certain that there will to a very large extent be backstairs bargains and what is known as log-rolling? That will be a most deplorable result. So far as I am able to judge, the institution of this alternative vote will be a very great misfortune; it will complicate your mode of election, and altogether it seems to me that you would do very unwisely in putting into the Bill a plan that is not before you, and which you cannot understand.


May I make a suggestion to noble Lords opposite? This is rather an important matter, and it seems to me barely decent to take a Division on the subject now in a very small House and with the obvious intention of immediately adjourning in order to dine. I suggest that the debate should be adjourned now, and that the consideration of this particular Amendment be continued when we resume.


I am ready to fall in with that suggestion; but I am not by any means certain that we shall get a larger House, or a very much larger Division. I know that at a quarter past nine it is somewhat difficult to get your Lordships, eager as you may be to dine, to leave the table. Therefore I do not know that the noble Marquess will secure his ends by the postponement.


May I suggest that the Government should give us their opinion as to what is the precise effect of this Amendment after the carrying of the Amendment on proportional representation? It seems to me that the Amendment and the clause as it now stands are in conflict.


They have nothing to do with one another.


My noble friend Lord Peel will, when we meet again at a quarter-past nine, give the information to the House for which the noble Viscount asks.

[The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]


I understood that the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill was to make a statement on a certain question put before the adjournment. If he will be good enough to do so now, probably it will be for the convenience of your Lordships.


I am perfectly ready to answer the question, but the reason I hesitated to rise was that the noble Viscount who put it is not here. This question of the alternative vote is a matter on which the Government is entirely neutral and leaves it entirely to the House. Therefore, if I answer the question of the noble Viscount, it must be in the position of amicus curiœ, and not as one speaking for the Government. The question is to some extent indefinite, and I cannot give an absolutely accurate answer; indeed, I think it would have been better answered by the noble Earl who moved the proportional representation Amendment. The question which I think I was asked was this. What effect will the Amendment carried by the House have upon the question of the alternative vote? I think your Lordships are perfectly well aware that the alternative vote applies only in cases of single-Member constituencies where more than two candidates present themselves for election. It is quite obvious that under the system suggested by the noble Earl the number of these single-Member constituency elections will be enormously reduced, because of course, after forming the greater portion of the country into three, four and five-Member constituencies the alternative vote will not apply. The noble Earl has indicated that in certain cases it would be absolutely necessary to leave certain single-Member constituencies, and he mentioned cases, and in those constituencies that system would apply I have only this further point on the vexed question of by-elections. Obviously in the case of by-elections, when you have one candidate to elect to fill a vacancy in a constituency of three, four and five Members, in that case the alternative vote would apply, because there would then be only one Member. I think if noble Lords have studied the Report of the Commission on proportional representation, which reported about eight or nine years ago, they will see from the figures given that even under the system of single-Member constituencies the alternative vote only applied in a comparatively small number of cases.

I am not going to say anything about the general principle of the matter, but I should like to say one word, speaking, of course, on my own account and not for the Government, because the Government have no view on the subject. I think this House ought to consider the fact that Members of another place, although they inserted this provision, were yet unable to agree on the method by which it should be carried out, and it was left to be decided by Order in Council. I submit that is not a very dignified attitude for a Legislative Assembly to take up. You may leave to be defined by Order in Council a matter which you do not wish to deal with, but when you have tried to deal with it and have failed, and you then hand it over to an Order in Council that seems to me a rather peculiar system of carrying out your legislative duties

There have been two ways suggested of dealing with the matter. One is in a White Paper which was circulated—it is on the Table at the present moment—and the other is a system advocated, I think with a certain amount of difficulty, by a Member of the other House. Under the first system there are, I think, two rather contradictory principles involved. First of all, it is recognised that the first votes—preferences, perhaps, I ought to call them—have more weight than second or third preferences, because in deciding who is really Member for the constituency the votes of the man who has received the lowest number of first votes are divided, according to the later preferences, among the other candidates. In this way, therefore, it is apparently recognised that the first votes given for a candidate are of more value than the second or third votes. Then, of course, these votes are divided among the others, and it may well be that the particular candidate who has received the largest number of first preferences does not get any of those of, say, the man who has received the second or third largest number. In that case you will observe than an equal value is given to the first preferences and to the second and possibly the third preferences. Therefore, you have under the same system two contradictory principles applied.

Now I come to the other system which was advocated by Major Chapple, a Member of the other House. He took what I think may be considered the more logical principle of giving different values to first and second or third preferences. Then we come to this rather peculiar state of things, that when a man votes he first of all gives his first preferences to his own candidate, and then his second or third preferences to other candidates. As a special value less than that of the first preferences is attached to the second or third preferences it is quite clear that if a man adds his second or third preferences he is in effect giving a vote against the man for whom he voted in the first place. I believe, supposing he does not do so, the whole point of having the alternative vote system is lost, and this was recognised by the proposer of the Amendment in another place. Among the rules which he put on the Paper was this—that a man should be deemed to have given a second or third preference even though he had not given a second or third preference. I think your Lordships will see that this really reduces the proposal to an absolute absurdity, and, there being these very grave objections to either system, I myself am compelled to vote against the alternative vote, because I think it is impossible. When you examine the only two methods of carrying it out, and find they are contradictory or absurd, it is almost dishonest to vote for a principle which cannot be carried out and for which no practical method has been suggested as to how it should be carried out.


The noble Viscount has stated with absolute lucidity all the difficulties we are placed under in connection with the proposals of Major Chapple in another place. The particular form of alternative vote which I have always supported, and intend to support to-night, is the simplest provision which can be found by which we can avoid what we used to call in our unregenerate days a three-cornered fight. It resulted sometimes in some one who did not command a majority of the electors getting returned. That is not a scientific form of minority representation, and it is not really what any system or Party wishes to see happen. What I think we want is a provision by which we may be able to transfer our votes to the other candidate whom we approve of most or disapprove of least, in order that the constituency may have the representative who, more or less, represents the views of the electors. I would like to repeat, if there are any noble Lords present who did not hear the speech of my noble friend Lord Gainford, that the possible, and very probable, result of three-cornered fights in the future would be that where nobody obtains a majority of the votes cast, the person who obtains the highest number of votes in a three-cornered fight may be the extremist. I think it would be unfortunate for the country, for your Lordships' House, and for the House of Commons, if the two representatives of moderate parties, whoever they may be and whatever their name may be in the future, are not able, by a process of the alternative vote, to combine in order to prevent the election by a minority of the man of whom they both unanimously disapprove. On that ground I should favour the retention in the Bill of the alternative vote—the particular method of introducing it can be dealt with hereafter when we approach the Schedules and the Rules.


It seems to me that, first of all, it is most desirable that the electors—the majority of the electors—should get the representative whom they prefer, and not the representative whom the majority do not prefer. That is the first proposition, and I do not want to complicate that proposition, by any suggestions for the present or for the future, as to whether we should be keeping out the dangerous man, the revolutionary, etc. That is not material. The material thing is that the local electors should get the man whom they prefer rather than the man they do not prefer.

In Clause 18 it says, "if at an election for one Member of Parliament there are more than two candidates, the election shall be according to the principle of the alternative vote as defined by this Act." When I turn to page 26 I find there that the expression of alternative vote means a vote "capable of being given so as to indicate the voter's preference for the candidates in order; and capable of being transferred to a subsequent choice in case no candidate has a clear majority of the total number of votes counted at any count." I am told—I have not looked it up—that if this does not sufficiently define the way it is to be done, it is to be further defined by an Order in Council. I cannot see anything humiliating to either House of Parliament if you leave it to an Order in Council to arrange and by some method determine how the object shall be attained. Acts of Parliament have been mere frameworks, and any number of things put in by Order in Council. In fact that is a prevailing habit.

The House of Commons, I think, as was the case in the question debated before proportional representation, was guided much more by what was thought to be the convenience of Members than by what was thought of the rights of the constituencies. We know that a great many Members prefer the risk of sudden death to the trouble of multiplying contested elections. It is habitual to urge upon a Party who more or less are in sympathy with what I call the dominant candidate: "do not run your man because you will split the Party and let in the enemy." In that way many three-cornered contests are saved. Members of Parliament would very often rather run the risk of being beaten by a minority candidate than have an increased number of contested elections. With that we are not concerned. We are not legislating for the happiness of candidates but for the proper representation of electors.

The other House did no doubt get into a sort of tangle, and chop backwards and forwards, and did not show itself in a very creditable position, because they for a moment voted for a thing which was a sort of complicated conundrum that would require a mathematician to solve. They saw that that was absurd and went back upon it and finally threw it upon Orders in Council to frame the scheme to give effect to what, at last, they determined was the right course to take. I do not think that our object in legislating is like that of the mathematician or chemist who analyses a quantity to the last milligramme. Our object in legislation is to have a practical and substantial way, in nine cases out of ten, of giving effect to the purposes of the electors. I am quite sure that it is very easy to arrange a system. Remember that in these single-Member constituencies as a rule there will not be more than three candidates and even if there are four it would not much matter. It is not very difficult for people to indicate their preference. It is rather absurd to say, "If I had voted for A first of all, but A is not in the running, and then I voted for B, I have given B a fraction of the value that I have given to A. If A is out then B becomes my first preference. If B is knocked out, then C becomes my first choice. This mathematical calculation—if A was worth unit, B was worth.9 of unit, and C was worth only.4 of unit—is much too fanciful and elaborate. In practical things the electors would be satisfied if, when they had failed to get their man who is their first choice, they secured the man who was their second choice rather than the man they wished to vote against altogether. I do not in the least see why we could not pass this as it stands and leave it, if it requires further elucidation, to an Order in Council.


Your Lordships must be more tired of hearing about the Speaker's Conference than most of us were of sitting there. I would, however, draw attention to the fact that the alternative vote was accepted by a majority and was one of those things that were inserted in the Speaker's Report. But it was not the alternative vote as it stood until the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Selborne was accepted. We do not in the least know what will be the final outcome of that controversy. I hope that your Lordships' decision may stand. At the same time I would point out that when the Speaker's Conference accepted by the majority the alternative vote it only applied to a certain number of seats very much smaller than it did when it formed part of the Bill as introduced into the House by the noble Viscount opposite. I understand that the more he looks at it the less he likes it. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, has said that the Government is neutral and that his neutrality is benevolent towards the Amendment of my noble friend who sits behind me.

I might point that at the Conference where this was discussed it was thought that as majorities were to obtain so large a measure of protection under the scheme of proportional representation, it did not matter very much whether majorities did obtain a slight accession of strength under the process of the alternative vote. Proportional representation is, of course, as we all know, for the protection of minorities. This alternative vote is for the aggrandisement of majorities. There is nothing of proportional representation about it except in the form. There is no question it would extinguish, if the system of single-Member seats were retained, the rough sort of minority representation which has obtained, and to an increasing degree, in the last few elections. I think it was Mr. Gladstone whose great name was quoted by the noble Viscount last night as covering his own Amendment, or his own attitude, anyhow, with regard to proportional representation. Mr. Gladstone said that what you want to get is every variety of opinion represented, and this system by which men representing a minority have obtained a seat in some unscientific way has obtained that result. But let there be no mistake about it, it is the antithesis of proportional representation, and therefore cannot be accepted on that ground. The Royal Commission reported that it had given rise to log rolling wherever it had been tried. I do not know-that log rolling is very desirable. I am quite sure the two noble Lords who have spoken from that Bench are quite sincere.

There is no doubt that arrangements in the past have been made between the Party whose affairs they so ably managed and the Labour Party in respect of bargaining for seats. I do not say the Unionist management would have been above making such a bargain if they had had the opportunity, but at any rate the facts, as they worked out, were that by an arrangement as a rule between the Liberal and Labour Parties certain seats were allocated to both, and they had what is called a working arrangement between them. No one can tell how Parties will shape themselves in the future. As the noble Earl the Leader of the House said, they are likely to be on other lines than those which now exist, but at the same time you cannot help believing that as there is perhaps a closer connection between the Liberal and the Labour Party than between the Labour Party and any other, more bargains are likely to be made between them to their mutual advantage. One cannot help thinking that the two noble Lords who have advocated this must have been of that opinion. [A NOBLE LORD: No.] Then perhaps they are less astute than I gave them credit for, but in any case, this method will work out very unfairly to those who form the Party from which the majority of this House is drawn. In any case, it cannot be accepted as being a recommendation of the Speaker's Conference, even carried by a majority. There is no mandate of that sort to incorporate it in the Bill, and it will be a little rash to accept it in this place without knowing what the final outcome of the controversy with regard to proportional representation may be.


I cannot help thinking that it would be very rash of your Lordships to accept the alternative vote as it stands in the Bill. The noble Lord behind me, Lord Sheffield, seems to think it very simple and that all we have to do is to put in this clause as it stands and leave the whole thing to be settled by Order in Council. He has served so long in Parliament that he thinks it a suitable method of legislation that when you can not see your way through a thing you should leave it to be settled by Order in Council. It is a great mischief, I think, that we have accepted sub silentio that way of dealing with problems. But what we have pretended is that the Order in Council is merely to carry out in detail the principle we have already indicated. But that is not the case in the present instance, because we have it on the authority of the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill, and indeed we knew it, that the House of Commons have thrashed this thing out over and over again and have ascertained that no system of alternative vote is satisfactory. The noble Viscount told us so just now. He began with that neutrality of demeanour which he has assumed over this Bill but which does not become him very much, let me tell him. I like him very much better when he takes a strong line, which he does most admirably. He assumed neutrality at the beginning of his speech. But before he got to the end of it he was obliged to say that, having examined all the possible alternatives, he was convinced that the alternative vote would not do. That is the opinion of the Government, and the opinion of the House of Commons.


I said I was speaking for myself.


I forgot that the noble Viscount was not speaking for the Government. It is a little difficult to keep one's head. One cannot always remember when a spokesman of the Government is speaking for himself, though the noble Viscount's opinion is, of course, of the greatest possible value, in whatever capacity he is speaking. But the upshot is that in his opinion there is no system of the alternative vote which is satisfactory. Lord Sheffield seemed to think that the alternative vote was a fair system. I wonder whether he has ever worked it out.


I have given it some attention.


I recommend him, not to-night, because it would give him a headache, but to-morrow morning, with a bit of pencil and an envelope, to work it out, and as a matter of fact he will find that the alternative vote does not represent, in numbers of cases, the real wish of the constituencies. Now that your Lordships have agreed to proportional representation the whole question becomes of very small importance. Proportional representation covers nearly all the ground.


If it is finally accepted.


Yes, no doubt. There are a few outlying constituencies left, and for my part I do not think it is worth while agreeing to a system which Lord Peel thinks is an impossible system or, at least, a system of which he cannot approve, and which the House of Commons think they cannot approve of, because they have not been able to find a method of working it, in order to cover a very few cases which are not covered by proportional representation. In the circumstances, as nobody can explain how the system will work, I think we shall do better without it in the Bill.


The noble Marquess who has just sat down has explained that it is impossible to find a completely satisfactory system for the alternative vote, and that, at any rate, none has been suggested in the Bill as we have it. We have already written one blank cheque for proportional representation without the faintest idea how it is to be carried into effect. Your Lordships have passed by an enormous majority the system of proportional representation without having before you a map or a figure which would tell you how it is actually going to be carried into effect, and you are going to ask the House of Commons to agree to that proposition. It is true that I do not believe you can find any system of the alternative vote which is absolutely fair in the sense that you cannot pick holes in it if you look at it either as a mathematician, or even in a sense as a politician. But I am not quite sure that there is any system of proportional representation—certainly in constituencies of three or five Members—which can be regarded as absolutely fair in the sense of expressing the direct preference of the voters for those constituencies. I think if you examine it you will see that this is so.

Then the noble Marquess says, "After all, what does this matter? You have adopted a system of proportional representation, but there are a few shabby constituencies like the City of London, Westminster, and other places—"outlying districts," I think was the phrase used by my noble friend—to which it does not apply." If the system of proportional re-presentaton has all the merits—and I by no means deny the merits—which are claimed [...], it ought to be made absolutely uniform all over the three kingdoms. There ought to be no exceptions; and if you do have exceptions I say, as my noble friend Lord Burnham pointed out frankly, that you really stultify yourselves if you do not adopt the system of an alternative vote with regard to them. The system of an alternative vote for a single-Member constituency is in pari materia—it conveys the same idea—as the adoption of proportional representation for the larger constituencies does The noble Marquess, and, I think, some previous speaker, preferred to regard the plan of the Amendment of the noble Viscount opposite as recommending something like a corrective to the proportional system. By this means you get the wrong man in in a somewhat different way. I think that this cannot be a prudent course to adopt; and although I am well aware—because, unfortunately, this matter has been historically treated as something of a Party question—and for that reason I have no doubt the great majority of your Lordships take the same view that my noble friend opposite does.

I think it is unfortunate that the Party effects in the past, or the possible Party effects in the future, have received the emphasis that they have in several speeches. It would have been wiser if we could have

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

regarded the matter as a purely abstract one. But the question has undoubtedly received that colour. It has been supposed that, as in the past the Liberal and the Labour Members sometimes stood against each other and obtained between them a majority of votes, but the Conservative Member got in, this represented something of a picture of what may happen in the future. I do not think myself that such events in three-cornered constituencies are likely to recur; and therefore, it is purely on the merits of the case that I shall certainly vote against the Amendment of the noble Viscount opposite.


I should like to correct one remark which has been made. In proposing my Amendment I did not allude in any way to the question of what Party it would affect. I look upon it as an impracticable scheme which was not brought in by the Speaker's Conference as a whole, and the principle which was carried by a majority of one only in the House of Commons is proved unworkable.

On Question, whether the subsection proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 9; Not-Contents, 57.

Crewe, M. Blyth, L. Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)
Beauchamp, E. Gainford, L. [Teller.]
St. Davids, L. Stanmore, L.
Harcourt, V. [Teller.] Southwark, L.
Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.) Jersey, E. Crawshaw, L.
Curzon of Kedleston, E. (L. President.) Kimberley, E. De Mauley, L.
Lindsay, E. Digby, L.
Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.) Mar and Kellie, E. Dinevor, L.
Minto, E. Elphinstone, L.
Plymouth, E. Faringdon, L.
Argyll, D. Forester, L.
Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.) Harris, L.
Bath, M. Chilston, V. Hylton, L.
Camden, M. Churchill, V. Kenyon, L.
Exeter, M. Falkland, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Salisbury, M. Falmouth, V. Knaresborough, L.
Iveagh, V. Lambourne, L.
Ancaster, E. Peel, V. Lamington, L.
Cairns, E. Monckton, L. (V. Galway.) [Teller.]
Camperdown, E. [Teller.] Avebury, L.
Chesterfield, E. Balfour, L. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Basing, L. Plunket, L.
Beresford of Metemmeh, L. Ranksborough, L.
Eldon, E. Burnham, L. Somerleyton, L.
Fortescue, E. Carnock, L. Suffield, L.
Grey, E. Charnwood, L. Sydenham, L.

THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH moved to substitute "three" for "two" in subsection (2). The noble Earl said: I hope that your Lordships will think that this Amendment is really a reasonable and proper one. It seems to me that this subsection (2) is a glaring instance of the anomalies that have resulted from the Speaker's Conference. We have heard on several occasions of the anomalies which have been created by the Conference, and this seems to me to be a most extraordinary sample. The sub-section provides that the system of proportional representation should apply to the two-Membered University seats, to which of course it is wholly inapplicable. I should like to state at the outset that I was in some doubt as to the manner in which I should put down my Amendment—whether to move that subsection (2) be struck out altogether, or to move tie substitution of "three" for "two." It depended to some extent on whether the Motion of my noble friend the Earl of Selborne was passed or not. It was passed and, therefore, I think my Amendment probably now stands in its best terms and its proper form. There might be some shadow of excuse for putting the two-Membered University seats on this footing. Supposing the constituency had remained in its present condition, it might have been argued, and it has been argued that, "this is a very small constituency, allow it still to have two Members and, as there is some trouble about it, we will see that one Member is returned on one side, and one on the other." But this is not the case. The constituencies of Oxford and Cambridge are being, as far as I understand it, trebled. I am told that the constituency of Cambridge is somewhere about 7,000 now, and that it will be about 20,000 after the Bill passes. It seems to me extraordinary that Parliament should create, or rather change the conditions of an old constituency, and add largely to the electorate and at the same time say in effect, "We do not know what the result of this increase in the electorate will be; we do not know whether the majority will be small or large, or what way it will go. We have no means of predicting, but we will take care that, if the majority is represented, the minority is represented also in Parliament." It really is an extraordinary proposition to try proportional representation on a two-Member University seat.

Yesterday the noble Viscount Lord Harcourt, in opening the opposition to proportional representation, spoke of a four-Member constituency and said that "to apply proportional representation to constituencies of four Members is simply ludicrous, and could but result in equal representaton of both Parties." It is just as ludicrous to apply the principle of proportional representation to two-Member constituencies. I have worked it out in figures and, say we have an electorate of 20,000, with 13,500 on one side, and 6,500 on the other. In order that the majority in the constituency should have its representatives without being nullified by the vote on the other side, you would have to apportion the votes of the majority in electing two candidates so that a transfer of 200 votes, or 200 electors not being able to vote, would not prevent the two Members being elected. I do not think anybody imagines there would be such a majority as that, and the result would inevitably be that there must be one representative of one side, and one representative on the other. The only argument I can see, looking carefully at the debate at the House of Commons, in favour of it was that it had been adopted by the Speaker's Conference, and that it was better to take it, and not to oppose it, because perhaps worse things might happen.

I want to quote, if you will allow me, a few words which Sir Philip Magnus said in the House of Commons, and two or three words from Mr. Wardle, who is also a member of the House of Commons. I should accept the account of what he said. Sir Philip Magnus says— The right hon. gentleman the Member for Clevedon (Mr. H. Samuel) also said that this was a compromise under which alone University representation would be accepted as part of the electoral system of this country. I deny that. The compromise was not one affecting University representation. The compromise was against plural voting and it was that instead of continuing plural voting, as hitherto, when it formed a part of the electoral system of this country, the property qualification and all other qualifications should be done away with, and that only two qualifications should be allowed to remain, namely, that of business residence and that of the University franchise. Mr. Wardle, who spoke next, said— I agree with the hon. gentleman who has just sat down that there was one mistake which the right hon. gentleman made. The compromise regarding University representation did not arise on the method of voting for University representation. It was settled long before that question. Therefore I think that there was a considerable degree of doubt as to whether this is even part of a compromise made at the Speaker's Conference. I do ask your Lordships to agree with this that it is really an absurd thing to try proportional representation on a two-Member constituency especially as that constituency is a University one. You ought at least to see what the effect of this change is, and to give the Universities their representation according to the whole theory of this Bill, and not pick them out for an extraordinary experiment which can but result in one member always coming from one side and one from another.

The reason that I have adhered to this form of the Amendment substituting "three "for" two "is that the Scottish Universities, which are grouped together, may, for all I know, desire to remain so. I do not know whether that is so or not, and, therefore, I did not want to move that this subsection be eliminated without knowing what was the opinion of the Scottish Universities. I am inclined to believe, however, from what I have been told, that the form of my Amendment is approved by the Scottish University representatives. I would at any rate ask your Lordships to remove this anomaly, this blot upon the Bill, and not allow the Universities to be put in this extraordinary and it seems to me rather futile position as far as their representation is concerned.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 19, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(The Earl of Plymouth.)


Speaking on behalf of the University of Dublin, of which I have the honour to be Chancellor, I desire to say that I entirely agree with the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Plymouth, and with the arguments which he has brought forward in its support. I earnestly trust that your Lordships will recognise that this clause unless it is altered in the way it is proposed will, in the method of election, inflict an unmerited disadvantage upon the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin as compared with other Universities in Great Britain and Ireland.


I should like to say one word on behalf of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, although perhaps as only a very humble member of the University of Cambridge I have no right to speak on their behalf. But I cannot help drawing attention to the extraordinary way in which this Bill has arrived in your Lordships' House. In another place the principle of proportional representation was left out, for some excellent reason, no doubt, except in one case alone, and that was the case of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Universities of Durham, Manchester, and others which elect two Members. I was surprised when the noble Lord, Lord Iveagh, spoke about Dublin University, because that does not appear in the Schedule, as the representation of Ireland is still in doubt. But speaking of Scottish and English Universities, it is extraordinary that they alone should be singled out by another place on which to try the experiment of proportional representation. I imagine the retention of the University vote was a tribute to the fact that there should be an education qualification still.

There is no question of a man getting three votes, because an elector who votes for his residence and also for his business occupation could not have a third vote, as I understand, for his University. I cannot help thinking that if the Bill is passed as it comes from another place it will simply mean the disenfranchisement of the two old Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and I cannot believe that can be the intention of the Government or even the intention of the House of Commons. If there is to be any franchise granted on educational grounds, it seems to me absolutely essential that in two-Member constituencies like those Universities proportional representation should not apply. I am one of those who voted for proportional representation and shall continue to vote for proportional representation, but I should certainly not support proportional representation being brought in in those constituencies which return two Members. It appears to me to turn the whole thing into a farce; and it is, I think, a little strange that in another place, where proportional representation was knocked out for every other constituency, these constituencies, which have committed what is, I suppose, the awful crime of almost invariably returning Members of the Unionist Party, should be specially picked out to be disenfranchised. I will say nothing further on that, but it is very remarkable.


The noble Earl who moved the Amendment said that he might have moved it in the form of leaving out the subsection altogether. I am inclined to think, in matter of form, that that probably would have been the better Amendment, because, supposing the Amendment was carried, then he would be re-enacting the statement that in the one particular case of the three-Member constituency proportional representation should apply, and that statement would be covered by the Amendment already carried by the Committee. Because, as the noble Earl knows, there is at present only one three-Member University constituency, and he would cut out proportional representation as applied to the two others. It has been stated that the Resolutions of the Speaker's Conference should not be treated exactly as Holy Writ, although, no doubt my noble friend Lord Burnham does not take that view. But I think it is very important that this Committee should consider precisely what were the findings of the Speaker's Conference on that very point. As regards the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge they settled that those Universities should return two Members, but, in order to secure a proper representation of minorities, each voter should be allowed to vote for one candidate only. It is clear, therefore, that the Speaker's Conference desired to secure minority representation for those two Universities. That principle was accepted in another place, but was varied as to the method by which it should be carried out, because, instead of merely stating that each voter should have one vote and should use that vote in the ordinary way, it decided that that should be carried out by means of the transferable vote, so that he should be able to exercise his preferences as well as his single vote. Further in paragraph (b) of Section 22 the Speaker's Conference decided that the other English Universities, including the University of Wales, should be grouped together with the University of London so as to form one constituency with three Members, and they were to be elected on the system of the single transferable vote. At a later stage a change was made in another place, and London University was separated from this group, was given one representative, and the others were left with two.


Three I think now.


I think you will see that they are left with two.




The only University constituencies now left are the four Scottish Universities, which are grouped together in one constituency, returning three Members. These also were to be returned under the system of the single transferable vote. So much then for the Speaker's Conference. The object of the Amendment is this. My noble friend would do away with this suggestion of minority representation, as proposed by the Speaker's Conference. The effect of his Amendment is to return to the old system, by which each voter would be able to vote for two candidates, and there would be no opportunity therefore for minority representation. I do wish to bring this to the notice of your Lordships. There was, of course, a strong party which did not wish Universities as Universities to be represented at all in the House of Commons. I also stated in my opening speech that the Speaker's Conference was the result of a compromise, and I understand that the compromise so arrived was embodied in the provision of the Speaker's Conference that University representation was retained, but on the understanding that there should be the opportunity for this minority representation, though I admit that the method in the case of Oxford and Cambridge has been somewhat varied in another place, so that, if your Lordships were to accept the Amendment of my noble friend, you would really be cutting through that compromise arrived at in the Speaker's Conference.

The only other point upon which I wish to say a word is this. My noble friend has said that in the other part of the Bill it is proposed that proportional representation should be applied only to constituencies with at least three Members. That is perfectly true. It is also true that there are a number of double-Member undivided constituencies left in the Bill to which proportional representation will not be applied. It is further true—and I am bound to admit it, because I think it is consistent with the general principles of proportional representation—that two-Member constituencies are not good subjects to which to apply the system of proportional representation. But while my noble friend goes against proportional representation as applied to two-Member constituencies, he does not go back to the suggestion of the Speaker's Conference that each voter shall be allowed to vote for one candidate only; he wants to go right back to the present system and to cut out altogether any form of minority representation in the Universities. On the ground, therefore, that this proposal of my noble friend upsets the compromise arrived at with regard to University representation at the Speaker's Conference, I regret that, speaking on behalf of the Government, I am not able to accept his Amendment.


I feel some difficulty on this question. If I were strictly logical, as my noble friend has shown himself to be in the great part of the speech which he has made, I should be inclined to support the mover of the Amendment because, after a very careful debate, we have carried a decision that proportional representation shall not apply to constituencies of less than three Members. That would seem consequentially to carry with it that it should not apply to constituencies which have only two Members; and, as a matter of fact, throughout the great part of the electoral machinery of this country it is not to apply to constituencies of two Members; and one would naturally ask, Why should an exception be made in the case of the Universities; and why to the Universities alone of two-Member constituencies should the system be applied? I think the point was enforced by Lord Harcourt in his able speech upon the main Amendment. It is clear that proportional representation does not work with less than three Members; indeed,

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

it works better with five than it does with three. My only difficulty is that it would look as if I were voting for a Resolution which would help the Party to which I belong. I know that the effect of voting for the Amendment of my noble friend would be to help the Unionist representation of the Universities in their present condition. I am bound to say that I do not think that one ought to let Party considerations weigh with one in voting in this House; therefore if my noble friend goes to a Division—I do not know whether he will think it worth while to do so—I should be obliged to support him. I am inclined to suggest to him that he should not press the matter at the present stage; but if he does I shall vote with him, notwithstanding the fact that it will help the Party to which I belong.


I want to emphasise the point that the constituency is not going to be the same; it is going to be trebled; and we cannot tell what the effect will be, or whether the representation will be exactly the same as it has always been up to now.

On Question, whether the word "two" shall stand part of the clause—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 30; Not-Contents, 31.

Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.) Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.) Harris, L.
Chilston, V. Hylton, L. [Teller.]
Harcourt, V. Kenyon, L.
Bath, M. Peel, V. Lamington, L.
Crewe, M. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Chesterfield, E. Avebury, L. Ranksborough, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Balfour, L. Southwark, L.
Blyth, L. Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)
Fortescue, E. Burnham, L.
Grey, E. Charnwood, L. Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Kimberley, E. Elphinstone, L. Suffield, L.
Minto, E. Gainford, L.
Argyll, D. Morton, E. De Mauley, L.
Northumberland, D. Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Digby, L.
Selborne, E. Dinevor, L.
Camden, M. Faringdon, L.
Exeter, M. Churchill, V. Forester, L.
Salisbury, M. Falkland, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Iveagh, V. [Teller.] Knaresborough, L.
Ancaster, E. Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Camperdown, E. Basing, L. Plunket, L.
Eldon, E. Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.) St. Davids, L.
Jersey, E. Carnock, L. Somerleyton, L.
Lindsay, E. Sydenham, L.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Viscount said: I move this formally, It is really a drafting Amendment, because later on there comes a provision dealing with the matter.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 23, leave out subsection (3).—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


moved the deletion from subsection (4) of the words "or of the alternative." The noble Earl said: This is consequential.

Amendment moved. Page 14, line 33, leave out ("or of the alternative").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to substitute "therein" for "herein" in subsection (5). The noble Viscount said: This is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 2, leave out ("herein") and insert ("therein").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19:

Polls to be held on one day at a general election.

19.—(1) At a general election all polls shall be held on one day, and the day fixed for receiving nominations shall be the same in all constituencies, and accordingly the First Schedule to the Ballot Act, 1872, shall be modified as shown in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Act.

In the case of a bye-election, the poll shall take place on such day as the returning officer may appoint, not being less than four or more than eight clear days after the day fixed for nomination, and the First Schedule to the Ballot Act, 1872, shall be modified accordingly.

(2) Official telegraphic information of the writ having been issued for a parliamentary election may be given in such cases and by such persons as may be directed by His Majesty in Council, and any steps for holding an election which may be taken on or after the receipt of the writ may be taken on or after the receipt of an official telegraphic intimation of the writ having been issued.

(3) The time appointed for the meeting of the Parliament may be any time not less than twenty clear days after the proclamation summoning the Parliament; and the Meeting of Parliament Act, 1852, is hereby repealed.

(4) Nothing in this section shall—

  1. (a) affect the provisions of section one of the Ballot Act, 1872, relating to the commencement afresh of the proceedings with relation to the election on the death of a candidate or apply to proceedings so commenced afresh; or
  2. (b) apply to a university election.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved to amend subsection (1) by substituting "six" for "four." The noble Earl said: This is only a small Amendment, which I have put down to raise a certain point. It is the question of when the election shall take place. The Bill says— In the case of a by-election, the poll shall take place on such day as the returning officer may appoint, not being less than four or more than eight clear days after the day fixed for nomination. The point is, Are four days sufficient, having regard to the absent voters? Some of them will take some time to get the necessary papers, and I think Clause 21 is not very definite as to when the letters should be sent. I think it says as soon as practicable. I only move the Amendment in order to ask the Government whether they think four days sufficient. It seems to me a very short time in which to get the letters to the absent voters.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 11, leave out ("four") and insert ("six").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


There is another question which arises on this provision, as to whether it allows a sufficient area of choice in the fixing of the day for the poll. We all know—those of us who have been in the House of Commons—that in some constituencies a particular day is especially desirable. It may be Saturday, or it may be Wednesday. You may want to avoid some particular day that is market day or to appoint a particular day that is specially convenient owing to cessation of work and facilities for voting. I am not sure whether the noble Earl's Amendment does not rather limit the area of choice of dates for the returning officer and so add to the inconvenience which may be inflicted upon a constituency as to the day selected for the poll.


I do not think this Amendment is of very great importance. The noble Earl will observe that the time has been lengthened. It is a longer period than is allowed now.


There were no absent voters before. There are now.


I am coming to that. I wanted the noble Earl first to admit that the time had been extended. I agree that in the case of by-elections there may be some question. You must also observe that during peace time the question of delays in the post will not arise in the same way as they do in time of war, which no doubt extends the period from four days to six. The Government have no very strong feeling on the subject, but I think, on the whole, they would prefer that the limitation should remain as it is in the Bill, without lengthening it any more than is necessary.


I would suggest that my noble friend should not press his Amendment now; but I hope the Government will consider it. I think the noble Viscount Lord Harcourt made a good point. One does not want to restrict the scope of the returning officer in fixing the day, but, if the inferior limit is prolonged to six days, then I think it follows that the superior limit should be prolonged to ten days. I am advised, by those who have experience in electioneering, that four days is short, having regard to the absent voters. I do not know whether the attention of the noble Viscount has been called to the point; but if he will consider, between now and Report, whether four days will be sufficient, I hope my noble friend will not press his Amendment.


There is a provision for nine days.


Yes, but even with the addition, I am advised that there would be some considerable difficulty in getting communications off to the absent voters in proper time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20:

Penalty for voting at a general election in more constituencies than allowed.

20.—(1) If any person at a general election votes for more constituencies than he is entitled to vote for in accordance with this Act, or asks for a ballot or voting paper for the purpose of so voting, he shall be guilty of an illegal practice within the meaning of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883; and the ex- pression "illegal practice" shall be construed accordingly: Provided that—

  1. (a) the court before whom a person is convicted under this section may, if they think it just in the special circumstances of the case, mitigate or entirely remit any incapacity imposed by section ten of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883; and
  2. (b) the fact that any person has asked for a ballot paper in a constituency in circumstances which entitle him only to mark a tendered ballot paper in pursuance of Rule 27 of the First Part of the First Schedule to the Ballot Act, 1872, shall not, if he does not exercise that right, prevent his voting or asking for a ballot or voting paper in another constituency; and
  3. (c) the giving of a vote by a returning officer in pursuance of section two of the Ballot Act, 1872, in the case of an equality of votes, or the asking for a ballot paper for the purpose of so voting, shall not, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to be the giving of a vote as a Parliamentary elector, or the asking for a ballot paper for the purpose of so voting.

(2) The questions set out in Part II of the Second Schedule to this Act may be asked of any voter at a poll at a general election in addition to those authorised already to be asked; and unless there is an answer given in the negative that person shall not vote.

In the case of a university election, there shall be inserted in the voting paper, after the words. "I do hereby declare that" the declarations set out in Part II of the Second Schedule to this Act.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after the word "person" in subsection (2), to insert "except as provided in that Schedule." The noble Viscount said: This is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 23, after ("person") insert ("(except as provided in that Schedule)").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to omit from the clause the last paragraph, commencing with the words "In the case of a University election." The noble Viscount said: This is a consequential Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 16, leave out lines 24 to 27 inclusive (Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to

Clause 21:

Voting by absent voters.

21.—(1) For the purpose of giving persons whose names are entered on the absent voters list an opportunity of voting at a Parliamentary election, the returning officer shall, where an election is contested, as soon as practicable after the adjournment of the election, send a ballot paper to each such person at the address entered against his name on the absent voters list in the register together with a declaration of identity in the prescribed form.

(2) The ballot paper marked by the absent voter and accompanied by the declaration of identity duly signed and authenticated shall, if it is received by the returning officer before the close of the poll, be counted by him and treated for all purposes in the same manner as a ballot paper placed in the ballot box in the ordinary manner

(3) Durin the continuance of the present war and a period of twelve months thereafter, for the purpose of allowing more time for the receipt of ballot papers from persons whoso names are entered on the absent voters list, His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that the counting of votes at any elections to which the Order applies shall, instead of taking place as soon as practicable after the close of the poll, take place at such time (not exceeding eight days after the close of the poll) as may be fixed by the Order, and returning officers shall comply with any such direction; and in any such case any vote received by the returning officer from an absent voter before the time at which the votes are to be counted shall be reckoned in the count.

(4) The following special provisions shall apply for the purpose of enabling persons whose names are entered on the absent voters list to appoint voting proxies in certain cases:—

  1. (a) His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that voting by proxy by persons registered as naval or military voters shall be permitted in any area on land abroad mentioned in the Order if it appears to him that ballot papers sent to that area by post cannot reasonably be returned before the votes are counted, and that the case cannot be met by an Order under this section postponing the counting of votes:
  2. (b) A person whose name is entered on the absent voters list, if he satisfies the registration officer—
    1. (i) that he is registered as a naval or military voter and is serving, or about to serve, afloat, or in any area on land abroad in which voting by proxy is permitted in pursuance of an Order in Council made under this section; or
    2. (ii) that he is a merchant seaman, pilot, or fisherman (including the master of a merchant ship or fishing boat and an apprentice on such a ship or boat) and that there is a likelihood that he will be at the time of a Parliamentary election at sea or about to go to sea;
    shall be entitled, if he so desires, to appoint a proxy, and, having appointed a proxy, to vote by proxy at a Parlia- 988 mentary election in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this Act:
  3. (c) No ballot paper shall be sent for the purpose of voting by post to a person who has appointed a proxy under this provision while the appointment is in force:
  4. (d) The provisions set out in the Third Schedule to this Act shall have effect with respect to voting by proxy.

(5) A person whose name is entered on the absent voters list shall not be entitled to vote except as an absent voter in pursuance of this section.

(6) His Majesty may by Order in Council prescribe the forms to be used for the purposes of this section, and make regulations as to the mode in which proxy papers may be issued and cancelled and in which ballot papers are to be sent to the voter for the purpose of voting by post and as to the authentication of any marked ballot papers, and generally for the purposes of carrying this section into effect and for preserving the secrecy of voting in pursuance thereof.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after the words "Parliamentary election" in subsection (1), to insert "other than a University election." The noble Viscount said: This is another Amendment connected with Universities to make the matter clear.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 30, after ("election") insert ("(other than a University election)").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved, after "practicable" in subsection (1), to insert "and within forty-eight hours." The noble Earl said: It is very desirable, I think, that the returning officer should send out in a very short time the ballot papers. In the subsection it says "as soon as practicable," and I thought it would be desirable to fix a short time, say forty-eight hours. The whole time is short, and if the returning officer were to lose any, the absent voter would be inconvenienced. I do not press the Amendment if the Government object to it.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 31, after ("practicable") insert ("and within forty-eight hours").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)


I hope the noble Earl will not press the Amendment. These officers are responsible officials; they will do their work as rapidly as possible, and if you put in a certain minimum limit of time you often find that the work is not done until that time. It rather tends to delay than to expedite their action. I hope, and the Government hope, that these notices will be sent, not within forty-eight hours, but immediately.


I think there is some advantage in fixing a period like forty-eight hours. I do not think it is unduly long. If you have an efficient returning officer he can do the work in twenty-four hours, and there is no reason for delaying it merely because forty-eight hours is the limit fixed. There are inefficient returning officers in the country, although they are not a large number, and if the proposed words were inserted in the clause I should be glad. It would be necessary to make it clear that this did not cover Sundays, Bank Holidays or Christmas Day; otherwise the thing would become impossible. I think the insertion of forty-eight hours would be an improvement.


The noble Viscount is rather drawing his experience from the past. These returning officers under the Bill will be in a totally different position from the previous officials. They are important officers, and the whole responsibility is thrown upon them. There are many means of bringing them to book unless they do their duty, and I hope that they will not be trammelled in this particular instance, because you would have to introduce a great number of other-limitations in the Bill.


I do not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The next is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 16, lines 33 and 34 [subsection (17)] leave out ("entered against his name on the absent voters list in the register") and insert ("recorded by the registration officer").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved, after "authenticated" in subsection (2), to insert "as in this Act provided."


That Amendment is consequential.


No, I put it down in order to ask a question of the Government. I do not quite know what is intended. They say that the ballot paper, which is to be marked by the absent voter, must be accompanied by a declaration of identity duly signed and authenticated, but there is no provision as to what this authentication is to consist of. No doubt my noble friend will tell me that it is going to be provided by rules. I should like him to tell us—of course he knows—what is intended by the Government. What have they in their mind as to the future form of authentication? When you are dealing with absent military voters it is simple. The authentication can be made by an officer who knows the individual soldier. If the absent voting had been confined to soldiers, the Government would have found very little difficulty in making the necessary provision. I know it because I have had an opportunity of drafting a provision of that-kind. But when you are dealing with the absent voter who is not a soldier or sailor, what kind of authentication is required? One of the objects of the Bill is to make the absent voting as simple as possible, and if every absent voter has to go before a magistrate and have his identity certified upon oath that is a serious process, and the only effect of such a system would be that the absent voter would not vote at all. What I am most anxious about is that this Bill should have no humbug in it. Do not let us pass provisions which we know in practice will not be effective. The Government, of course, have thought out these details and have not left the matter merely to rules, and I should like to know what sort of authentication they contemplate.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 38, after ("authenticated") insert ("as in this Act provided").—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


In reply to the noble Marquess I would say that this has been a matter of considerable consideration by the Government. The particular conferences relating to it I did not myself attend, and I am not very well informed as to the precise result, but I believe that it is done by obtaining a paper signed as a witness by some person who knows the individual concerned. If, however, the noble Marquess will put a question to me on Report I will give him a fuller answer.


I will put the question on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I move to delete from subsection (2) the words "close of the poll," and to insert "time at which the votes are to be counted." The object of this Amendment is to bring this provision into consonance with the provision at the end of subsection (3), so that the absent voters' papers can be counted if they come in after the close of the poll up to the time at which the votes are to be actually counted. It gives a little extension.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 39, leave out ("close of the poll") and insert ("time at which the votes are to be counted").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I move to delete from subsection (3) all words after "shall comply with any such direction." That is drafting. I also move to delete from paragraph (a) subsection (4) the words "persons registered as," and from paragraph (b) (i) of subsection (4) the words "registered as." These are also drafting, because persons are not registered as naval and military voters. Naval and military voters get on the Register, but they are not registered as naval and military voters. It is a technical point.

Amendments moved—

Page 17, line 10, leave out from ("direction") to end of subsection.

Page 17, line 17, leave out ("persons registered as")

Page 17, line 26, leave out ("registered as").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved an addition at the end of paragraph (c) of subsection (4). The noble Viscount said: The words run: "Or to any naval or military voter, if the returning officer knows that he is serving in an area in which voting by proxy is permitted in pursuance of an Order in Council made under this section." Noble Lords will remember that an Order is to be made in certain areas that voting is to be by proxy. The Order will be made only where even by an extension of time the post cannot be made use of. Obviously in these areas the only way to give the vote is by proxy, and therefore it is a mere waste of time to send all these papers through the post. That is the reason for this provision.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 3, at end insert ("or to any naval or military voter, if the returning officer knows that he is serving in an area in which voting by proxy is permitted in pursuance of an Order in Council made under this section").—(Viscount Peel.)


I do not thoroughly appreciate the advantage of this proposal, because I understand that the returning officer would send the ballot paper to the absent naval or military voter at his registered address. That is the present proposal, and under this Amendment he would be prohibited from doing so. What is the difficulty, really, in sending it by post? It seems rather a dangerous power to place in the hands of the returning officer. It would be far better for the voting paper to be sent to the man at his registered address. It is quite possible, for instance, that a regiment may be in India, and yet the individual may be in France. The returning officer might believe the man was with his regiment, whereas if he sent him his ballot paper to his registered address he would receive it by post and no difficulty of that kind would accrue. I only put it that there may be difficulties in carrying out this suggestion.


I do not think that really it is a practical point that has been raised by the noble Lord, and I hope he will not oppose this proviso, because its insertion is moved at the instance of the Post Office to prevent the waste of time which would probably occur if all these ballot papers were sent out to all these proxy voters.


If the Post Office approve, I shall certainly not oppose the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22:

Voting by persons in the employment of returning officers.

22. Where an elector for any constituency is employed by the returning officer for that constituency for any purpose in connexion with an election for that constituency, and the circumstances of that elector's employment are, in the opinion of the returning officer, such as to prevent him from voting at the polling station at which the elector would otherwise be entitled to vote, the returning officer may authorise the elector to vote at any other polling station in the constituency, and that polling station shall, for the purpose of Rule 18 of Part I of the First Schedule to the Ballot Act, 1872 be deemed to be the polling station allotted to that elector.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after the word "constituency" where it first occurs, to insert "other than a University constituency." The noble Viscount said: This is consequential on the University clause.

Amendment moved— Page 18 line 17, after ("constituency") insert ("(other than a University constituency)").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after "elector" ["the returning officer may authorise the elector"], to insert "by a certificate given in the prescribed form." The noble Viscount said: This is to ensure that when these persons in the employ of the returning officers do vote in a district other than where they ought to vote they should have with them some evidence that they really are entitled to vote there; and the arrangement is that they should get a certificate, given in the prescribed form, stating that they are so authorised.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 23, after ("elector") insert ("by a certificate given in the prescribed form").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 23.

Right to the use of elementary schools.

23.—(1) A candidate at a parliamentary election shall be entitled, for the purpose of holding a public meeting in furtherance of his candidature, to the use at reasonable times between the receipt of a writ for the election and the day of the poll, of a suitable room in any public elementary school in receipt of an annual parliamentary grant situated within the constituency for which he is a candidate:

Provided that this enactment shall not authorise the use of any room used as part of a private dwelling-house nor authorise any interference with the school hours of an elementary day or evening school nor, in the case of a room used for the administration of justice or police, with the hours during which it is used for these purposes.

(2) A charge may be made to cover any actual and necessary expenses incurred by the local education authority, or by the managers of the school, in respect of the preparation of the room before the meeting for the purposes of the meeting, and after the meeting for school purposes, and for warming, lighting, and cleaning the room.

(3) If by reason of the use of any room under this Act any damage is done to the school-house, or to the furniture, fittings, or apparatus, the damage shall be defrayed by the person by whom; or on whose behalf, the meeting is convened.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after the word "election" where it first occurs, to insert "other than a University election."

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 28, after ("election") insert ("(other than a University election)").—Viscount Peel.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to omit from subsection (1) the words "in receipt of an annual Parliamentary grant."

Amendment moved— Page 18, lines 32 and 33, leave out ("in receipt of an annual parliamentary grant")—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to omit from the proviso in subsection (1) the words "nor in the case of a room used for the administration of justice or police, with the hours during which it is used for these purposes."

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 38, leave out from ("school") to end of subsection (1).—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24:

Forfeiture of deposit in certain cases.

24.—(1) A candidate at a parliamentary election, or someone on his behalf, shall deposit, or cause to be deposited, with the returning officer, during the time appointed for the election, the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, and if he fails to do so he shall be deemed to be withdrawn within the provisions of the Ballot Act 1872.

(2) The deposit may be made by the deposit of any legal tender or, with the consent of the returning officer, in any other manner.

(3) If after the deposit is made the candidate is withdrawn in pursuance of the provisions of the Ballot Act, 1872, the deposit shall be returned to the person by whom the deposit was made; and if the candidate dies after the deposit is made and before the poll is commenced, the deposit shall be returned to his personal representative.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved in subsection (3), after deposit ["the deposit shall be returned "], to insert "if made by him." The noble Earl said: It is frequently the case that the candidate is not present at the nomination himself, and if an Election is held during the war there may be candidates who may be on active service when the nomination takes place. The object of this Amendment is to prevent any dispute between a candidate and his representative.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 22, after ("deposit") insert ("if made by him").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


I accept that Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved in subsection (3), after "his" ["his personal representative"], to insert "legal."

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 23, after ("his") sinsert ("legal").—Viscount Peel.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved the addition of words at the end of subsection (3).

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 23, at end insert ("or, if not made by him, shall be returned to the person by whom the deposit was made").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 25:

Deposit by candidates at Parliamentary elections.

25.—(1) If a candidate who has made the required deposit is not elected, and the number of votes polled by him does not exceed, in the case of a constituency returning one or two members one-eighth of the total number of votes polled, or in the case of a constituency returning more than two members one-eighth of the number of votes polled divided by the number of members to be elected, the amount deposited shall be forfeited to His Majesty; but in any other case that amount shall be returned to the candidate:

Provided that where a candidate is nominated at a general election in more than one constituency he shall in no case recover his deposit more than once, and in such case the deposits shall be forfeited to His Majesty except such one as the Treasury direct to be returned to the candidate.

(2) For the purposes of this section the number of votes polled shall be deemed to be the number of ballot papers (other than spoilt ballot papers) counted; and where the election is held under the system of the alternative or the transferable vote the number of votes polled by a candidate shall be the number of votes polled by him as first preferences.


I should like to move the Amendment in subsection (1) of Clause 25 which stands in the name of Lord Muir Mackenzie, as its terms seem to be quite good and reasonable. The words come in immediately before the proviso.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 32, at end insert ("where the candidate is elected, as soon as he has taken the oath as a member, and, where the candidate is not elected, as soon as practicable after the result of the election is declared").—(Viscount Harcourt.)


I will accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27:

Payment of returning officers' expenses by Treasury.

27.—(1) The returning officer at a Parliamentary election (other than a university election) shall be entitled to his reasonable charges, not exceeding the sums specified in the scale of maximum charges framed under this section, in respect of services and expenses of the several kinds mentioned in the said scale which have been properly rendered or incurred by him for the purposes of the election.

(2) The amount of any such charges shall be paid by the Treasury out of moneys provided by Parliament on an account being submitted to the Treasury in accordance with regulations made under this section; but the Treasury may, if they think fit, before payment apply to the court as defined by this section for the taxation of the account, and the court shall have jurisdiction to tax the account in such manner and at such time and place as the court thinks fit, and finally to determine the amount payable to the returning officer.

On the request of the returning officer for an advance on account of his charges, the Treasury may, if they think fit, and on such terms as they think fit, make such an advance.

(3) Where an application is made for the taxation of a returning officer's account, the re turning officer may apply to the court to examine any claim made by any person against him in respect of matters charged in the account; and the court, after notice given to the claimant and after giving him an opportunity to be heard and to tender any evidence, may allow or disallow or reduce the claim objected to, with or without costs; and the determination of the court shall be final for all purposes and as against all persons.

(4) The Treasury shall prescribe a scale of maximum charges for the purposes of this section and may revise the scale as and when they think fit, and may also make regulations as to the time when and manner and form in which accounts are to be rendered to them for the purpose of the payment of the charges.

(5) The court for the purposes of this section shall be, as respects an election in the City of London, the Mayor's Court; and elsewhere in England and in Ireland the county court having jurisdiction at the place of nomination for the election to which the proceedings relate; and as regards Scotland "the court" shall mean the Auditor of the Court of Session.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved in subsection (2), after the words "for the purposes of," to insert "or in connection with."

Amendment moved— Page 20, line 26, after ("of") insert ("or in connection with").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 agreed to.


I do not know whether the noble Viscount would think this a convenient moment to adjourn our discussion. We have passed Clause 28, and there is a long new clause to be moved by the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill, with some Amendments that have to be moved to it. Is it worth while commencing a discussion upon this tonight? I should think that we might well adjourn at this stage.


I should like to appeal to your Lordships to continue for a little longer. I do not think that we have sat for six hours. We have well over forty pages of Amendments on the Paper, and I hope that the Committee will consent to go on a little while longer.


The new clause will not take very long, will it?


I do not think so.


My Amendment is a very short matter.


I will move my Amendment, and any explanation can be very brief. The Amendment provides, first of all, for the division of the constituencies into polling districts. Under the clause the duty is thrown on the councils; and as regards the polling places, that duty under the clause is thrown on the returning officers. The reason why it has been suggested that it should be thrown on the returning officers is that it is their business to deal with all matters connected with elections. I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, has an Amendment down in order to put the whole duty upon the councils. I think that is the effect of his Amendment.


Polling stations. There is a great difference between polling places and polling stations. Do you want me to explain the matter now?


No. That is the whole extent of my new clause, with the exception that a local authority or not less than thirty electors can make a representation to the Local Government Board. "Local authority" means any sort of local authority, including even a parish council.

Amendment moved— After Clause 28, insert as a new clause:

"Division of constituency into polling districts, and provision of polling places.

".—(1) It shall be the duty—

  1. "(a) of the council, whose clerk is the registration officer for any constituency or by whom the registration officer is appointed, as occasion requires, to divide the constituency into polling districts; and
  2. "(b) of the returning officer to appoint polling places for the polling districts
in such manner as to give to all electors in the constituency such reasonable facilities for voting as are practicable in the circumstances.

"(2) If a local authority or not less than thirty electors in a constituency, make a representation to the Local Government Board that the polling districts or polling places do not meet the reasonable requirements of the electors in the constituency, or any body of electors, the Local Government Board shall consider the representation, and may, if they think fit, direct the council whose duty it is to divide the constituency into polling districts, or the returning officer (as the case requires), to make such alterations as the Board think necessary in the circumstances, and if the council or officer fail to make those alterations within a month after the direction is given, may themselves make the alterations, and any alterations so made shall have effect as if they had been made by the council or returning officer, as the case may be.

"In this provision the expression "local authority" means as respects any constituency the council of any county, borough, urban or rural district, or parish wholly or partly situate in the constituency, or the parish meeting of any parish so situate where there is no parish council.

"(3) On the exercise of any powers given by this section the council or officer by whom the powers are exercised shall send to the Local Government Board a report showing the boundaries of any polling districts or the situation of any polling places constituted as a result of the exercise of the power.

"(4) An election shall not be questioned by reason of any non-compliance with the provisions of this section or any informality relative to polling districts or polling places.

"(5) This section shall not apply to University constituencies.

"(6) Nothing in this section shall affect any polling districts or polling places constituted before the passing of this Act until occasion arises for the exercise of the powers given by this sectsion."—(Viscount Peel.)


This is a complicated matter to those who are not intimately acquainted with electoral arrangements. There are three different things. There are polling districts, polling places, and polling stations. The polling districts have always been appointed by the county council, I think; at all events, they are appointed a long time before the election takes place. Then there are the polling places which up to now have been appointed long before the contest comes on by the county council or by some other authority. The polling stations are appointed after the nomination, or after the receipt of the Writ by the returning officer. Provision is now made in this clause for an appeal by certain individuals, or authorities, in the county as to the insufficiency of the polling places; but if you are to transfer—as you apparently do by the words of this Amendment—the appointment of the polling places to the returning officers and they do not make that appointment until the nomination has occurred, no time will be given for an appeal. What I really want is that the county council or the other proper authority, should, as soon after the Bill has been passed as possible, appoint both the polling districts and the polling places, leaving to the last moment the polling stations only, which means the selection of a particular school-room or other public building within the polling place. I believe that it is a reasonable suggestion and to the convenience of every constituency in the country. I think that the difficulty has arisen from some misunderstanding in the mind of somebody as to the difference between a polling place and a polling station.


I do not think, if I may say so, that any difficulty has arisen from the misunderstanding in the case. I think it arose from the fact that there is a distinction as to method of treatment of polling places in boroughs and counties, and that is a distinction to which I do not think the noble Viscount alluded. I quite feel, however, the force of his observations and I think it will be, perhaps, just as well that the same authority should deal with both these cases. Therefore I will accept his Amendment on these points, but I think there is one consequential Amendment which he has omitted. Ought he not to leave out the words "or officer" in subsection (3) of my proposed new clause?


The noble Viscount is probably right. In any case I am quite willing to sacrifice "or officer" until at least the Report stage.

THE MARQUESS OF CREWE moved to amend the proposed new clause, in subsection (1), after "(a)", by inserting "of the London County Council for any constituency in the administrative County of London and elsewhere." The noble Marquess said: My Amendment is a very simple one, and the circumstances are quite as familiar to my noble friend opposite as to me. He knows as well as I do that the whole arrangement of polling districts has by Statute been placed under the London County Council, and is not a matter for the Parliamentary borough. That is for reasons which it is quite easy to understand—namely, that the borough councils as such are not interested in the polling areas which concern alike the Parliamentary divisions and the County Council. They are interested in their own elections, which are generally carried out on a different plan, and the fear of the London County Council was that unless these words were inserted the effect would be to repeal the Act of 1908, the last Act under which the London County Council has these powers, and transfer the powers to the borough councils, who, I take it, do not want them. It seems on all grounds better that the general arrangements for London should be centralised in the way they have been in the past.

Amendment moved to the proposed new clause— Line 2, after ("(a)") insert ("of the London County Council for any constituency in the administrative county of London and elsewhere").—(The Marquess of Crewe.)


The noble Marquess knows, perhaps, that the reason why the change is advocated in the Bill is for the following reasons. In the first place, when this duty was first cast upon the county council there were no borough councils to carry it out. The second reason was that the boundaries of the metropolitan boroughs and the Parliamentary constituencies were not coterminous. That difficulty has been removed, because now the two are coterminous. Moreover, the borough council officers, of course, are the registration officers, and the returning officers have duties in their areas too. I only wish to state these reasons to the noble Marquess. I do not know whether having heard them he still wishes to press his Amendment. I know, of course, as well as he does, how well the county council can perform these duties.


I am given to understand by the County Council that they feel strongly on the subject, and I certainly have been instructed to press it. I have no reason to suppose that it will be particularly agreeable to the borough councils as such, and if the noble Viscount would prefer to leave the matter open until the Report stage and not give a definite answer now, of course I should have nothing to say. But the County Council do feel very strongly on the subject and would regard with a great deal of dismay the loss of these particular duties.


I imagine it is ignorance on my part, but I am not quite sure whether I rightly follow the noble Viscount when he says that in every case now administrative and political areas have been made coterminous. I know it was the object of the Speaker's Conference to get that done. I want to be clear that in the case of London boroughs it is done, because it has not been so hitherto. There have been in Tower Hamlets certain streets and parts of streets which have formed part of one borough for Parliamentary purposes and of another for administrative purposes. I should like to be clear that that is avoided by the Bill, but I am not sure where.


As to the question of the noble Lord, that is done in the Schedule making the boundaries the same. In reply to the noble Marquess, if he wishes to press the matter it might be better to leave it open for the Report stage and consider it further then.


If the noble Viscount wishes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move the Amendments standing in my name.

Amendments moved to the proposed new clause—

Line 6 [subsection (1) (b)], leave out ("of the returning officer")

Line 18, [subsection (2)] leave out ("or the returning officer (as the case requires)")

Line 20, leave out ("or officer")

Lines 23 and 24, leave out ("or returning officer, as the case may be")

"Place of election.

".The place of election shall be fixed for each constituency (other than a University constituency) by the returning officer, and shall be— (a) if the constituency is a parliamentary borough or a division of a parliamentary borough, some place within the borough; (b) if the constituency is a parliamentary county or a division of a parliamentary county, some place within the county or within a parliamentary borough adjoining the county."—(Viscount Harcourt.)

On Question, Amendments to the proposed new clause agreed to.


A matter of drafting arises here as regards publication in the constituency. I do not know whether the noble Viscount would be willing, instead of his second Amendment on the Paper relative to this new clause, to insert, in subsection (3) of my proposed new clause, after "report," the words "and publish in the constituency a notice." I think that carries out the desire of the noble Viscount.

Amendment moved— Line 32 [subsection (3)], after ("report") insert ("and publish in the constituency a notice").—(Viscount Peel.)


I do not object as long as I get publication, because publication, I understand, is defined in the definition clause of the Bill. There is no doubt that by the Amendment I do secure publication.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The Question is, That Viscount Peel's proposed new clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

On Question, new clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 29:

Scale of election expenses.

29.—(1) The provisions set out in the Fourth Schedule to this Act shall be substituted for Part IV and paragraph (3) of Part V of the First Schedule to the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883 (which relate to the maximum scale of election expenses), and that Act shall have effect accordingly.

(2) Any candidate at a Parliamentary election shall, subject to regulations of the Postmaster-General, be entitled to send, free of any charge for postage, to each registered elector for the constituency, one postal communication containing matter relating to the election only, and not exceeding two ounces in weight:

Provided that a candidate shall not be entitled to exercise the right of free postage conferred by this provision before he is duly nominated unless he has given such security as may be required by the Postmaster-General for the payment of postage in case he does not eventually become nominated.

For the purpose of this provision candidates who are under paragraph (4) of Part V of the First Schedule to the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, deemed to be joint candidates at an election shall be treated as a single candidate.

THE MARQUESS OF CREWE moved to insert a now subsection. The noble Marquess said: The effect of this Amendment, as the House will see, is somewhat to reduce the possible charge in the case of municipal elections. One main purpose of the Bill has been to cut down the expenses of elections. In the case of Parliamentary elections that result is definitely achieved, but the maintenance of the threepenny scale when applied to a very large number of voters—I am speaking, of course, particularly of London—will undoubtedly add a considerable figure to the possible charge, and that seems to be in contradiction to the general spirit and purpose of the Bill. The figure so far has been that £25 could be spent in an election, and a sum of threepence per head for every voter over the number of 500. In London the average electorate has been estimated at 14,800, and it is now calculated that the number will be at least 20,000. If the threepenny scale is maintained the effect is, that whereas at present one candidate could spend £196 (on the 14,200 figures) when standing alone, or £147 each if two candidates are standing jointly, on the new scale the one candidate would spend £268 and two candidates would spend upwards of £200 apiece. If the twopenny scale was substituted the effect would be that the one candidate, standing alone, would spend £188, and one joint candidate would spend £141. I have no reason to suppose that municipal authorities generally hold the view that the sum of threepence per head ought to be maintained. I have heard of individuals who do. Probably it will be found that there are individuals who regret the lowering of the scale of Parliamentary elections, but, so far as London is con-concerned, I think there is a strong feeling in favour of the reduction from threepence to twopence on the ground that it is not desirable to increase, in a Bill of this kind, the possible expenditure on municipal elections while you are lowering the Parliamentary scale. We all feel also that the difficulty which a poor man finds, and has found in many parts of England and Scotland, in undertaking municipal work or standing for municipal bodies on account of the expense, ought to be diminished as far as possible. It is not altogether a good thing that people should be paid for, on a large scale, by organisations to which they happen to belong; and the lower you can, consistently with the necessary expenditure that has to be incurred, keep the personal expenditure, the better. I hope that the Government will be disposed to smile on this Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 21, after line 41, insert as a new subsection: (2) Subsection (1) of section five of the Municipal Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act, 1884, shall for the purposes of county council elections be read and have effect as if 'twopence' were inserted therein in lieu of 'threepence.'"—(The Marquess of Crewe.)


The noble Marquess is quite accurate in his statement that, owing to the large increase in the electorate under this Bill, there will be a considerable extra expenditure cast upon those who take part in municipal affairs. You have increased the electorate for Parliamentary elections and reduced the expenditure, but you have done nothing of the kind in regard to municipal elections. I think there is this further hardship—which perhaps I may mention in connection with municipal work, as it has been brought home to me on fairly frequent occasions—that while you spend money on municipal elections you do not, like a Member of Parliament, get a salary to recoup you for it. You have to do your work for nothing. The force of the contention of the noble Marquess is fully felt by the Government, and they do not wish to oppose this Amendment. There is only this one statement that I should like to make. It might be considered in another place as a matter rather affecting them as it is a financial question. Subject to that, I do not wish to oppose the Amendment.


I think my noble friend will agree that if it is to be regarded as a breach of privilege, it is by no means a flagrant one, because it does not, at any rate explicitly, involve any expenditure or saving of public money, both of which are equally forbidden to us. I think, therefore, that it might reasonably be accepted, even if it were argued that some small further local expenditure might be involved, which I do not see myself would be the case. I think that it might fairly be argued that it does not fall within the forbidden line.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF SELBORNE moved after "two ounces in weight" in subsection (2), to insert "or, in the case of a constituency returning three or more Members, two such postal communications." The noble Earl said: This may be considered to be a consequential Amendment, but perhaps it might be taken exception to by some of your Lordships if I treated it merely as such. By subsection (2) one free postage is given to each candidate at a Parliamentary election; that is, in the case of a single seat Division. If proportional representation is eventually adopted by Parliament, I think that there is a strong case for increasing that to two such postal communications. I am aware that this may be considered to be a breach of privilege, but if we do not put it in here the House of Commons cannot put it in. In such cases, I think that I am correct in stating, it has been the custom to put such Amendments in italics, and then the House of Commons deal with them as they think fit.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 6, at end insert ("or, in the case of a constituency returning three or more members two such postal communications").—(The Earl of Selborne.)


Does this mean that each of the candidates standing in a proportional representation area, if there be fifteen, shall have two free postages to the wretched voter? Is he to receive thirty communications during the election from the candidates who are standing in that constituency?


Every candidate now gets in the Bill a free postage, and this is doubling it.


And the number of candidates is increased.


This Amendment obviously trenches upon a breach of privilege. As regards the consequential Amendments, the Government can take no responsibility for them, because the general question is left open. In this matter not only is an extra charge put upon the Post Office, but, further than that, I do not think that the noble Earl has established a case why, merely because the constituencies are larger, a candidate should be able to send two postal communications to each elector, except, I suppose, on this basis—that if the constituencies are so large you can know very little personally about the electors, and that, therefore, you want to communicate with them more by letter. I do not think, however, that the noble Earl has urged any strong reason in favour of the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 30:

Expenses incurred by unauthorised persons.

30.—(1) A person other than a candidate or his election agent shall not incur any expenses on account of holding public meetings or issuing advertisements circulars or publications, for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any candidate at a parliamentary election unless he is authorised in writing to do so by that candidate or his election agent.

(2) If any person acts in contravention of this section, he shall be guilty of a corrupt practice other than personation within the meaning of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, and the expression "corrupt practice" shall be construed accordingly:

Provided that the court before whom a person is convicted under this section may, if they think it just in the special circumstances of the case, mitigate or entirely remit any incapacity imposed by section six of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883.

(3) Any expenses incurred on account of any such purpose as aforesaid and authorised by the candidate shall be duly returned as part of the candidates' election expenses.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved to leave out from the beginning of subsection (1) the words "a candidate or his election agent" and to insert "the election agent of a candidate." The noble Earl said: I think that this is an Amendment of some importance.

Amendment moved— Page 22, lines 16 and 17, leave out ("a candidate or his election agent") and insert ("the election agent of a candidate").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)


I accept the Amendment. I think that it is better in form.

On Question, Amendment; agreed to.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved to delete from the last line of subsection (1) the words "that candidate or his" and to insert "such"; and to insert in subsection (3) the words "election agent of the" before "candidate." The noble Earl said: These are consequential Amendments.

Amendments moved—

Page 22, line 21, leave out ("that candidate or his") and insert ("such")

Page 22, line 33, after ("the") insert ("election agent of the").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to


I think I can present very briefly the new clause which I propose to move afterClause31. It is a clause to provide for elections for University constituencies. It is practically an agreed clause as regards the Universities. The present Statutes are extremely complicated, and it was felt necessary to have a definite and agreed code applying to Universities. It was rendered further necessary because of these new University constituencies which are created under the Bill. Moreover, the old arrangement as to voting had become rather obsolete, and voting by post can take place as easily in regard to Universities as in regard to other constituencies.

Amendment moved—

After Clause 31, insert as a new clause:

"Elections for University constituencies.

".—(1) The provisions contained in Part I of the Fifth Schedule to this Act shall have effect with respect to elections for university constituencies other than the Scottish university constituency, and the provisions contained in Part II of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to elections for the Scottish university constituency, and His Majesty may, by Order in Council, make such regulations as appear necessary or desirable for giving full effect to those provisions and for the effective and proper conduct of those elections.

"Any such regulations may be made so as to be applicable generally to elections for university constituencies or specially to elections for any particular university constituency.

"(2) This part of this Act shall, except as expressly provided, apply to university constituencies and university elections.

"(3) In the application of the provisions of this Act which are applicable to university constituencies and university elections to those constituencies and elections the following modifications shall have effect: (a) 'Voting paper' shall be substituted for 'ballot paper,' and for any reference to the Ballot Act there shall be substituted a reference to the corresponding provision of this Act, or regulations made thereunder in relation to university constituencies or university elections; (b) It shall not be necessary to prepare an absent voters list, but the right to vote by proxy may be exercised by any person who would be entitled to exercise such right if his name were entered on an absent voters list, so long as all other conditions enabling him to vote by proxy are fulfilled; (c) Where a candidate's deposit is forfeited the deposit shall be retained by the university."—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, new clause agreed to.

Clauses 32 and 33 agreed to.

Clause 34:

Alteration of polling districts where necessary.

34. The local authority having power to divide any Parliamentary county or Parliamentary borough into polling districts shall not later than one month after the passing of this Act, take into consideration the division of such county or borough into polling districts, and make any re-arrangements of those districts and of polling places which it appears necessary to make as a consequence of alterations affected by this Act.


The Amendments standing in my name to Clause 34 are either consequential or drafting.

Amendments moved—

Page 24, line 17, leave out ("local authority") and insert ("council")

Page 24, lines 17 and 18, leave out ("any Parliamentary county or Parliamentary borough") and insert ("a constituency")

Page 24, line 20, leave out ("such county or borough") and insert ("the constituency")

Page 24, lines 21 and 22, leave out ("and of polling places").—(Viscount Peel).

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35.

Regulations to be laid before Parliament.

35. All rules, regulations, or provisions made by Order in Council under this Act shall be laid before each House of Parliament forthwith; and if an address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after any such rule, regulation, or provision is laid before it, praying that the rule, regulation, or provision may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the rule, regulation, or provision and it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything done thereunder.


I venture to suggest to the Government that we have done almost as much work as can be reasonably expected of us to-night. The next Amendment which stands in the name of Viscount Chaplin, who is not present, although it will not take long to move, is a matter of substance—




I have been advised by a very high legal authority that it is a matter of substance. In those circumstances I move that the House be resumed.

House resumed; and to be again in Committee to-morrow.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past eleven o'clock.