§ House again in Committee (according to Order):
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]698
§ Clause 3:
§ Abolition of business premises qualification for registration except in the City of London.
§ 3. No person shall be entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary elector by virtue of a business premises qualification in any register made after the passing of this Act for any constituency other than the City of London.
§ LORD JESSEL moved to leave out Clause 3. The noble Lord said: I have two Amendments down on the Paper—namely, to strike out Clause 3, which relates to business premises, and Clause 4, which prohibits plural voting. As the two questions are so closely connected with each other, I venture, with the permission of your Lordships, to deal with the excision of both these clauses from the Bill in one speech, so as to save the time of your Lordships. It may be said that you could continue to have business premises all over the country under the same conditions as are proposed in the Bill for the City of London, but the argument that I wish to bring before your Lordships is that that is of very little use, as I shall proceed to show, unless the electors are allowed to have two votes.
The noble Lord, Lord Passfield, in spite of what I may call his sweet simplicity of manner, is by no means the guileless politician that he appears to be. In moving the Second Reading of this Bill he said that the business voters obtain their votes because they have some peculiar occupational qualification which implies that they are in some sort of business, and he added:
It is therefore such a haphazard and accidental privilege that the House of Commons, almost by common consent, proposed that it should be given up.
I believe that the noble Lord would not have made that statement if he had read, as I have, the long speeches which appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in the House of Commons, because, had he done so, he would have seen that there was indeed the most fierce opposition to this proposal. I need only refer your Lordships to the very weighty speeches of some of the leading members of the Opposition—namely, Mr. Amery, Sir E. Hilton Young, Mr. Ramsbotham, Sir Samuel Hoare, and, last but not least, Sir Austen Chamberlain.
§ I wonder how many of your Lordships realise that if this Amendment is not carried about half a million of some of the most intelligent voters in this country will be disfranchised. A good deal was said in another place about the counting of noses and the Member for Darwen retorted about the brains behind the noses. But the point, as your Lordships are well aware and nobody is better acquainted with it than myself, is that people are not equal in brains, in eloquence, in physical status or anything else. Even in Russia, the country which is so beloved by some members of the Party opposite, though not all—I read in The Times yesterday that a new system is going to prevail; that differentiated wages are now to be paid to the best workers, and, even more, that better food is going to be given to those who work best—even in that country it is at last recognised that there is some difference between the ability of one man or woman and another.
§ May I remind your Lordships that for many years changes in the electoral system have been carried out after a certain amount of agreement has been come to between the respective Parties. Can it be maintained that there is agreement with regard to either of these questions? I would add that these violent changes, if carried out, will lead to unpleasantness afterwards. There would be ample justification for the triumphant Party which I believe will be ours to readjust the matter after the next General Election. I am astounded in this connection that this course of procedure has taken place at all. After all, it must be recognised in all quarters of your Lordships' House that a considerable change has taken place in the thought of the Socialist Party. Their leaders have firmly laid it down that their Party is not now a revolutionary Party but acts on constitutional lines. If that is the case how can the presence of these two clauses in the Bill be justified? I would remind your Lordships that as regards business premises the City of London alone is given this privilege, and that University representation, to which I must refer because of my Amendment in regard to Clause 4, in which it is abolished, was afterwards inserted by a free vote of the House of Commons by a majority of four.
I should like to remind your Lordships of the recent history of the qualifications
for voting. Before 1918 a man could have as many votes as he had residences. By the Act of 1918 a voter could only vote through (a), residence qualification; (b), business premises qualification; (c), University qualification. But he was only permitted to exercise two votes. The business qualification was agreed to at that well-known Conference presided over by Lord Ullswater in 1918 and it was intended by this arrangement to counterbalance the discontinuance of the ownership vote. Sir Harry Samuel, who was a member of the Conference, said in the House of Commons:
I have believed always that there was an absolute justification for both a business and a residential vote. I believe that the dual vote and the residential vote represent an absolutely logical demand, and I do not think any objection can be taken to that.
I submit that the provisions of the 1918 Act are a compromise and should not be disturbed after so short a time. Mr. Asquith, in moving a vote of thanks to the Speaker, said:
Almost every one of the resolutions has been arrived at by a process of give and take, and both individually and together they must be looked upon as part and parcel of an agreed compromise.
§ I am confident that the majority of your Lordships' House are in favour of the provision in Clause 3 that the City of London should retain the business vote, otherwise the only electors would be the small number of residents. The City of London has now nearly 45,000 voters and the non-resident voters number 37,000. According to the present Bill a man can choose whether he votes for the City or for his own residence, but he has only one vote. On the other hand, I doubt very much whether either as regards the Universities or the City of London this concession amounts to very much. People would naturally vote, in the first place, in their place of residence and it seems to me that this is really a very specious method of doing business. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will restore the business vote altogether, because I think the case for the other large industrial cities, such as Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, is equally important, and it would be most detrimental that voters should be deprived of the nights they now possess in regard to their business premises.701
§ I am confident that when it becomes generally known to business men and women there will be very angry and violent resentment against this change. It seems to me that owing to the social changes which have come about most of these voters sleep and spend their weekends in the outlying constituencies, but all their energies and activities are exerted in the cities with which they are connected. It is certainly most unjust that they should be deprived of their votes in the cities in which their energies and activities are exercised in the promotion of trade and industry. The business vote is the last remnant of an attempt to keep in the constitution the doctrine of "No taxation without representation." As your Lordships are aware, out of the whole of this great population in the country amounting to something like 47,000,000 there are only 2½ million Income Tax payers, and as regards the numbers affected by the deprivation of the business vote, they amount to half a million out of 25,000,000 electors.
§ May I be permitted to quote some examples? I could give your Lordships very many more but you will find them all in the latest edition of the Registrar-General's Statistical Review. Holborn, for instance, has 32,862 electors and 10,396 business voters; The Abbey Division of Westminster has 48,524 voters and the business votes are 13,788. The Exchange Division of Liverpool has an electorate of 51,820 and 13,263 business voters. In the Exchange Division of Manchester there is a total electorate of 48,836 and the business votes number 17,427. I propose to take the case of Westminster because I think it is the best example. It is becoming more important than ever as a business centre in this country. Your Lordships may not be aware of it, but the rateable value of Westminster is in fact over £10,000,000 as compared with the nearly £9,000,000 of the City of London.
§ Your Lordships will remember that I mentioned that the extension of the vote to Universities was only carried by a majority of four. As regards that, the belief exists in certain not very well informed quarters that the Universities in these clays are only resorted to by the richer classes. Sir John Withers, an eminent representative of the Univer- 702 sities, showed in the House of Commons the change that has come about in the constitution of the Universities, and he estimated that nearly 50 per cent. of the students in those Universities originally started in the elementary schools. Let us look at the number of the electorate. Before the War University voters numbered 43,000; now they number 125,000, and it is computed that in ten years time they will be nearly 250,000. As regards representation, in the present Parliament there are twelve University members; eight are Conservatives, two Independents and two Liberals. I am astonished that what they call the enlightened Party—because we are always called the stupid Party—should fear that education in the future is only going to be confined to the Unionist Party. If my two Amendments are not carried, I would again respectfully call attention to the small number of residents in the Universities. The same argument applies to this as to the City of London. With the exception of those members of the University who reside abroad, nearly all will vote in their place of residence rather than at the University itself.
In conclusion may I quote from a speech which was made by Mr. Disraeli in the House of Commons? He said:
We want in this House every element to obtain the respect and engage the interest of the country. This House should be a mirror of the mind as well as of the material interest of England.
I think it is a great pity that the Government have not seen their way to consider this point. Instead of that they have simply regarded the counting of heads. It seems to me that that attitude can only be expressed by paraphrasing a well known quotation:
Let wealth and commerce, laws and learning die,
But leave us still our old democracy.
That seems to be the attitude of the Government in this matter. I beg to move the omission of Clause 3.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out Clause 3.—(Lord Jessel.)
§ LORD ERNLE
, who had given Notice of an Amendment to add the following words to Clause 4: "unless he or she is entitled to vote for a University constituency or for the City of London, in any of which cases such person shall be entitled to vote at a General Election 703 for such University constituency or for the City of London as well as in one other constituency," said: As my Amendment has been rather superseded by Lord Jessel's, and we are now including the two together, I appeal to Lord Banbury to allow me to support Lord Jessel. I doubt the last words of Lord Jessel's speech. It seems to me that what we are heading for now is not government by a democracy, but government by a proletariat, and that means a Government, not by the people in the widest and fullest sense of the word, but by a narrow and exclusive section of that people, and every step in the mechanisation of our electoral system is a step in that direction. For instance, in this Bill we have cut down certain constituencies on the principle of arithmetical parity in proportion of voters to representation. We have extinguished, that is to say, local feeling, local interests, local identity, and we have facilitated their manipulation by central organisations. Now you are engaged in picking out the grits in the smooth working of the machine for the uniform production of pattern-made delegates, and the grits in the machine are plural voting and the representation of the City of London and of the University of Oxford. The University representation is not merely a fancy franchise. It is something much more. It means that the persons who are selected as candidates are not selected by any central organisation whatever; that they are elected by a special process, and that they have at least every opportunity of voting in an independent manner. It is easy to conceive circumstances in which that independence may be an invaluable help to oppressed minorities, from whatever quarter that oppression may come.
The advocates of the Bill try to limit discussion on the merits of this question of the representation of the Universities by an appeal to what they call clear-cut principles. They say, for instance, that the franchise by which the representatives are elected sins against equality in voting power, and that the small size of the constituencies sins against the principle of arithmetical parity in the proportion of voters to representation. What in actual fact does that equality in voting power amount to? In constituency A, where one Party is 704 infinitely superior in numbers, the vote is valueless. In constituency B, where the Parties are evenly balanced, the vote is of great importance, and the present Bill has so far only increased that inequality. It has given a second vote which is as worthless in A as was the vote already in it, and it has given a second vote in B where that second vote may prove to be a factor of first-rate importance. Now if you are going to appeal to a principle, let it be a principle that is workable. If to a theory of representation, let it be a theory which is practicable. If it is an ideal, let it be at least one that is attainable. Equality in voting power is admittedly none of those things. It is as a principle impracticable; as a theory of representation it is unworkable; as an ideal it is unattainable; and, therefore, on that ground alone you cannot rule out discussion on the merits of this great question.
As to the second part, that the small constituencies sin against the arithmetical parity of proportion, could there be a more flagrant instance of contempt for the principles they profess than this very Clause 4? It continues the representation and it reduces the size of the constituencies. How can they profess adherence to a principle which in this clause they throw absolutely to the winds? And what if they say that it is only temporary? Then, could you have a more brazen avowal of that devastating maxim that the end excuses the means? On neither of those grounds can you shut out discussion. Then they may say, "At all events we are only sweeping away artificial inequalities." Yes, but a new set of considerations comes in there. It may be that the right to vote rests upon some law of nature, but that natural right has been treated by all countries and at all times as a civil right proceeding from and regulated by each society in accordance with its own circumstances and needs. If that is so, if a State has authority—and nobody can deny it—to deal with that natural right so as to define the age or the sex or the qualifications of the voter, it has also the right in the exercise of its wisdom to impose upon other voters a double portion of the duty and responsibility of voting. There again we cannot find in any appeal to principle any such 705 clear-cut line as will prevent you from discussing the matter on its merits.
You cannot say that the representation of the Universities is an anomaly and leave it at that. You have to prove that it is a mischievous anomaly. You may say that it is illogical, but you have to prove that it is unreasonable. And, my Lords, this is no verbal quibble; it has a real meaning, for I am sure of this, that in all difficult questions it has been our national character not to let ourselves he held in the iron grip of an arid logic but to follow the dictates of a broad and tolerant reason. And if we are going to discuss this question on the merits, there is on those lines an impregnable defence. I am not going to argue that the Universities will lose in their material interests by disfranchisement. I do not think they will. The City of London and the Universities both of them have other means of pressing their views upon the Government, and both of them possess in Parliament plenty of loyal members who would raise their voices if any material injury to either were threatened. That is not the point I wish to urge upon you. It is the loss to the House of Commons in dignity, in influence and in credit in the country that will be inflicted if this real representation of the City of London and of the Universities is swept away.
In the arguments that were used in another place, the spokesman for the Government paid a tribute to the high position and the patriotic services of the City of London. They even moved him, as I see from his words, almost to shed a tear of sentiment over the reluctance he felt to be driven to an unwelcome task by his inexorable logic. But when he came to the Universities his tone was perfectly different. As to them he was silent. He was worse. He said that the University representation dated from 1603 and was the gift of James I—a monarch, he added, not likely to add to the liberty and popular freedom of the Assembly. "Like father, like son"—that is the inference he wishes you to draw. Through all history he assumes that that is the way the Universities have acted. But what was the state of the case even in 1603? Had the Universities then rendered no services, had they 706 gained by those great national services no position, which made their representation in the young House of Commons a source of dignity and influence to its deliberations?
For centuries before 1603 the Universities had kept the lamp of learning alight in the very darkest periods of the Middle Ages. They had claimed successfully for secular learning a place beside ecclesiastical studies. They had helped to draw together this country in a homogeneous whole by bringing together at their lectures students from Scotland and England, Ireland and Wales, and they had brought those students together and united them into a fellowship of learning, a brotherhood of scholarship, a republic of letters which I venture to say played no small part in levelling the barriers of class and breaking down the bonds of feudal isolation. And they were the nurseries of the Protestant reformation. John Wycliffe and John Knox were both members of the Universities. So were Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley. So was Tunstall, the translator of the New Testament—all sons of the Universities, products of this device of Stuart tyranny.
Can you say that these were not services which placed the Universities in a position that made their alliance with the young House of Commons a thing to be desired by the House as a means of strengthening its power and influence in the country? Not one word of that was said by the spokesman of the Government. He was silent on all that. So strong was the impression he desired to create of "like father like son" that he omitted to mention that the leaders of the Parliamentary Party and of Puritanism were University men—that John Milton, John Hampden, Oliver Cromwell, Oliver St. John, Speaker Lenthall were members of the Universities. He forgot also to mention that 85 years after 1603 it was the opposition of the University of Oxford to the arbitrary tyranny of James II which was one of the principal causes of the Revolution of 1688. When we come to the eighteenth century the Universities are dismissed with the airy statement that they were unprogressive. Unprogressive in the eighteenth century! Can any one in this House, can any one in this country, point to a single institution 707 which was progressive in the eighteenth century? It was a flat, level, fertile plain between two ranges of hills. You descend into it from the picturesque highlands where Cavalier and Roundhead fought, and you advance across it to the foothills of the mountain ranges, mist-clad now but destined to resound with new watchwords of democracy and liberty.
The Universities were unprogressive. So was every institution in the country unprogressive. But what advance would you have had in philosophy, in literature, in political science and even in politics without the men who came from the Universities—without, that is to say, John Locke as a philosopher, as men of letters Swift, Gray, Sterne and Dr. Johnson and Coleridge and Wordsworth, men of science like Adam Smith, or political leaders like Chatham and Pitt and Fox. I feel I need not pursue the subject further. Suffice it to say on that point that for successive ages, ever since the Universities were founded, they have poured out a stream of scholars, divines, men of science, politicians and statesmen, from Lord Burleigh of Elizabethan times downwards; men who have enriched the annals of our history, men who have blazed a trail of knowledge for all their successors to follow in almost every department of life.
Is it pretended for one moment that, in the great struggle for our liberty when nations met in the death-grapple which we call the Great War, the Universities did not do their duty? Their men of science did invaluable service, their students risked their lives with the same simple self-sacrifice that has been to the lasting honour of the manhood of our nation; and the Commander-in-Chief of our victorious Army was himself a University man. Everybody knew that; everybody felt it; everybody realised the hold that the Universities had upon the country in 1918, when, as Lord Jessel has observed, the representation was not only not swept away, it was enlarged and the constituents were trebled in number.
What we ask is: What has happened since 1918 that the Labour Party now come down and, as I say, throwing over a principle that they themselves professed, bring in a Bill which contains a 708 clause avowedly placed there to reduce the numbers of electors in these constituencies, so that in a few years time the representation itself may be swept away as ridiculous? Is that a generous act to commit towards bodies which have deserved so well of the country as have the Universities? Since 1918 has nothing happened to enlarge the influence of the Universities? Assuredly it has. There is this widening of their constituents and of their representation. There have been two Commissions, both of which had for one of their principal objects that of discovering how best to spread the influence of the Universities throughout the country. I was a member of one and Chairman of the other, so that I know what was done and attempted by those Commissions. This great movement, one of the greatest that is going on amongst us at this day, is the movement for University extension. I shall say a word or two more on that subject, but now I will merely remark that the sons of that movement are the Workers' Educational Association and the Society for Adult Education. "Like father, like son"; are they also like James I in his hatred of popular liberty? I think not. I think there is as little similarity between those bodies of enthusiastic workers on educational lines and their Stuart ancestors, as the Government would call them, as there is between the Star Chamber and the modern Court of Justice.
If that be so, I claim that the University and the City of London have a place in the representation in the House of Commons which you cannot take away without assigning some better reason than that which has been assigned in another place—namely, that you would gain another twelve votes. If noble Lords opposite dispute that statement, let them read the speech of their Home Secretary. He deliberately said that the votes of the twelve members were, in these critical times when votes are narrowly balanced, a consideration which you have to take into account. I say that in this country and all the world over the City of London stands as the symbol of credit, and the Universities stand as the symbol of learning, and that the House of Commons gains in dignity, influence, prestige and authority by its close association, through a real representation, with these 709 great corporate bodies, which are, let me remind you, two of the power houses of national efficiency and two of the mainsprings of the progress, prosperity and power of the British people.
If you are going to reduce that representation to such farcical proportions that you can sweep it away as ridiculous, you are going to inflict upon the House of Commons, upon Parliament and upon political life in general a most irreparable blow. If you throw the House of Commons and the representation of these two great bodies on the dust heap as devices of Stuart tyranny, what are you going to put in their place? What, on your own showing, are you going to put in their place? A number of blocks of voters, arithmetically made as equal as possible, without prestige, without tradition, without local feeling and fit to be more readily manipulated by your organisations of labour and of trade. I ask you: Is that what you are going to do?
I said that I would say one word about the movement for University extension. I know that Englishmen hate education. I am not going to inflict an educational treatise upon you, but I do regard that movement as one of the most important movements in the country, as one which will, the more it succeeds, help us towards tranquil progress. Accordingly I feel that this is a subject on which I must in conclusion say one word. I believe that the ungracious act of disfranchising the Universities will be interpreted as a rebuke to the enthusiasms of hundreds of thousands of workers in all parts of the country. What do you mean by University education? Education is a life and that is its shortest description. We are, of course, most of us called to some profession, some occupation, some trade, some manual work, whether in the office or the factory or the forge or the field. We have to earn a livelihood. That, University education does not meet, but we are also men and women and citizens of no mean city. As men and women we have lives to live, and education makes them richer, fuller, more interesting, and it develops our powers, our latent faculties and our dormant capacities. As citizens of no mean city we have duties to fulfil to ourselves and to our community, and education comes 710 in to help us not merely to turn our hours of labour to good account, but it comes in to train us to ennobling, purifying employment of our hours of leisure, those moments when we are masters of our own time and free to follow our own interests and hobbies.
That is what University education aims at doing. Let me put it in another and a simple way, but one which I hope will come home to your Lordships. I suppose there are moments in the lives of every one of us when we have felt uplifted into a higher plane of feeling than we ordinarily feel—when we are conscious of something better in us than our customary routine. Those moments come to all of us, and mean a revelation of higher possibilities—a revelation of the stature to which we ought to attain—and it is the object of University education to catch those moments in the lives even of some of the humblest people in this country, and to make them not temporary visitants, which come rarely and as we grow old come still more rarely, but to help them to become part of their daily life.
I have worked in the cause of University education for fifty years. I began as a University extension lecturer in the large towns. I followed it up by similar work in small villages in the rural districts, and as chairman of the education committee in my own county. When we began it, and asked for help of a man W ho had prospered in life, the reply which we would receive would be: "I do not hold with University education. I have done well without it; look at me." I often felt tempted to say in reply: "My good man, I am looking at you, and I see that you are only half alive." It is these men, who have only had awakened in them the rudimentary instincts of childhood, who are only half alive. Later on we hardly ever got that sort of answer. Some humble countryman would say: "I wish I had the opportunities my son has had. It is not that I would be better off, but I should lead a fuller life."
I would ask the Government what is the defence for this snub to the Universities, this rebuff to University teaching? What explanation are they going to give? They dare not give the ex- 711 planation that it is to save them twelve votes. What then is it? The principle which I have mentioned to your Lordships and the other principle which they contemptuously throw to the winds in Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill? What are they going to say? I believe that if this particular part of the Bill were submitted once again to the House of Commons they would think better of their previous Resolution, and would treat the Universities more generously and more worthily. If you could postpone the decision to the end of the next Recess I should be even more confident of that result. I do not know if your Lordships have seen pictures of the ventilation in the other House. The fresh air from the ventilators only reaches the Front Benches. So the Front Benches are windy and the Back Benches are full of hot air. Postpone this matter until after the ventilation is corrected and I feel sure that the great Commons of England will give a different verdict on this question.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
After the speeches to which we have just listened it is not necessary that I should say much more, but I would like, as having been a Member for the City of London, and also having sat in the Conference presided over by my noble friend Lord Ullswater, to say just a few words in support of the Amendment of Lord Jessel. First of all it was agreed at the Conference that there should be a business vote. I think I was to a certain extent responsible for this, because I was in favour of a plural vote, but I agreed to the reduction of the plural vote on the understanding that persons who had a business qualification, either in the City of London or in any other place, should have two votes. That was agreed to, and this Bill is a distinct breach of that agreement, come to only some twelve or thirteen years ago, and it is a breach for which there has been no demand in the country or anywhere else.
I would also support the omission of Clauses 3 and 4 (because they hang together), for another reason. Who are the people that you are going to disfranchise? because this is a disfranchisement Bill. They are the people who pay rates in the constituency in which they reside, and who pay rates in the constituency in 712 which they have a business or occupational qualification. It was always the principle of noble Lords above the Gangway that taxation and representation should go together. Now by this Bill you are going to abolish that principle, and you are going to say to a man who lives in a constituency and pays taxes that he is not to have a vote in another place where he also pays taxes. The result of that is that you are disfranchising the class which contributes to the expenses of the country. As my noble friend Lord Jessel said, there are about 26,000,000 electors in this country, but only about 2,500,000 who pay Income Tax, and only about 95,000 who pay Super-Tax. By this measure you are going to deprive the people who do pay taxes of the little advantage that they have if they happen to pay taxes in two places.
I was reading the other day a statement in regard to a speech made by Mr. Lowe, afterwards Lord Sherbrooke, who voted against and was in great measure responsible for the rejection of Mr. Gladstone's Franchise Bill in 1866. His argument was that he was not against the extension of the franchise, but what he wanted to preserve was an equilibrium between classes; that is to say that the upper classes, the middle classes, and the lower classes should each have a certain value in their votes, and that no one class should have a preponderance. Unless something of this sort is done—and even if it is done—there will be a great preponderance of one class, that is, the working class. They will have the whole power in their hands, and they will pay practically no taxation unless they drink or smoke, which I hope they do not do—I hate smoking myself. If they do not drink or smoke they pay no taxes whatever, and they have the whole of the representation in their hands. The many tax the few. What are we going to come to if that sort of thing is to go on? I will conclude by saying that Clauses 3 and 4 hang together, and I hope that your Lordships will support my noble friend Lord Jessel in moving their omission.
§ LORD HUNSDON OF HUNSDON
As this Amendment stands in my name also, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words. I am not going to follow my noble friends in the various points they 713 have made, because there is one objection which seems to me to be sufficient in itself, and it is that which was put forward by my noble friend Lord Ullswater on the Second Reading. He told us that the present position is an agreed compromise. I do not know anything about precedents, and I do not know what precedents there may be for the action of the present Government, but it certainly does seem to me to be entirely unreasonable that this compromise should be upset by a minority Government—and not only a minority Government, but one which, to judge by by-elections, is losing such hold on the country as it at one time possessed. I therefore suggest that this Bill comes before your Lordships with very little authority.
That contention was very strongly supported by the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill, because he told your Lordships on the first day of the Committee stage that at the present time 308 members—actually a half of the House of Commons—sit there in defiance of the electorate. Well, he might have said a majority of the House of Commons, because I understand that there are 615 members of that House. Your Lordships will observe that this Bill is brought before you by a Government which has not the support of the electorate, and is kept in power by a House of Commons which has not the support of the electorate either, and if we come to a permanent disagreement with the House of Commons on this Bill, I think we may say to the electorate, if this Government ever reluctantly decides to go to the country, that, although we are not a representative assembly in the ordinary sense, at least we do not sit here in defiance of the electorate. For these reasons I should certainly have opposed this Bill on the Second Reading but that my noble friend Lord Peel said, and no doubt perfectly rightly, that it would be a constitutional discourtesy. Well, I am no judge of constitutional discourtesies, but it occurred to me at the time that that is a phrase that might possibly be applicable to the present Government under these circumstances.
I heard the noble Lord in charge of the Bill speak the other day with, I thought, some complacency about the existing industrial crisis. He admitted, 714 I think, that it was more serious than usual, but he said, if I recollect his words rightly, "I have lived through many industrial crises." Well, I am sure we all sincerely hope that the noble Lord will live through this one, and in saying that I think I am wishing him a pretty long life, because this is far the worst, both in extent and character, that I have ever experienced. That being so, it seems to me that the Government are placing Parliament in a somewhat trivial position before the country when they ask us to play about with questions of electoral reform which, so far as these two clauses at all events are concerned, cannot by any possibility be of the slightest material value to anyone. And it is worse than that really, because in a time like the present, which, as I say, is one of unprecedented crisis, you would have expected that the Government would call upon all classes—not just the 95,000 who pay Super-Tax—to make sacrifices and stand together against this common danger. But what they do is to bring forward a Bill like the present, which, as the noble Lord opposite said, people will argue furiously about, and they bring forward the Finance Bill with its Land Tax. That is to say, they appear to take a delight in accentuating the divisions which unhappily exist in this country, instead of asking the people to stand together and meet the common danger of a great national emergency.
On a point of order, may I ask what is the Amendment now before the Committee? Is it Lord Ernle's, or Lord Jessel's?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD PASSFIELD)
I think it may be assumed, in order to save the time of your Lordships, that the discussion of Clauses 3 and 4 should be taken together. Certainly they have been so taken, and I make no complaint. May I say one word in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Hunsdon. He rather reproached the present Government for bringing forward this Bill at all. He said it was a breach of an agreed compromise, and that at the present time we ought not to be taking up topics which accentuate differences, and a good deal more to the same effect. It is very difficult to please everybody. This 715 Government has been assailed, I think probably more than Governments are usually assailed, for not carrying out its Election pledges, for not bringing before Parliament the proposals on which it went to the country. I suppose there has not been a topic which has been more repeatedly kept to the front by the Labour Party than this subject of the abolition of plural voting and the various points connected with the franchise. That has been repeated almost year after year in the programme of the Party, and it certainly occupied a very large place in the book to which your Lordships are so fond of referring, "Labour and the Nation." We may have been wrong or we may have been right in putting that into our programme. Certainly I hope noble Lords who are tempted again to accuse the Government of not carrying out its pledges will remember how the Government is now being denounced for attempting to carry out its pledges. I do not complain because in neither way can we satisfy noble Lords.
We are at any rate putting forward in this Bill some, though not all, of the reforms in the elect-oral system which have been in the programme of the Labour Party ever since it has been a Party and, if I may say so, has not been absent from the programme of the Liberal Party. This particular point that we are discussing at this moment in connection with Clauses 3 and 4 is a very simple and very short one. It is the abolition of plural voting. Without attempting to reply to the eloquent and fervent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, I should like to point out that I could not help thinking that his speech must have been prepared for a former occasion, because this Bill contains no proposal to disfranchise the Universities. The Universities will continue to enjoy their votes and their representation in the House of Commons. Even the member of a University will continue to enjoy the vote he has gained by paying his fee after he has passed his examination. He will continue to enjoy that vote—
§ LORD ERNLE
Is it not a fact—I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord—that it was stated in another place that the object of this Bill was to reduce voters in the Universities to a smaller number?
§ LORD PASSFIELD
As far as I am concerned that is not my object; I cannot answer for everybody else. I hope that the number of University graduates which has shown the great increase which the noble Lord pointed out will go on increasing. Certainly I do not think I fall behind him in my admiration and my desire for the extension of Universities and for a growth in their number. I hope that the people who have the University vote will become more and more numerous and steadily so. Just as it has been increased from 40,000 to 120,000, I should like, in the span of life which the noble Lord, Lord Hunsdon, was good enough to accord to me (a longer span than I am really going to build upon), to see the number of University electors doubled from 120,000 to 240,000. Far be it from me to wish to diminish the number of people who have votes in respect of University qualifications. But when it is suggested that because a man has been through a University and may have obtained a pass degree and has paid his fees and got his M.A., he therefore should exercise two votes, that is another story.
However, that brings us right, up against the principle of one man one vote or of plural voting. Upon that I am afraid it would not be much worth while arguing with noble Lords. The Government are quite unrepentant and I cannot hold out any hope that we can accept Amendments to omit these two clauses. Your Lordships will, of course, vote as you please, but the Government will certainly do their best to carry out their own programme—which was carried, remember, in another place in 1913 and rejected by your Lordships, which was passed again by another place in 1914, and again rejected by your Lordships. Since then nearly twenty years have passed and I hope your Lordships will now accept it.
I will not go over all the speeches which have been made because that would take too long but, if your Lordships will permit me, I will endeavour to set forward briefly and succinctly some of the reasons. The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, said that this clause would disfranchise half a million of the most intelligent voters. I will not attempt to speculate in what quarter the most intelligent voters live; let us leave that out, but the 717 noble Lord suggested that we were going to disfranchise half a million voters. On the contrary, I doubt whether we shall disfranchise one single voter by this clause. To disfranchise a voter means, I suppose, to deprive him of his vote. Let him have his vote. The question between us is whether he shall have two. He used to have three or four. That was reduced in 1918, and he could only have two at most. Now we are asking that he shall only have one. But he is not thereby disfranchised. He will almost automatically have his vote.
Then it has been hinted—it was mentioned on the last occasion—that we were disfranchising or, as it was said, depriving of a second vote the kind of people who ought to have a second vote because they were the enterprising people on whom our commerce was dependent, on whom our great financial enterprises rested and so on. Nothing of the kind. If you enquire into any particular case you will find in regard to these estimable gentlemen, whose services I admit are of the greatest possible value, that in nearly every case their business premises are held by a joint stock company. I will deal with that point later. There are now just upon 100,000 joint stock companies in this country. A very large proportion indeed of all the big businesses and enterprises are owned by joint stock companies. For good or for evil a joint stock company has no vote. So a great captain of industry who may be swaying the operations of a business with a capital of many millions resides somewhere, you will find, and has a vote for his residence; but he has no vote for the premises, scattered perhaps all over the Kingdom, in which the millions of capital which he directs are at work because the operation of the joint stock company principle has taken off the register the names of the individual owners of those premises. Therefore, it is not the great financiers, excepting possibly the sub-brokers and people in the position of stockbrokers, mainly in the City of London—
§ LORD PASSFIELD
Quite so, but they are all in the City of London. We are not depriving them of their franchise in the City of London. That is retained, just as the University franchise is retained. Whatever horror may be expressed at depriving people of their votes for business premises outside the City of London, I claim that we must not lightly assume that we are thereby depriving the great captains of industry of a second vote. It is not so. Take one great captain of industry, Sir Hugh Bell, who has just died: he had a vote for his residence, but had he a vote for his ironworks, his collieries, and all the other enterprises that he was interested in? Probably not one. They were all in the names of the joint stock companies of which he was a director, or chairman or whatnot. So we are not even depriving the great captains of industry of their second vote. Among the 500,000 people who are now registered in respect of business qualifications there are the 40,000 who are in the City of London, though, I admit, we are not taking their vote away from them. Then you have the quite accidental case of the shopkeeper, for instance, who is sufficiently well off to live in a separate residence from his shop.
§ LORD JESSEL
What about Birmingham and other big towns? Are there not cases there the same as in the City of London of people who are heads of industry and not only shopkeepers?
§ LORD PASSFIELD
It is true there are many cases, as in the City of London. That is what I wanted to explain. I have looked into the case of Manchester. Manchester, I venture to say, was so foolish as to pave all its streets with stone setts and it became positively intolerable to live in the city. Business people in Manchester were, in consequence, driven not merely out of the centre of Manchester to reside, but they were driven out of Manchester itself, to have their residences a little further off. I agree that is so, but did they retain a vote for their business premises in Manchester? No. In a large number of cases their businesses had been turned into joint stock companies. Consequently, whether they are the most intelligent people or not, it is a very 719 accidental selection of people who at present enjoy this business vote in the City of London.
I repeat it is an accidental selection. They are not the wealthy people; they are not the great captains of industry; they are not the stockbrokers, nor the barristers. It is an accidental selection of all sorts of people. It is none the worse for that; but do not let us imagine that they are necessarily the most intelligent of the voters. I would like to observe that it is not merely the man we call a captain of industry, a financier, an intelligent person, and so on, whose vote is one of great value to the community, but it is also the man and his wife. Under the Act of 1918 she gets a vote for his business premises, and she will be deprived equally of the second vote which she now enjoys. I do not say that is a reason for or against it, but it a little hit reduces the 500,000 people, if you assume nearly half of them are the wives of business men.
As I say this Bill deprives none of them of their franchise. It disfranchises none of them, but it does purport to deprive them, outside the City of London, of a second vote, and of the privileges of giving two votes. It was said how very hard it was if a man paid rates in two constituencies that he should not have a vote in both, on the principle of taxation going with representation. So it is even under this Bill—that is to say, he pays rates as a local ratepayer and he will have a vote. This Bill does not prevent you having two votes for local authorities if you have premises in the areas of two separate local authorities. If you pay rates to two local authorities you retain the vote for each of those local authorities, so careful were the Government to make taxation and representation go together. It is merely that you will not be allowed to have two votes when you pay one tax. You do not pay two Income Taxes, one for your business and another for your residence.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
No doubt. I am glad to think the noble Lord's Income Tax is fairly large. I am very glad there are people who have fairly large incomes, but they only pay one Income 720 Tax, and I do not see why they should ask for two separate votes for two separate residences. Now it is said that this is a breach of the compromise come to thirteen years ago under the guiding care of the noble Viscount who presided over the Commission. I do not like the word "breach." Of course it is a going forward from that action and that time, but I assume, if it was a compromise, that it was not a compromise for all time, but was a compromise in order to get a measure which could be passed with general agreement in the year 1918. Are we never to amend that? I venture to think that we are not doing anything wrong in stepping forward from that compromise.
But, after all, those are not the reasons which necessarily weigh with noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, spoke himself about the University man whom we are not going to disfranchise, but he also did say he could not discover the principle upon which we were acting. He further said that we seemed to be in the iron grip of a narrow logic. I do not like logic in politics at all. I do not believe in acting on logic. I think it is one of our high qualities as Englishmen that we are illogical in these matters. Still I do not mind being as nearly logical as I can get. On the other hand, I care still less about acting on principle. Let me explain. Principles are very good and very noble things, but they are subject—I hope your Lordships will think about it—to what I call a law of diminishing returns. You begin on a principle, and you think it is very good and is going to be a guide. You follow it out further and further and further—as our friends the French are apt to do—and you find that what was once a very helpful, useful and fertile principle has been so pursued and carried out to narrow logical ends that it is really no longer a useful guide at all.
I am not necessarily in favour of any particular kind of franchise, but I am in favour of amending our electoral law in such a way that it will remove as far as possible its defects. The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, said you could not amend all the defects of our electoral system. I quite agree there are a number of defects, and we cannot amend them all, but I say the defects in the electoral 721 system are not lessened by retaining the plural vote. We shall make a step forward if we get rid of that. The noble Lord said that equality of voting was impracticable. But because we cannot get perfect equality of voting power, is that a reason why we should not remedy extreme inequalities of voting power? I suggest to your Lordships, though you may not think it, that this is a matter on which a great many people do feel that they have a grievance. I do not myself believe that it is going to make any enormous difference.
The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, warned your Lordships against proletarianism. I think if noble Lords on the other side were a little more true to their great leader, Lord Beaconsfield, they would realise that Lord Beaconsfield asked the Conservative Party of sixty years ago to step out of that arid track, and pointed out there was no reason why they should not appeal as a Conservative Party to the proletariat. That word was not then invented, but that was his meaning, and surely the course of history since then has proved that he was right. The Conservative Party has appealed as successfully to the proletariat as the Liberal Party or the Labour Party, and I bid you be of cheer; you ate not done; you will be able to appeal, even if we get rid of the plural vote, to the proletariat. You would not call it that when you appealed to it, but all the same you would be able to appeal to the proletariat. You need not be afraid in this country of being crushed down under the dominance of a manual working class. The manual working class, as I think it was Disraeli who said at that time, is our own flesh and blood, and they are uncommonly like other classes in their feeling and in the way that they vote.
But there is just one thing, and that is they feel that the plural vote is a kind of grievance. It is a grievance which is felt by many thousands of people. That is why it has always been on the programme of the Labour Party to remove it. It is felt to be a grievance amongst a large number of people, and, if it is not such a vital matter, is it wise of your Lordships to be in favour of maintaining that feeling? I think on the whole it is not a wise course to try 722 to maintain in existence grievances which are felt as grievances by a vast number of people unless, indeed, some harm is going to be done by removing the grievance. I venture to think no harm is going to be done by removing this grievance, and I would ask your Lordships to reject the Amendment.
§ EARL PEEL
I listened with great interest to the noble Lord who has just spoken because I was hoping that he was going to give some defence of the reasons which have induced him to work so strongly for the principle of one man, one vote. He thinks it is a great grievance, but is it a great grievance that people should have more than one vote? I cannot help thinking that it is only the grievance of a few politically-minded parsons who have to look at elections. I doubt very much—in fact I do not believe at all—that it is regarded as a grievance generally speaking throughout the community.
I do not think the noble Lord really gave sufficient attention to the question which was raised by my noble friend Lord Jessel about this matter of compromise. Here we are dealing with a matter quite different from the question of the alternative vote. In regard to that, we were told that there was a great grievance on the part of one of the great Parties in the State, and your Lordships, I believe, though not caring very much for the principle of the alternative vote, felt that if possible you would like to remove the grievance of that one Party who felt that under the present system they were not properly represented. As it was a question of the method of electing Members of Parliament in another place, I think noble Lords were anxious not to press their views too far. But here we come to a subject of an entirely different kind. This is a question really of disfranchisement. The noble Lord seemed to play with that subject to some extent. He said they were not disfranchising anybody, and that when the proposition was examined it was found that if the second vote was taken away these people would still be left with one vote. Nevertheless, it is a question of disfranchisement, and it is a matter which I would remind the noble Lord was settled by the agreement of all Parties only about 12 years ago.
723 There was a great deal of give and take in that arrangement. At that time there was the ownership vote and there were many persons with twelve, fourteen, sixteen or even seventeen votes. All that was swept away. It was swept away on the basis of securing by way of compromise that in certain cases this business vote should be established. The noble Lord has rather poured scorn on the business vote. He seems to think that the great captains of industry are not disfranchised; they are people whom he refers to rather contemptuously as stockbrokers. I do not know why stockbrokers should not be entitled to a vote as much as anybody else, but I will deal with that in a moment. The noble Lord thinks that the business vote does not exactly carry out what it was designed to do. If he thinks that it does not give real true representation to business, well then it is up to him to alter it. After all, it is he who is pouring scorn on it.
May I point out that at that Conferference of 1918 this matter was very carefully inquired into by most experienced men from all sides of the House? They did not apparently see those weaknesses which are now seen by the noble Lord and they introduced it as a compromise. They were satisfied that it did very largely correspond to the business voting power of the country. The noble Lord says: "Oh, well, but these compromises do not last for ever." I do not know his definition of the word "ever," but if after twelve years, at the instance of one Party and not by general agreement, a compromise in which other people gave up a great deal is to be set aside, I do not think you are very likely to have agreements or compromises between Parties in the future. I will give your Lordships one quotation from an authority which I am sure will not be contested—Mr. Asquith, as he then was, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith. When he was moving a vote of thanks to the Speaker of the House of Commons for having presided over that very important Committee, he said that almost every one of the Resolutions had been arrived at by a process of give and take and that they must be looked upon as part and parcel of an agreed compromise. That was a very weighty declaration indeed, and I think that the noble Lord really 724 cannot say that the compromise was a very absurd one or one which should be destroyed at the wish of one Party in the State.
This compromise is a very serious factor to which I do not think the noble Lord gave sufficient weight. He tried to prove the advantages of the doctrine of one man one vote, which, he said, had been embodied for some time in the resolutions and in the desires of the Labour or Socialist Party. He says it was in that great work to which we are so often referred. I have studied that great work, but it did not seem to me that it took a predominant place among the six or seven hundred items contained in it. I will look again, and see if I can dig it out and find that it is given precedence in that voluminous and remarkable summary of their views. I understood that the Socialist Party gained the votes they did gain in the Election because they said they were able to deal with unemployment. It certainly was not in my mind that they gained their position by promising one man one vote.
As to the principle itself, I cannot help thinking that we are very much too apt to dignify by the name of a political principle what is really merely a political war cry. The question of one man one vote was originally, I think, an expression of the impatience of those who thought that the franchise should be further extended. When the franchise has been widely extended, it then becomes necessary, I think, to re-examine a principle of that kind in the light of the situation existing at the present time. The idea of one man one vote may be viewed very differently when there are only 5,000,000 voters enfranchised and when there are something like 26,000,000 enfranchised. It seems to me that there is rather an invidious distinction drawn between London and other great centres. No one, of course, despises for one moment the immense historic position and great traditions of London, but I once had the honour of sitting for a division of Manchester and I remember I said there on one occasion, "But this is how they do things in London." I never said it again. I am sure I should have lost my seat very soon if I had. Although we all admit the position of London, there are great centres like Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham— 725 I do not wish to enumerate them all—which have a life and individuality of their own and play a great part in the national life which should not be so distinguished from that of London. I am assuming, of course, that the business vote, despite its deficiencies in the respects of which the noble Lord spoke, can be so adjusted as to represent the real business force of the nation.
Surely it is right, not in the interests so much of business people themselves, but of the whole nation, that special representation should be given to those who control the business of the nation. The noble Lord opposite, I am afraid, had not read the speech made by his colleague the Home Secretary before he made his own speech, because the noble Lord opposite says this vote does not represent the great captains of industry, it represents certain classes of people who in the mind of the noble Lord are not very important. But the whole case put by the Home Secretary in another place was that this vote did represent wealth, and because it represented wealth he wanted to destroy it and have it taken away. I commend the observations of the Home Secretary to the attention of the noble Lord opposite. I submit that in this country we live by industry, and that it is the constructive brains of our business controllers which create the goods which are the source of our home and foreign trade, and the basis, too, of our gigantic taxation.
As regards matters of finance, and the extent to which the growth of taxation injures industry, it is the men engaged in industry from day to day who see how business suffers from the tremendous taxation; how contracts, for instance, are lost or gained in many cases by very small margins. Even in matters of controversy, like tariffs or Free Trade, the business men are those who have to judge from day to day the advantages or disadvantages of free imports or of tariffs. The great wage-earning classes, who have now the majority of votes, may indeed feel the results in their daily life, in the extent of their wages or the purchasing power of those wages, but they cannot have the same close knowledge of the general control of business as those who deal with the matter themselves. I suggest, therefore, that some effort 726 should be made to bring the voting power into effective relation with the economic activities of the nation. If you are to give representation, as I am glad you are, to Universities, to tutors and professors, surely you should give an effective voice to those who in industry practice or put into action that which they have learned in those Universities, and very often perhaps that which they have not learned there.
This is not merely, ar actually, the representation of wealth, although, as some speaker has already told us, wealth is dissipated from day to day by those who contribute exceedingly little to taxation. Nor is it a privilege conferred on individuals for their own benefit. It is, as I submit, in the interests of the whole nation. When Napoleon told us that we were a, nation of shopkeepers, he told us only one-third of the truth. We are a nation of merchants and manufacturers also, and it seems to me most remarkable that, in the enormous voting power of the nation, there should not be at least some addition made to that small body who have the control of these affairs and on whom the whole prosperity and guidance of the nation's business must depend. I submit, therefore, as a matter of principle and merit, that there should be some sort of balance between these different economic sections of the nation.
I do not think it is necessary for me to say more than a word or two about the Universities. My noble friend Lord Ernle has made a most eloquent defence of their representation. I think noble Lords opposite must have trembled at his onslaught. They must have felt very glad that they had restored the University vote—I agree by the rather small margin of four. They must have felt gratified at that decision. I think the noble Lord opposite was rather hard on my noble friend behind me. He said he seemed to ignore that vote. On the contrary, he wished to impress it on the noble Lord, because he was very anxious that, when the Government in one of those moments of enlightenment that come, I suppose, to all Governments at certain times (they are only too rare), decided on University representation, they should go all the way and give that full representation to the Universities which can only be secured by giving a double vote.
I think that is perfectly plain. If you are going to give each man one vote, the 727 probability is that he will vote in the place where he lives, and there will be a tendency to a shrinkage in that University representation. Much as I admire professors and learned persons, I think their wisdom might well be tempered by those who have gone out into professions and applied in a practical way the wisdom that they have gained at the University. I submit that this somewhat nugatory representation would be out of harmony with our representative system, and I venture to support both sides of the Amendment so forcibly put forward by Lord Jessel and Lord Ernle. I trust that your Lordships will at any rate confirm the hope that, whatever may be the case elsewhere, you are not indifferent to the claims of learning or to the great part which men of business have played in the building up of this country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
During the course of this debate we have travelled, I cannot but think with all respect, rather far from the immediate proposals before us. Perhaps it is not a disadvantage, because incidentally it gave us the benefit of listening to the very eloquent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, who travelled over a very wide area and who seemed to me in the end, except in certain aspects, to touch on all the points that we have to discuss. This Bill is to reform the representation of the people. It was introduced with a certain definite purpose. The system under which this country is governed is now well recognised and well accepted, and I suppose there is no truer proposition that one could utter, always bearing in mind what has been said here and in another place, than that the purpose we have in mind is to give everybody who is entitled to a vote the same value in the part that he has in giving his vote at an election.
What we practically desire to do, in the system under which we live, is to remove inequality, and especially inequality of wealth. So far as I understand it, the Conservative Party have accepted that principle. That Party, or at any rate some of its members, may not be very willing but it is well recognised, after they have been in power on various occasions, that the desire of those who hold the reins of Government and control the policy of our system is to 728 do away with these inequalities. It is not, perhaps, unworthy of reflection that it is largely to that system and to that equality that we owe, except in certain minor aspects, the peace and tranquility that we have reached in this country, where otherwise you might have many greater difficulties, because every man feels that he has the same voice in determining the government of the country, who shall administer its affairs and be responsible for them. It is our safeguard, and it is that which makes us a stable country. Indeed, we might say that the very fact that we have on two occasions had a Labour Government in office adds to the stability that reigns in this country.
I have wondered at times during the course of the debate what really underlies the arguments of the supporters of this Amendment, as I have understood them. They were, in the main, that you should not disfranchise the occupiers of business premises or the representatives of Universities. One could clear the ground in regard to that very quickly, because it is impossible to assert that the Universities are disfranchised. That is to say everyone who has a vote at the present moment is entitled to exercise his vote. It is quite true that he must elect whether he will vote in one constituency or another, but it cannot be correct, if you want to state a correct proposition, to say that the Universities are disfranchised. I do, on the other hand, understand the argument which says that you have taken away a great part of the value of the University franchise. With regard to the business premises, what is said, as I understand it, as a matter of principle, is that what we want is to get all representation on this uniform basis, so that there should be one man one vote, or perhaps, as it was used in another connection by the Conservative Party, one vote one value. If this Bill is passed, with regard to these two matters which we are now discussing, save for these two special instances of the City of London and the Universities, these inequalities will be removed. The occupant of business premises will still have his business vote, and will have one advantage, certainly, in the City, that he may vote in one or other of two constituencies, whichever may suit him best. When you are considering making votes equal it is giving a privilege to say that 729 a man should be entitled to two qualifications if he occupies business premises, and shall have the added privilege of being able to select which of the two qualifications he will exercise.
All that this Bill says is that, except with regard to the City of London and the Universities, this double qualification shall be removed. I do not quite agree with all that fell from Lord Pass-field when he said that joint stock companies are the occupants of these business premises. One must also make allowance for the fact that there are a large number of firms and individuals, but I do net attach so much importance to that point, except to say that if the argument is adduced that you must have a business premises qualification in order to give greater value to the banking and commercial enterprises in the City, then I think it must be borne in mind that by far the greater proportion are represented by joint stock companies. It must be obvious that if your object is to give representation to the men who are at the head of these big businesses, then you must immediately say, especially when you bear in mind the great mergers that have taken place, under the principle of rationalisation, that you must select a number of men who really carry on the business.
In truth none of these arguments can really prevail nowadays. We have passed that stage, and I rather fail to understand the argument in favour of merely giving a qualification to the occupant of business premises, because it must be just as true to say that the workman who goes from his cottage and has to travel some miles to get to his work on the road or elsewhere, lives at one place and is working in another, and has just as much right to be given this privilege. I cannot myself quite understand on what ground of principle it is said that you should give everywhere throughout the country these two qualifications, because a man happens to be carrying on business at one place and residing at another. It lends itself very much to the representation that it is giving an added privilege to wealth, and that is not desirable. Wealth can take care of itself. It uses its influence and its power, as it is entitled to do, and all the advantages which it possesses 730 with regard to voting, but it should not have, either in business or any other enterprise, greater power than any other man in the country who is entitled to vote.
I should be sorry to say one word which would detract from the high praise which has been lavished on the Universities or the City of London. I have the greatest regard for both, and nothing which I may say is designed by me to minimise in the slightest degree the value of the influence which they should possess, or the authority with which they place their views before the country. The City of London has undoubtedly a reputation for having in times of difficulty, and in the struggle for freedom and liberty, acquitted itself extraordinarily well, and I should be the last one to desire to say a word against the exercise of its suffrage. The Universities are untouched by this Bill. As it comes to your Lordships they are unaffected as regards their franchise. I agree that there is this distinction, that by the abolition of plural voting what is said is: "Although you keep your right to representation—it is perhaps rather an anomaly but nevertheless we give you that representation—you will not have a double vote, but you will have this privilege, that you can choose whether you will vote for the University or elsewhere." It seems to me that when you remember why that is done, we should be taking a retrograde step if we did not give effect to the principle of this Bill as contained in Clauses 3 and 4.
May I say one word in conclusion with regard to what has been termed a breach of the compromise made in 1918? What happened then? The Liberal Party had for a long period been advocating the abolition of all plural voting. The difficulty arose that they were not able to carry it. Your Lordships' House was against it, although it was carried in another place. It went through its various stages, in accordance with the obligations under the Parliament Act. Before it could become law the War intervened. Of course, all domestic controversy for the time ceased and then, when the War was over in 1918, as a result of a discussion which took place, the agreement was reached by which really the principle was conceded, inas- 731 much as it was determined that in no circumstances should any man be entitled to have more than two votes. Although it was realised that plural voting should be abolished, it could not be entirely abolished at that time. What was agreed was that at any rate it should be limited. I will not remind your Lordships of the many instances which were given of men exercising a large number of votes, particularly in the days when elections were not all held on the same day, and it was possible to travel about and vote in various places.
All that has gone. That privilege of wealth and power has disappeared, and has disappeared by consent. Surely it cannot be said that if, after thirteen years, it is found desirable to go one stage further—and a very little stage—giving effect to exactly the same principle, but making it more logical, there can be any breach of the compromise that was reached. Because that compromise in 1918 was to get rid of the difficulty that the Plural Voting Bill had been passed through its various stages, and consequently something had to be done then, and was done by the good sense of all Parties, and au agreement was arrived at. I submit that the Government are right in the view they are putting forward, and, for myself, I quite recognise after what has been done in the other House with regard to the Universities, that no attempt is being made to remove a right which exists. I think I may with all respect suggest that we ought not lightly to intervene in a matter of this kind, when we are only trying to place on a firm and sound footing the system which we all agreed to work, and in respect of which we have travelled a long way together in the various Parties, so that we have now a system of government in which we do get satisfaction, and in which every man can feel that he is expressing his views, and that he has the same rights as any of your Lordships. I would ask your Lordships not to interfere in any way.
§ LORD WRAXALL
As one who for many years represented one of the greatest cities in this country in another place, I should like permission to put my point of view. The noble and learned Marquess has just told us that he admires men of influence and responsibility. So do we all, but we on this side do not agree 732 with him that these men of influence and responsibility, who are carrying the burdens and paying all the rates and taxes, and many of whom are responsible for the great positions to which those cities have attained, should be deprived of the franchise rights which they at present possess. The Colonial Secretary, as my noble friend Lord Peel said, poured scorn upon the Conference of 1918, but at the same time he seemed to be rather annoyed that we on this side should term this provision a breach of compromise. As has been pointed out, that compromise has only been in operation for thirteen years, and thirteen years is not a very long time. There has been no conference whatever between the two Parties on this occasion, and I think we have very much reason to complain.
May I say one word about other cities and particularly my own City of Bristol? Bristol is a very ancient City, and in days gone by the men of business used to live over their business premises. Perhaps it is a pity that they cannot do so now, but the squares and the streets in which they used to live have now for many years been built up with business premises. Unlike the people of Manchester, they have not been driven out by the municipality cobbling the streets. That has not happened in Bristol, but the men of business have gone to live outside. They spend their days in the City, and their nights in the country. But surely that is no reason why they should be deprived of their votes, when they are carrying a great deal of the burden of the taxes and rates.
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
I would like to ask a question. What opportunity will there be given to us of voting in favour of the Amendment proposed by Lord Ernle?
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The Amendment before the House is to leave out Clause 3. After that I imagine that Lord Ernle will propose his Amendment, and then it will be for your Lordships to decide whether you will adopt it or not. After that, comes the Amendment to leave out Clause 4. The usual procedure in your Lordships' House, I think, when taking a discussion on two or more Amendments together, is to put them separately afterwards for your Lordships to decide.
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
But supposing the Amendment to omit Clause 3 is carried, and Clause 3 is omitted; what will then become of Lord Ernle's Amendment? There are a certain number of noble Lords, I have reason to know, who would desire to vote for Lord Ernle's Amendment, and are not desirous of omitting Clause 3. How are they to get the chance of expressing themselves?
§ VISCOUNT ULLSWATER
Well, assuming that Clause 4 is omitted, how is Lord Ernle's Amendment to be put to the House?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
May I point I out this difficulty? We are at present discussing Clause 3. I do not think it is competent to the Chairman of Committees to put an Amendment to Clause: 4 before we have disposed of Clause 3. I think it is quite true, as Lord Ullswater says, that if we carry the Amendment to leave out Clause 3, then Lord Ernle's Amendment will in effect become valueless; in fact it will become meaningless.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
At any rate, I do not think we can possibly do anything to save an Amendment on Clause 4 whilst we are dividing on the Question as to whether Clause 3 shall stand part. I think we must dispose of Clause 3 before we can deal with any Amendment to Clause 4.
§ LORD ERNLE
I thought that after Clause 3 was put, whatever its fate when the Motion is disposed of, I should then move, without any words, my Amendment to Clause 4.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I think the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, did not quite understand what I said. I said I thought the usual procedure in your Lordships' House would be to put all three Amendments separately, first the Amendment to leave out Clause 3, then Lord Ernle's Amendment, then the Amendment to leave out Clause 4.
§ LORD DICKINSON
I understood Lord Ullswater's suggestion was that if we left out Clause 3 a question would arise as to what would happen on Clause 4. But I submit to your Lordships that if we leave out Clause 3 it only leaves the occupation voter in existence with his vote, although he may not have his duplicate vote.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 96.735
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Arnold, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Boston, L.||Morris, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Clwyd, L.||Passfield, L.|
|Darling, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Reading, M.||Denman, L.|
|Dickinson, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Gainford, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.) [Teller.]||Snell, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)||Stanmore, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Marks, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Exeter, M.||Bradford, E.|
|Beaufort, D.||Lansdowne, M.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Devonshire, D.||Normanby, M.|
|Somerset, D.||Salisbury, M.||Eldon, E.|
|Sutherland, D.||Grey, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Abingdon, E.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Ilchester, E.|
|Bath, M.||Balfour, E.||Lichfield, E.|
|Bristol, M.||Bathurst, E.||Liverpool, E.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Beatty, E.||Lucan, E.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Barnard, L.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Morton, E.||Belper, L.||Jessel, L. [Teller.]|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Biddulph, L.||Latymer, L.|
|Peel, E.||Camrose, L.||Luke, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly)|
|Poulett, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway)|
|Powis, E.||Monkswell, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Selborne, E.||Cranworth, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Rayleigh, L.|
|Desborough, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Doverdale, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Dynevor, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Cobham, V.||Ellenborough, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Faringdon, L.||Southampton, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Forester, L.||Stafford, L.|
|Hailsham, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Strachie, L.|
|Hambleden, V.||Green way, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Addington, L.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Templemore, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Hawke, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Hayter, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Armstrong, L.||Heneage, L.||Wraxall, L. [Teller.]|
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 4:
§ Abolition of plural voting.
4. The following shall be substituted for subsection (1) of Section eight of the principal Act as amended by Section four of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, 1928:—
(1) Every person registered as a parliamentary elector for any constituency shall, while so registered (and, in the case of a woman, notwithstanding sex or marriage) be entitled to vote at an election of a member to serve in Parliament for that constituency, but a person shall not vote at a general election for more than one constituency.''
LORD ERNLE moved to add to the clause:
unless he or she is entitled to vote for a University constituency or for the City of London, in any of which cases such person shall be entitled to vote at a General Election for such University constituency or
§ for the City of London as well as in one other constituency."
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment that stands in my name on the Paper.
Page 3, line 34, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Ernle.)
§ LORD PASSFIELD
Without entering into any discussion, I can say that the Government cannot accept this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out Clause 4.—(Lord Jessel.)
§ On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 96.737
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Arnold, L.||Morris, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Passfield, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Denman, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Reading, M.||Gainford, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Hay, L. (M. Kinnoull.) [Teller.]||Sanderson, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Snell, L.|
|Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)||Somerleyton, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Marks, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Bath, M.||Normanby, M.|
|Devonshire, D.||Bristol, M.||Salisbury, M.|
|Somerset, D.||Dufferin and Ava, M.|
|Sutherland, D.||Exeter, M.||Abingdon, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Lansdowne, M.||Albemarle, E.|
|Balfour, E.||Elibank, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Beatty, E.||Hailsham, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Hambleden, V.||Hayter, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Heneage, L.|
|Addington, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Ampthill, L.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Grey, E.||Annaly, L.||Jessel, L. [Teller.]|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Armstrong, L.||Latymer, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Luke, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Liverpool, E.||Barnard, L.||Monekton, L. (V. Galway)|
|Lucan, E.||Belper, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Biddulph, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Midleton, E.||Camrose, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Morton, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Peel, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Remnant, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Roundway, L.|
|Poulett, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Powis, E.||Cranworth, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Southampton, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Desborough, L.||Stafford, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Doverdale, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Dynevor, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Ellenborough, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Faringdon, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Forester, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Wharton, L.|
|Cobham, V.||Greenway, L.||Wraxall, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6:
§ Restriction an use of vehicles at parliamentary elections.
§ 6.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, no person shall use any vehicle to which this section applies, or permit any such vehicle to be used, for the purpose of conveying to the poll at a parliamentary election; my person other than the owner of the vehicle or persons permanently or temporarily resident with him or a driver in his regular employment.
§ (2) Any person, being the owner of a vehicle to which this section applies, who is desirous of using that vehicle for the purpose of conveying to the poll on behalf of a candidate persons other than those mentioned in subsection (1) of this section, may, in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State, register that vehicle with the returning officer of the constituency in which he desires to use the vehicle, and any vehicles so registered may, notwithstanding anything in subsection (1) of this section, be used for the purpose of conveying electors to the poll on behalf of the candidate, subject as respects registration and use, respectively, to the following conditions and limitations:—
- (a) The returning officer shall not permit the registration of any vehicle unless the consent in writing of the election agent of the candidate is produced to him at the time when application for registration is made;
- (b) The returning officer shall not, except in the case of a county constituency exceeding four hundred square miles in
738 area, permit the registration of vehicles for use on behalf of any one candidate in excess of the following scales, that is to say, in the case of an election for a county constituency, one vehicle for every one thousand electors on the register, and in the case of an election for a borough constituency, one vehicle for every two thousand electors on the register; and
- (c) Vehicles, though registered, shall not be used as aforesaid unless they bear such registration mark or other means of identification as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.
§ (3) If any person uses any vehicle, or permits any vehicle to be used in contravention of the provisions of this section, he shall be guilty of an illegal hiring within the meaning of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883:
§ Provided that the court before which a person, being a candidate or an election agent of a candidate, 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 said Act.
§ (4) The vehicles to which this section applies are vehicles intended or adapted for use on roads, other than such vehicles as by virtue of subsection (1) of Section four teen of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, may not be used for the conveyance of voters to or from the poll.
LORD BANBUR OF SOUTHAM moved, in subsection (2), at the end of paragraph (b), to insert:
For the purpose of this paragraph the area of a constituency shall be deemed to include) such tidal waters as are included on two sides by land within the constituency, and on the third by a straight line
drawn between the two nearest points on land in the constituency where the tidal water joins the sea.
The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Bayford. The Amendment is merely a small extension of the clause. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 42, after ("register") insert the said words."—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I think in substance we can do what the noble Lord wants, but I must explain that it is not convenient to do it exactly in the manner in which the Amendment is moved. The proposed Amendment is to enlarge a constituency on the coast so as to include in the constituency the area of tidal waters that will be included by bringing a line from point to point. That would be extremely inconvenient because no such survey has been made and it would be extremely difficult to know, except in a few instances, from what point the line would be drawn. If you have a river broadening down to the sea, it is very difficult to say between which two points on the bank of the river you would draw the line, and in any case it would leave the matter extremely uncertain. It would be far better, I submit to your Lordships, that the list should be put into the Bill of exactly the constituencies which are intended to be dealt with by this clause.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I have the list here, and I will tell the noble Lord exactly what we can do. In the Representation of the People Act, 1918, a county constituency is defined so as to include the foreshore and the tidal water down to low water, but that does not include the constituencies as shown in the census return, taking into account the area of land and inland water. We ought to include the foreshore and the tidal water down to the low water level at ordinary tide. That can be done, but in any case it would be desirable to set out the exact lines of the constituency to which this enlargement applies. It merely brings into the list five extra constituencies. The whole of the constituencies have been gone over with 740 the aid of the ordnance survey officers and the list which we will put into the schedule will include just five more constituencies. I think that in substance that meets the Amendment.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
Therefore, at the Report stage, as it will involve some slight alteration in wording. I shall be prepared to move a new Schedule containing a list of the constituencies.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to leave out Clause 6. The noble Viscount said: The noble Lord in charge of the Bill seems to be an optimist because he hopes that this clause will remain in the Bill on Report stage. I do not know whether your Lordships really wish me to treat this ridiculous and unworkable clause seriously. Having regard to its provisions, it is difficult to do so. Subsection (1) of the clause reads:
Subject to the provisions of this section, no person shall use any vehicle to which this section applies, or permit any such vehicle to be used, for the purpose of conveying to the poll at a Parliamentary election any person other than the owner of the vehicle or persons permanently or temporarily resident with him or a driver in his regular employment.
There is no definition in the Bill of what "conveying to the poll" means. It would be exceedingly easy to evade the provisions of the clause. It is always a bad thing to pass an Act any of the provisions of which it is easy to frustrate. As subsection (1) stands, persons could be put down within a few yards of the poll without being asked where they were going, or people could be conveyed from a long distance, set down on the outskirts of the town and allowed to proceed on foot or by omnibus or tram to the polling booth. Another absurd thing about the clause is that, although you cannot convey a person to the poll, you can take him away from it, so that if he is able to afford to get there but cannot afford to go there and back, you can take him back without penalty.
Then you turn to subsection (4), which reads:
The vehicles to which this section applies are vehicles intended or adapted for use on roads,
and so on. To say the least of it, the Government show lack of vision—which is not at all an unusual thing with them—because they do not include motor boats or flying machines, so that those can be used with impunity. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that this clause is workable in its restrictions on the use of motor cars. It would in practice disfranchise a large portion of the electorate. I should have thought that a Government whose members always profess to be so democratic might have shown that they were sincere in their protestations and that they would wish as many people to vote as possible, instead of as few as possible, but one is forced to the conclusion that they realise what their fate would be if many people did vote. Now that the register is only compiled once a year, the number of electors who have changed their addresses is very large. All those electors are obliged to record their votes in the polling district where they are registered. People will be disfranchised because there will not be enough cars to take them, and unless they can pay their fares they will be unable to record their votes. It will penalise people who cannot afford to be penalised. The restriction will operate most unfairly in agricultural districts, where villages are small and scattered, and where the polling station is sometimes more than five miles distant. If the Election should be held in winter, I would ask your Lordships to consider what sort of slush and mud the wretched electors would have to wade through.
§ I will now give your Lordships a few instances of how the restriction on the use of cars will apply in certain boroughs and county constituencies. Even if the proposed number of cars is found sufficient for borough constituencies a comparison of the margin will show that the number for county constituencies is quite inadequate. Take Bath, with 8 square miles and an electorate of 47,603: the car allowance is 24. In Bootle, with 3 square miles and an electorate of 46,345, it is 23; in Barnsley, with 15 square miles and an electorate of 49,900, it is 25; and in Bournemouth, with 10 square miles and an electorate of 68,979, it is 35. In the county constituency of Tiverton, with 348 square miles and an electorate of 36,097, it is 36; and in Lonsdale, with 362 square miles and an electorate of 35,026, it is 35; in Scarborough 742 and Whitby, with 375 square miles and an electorate of 54,389, it is 54; and in Petersfield, with 330 square miles and an electorate of 42,464, it is 42.
§ The clause deals only with cars which are allowed to the candidate for bringing voters to the poll and which will bear a registration mark. It rather reminds one of the Trade Union Congress during the strike—"By permission of the T.U.C." Under this Act it will be "By permission of the Minister." There are hundreds of voters who drive themselves to the poll. Apparently it will be illegal to bring friends with them unless they reside together, the penalty being a fine of £100 or imprisonment. Is that the liberty of the subject? It will be quite impossible to check up what all the cars are doing, and by passing such a clause, instead of being respected, Parliament will be a greater laughing stock than this Government has already made it. To sum up my objections to this clause: it will mean the practical disfranchisement of the voters who live a long way off, of agricultural workers a long way from the poll, of infirm and elderly men and women; it makes an unfair distribution between the boroughs and the counties; and, finally, there will be great difficulty in enforcing its provisions.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out Clause 6.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
§ LORD PASSFIELD
The noble Viscount has poured scorn and ridicule upon this clause as it now stands. As a matter of fact it was not the proposal of His Majesty's Government, who brought forward quite another proposal in the House of Commons in regard to the limitation of cars. In the course of the discussions in the House of Commons they accepted a Conservative Amendment, moved by Captain Bourne, the member for Oxford, and other members, in order to comply with the view of the House of Commons. This having been done, the noble Viscount pours scorn upon it and accuses the Government of having brought forward a ridiculous proposal. Certainly we bring it forward here in compliance with the House of Commons, but, as I say, it was done in order to secure agreement in that House, and that is why the Government accepted the Conservative Amendment. I do not 743 think it is quite so ridiculous—I should like to think that Conservatives in the House of Commons were not quite so silly—
§ LOED PASSFIELD
The noble Viscount did not say that any member of the House of Commons was silly, but he said that the Amendment of certain members of the House of Commons was silly.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
The noble Lord must not put words into my mouth. I knew nothing of the Conservative Amendment and I had not time to read the debate in another place. They may have moved it because they could not get more. Perhaps they were content with half a loaf.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I apologise to the noble Viscount if I have misrepresented him in any way. I only say that, in the ridicule that he pours upon the wording of this clause, he was mistaken in assuming that it was the invention of the Government. Not only did he fail to remember that it was not originally the proposal of the Government, but it was a proposal which the Government accepted from the Conservatives in order to secure general assent. The noble Viscount, if I may say so, fell into the mistake of supposing, in the first place, that he can criticise the language of an Act of Parliament quite in the simple way in which we often do. The words on which he poured scorn about "conveying to the poll" are actually the words of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883. Those words have stood the test of a great many cases and the Courts have found no difficulty whatever in construing them. The Courts of this country are not quite fools and if you are conveying an elector to the poll and you stop a short distance away, the Courts will assume, as apparently they have assumed, that in substance you have been conveying him to the poll. At any rate, the words are in Clause 14 of the Act that I have mentioned.
The serious part of the noble Viscount's criticism was that the restriction would prevent sick people and people living at 744 a great distance from voting. I should like to know whether that is quite the case. The argument, I suppose, is that any limitation upon motor cars would have that effect, and therefore one must necessarily allow an unlimited number. Any restriction placed on that unlimited number could conceivably have the effect that some one elector would be unserved. I do not believe it. I believe too much is done already, sometimes more than is necessary. The instances that the noble Viscount gave did not at all impress me. He said that in the City of Bath, each candidate would be entitled to 24 cars. That is to say, the Labour Party would be entitled to 24 cars, and it would not waste them in bringing up Conservative electors. It will use them in bringing up Labour electors, and the same will happen, I suppose, on the other side, generally speaking. Consequently, if there are three candidates, you will have 72 cars. Bath is not a very great City, and I cannot believe that 72 cars, running from morning to night along the streets, will not be sufficient to take up all the sick people who have to be conveyed to the poll. I think the number laid down in the Bill is not inadequate. If it were inadequate, the noble Viscount might have moved to increase it, but I think the allowance of one car per two thousand of the electorate in the boroughs and one per thousand in the counties for each candidate, which means three times that number if there are three candidates, is not altogether insufficient. In regard to his objection that you cannot use your own car—
§ LORD PASSFIELD
—that you cannot take a friend in your own car—well, on that I shall wait to see. That can be provided for by an Amendment, if it is the case, but I am not quite sure that it is. This is one more of the very serious grievances that are felt a great deal more than many people think. I do not believe the grievance in regard to cars in sufficiently realised. That it is felt as a grievance, I can assure your Lordships. As I have said before, it is not worth while this House refusing to allow a grievance to be remedied, 745 unless there is some serious reason. I venture to suggest that the wise course for this House is always to be prompt to remedy a popular grievance, even if it is rather trivial. Very often when it is rather trivial there is much more serious feeling about it than on more important things. This use of vehicles has been a grievance for at least half a century. The noble Viscount opposite says there were no motor ears then. Does he think this clause applies only to motor cars? Since 1883 Parliament has more than once, with the assent of this House, taken steps to restrict the use of vehicles for bringing up voters. In 1883 Parliament restricted the use of hackney carriages and vehicles ordinarily used for hire, and restricted the privilege, which was being made use of by wealthy candidates, of spending very large sums in hiring vehicles, which in one way might amount to bribery.
As a matter of fact that did not remedy the grievance, because you still had a very large contrast between the wealthy candidate and the wealthy Party and the poor candidate and the poor Party at an Election. The poor Party has the large handicap that it cannot even hire a vehicle. It would have been better if it had been allowed to hire vehicles, but it is limited to vehicles not usually hired, but lent. It is sometimes said that this is a manufactured grievance, or a penal clause put in the Bill to annoy another party. Here is an extract; from a book entitled "Government of England." It is by Mr. Lowell, a leading authority on such matters in the United States. It is as follows:Restraint of expenditure. The most curious example of this is the provision forbidding the use of hired carriages to take voters to the polls. Such a rule may seem unnecessary but before the Act of 1883, by which it was enacted, thousands of pounds were said to have been spent in certain cases for the conveyance of electors. The Act does not forbid the use of carriages but only of hired ones; and the result is that the private carriages and motor cars of wealthy partisans, sometimes blazoned with ancient armorial bearings, are placed at the disposal of the candidates. In fact in estimating the chances of an election one constantly hears that the Conservative has the advantage of a larger number of carriages.That was the criticism of a foreigner, a very careful observer, in the 1908 edition of the book. I quote it only as 746 proving the existence of what seemed to him to be a popular grievance.
I say nothing about whether it is a wide one or not. The mere fact that it is a popular grievance seems to me to make it worth while remedying, and emphatically it is not worth while your Lordships' House preventing the remedying of a popular grievance. I would not say this if it were going to be a serious impediment to Elections, but I cannot believe that the limitation of the number of cars in Bath to 72 for three candidates, and in Bootle to 72 for three candidates, and in Barnsley to 60 or 70 for three candidates, is going to prevent any sick person being carried to the poll. I cannot believe that your Lordships will wish to retain, for the benefit of the wealthy, the privilege of flooding a place with motor cars. Very often there are too many cars, and it is not worth while refusing to remedy such a popular grievance.
§ EARL PEEL
The noble Lord who has just sat down has urged your Lordships' acceptance of this clause on rather a new ground. He says that, however absurd the clause may have been when it was first introduced in another place, it has been very much improved by Conservative amendment. That only proves what an extraordinary, unimaginable absurdity it must have been when it was first introduced. As another ground he says that there are too many ears, and they have introduced this clause for limiting the number of cars which may block all the roads during an Election. I do not think that is a good ground for defending this clause. Then he says that there is an injustice, and if there is an injustice you ought to remedy it. True, but you ought first to be quite sure whether the injustice exists, and, secondly, whether in remedying it you are not creating other injustices.
I have a further point. Surely in dealing with the question, of justice or injustice you have got to show that you have a practical scheme for dealing with it, and that you are not going to set up a number of anomalies, absurdities and inequalities in trying to remedy this injustice. One examines this clause with a certain suspicion, because undoubtedly the effect and indeed the intention of the clause is to prevent certain people from 747 going to the poll, because otherwise the clause would not be proposed. Lord Bertie of Thame, in a very clear and comprehensive statement on the subject, pointed out that in stormy weather, in winter and in wide districts, it would effectually prevent numbers of persons, older people, men and women, and agricultural workers and others, from getting to the polling stations. It is clear that the only way of dealing with that would be to multiply in the country districts the number of polling stations, which would involve great expense.
The noble Lord rather traversed the statement of my noble friend as to the curious discrepancy in the number of cars to be used per square mile in different constituencies. In some cases the discrepancy is very grave. Take the City of Bath. It has eight square miles, and the number of cars allowed is twenty-four, or three cars to a square mile. If you contrast the Tiverton division of Devonshire, you find that it has an area of 348 square miles, and if you divide eight into 348 you see what is the proportion in regard to cars to be allowed. The number is only thirty-six, an addition of twelve cars, although the proportion is eight to 348. I do not want to weary the House with many instances, but I will give one other. Take the case of Bootle. It has three square miles and a liberal allowance, according to the noble Lord, of twenty-three cars. When you get to the Lonsdale division, with its 362 square miles, what is the allowance there? It is only thirty-five cars. It is only twelve more cars than they are allowed in Bootle.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
But the noble Earl must realise that in the boroughs the number allowed is proportionately half the number in the counties.
§ EARL PEEL
But I am pointing out that the mere fact that the borough is a small area, whereas the county is very 748 often a large area, shows that there is very unfair discrimination in that matter between the borough and the county. The county has far less. I only say this incidentally, because I do not want to discuss this matter on any Party ground, though it is rather remarkable that the counties, where the strength of one political Party, with which I happen to be associated, is very great, are penalised. It may be an accident, but it is an unfortunate accident. In the great boroughs they are allowed far more motor cars—for what reason I do not wish to say.
§ EARL PEEL
Does the noble Lord really mean to say that he thinks giving twice the number of motor cars to the great areas of the counties would bring them into any reasonable relation to the number of motor cars allowed in the boroughs? I think there is a very serious charge to be made against the fairness with which this distribution has been made. My noble friend has touched upon the question of the difficulty of enforcing this provision. I do not believe you could enforce it, because I believe public opinion in the country would be very strongly against penalising people because they have got cars which are taking people to the poll. I suggest to the noble Lord that it would be a very great mistake to try to enforce a measure of this kind, which runs strongly against the common sense of the ordinary voter, whose interests, I think, were very little consulted when this clause was drawn up. Public opinion would really ridicule it.
And, as regards the last point made by the noble Lord, that some distinguished American writer said that one body had an advantage in having so many carriages, that is another example which makes one see how this Bill was drawn up. There are a great many things in which there is some inequality, if you follow those things out minutely between the different Parties. Look at the Party opposite. They have got unlimited power of putting forward promises which they know perfectly well they will never redeem when they come into power. We know perfectly well that all sorts of meetings are constantly being broken up all over the country by 749 gangs of these Socialists, who want to prevent Conservatives, and sometimes Liberals, from putting their case before the country. The noble Lord and his friends have picked out one small matter in which they think they will get a little Party advantage. They say it is a grievance, and they leave entirely unredressed numbers of grievances which we in other Parties could bring forward if we wished
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Arnold, L.||Marks, L.|
|Barnard, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Reading, M.||Clwyd, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Denman, L.||Passfield, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Dickinson, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Mersey, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.) [Teller.]||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)||Snell, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Powis, E.||Faringdon, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Radnor, E.||Forester, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Selborne, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Wellington, D.||Stanhope, E.||Greenway, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.]||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Bridgeman, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Burnham, V.||Hayter, L.|
|Normanby, M.||Churchill, V.||Heneage, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Cobham, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Latymer, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Hailsham, V.||Luke, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Hambleden, V.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Beatty, E.||Hood, V.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Bradford, E.||Monkswell, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Addington, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Annaly, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||[Teller.]||Remnant, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Biddulph, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Sinclair, L.|
|Malmesburv, E.||Somorleyton, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Morton, E.||Cranworth, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Swansea, L.|
|Peel, E.||Doverdale, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Dynevor, L.||Wraxall, L.|
|Poulett, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8:
§ Consequential amendments.
§ 8.—(1) In subsection (1) of Section twenty-two of the principal Act, the words "for more than one constituency" shall be substituted for the words "for more constituencies than he is entitled to vote for in accordance with this Act."
§ (2) Subsection (2) of Section twenty-seven of the principal Act shall have effect750
§ to do so. But all I really wanted to do was to point out the absurdity of this clause, and the fact that it is never likely to be enforced, because it goes against the general feeling and common sense of the voters in this country.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 79.
§ as if the words "according to the principle of the alternative vote or" were inserted therein before the words" under the system of the transferable vote."
§ (3) For the questions set out in Part II of the Second Schedule to the principal Act there shall be substituted the question "Have you already voted at this general election?"
§ (4) For the words "I have not voted at this general election in respect of any qualification other than a residence qualification," wherever those words occur in Part II of the Second Schedule to the principal Act and wherever those words occur in the Fifth Schedule to the principal Act there 751 shall be substituted the words "I have not already voted at this general election."
§ LORD JESSEL moved to leave out Subsection (1). The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential and I beg to move.
Page 5, line 30, leave out subsection (1).—(Lord Jessel.)
§ LORD JESSEL moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: This, again, is a consequential Amendment upon the deletion of Clause 4. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 40, leave out subsection (3).—(Lord Jessel.)
Page 6, line 1, leave out subsection (4).—(Lord Jessel.)
§ Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ First Schedule: