§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES,
in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, remarked that the office of Alderman was very ancient; but there was an impression that it had degenerated into a somewhat useless office. It was originally a combination of duties partly local and partly magisterial; and it was, as they all knew, derived from Anglo-Saxon times. It was aspired to as being a stepping-stone to the highest office of local government — that of Mayor—of the various municipalities throughout the United Kingdom. The measure introduced by Lord John Russell in 1835 for the reform of the Municipal Corporations proposed the abolition of the aldermanic office; but Lord Lyndhurst carried an Amendment in the House of Peers, to the effect that one-fourth of each Town Council should consist of Aldermen to be elected for life. This Amendment was opposed in the Commons, and after a good deal of discussion it was proposed that one-third of the Aldermen should be appointed for six years, and that half of them should retire every three years. A conference of the two Houses was then held and the compromise was then accepted. The Bill was only passed on the explicit understanding that the question of a self-elected body existing within the Town Councils should be reconsidered at an early date. Other matters of greater importance intervened, and the consequence was that the state of things then introduced had remained unchanged down to the present time, although great dissatisfaction had arisen in many boroughs—notably Leicester, Leeds, and Winchester, where resolutions had been passed for an alteration in the law. In some instances the Town Council had, in the election of Aldermen, wholly disregarded the deliberately expressed opinions of the ratepayers. To remedy this state of things, his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Heygate) introduced in 1875 a Bill which was intended to provide for the appointment of Aldermen by the cumula- 116 tive vote. There being many objections to the principle of cumulative voting, the House could not accede to the proposal; but the Government thought the circumstances submitted by the hon. Member for Leicestershire were sufficiently grave to induce them to take up the question, and the late Secretary and the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department expressed themselves entirely in favour of the general principles advocated by the introducer of the Bill, and promised to deal with the subject at a future time. Indeed, the Home Secretary moved the Previous Question on the distinct understanding that he would deal with the subject in another year. But nothing was done, and the matter still remained unsettled. The proposal of his Bill was perhaps the simplest and most moderate in its tone that anyone could make. It proposed that no Alderman hereafter elected should be entitled to give his vote for the election of another Alderman, and thus perpetuate a system of self-election which was diametrically opposed to the views held by all parties in that House in regard to local government generally. One of the results following from the prevalence of the present system was that it tended to encourage the introduction of Party politics in municipal bodies, the general rule being that the election of Mayor indicated the political majority of the Corporation, and the result was generally determined by the number of Liberal or Conservative Aldermen. At the municipal elections of last year it was stated that in no less than 72 cases the results were regarded by one side or the other as Party gains or losses; and it was a fact that the prevalence of Party feeling and motive in these elections had greatly increased of late years. Their desire must be that the best men should fill municipal offices; but under the present system men were made Aldermen not on that ground, and many were elected after they had been rejected by the ratepayers. He hoped that the Government would state definitely what course they intended to take in regard to the question; and he trusted that the House would state its opinion strong enough to show that the office was a useless one, and that this Bill ought to be passed into law this Session. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. H. James.)
§ MR. GOURLEY
did not think that his hon. Friend had proved that the office of an Alderman was more useless than that of a Town Councillor. It was an office almost invariably conferred for services rendered to the public; and he did not understand why those who held it should be supposed to be specially incompetent to vote on municipal questions in the Council. He believed that the measure had been introduced with regard to the borough of Liverpool, and a few other corporate towns, where a certain political Party had obtained a preponderating influence in the Town Councils. No demand had been made on the part of the boroughs by ratepayers or public bodies for the change now proposed. The true solution of the difficulty, if there really was a difficulty, would be found in leaving the elections in the hands of the ratepayers. If the ratepayers found that there was any necessity for the discontinuance or a change in current of aldermanic seats, they would be sure to exert themselves and make a change. If they were to prevent an Alderman from voting for Aldermen, they might as well debar him from giving any vote at all. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Gourley.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CAINE
said, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) had put the whole question in a nutshell when he urged that, under the present arrangement, the whole system of popular representation was set aside. At Liverpool in particular the results of the present system were extremely unsatisfactory. If Town Councillors were elected for four years, then he would suggest that at the end of the third year the senior should take the office of Alderman. Such a mode of nomination would bring about a better arrangement than that which existed at present. He even 118 wished that his hon. Friend had brought in a Bill to abolish the office of Alderman altogether; but, as that was not now proposed, he sincerely trusted that this Bill would become law, and be in operation next November. They would have better and more popular municipal government under its provisions.
§ MR. DALY
stated that, having a lengthened experience as Alderman, he could not admit the principle of the present Bill or the remedy proposed. If the promoters of the Bill had been more courageous, and had endeavoured to assimilate the principle of election in the English municipalities to the principle existing in the Irish boroughs, they would have contributed in a much greater degree to the interests of the country. If they were to consider the operation of the recent laws as connected with the administration of the Corporations, one could hardly fail to be struck with the important duties which now devolve upon Corporations. A Corporation was the instrument by which all the sanitary laws were put into operation. It had the power of enabling a city to become healthy or not; it had the power to control the sewers of the city; and it had the power to compel the owners of property to effect such sanitary measures as conduced to the health of the city. Now, the principle of election was a faulty one where the burgesses had not the power of affirming or condemning the action of Aldermen. The principle of election existing in Irish municipal boroughs was that Town Councillors should present themselves for election every three years, and Aldermen every six years, whether he be a new man or a tried one. Such a system was much more perfect than that existing in England, because it gave to the constituencies the opportunity of expressing their approbation or disapprobation of the members of the Town Council. 'He himself had had the opportunity of recognizing the influence of what was called new blood; and he found that the real operation of the municipal laws depended to a great extent upon the activity of the persons constituting the Corporation. Of late years a great deal of activity had been displayed in the Municipal Corporations, owing to the pressure put upon them by their constituents. Returning to the measure before the House, he repeated that the principle 119 of the Bill was faulty and defective, and that there medy proposed was defective, inasmuch as it practically disqualified certain of the representatives of the constituency. He therefore recommended to the hon. Gentleman who introduced the measure to have a little more courage, and bring in a Bill which would provide that the Aldermen should be elected by the constituency they had to represent.
§ MR. LEWIS FRY
pointed out that in Bristol a considerable proportion of the gentlemen who filled the office of Aldermen were young men, and, as in many other towns, very few of the Aldermen had previously been elected Councillors. He considered that the more Party feeling was kept in abeyance the better it would be for the conduct of their municipal affairs, and the present system had rather a tendency to promote and increase Party feeling, because there was a strong sense of dissatisfaction on the part of the ratepayers when they felt that their opinion was not represented by the majority of the Town Council. With respect to the present proposal, he rather thought that the preferable remedy would be to repeal that provision of the Municipal Corporations Act which enabled the Town Council to elect Aldermen from gentlemen who were not members of the municipal body; but the present state of things was so very unsatisfactory that he should support the Bill as a protest against it.
§ MR. DAWSON
agreed with the hon. Member for Cork that there ought to be a more radical measure to remedy the existing evil. He would support the Bill as a step in advance; but he trusted that at no distant day the more radical measure indicated by his hon. Friend would be introduced. He was anxious to assimilate laws of Ireland to those of England from which the Irish people would derive a benefit; and he likewise very much wished to assimilate laws of England to those of Ireland by which the English people would get a benefit. In Ireland an Alderman was elected, in the first instance, by having a majority of votes of the ratepayers; and, therefore, the will of the ratepayers was entirely carried out in the matter. In England it appeared that Aldermen were elected from an already elected body; and he always looked with very grave suspicion upon elections which were of such a very circumscribed character. He considered that the rate- 120 payers should have the selection, in the first instance, of the entire Corporation, and that when they had served a certain period, and had got an acquaintance with all the minute and multifarious details of the work required of them, the Aldermen should be chosen, not by themselves, but by the constituents. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend that if a man had served for four years in the Council, and had shown very great attention and assiduity in his work, he was entitled to be promoted, and that his power to do good would be greatly increased. It was a very lamentable thing even in Ireland to see some new person, for reasons thoroughly apart from his qualifications, made Alderman and put over the heads of those who had probably served a diligent apprenticeship in the Town Council. Such a thing, it appeared, was done in England in a more dangerous manner. The hon. Member for Cork had spoken of the daily increasing duties which had been put on the various municipalities by the Acts which had been passed in recent years. Now, it was necessary that the men who came to administer these laws should have had experience in sanitary matters. In England the Corporations had to deal somewhat with educational matters; and they had the power of instituting reforms and inculcating social habits which, he believed, more than any restrictive laws, would prevent excesses which they all deplored. He should support the present Bill, trusting, however, that a more complete measure would shortly be introduced.
MR. ROWLEY HILL
did not deny that the position of Alderman was an exceedingly anomalous one, but thought that the remedy proposed would be worse than the evil which the hon. Member for Gateshead sought to remove. So long as Aldermen were by law made members of Town Councils, and invested with all the duties and responsibilities of Town Councillors, so long it seemed to him it would be perfectly inconsistent that their power to vote should be limited on any occasion where their personal interest was not concerned. The point dealt with by the Bill was not the only one in which the municipal laws required amendment. He objected to a piecemeal measure, and hoped that the Government would introduce before long a more extensive reform.
§ MR. CAUSTON
desired to call the attention of the House to a state of things in the borough of Colchester, which he had the honour to represent. For 43 years the Conservatives had had the ascendency in the Council—in fact, a Liberal Alderman had never been elected since 1836, until the February of this year. That was only because the Liberals were fortunate enough at the last municipal election to secure 13 representatives out of 18 elected Town Councillors. He ought, in the first instance, to state how the Corporation of Colchester was constituted. It was comprised of 18 Town Councillors and 6 Aldermen. At the last election of Aldermen the Town Councillors consisted of 10 Liberals and 8 Conservatives; but although the former were in a majority they had no control over the election of Aldermen, because the Aldermen who had previously been elected, not by the voice of the town, but by one another, were able to out-vote those who really represented the popular feeling of the town. His hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland said that, as a rule, Aldermen were elected from the Town Councillors. He should like to point out that during the last 43 years, although the Conservatives of Colchester had had the control of the election of Aldermen, only two had been chosen in that time who had ever received any votes from the ratepayers. That was an evil which ought not to exist. The hon. Member for Sunderland had also said he would like to leave the matter in the hands of the ratepayers. He (Mr. Causton) believed that that was very desirable; and he thought that if they provided that Aldermen should have no control over the election of Aldermen, the matter would virtually be left in the hands of the ratepayers. He thought, moreover, that it was very desirable that the Town Council should have the power to elect as Aldermen gentlemen who, not caring to go through a contested election, were able and willing to render considerable service to their fellow-townsmen. It would be admitted by both sides in the borough of Colchester that there had been men in this position; but simply because they happened to be Liberals the Tories had made use of their power to keep them out. Fortunately, the Liberals were now in the possession of power which would possibly give them 122 control over the election of Aldermen for the next 30 or 40 years, whether this Bill passed or not. They had now 13 Town Councillors and I Alderman out of a total of 24. He trusted, therefore, that it would not be imputed that he was making this speech for any Party purpose. He thought the measure a wise and just one, which ought to pass, and hoped the House would allow it to become law before the end of the Session.
§ MR. GILL
desired, as a member of the Corporation of Dublin, to make one or two observations on the Bill. Some of his hon. Friends on the Opposition side of the House had suggested the assimilating of the election of Aldermen in England. In Ireland an Alderman held office three years, at the end of that time the Alderman had to go before his constituents, and in all respects his election was the same as that of a Town Councillor. As an instance of how Aldermen did not always please their constituents, he might state that he knew of many cases in which they had lost their seats as Aldermen, but had been given another chance as Town Councillors. If they did not please their constituents in that capacity, they had at the following election been turned out. He thought that the hon. Gentlemen in charge of the present Bill ought to try to assimilate as near as they could the law of England in that respect with that of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had said he would like to see Aldermen abolished altogether. He did not see any necessity for that, for he thought that by limiting their powers everything would be done that was necessary. They might have some slight advantage over Town Councillors; but not the very great advantage which they appeared to have in the English municipalities. As far as he could make out the municipal feelings of the ward, it would be much better represented by the adoption of the Irish system of election, for then there could be no such thing as a close constituency. He had made those observations in the hope that the hon. Members who brought forward the Bill, and for which he intended to vote as an advance towards a better state of things, would go more rapidly so work, and bring in a Bill something after the lines he and his Irish Friends had indicated.
§ MR. STEVENSON
said, that the recommendation of the Bill, to his mind, 123 was its moderate character, and entitled to every support. The anomalies complained of must be dealt with; but not by the adoption of the cumulative vote, as had been proposed in previous Sessions. Their object in those days should be to strengthen the municipal institutions of the country; and that would be done by making them more directly representative. At the same time, it was most important that the knowledge of men who had experience of municipal business should be retained and made available for the service of the public. As a friend of the continuance of the Aldermanic system, and to remove the blot upon it, he supported the Bill.
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
observed, that in most boroughs the position of Aldermen was the reward of political service. That was not good for the municipality; and as he thought this Bill took a small step towards improving the present state of things he would support it.
§ MR. BARRAN
said, that Liverpool and Bristol had been brought very prominently before the House in relation to the injustice done to the ratepayers by the existing law. Now, he was very much inclined to think that if Bristol and Liverpool had had a representation on the Aldermanic Bench of a different hue, they would very likely have heard nothing of the inequalities in those two great cities. The fact that in Liverpool the Conservatives had had for many years a majority in the Town Council had very naturally created dissatisfaction on the part of the opposing political Party. As far as Liverpool was concerned, he thought matters were improving. At the last municipal election the return of Liberals was far in excess of Conservatives, who at present held power in the Corporation; and he thought that before long the position of parties would be reversed. As to Bristol, he would tell them what was necessary to be done, and they would soon see a different state of things. The inequality of representation in Bristol was very manifest. The wards of the borough were not wards which represented the population, and they were very unequally distributed. The remedy for this evil was that there should be some inexpensive and speedy mode of distributing voting power, in order that a fair representation of the burgesses might be 124 sent to the Town Council. They had been told that they were to be careful not to cast any reflection upon, or to diminish the power or influence of, the Municipal Corporations; and he was of that opinion, because, considering the great and important work which they had done, and considering the responsibility which had rested upon them, and the very efficient way in which they had done their work—they ought to be very careful indeed not to take any steps which would tend to diminish the confidence of the general public in these institutions. Let them reflect upon what had been done since the passing of the Municipal Act. Birmingham was a noble example of what had been done in the way of enterprize in providing for all the necessities of the town and its development, structurally and otherwise. The borough which he had the honour to represent had not been by any means behind in the work that it had done. In the establishment of their large public library, an institution which was circulating at the present time more than 50,000 volumes free to the ratepayers, they had something of which they might be justly proud; and the provision they had made with regard to gas and water and other things was of a character and on a scale worthy of them as a Corporation. In the Corporation of Leeds they had a largo preponderance of one political Party, and they had had that for a great many years. Mr. Wheelhouse, his late Colleague, introduced a Bill into Parliament for the purpose of securing the election of Aldermen by the cumulative vote. If it had not been that in Leeds the Liberals predominated in the Town Council, they would never have heard of the suggestion. Therefore he was of opinion that to confine this kind of legislation to exceptional circumstances was undesirable. Although in Leeds they had a preponderance of Liberals in the Town Council, they had only used their power occasionally for the purpose of electing gentlemen outside to the Aldermanic Bench; the last instance was the hon. Gentleman who now represented the Eastern Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The argument used by the Town Council of Leeds was this—that unless a man was prepared to present himself to the burgesses of the borough, and was willing to go through the ordeal of a con- 125 tested election, if necessary, he was not entitled to the confidence and support of the Corporation as an Alderman. The Aldermen of Leeds were elected to the office on account of their qualifications for the office. Almost all their committees were presided over by Aldermen; and he thought he might say that the business of the Corporation of Leeds was conducted is such a way as to give satisfaction to the general body of ratepayers. Liverpool, Bristol, and Colchester had been specially referred to in the course of the debate as places in which an unsatisfactory state of things existed. Was that the fault of the institution, or the fault of the Party? and if the Party pursued a course of this kind—if it disregarded the claims of individuals, and also disregarded the demands of the constituency for justice and fair play-then make whatever law they might these men would still evade it. In the case of Bristol and Liverpool, he believed that the unsatisfactory state of affairs could be reversed. If the city of Bristol were to memorialize Parliament some steps would be taken to remedy the evils which existed there.
said, that a Bill had passed during the present Session to alter the distribution of the municipal representation in Bristol, and thus to remedy the evils to some extent.
§ MR. BARRAN
was very glad that such a Bill had passed, which would remedy the evil. It would then be found that the ratepayers of Bristol had the power in their own hands. If they were going to discourage household suffrage because it did not result in sending certain men to the Councils of their boroughs, they would have to pursue a course which, he believed, would be destructive to the best interests of their municipal institutions. The Corporations of England were representative so far as the Town Councillors were concerned, and those Town Councillors were bound to obey the behests of the burgesses. If a Corporation, say the Corporation of Leeds, were to elect Aldermen who were distasteful to the general burgesses of the town, rest assured that the electors would at once say that men who voted for persons as Aldermen who were distasteful to the people should not be returned again to the Council. The burgesses had the remedy in their own hands; and he was quite sure that, by a fair distribution of 126 the voting power in the towns of England for the purpose of electing Town Councillors, an influence could be produced which would tell favourably in the election of Aldermen. He hoped nothing would be done in legislation of this kind which would for one moment cast a reflection on the institutions which had done so much good, and which, he believed, were destined to do much more in the future.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
said, that hon. Gentlemen who had already spoken on this subject had alluded to particular boroughs; but, for his part, he thought it ought to be considered on its general merits. While he fully acknowledged that the Bill was one which might be called piecemeal legislation, he felt disposed to support it, at any rate, as a provisional measure. At the same time, he must say that he should very much like that Her Majesty's Government should make some statement to the effect that they would undertake, in a general measure, to deal not only with this, but with other matters connected with municipal government. There ought, in his opinion, to be some self-acting machinery to re-adjust the representation of the people in proportion to the population. It was very desirable that the gentlemen elected to the Town Councils should reflect the sentiments of the time in the borough, for all institutions ought to be in harmony with the existing sentiments, and not with the past sentiments of the people. This was not a Party question, because they knew perfectly well that in some boroughs Conservatives were in the majority, and in others Liberals had the preponderating influence in the Town Councils. They also knew that, in many of those boroughs, the stronger Party for the time being had used its power to perpetuate a system which was not in harmony with the views of the electors generally. That state of things he regarded as mischievous. That was only part of a great question of municipal reform. There was a large number of boroughs in which the wards were grossly unequal. In considering the general question of municipal administration, it was important to devise some easy self-acting machinery, in order to bring the Town Councils into immediate harmony with the sentiments of the people; and he hoped that the Government, amongst the many onerous duties which devolved upon them, might find 127 some opportunity of giving their attention to that question. If the Government were now to make some promise to deal with the subject, he presumed that the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. H. James) would not, in face of such an assurance, persevere in pressing on his Bill. But if there were no hope of the Government doing anything in the matter, then he, for one, hoped that the Bill, though a small and piecemeal measure, would be accepted by the House as a step in the right direction.
§ MR. ROBERTS
cordially supported the Bill, believing that it offered a simple remedy for an evil—the power Aldermen now had of electing their fellow Aldermen, irrespective of and often contrary to the feelings and opinions of the majority of the elected members of the Corporation. As a citizen of Liverpool he had many years' experience of the system working adversely to the interests of the Liberal Party; but he believed that there were many places where the proposed change would be of advantage to the Conservatives; and he was confirmed in this belief by the action of some hon. Members on his own side, and the absence of opposition to the measure by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Bill would cut both ways, so that they were able to regard it as a matter of principle, irrespective of Party consideration. He objected to the present mode of electing Aldermen in England, mainly because under it municipal bodies could, and often did, represent the opinions, not of the present electors, but those of electors of three, six, and more years previously. Imagine such a system applied to our Parliamentary representation. Suppose that the majority of the Members of that House had the privilege of electing one-fourth of its Members, and that half of the number so elected had the privilege at every General Election of voting for successors. The result would be that if the Liberal majority at the last election had been 80, instead of twice that number, the country' would now be governed in accordance with the result of the Election of 1874, and not that of 1880. Such a state of things would, of course, be impossible, because unendurable; and the same principle was as unfair, though not as important perhaps, in the election of Municipal Corporations. He asked the House to pass this Bill, not merely to 128 remedy the special grievances which had been referred to, but in recognition of the principle that municipal government, like Parliamentary, should be representative, and that this Bill would make it more directly such.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he was of opinion that no case had been made out in support of the Bill. Any stranger hearing the debate would imagine that Town Councils were elected only for political purposes. But Town Councils were elected for attending to the lighting, paving, and other duties important to towns. When Aldermen were appointed —he regretted sometimes for political reasons—they were elected by those who had been chosen by the ratepayers. There was this advantage in having Aldermen on a Corporation: they acted as a continuity of the line of business or policy adopted by a Corporation; and thus, if a great change occurred in the constitution of a Corporation, the Aldermen were able to continue the thread of the municipal business. Now, he thought it would be generally admitted that the present system had worked very well. It was for the burgesses to return whom they liked to the Town Council, and in the end the burgesses generally had their own way. The case of Colchester had been quoted, where there were three Aldermen; and one of them would, of course, have the power of giving the casting vote. But then the burgesses would ultimately have the right of expressing their opinion. He would ask the hon. Member, under all the circumstances, to let well alone. Some people said that this was all that was wanted; but his opinion was that there should be no change in the law, unless the Government thought fit to take up the subject, and he submitted that no case had been made out for a change in the law.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON,
as a citizen of Liverpool, said, that if they allowed the present system to continue, it would not be a case of letting well alone. The present system of electing Aldermen was a relic of the old rotten borough system, and he hoped it would be reformed by the passing of this Bill. He did not object to a small body of experienced men having the distinction of Aldermen; but this distinction ought not to be given by a majority, only obtained by the voices of other Aldermen. He agreed with the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Stanley) that the Town Councils ought to repre- 129 sent the opinions of the burgesses who elected them, and not those of former burgesses. Whatever was the original intention, it was now unfortunately the case that political considerations entered largely into municipal elections. These considerations were often allied with some special interest. In Liverpool there had been an identification of the predominant Conservative interest with the grog interest in the town, so that often men who had been rejected as Town Councillors by the ratepayers were elected afterwards as Aldermen. He would leave the election to the Town Councillors chosen by the ratepayers, and not allow Aldermen to have a voice in it. For these and other reasons which he could not now urge he hoped the measure would be passed.
§ MR. ARTHUR PEEL
said, that many remedies for existing anomalies had been suggested. The first was the abolition of Aldermen, the second the allotting of the Aldermen to the several wards; and then there was the proposition of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) that in future elections Aldermen should be forbidden to vote for Aldermen. He was aware that political feelings were touched rather deeply by a proposition of this kind; but he desired to consider the question solely on its own merits, and without any regard to the result which the passing of the Bill might have on political Parties in boroughs, which was a consideration that was altogether beneath their notice. It certainly was a very strong objection to the present state of things that a citizen who had been rejected by his ward should obtain admittance to the Municipal Council almost, as had been stated, surreptitiously. An hon. Member well acquainted with Liverpool had stated that if the minority of 21 in the Council united with their 8 Aldermen who did not retire they would be able to secure a majority of the Council. That was as much as to say that when political Parties on one side or the other gained possession of the Town Councils, the same state of things was continued, and the same political circumstances were perpetuated. That condition of things was clearly objectionable. The support of the second reading of the Bill did not imply any disparagement of Municipal Councils from the way in which they had performed their duties. He had reason to know 130 that since 1835 the population and rateable value of the wards in the different Municipal Councils of the country had entirely changed. It was most important that the representative element should pervade those bodies in their entirety. They had to provide for the health, the amenities; and the intellectual amusements of the community; and it was therefore necessary that they should, as far as possible, be directly representative of the ratepayers. It was within his knowledge that the representation of wards, in some cases, was so manifestly unjust that, speaking individually, he thought the question was one that ought to be taken up for the purpose of readjusting the boundaries of wards and basing their representation on what was at present their rateable value and population. He thought that a much larger measure, embodying the representative principle, was needed; and he hoped that it might be in the power of the Government—though he could not speak with authority at the present moment— to bring in a Municipal Corporations Consolidation and Amendment Bill. He should not feel justified in opposing the second reading of the Bill, because there was so much in it which recommended itself to their ideas of fairness and justice. But it had only recently been introduced, and he was not aware that any expression of opinion had taken place in regard to it in the different boroughs of England; and to enable that expression of opinion to be given he hoped, if the House consented to read the Bill a second time, the Committee would be delayed for a fortnight.
§ MR. BARRAN
said, he had presented a Petition from the Corporation of Leeds against the Bill yesterday.
§ MR. MAPPIN
would support the second reading, to give time for the consideration of the measure by the different Town Councils.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
said, he should be happy to consult with his hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur Peel) with regard to fixing a day for Committee.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 134: Noes 48: Majority 86.—(Div. List, No. 24.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 25th June.