§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ New Clauses.
New Clause: —
(Commencement of Act.)
This Act shall commence and come into operation on the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five,"—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. LEWIS
moved to amend the clause by substituting "1886" for "1885." He wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the way in which the matter stood in reference to the coming into operation of the Act. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that the question had assumed a different aspect from that which it had in the earlier proceedings in Committee. Originally the proposal contained in the Bill was, that the Act should come into operation immediately after it was passed. The Amendment was proposed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) to the effect that it should not come into operation until after the passing of a Redistribution Bill; but that Amendment was resisted by the Prime Minister, and rejected by the Committee. A further Amendment was then proposed by the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. A. Grey), when the Prime Minister intimated that he acceded to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), which was now before the Committee. The result of adopting that clause would be that an 831 election in January, 1886, might take place on the new franchise. He thought that that would be altogether unsatisfactory, especially to that side of the House, who were desirous of securing, as far as they could, that the Bill should not come into operation until a Redistribution Bill was an actual fact, and registration was possible and complete under its provisions. It was only for that reason that he proposed to amend the clause of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton by inserting "1886" instead of "1885." He would not say that that would be altogether satisfactory to those who entertained the same opinions, that he did; but it would mitigate the evil, and he thought they ought to have, at all events, some further explanation from the Government as to the practical course they intended to take, in order to make what they desired to effect by accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton actually appropriate. He had twice challenged the Attorney General, and he now did it for the third time, to supply this information. The hon. and learned Gentleman must be perfectly well aware that in the month of June next year, unless a Redistribution Bill had previously become law, the Government would be in a position of some difficulty in reference to registration. Unless they were to suppose that there would be under the Redistribution Bill next year no constituencies enfranchised or disfranchised, and no alterations made in the present county divisions, it would certainly be found that the same difficulty would exist as to registration that year with reference to the new constituencies. He had given the Committee his reasons for that on Tuesday, and it was not necessary that he should repeat them. It would be necessary to have some discussion upon the subject, especially after the extraordinary statement of the Prime Minister on Tuesday. The right hon. Gentleman, on that occasion, succumbed to the blandishments of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), who made a suggestion for clearing the way in regard to the settlement of boundaries. The right hon. Gentleman at first said that the Government had not decided or made up their minds that a Boundary Commission should be issued this year in order to 832 make the work of redistribution the more easy next year; but when the suggestion was followed up the Prime Minister made use of an expression which he imagined was rather a slip on the part of the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that he intended to issue a Royal Commission this year.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he understood it was still an open question whether a Royal Commission should be issued between this Session and next for the purpose of ascertaining and settling the boundaries. If the Committee would follow him for a moment, he thought he should be able to show that it was impossible to issue a Royal Commission, or any other Commission, for the purpose of settling boundaries between this and next Session.
explained that the object of appointing a Commission would not be to settle boundaries, but simply to supply the Government with information.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he might be extremely dull; but he thought that such an explanation only made confusion worse confounded. What information was a Royal Commission to set to work upon with reference to narrowing or extending the county and borough constituencies, or with reference to the disfranchisoment of the existing constituencies, and the enfranchisement of new ones? If that was the object of their appointment, upon what principle would they proceed? Would it be in reference to populations, or to particular localities, or what? He thought the Committee were entitled to ask the Government for information, because this had been put forward as a practical argument; and he thought he was not asking too much when he desired to get at the real policy of the Government in reference to this so-called Commission. If it was merely to be the employment of Government officials for the purpose of obtaining information on which the Government were to make up their minds as to what sort of Redistribution Bill was to be brought in, it would save no time at all, because that information would not be of such an official and public character that it could be laid before the House. He would call the atten- 833 tion of the Committee to the course which was pursued in 1867 in reference to the Boundaries Bill. The House took the question of boundaries into its own hands; and in order to secure that the persons nominated should have judicial weight, and the confidence of the House, they were selected from both political Parties. He did not understand what was to be the result of all these deliberations in reference to boundaries, and the appointment of so-called Commissions; but, at all events, what passed on Tuesday made it the more necessary to delay the operation of the Act until another year, in order that they might not incur the difficulties which had been so often pointed out. He now ventured to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice—namely, that ''1886" be substituted for "1885," in order that they might not find themselves in a position of difficulty with regard to registration under the greatly altered circumstances when a Redistribution Bill had been actually passed.
§ Amendment proposed to proposed new Clause, to leave out the words "one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five," and insert the words "one thousand eight hundred and eighty-six."—(Mr. Lewis.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'one thousand eight hundred find eighty-five ' stand part of the Clause."
I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman into a discussion about the boundaries. I will only say that the object of collecting information would simply be to put ourselves in the best possible position as to our own judgment, and in order to afford information to the House before next Session arrives. In the proposal which the hon. Gentleman makes, he virtually revives the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. A. Grey), to postpone the operation of the Act for 12 months longer. Of course, it is scarcely necessary for me to say that the Government cannot accept that Amendment; but I would venture to make this observation—that the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland was fully discussed, and, as a matter of courtesy, was allowed to be withdrawn. The Committee will be well aware that if 834 that proposition had been negatived, instead of being allowed to be withdrawn, the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lewis) could not have brought the subject forward again. When a proposition is negatived, it is disposed of; and, although the Amendment of my hon. Friend was permitted to be withdrawn instead of being negatived, we certainly believed that, as it had been largely discussed and substantially disposed of, it would not be revived again.
It is precisely the same thing, and is only a different form of expressing the proposal, that the voter should be entitled to be registered on the 1st of January, 1886, because the same thing would happen in either case, and the Act could not come into force until 1887. Under the circumstances the Government cannot accept the present Amendment.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman apprehended what was the real purpose of his hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman was distinctly understood, the other day, to indicate that the mind of the Government was open to consideration in regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the boundary question. The right hon. Gentleman subsequently rose and explained that if he had made use of the term "Royal Commission" he had been misunderstood, and that was a mistake, because the Government did not intend to appoint a Royal Commission; but they might appoint a Commission to inquire into the matter. That was the distinct statement made to Parliament—namely, that the Government had under consideration the question of the appointment of some sort of Commission, Royal or otherwise, for considering the boundary question. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] The hon. Member opposite contradicted him, but the Prime Minister did not; and after what had recently passed he should be careful how he attempted to summarize the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, for fear that he might be guilty of establishing that very serious difference 835 which, they all knew—to exist between "tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee." He should be most cautious how he did that; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would admit that he was understood to say the Government had tinder consideration the question of the appointment of a Commission, not necessarily a Royal Commission, to consider he question of boundaries. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] As the Prime Minister did not contradict him, he assumed that he had the assent of the right hon. Gentleman to that statement; and, that being so, he would proceed to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman as to what would be the duties of that Commission, Royal or otherwise? Would it be the duty of the Commission to investigate the question of boundaries in regard to non-existent constituencies? The right hon. Gentleman had explained his position with regard to that matter; and, as he understood the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman during the remarks of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), the Prime Minister now qualified what was understood to be his statement on a former day, and now stated that the Government simply intended to appoint a Commission for the purpose of acquiring information. But the right hon. Gentleman did not say, however, what that information was to be. He wished, therefore, to understand whether the right hon. Gentleman withdrew altogether from the cognizance of this hypothetical Commission the question of boundaries, which he was specially understood the other day to designate as the work of the Commission? This was a matter in regard to which the Committee would not unnaturally call upon the Government for some information. What were the labours of the Commission to be, and what was to be the scope and the nature of the duties assigned to them? Was it to inquire into the question of the boundaries of constituencies or not?
I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the appointment of a Boundary Commission is not the Amendment before the Committee; but the Question is simply one in regard to the date at which, the Act shall come into operation—namely, whether 1886 shall be substituted for 1885?
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he hoped he might be allowed to explain the way in which he proposed to connect the two. He had presumed the right hon. Gentle man the Prime Minister to be in Order when he made the statement he had just referred to. If both of them were out of Order—
MR. J. LOWTHER
begged the pardon of the Chairman. It was, no doubt, true that a further statement—a qualifying and explanatory statement was made by the Prime Minister on the Motion to report Progress; but the original statement, that it was the intention of the Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into the question of boundaries, was made by the right hon. Gentleman in the responsible position he occupied as First Minister of the Crown, in reply to the remarks of his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), and the subject then under the consideration of the Committee was the proposal of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), that a date should be fixed in the Bill, and that it should come into operation in January, 1885. It was not necessary, however, that he should follow up that matter further, so far as the point to which he wished to draw attention was concerned. He would proceed to say that the Prime Minister had indicated that the Committee should not throw upon the Government or upon Parliament the responsibility of wasting any time in connection with the subject of registration, and the preparation of the electoral lists; but he added that the time which must necessarily elapse before a newly-prepared list could come into operation would be utilized by Her Majesty's Government in the prosecution of an inquiry of the kind indicated. That was clearly the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and in that way it came regularly within the purview of his hon. Friend (Mr. Lewis). Of course, if the investigation which the Government proposed to make were likely to be somewhat prolonged, and they were to have the further period accorded to them by the proposal of his hon. Friend, it would not be necessary that he should go at any length into that point. He would, therefore, content himself with 837 asking the right hon. Gentleman to explain what really was the position he assumed on the part of the Government; and whether he had correctly understood him to indicate that the Government intended to appoint a Commission —he would not say Royal, or otherwise, but a Commission of any kind; and, if so, what he proposed should be the scope and objects of that Commission?
It is the intention of the Government to consider by some form of Commission how to enlarge their information in the course of the Recess, for the purpose of bringing into effect a Redistribution Bill. Beyond that it is not in my power to go, because it would be anticipating the consideration of a matter upon which we have not yet entered.
§ MR. RITCHIE
wished to point out to the Committee an argument which, he thought, was fatal to the proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. Lewis). If the Amendment were carried, such a state of things as this might arise—that having passed a Franchise Bill enfranchising a large number of new voters, and having also passed a Redistribution Bill, an election might take place which would not come under the new arrangement, but under the old. Therefore, they might be in this position. They might have enfranchised a large number of new voters, and made all the arrangements necessary for the formation of new districts, and yet an appeal to the country might be made upon the existing condition of things. He thought it was only necessary to point out the anomalous position in which the country would be placed if such a state of things were to arise, in order to show the inadvisability of agreeing to the Amendment.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he was sensible of the difficulty which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie); but what had never yet been explained to the Committee was the condition of things which might arise if a Reform Bill were passed, and an election were to take place under it without a Redistribution Bill. It was quite evident that when the Government elected to bring in their Reform Bill in two years, they had not sufficiently considered the provision that would be necessary in order to get the new franchise properly into operation. The Government had stated that their 838 object was to take steps by which the county representation should continue to partake, more or less, of its present character. How was that to be done in the course of next year, providing the Redistribution Bill did not receive the Royal Assent before the time for the ordinary conclusion of Business in the course of next year? His impression was that that measure would not receive the Royal Assent before the usual time—namely, the end of August. What, then, must be the position of the important business which must follow in the Revising Barrister's Courts? Provision must be made for it by some special Act of Parliament, for no Government would contend that it would come within the ordinary work of the registration of the year. Then, if the Government proposed a Registration Bill this difficulty would arise — that they would have to compress within two or three months a work which ought to require over five months to complete satisfactorily. He, therefore, thought it would be better to adopt the proposal of his hon. Friend. He did not think they had had anything like a full and clear explanation of the views and policy of the Government as to how they proposed to bring the new voters upon the Register in the new constituencies, forming parts of counties, extended boroughs, and so forth within two years, in conformity with the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). He did not think the Amendment of the hon. Member was sufficiently large and wide to apply to all these cases. At all events, unless the Government had some secret intention, which they had not yet disclosed to the House, and which, if they had, they had better disclose at once, he thought they could not do better than adopt the proposal of his hon. Friend, in order that they might see their way to the completion of a fair registration under a fairly drawn Redistribution Act as early as 1886.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that, as he understood the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman and of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lewis), it was this. The work to be done next Session would not be done in sufficient time to receive the Royal Assent, and to enable the first steps of registration to take place in the summer of next year, so that the 839 voter should be in possession of his vote on the 1st of January, 1886. His answer to that was to be found in the precedent which was set in 1868. In that year Parliament had practically to settle a Redistribution Bill, and had to confirm the Report of the Boundary Commissioners by stating the conditions both of the new boroughs and of the county constituencies. In the spring of 1868 Registration Act was introduced, it did not receive the Royal Assent until the 16th of July, 1868, a month later than they now were; and the registration was completed, not by the 1st of January, 1869, but by the 1st of November, 1868, and a Dissolution took place in 1868, the new election following upon it. Therefore, following strictly the precedent of 1868, and assuming that a redistribution, as wide as they liked, were passed next year— assuming any amount of disfranchisement and enfranchisement, there was not, in his opinion, the slightest practical difficulty; and, speaking as a practical man, he was satisfied that all the arrangements could be completed in sufficient time to allow the new Register to be made in 1885, and the new constituencies to vote in 1886. But he would go a step further, and would mention a point which he had not brought before the House at the time he moved his Amendment, but which was germane to the discussion—namely, that if they were to discuss a Redistribution Bill next year, it ought to come into operation not so late as 1886, but after November, 1885. Undoubtedly, if Parliament were dissolved in 1885, it would be a great calamity for the country to have a six months' election; and therefore it would be desirable, if possible, to make provision for a new election to take place in the Autumn of 1885. Whether that was so or not, there could not be the slightest practical difficulty in completing the registration next year, no matter what arrangement was arrived at.
asked the Government to inform the Committee what the nature of the measure they proposed to take next year for the purpose of completing the labours of the House in regard to the Franchise Bill would be. It was said that if the Government were to give them that information now it would facilitate matters; but he was afraid that if they did give it some of them 840 might quarrel with the Government for the information itself. He had risen to call attention to the very precedent which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had just referred to, and he had intended to accompany it by the reflection that, after all, it was possible for the Committee to consider that what was done in 1868 might be done next year; but, in addition to the passing of a Boundary Bill in 1868, a Scotch Reform Bill was also passed on the 13th of July. Thus the House passed the very Act to which the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had referred, and yet in that year the boundaries of no less than 80 English boroughs were altered and greatly extended, and the Divisions of several important counties were reconstructed, including West Somersetshire, and two of the Divisions of Yorkshire. Besides that, under the Scotch Bill, certain boroughs were thrown into the counties, and the voters were brought upon the county register; so that, in the first place, they had, in the boroughs, to add a considerable number of new voters, to construct several Divisions of important counties, to pass an Act framed in accordance with the Boundary Bill, and also to provide for a dozen English boroughs that were extinguished by the Scotch Reform Act. The whole of that work was completed by the 1st of November, and the election took place early in that month. He mentioned this fact for the information of the Committee. What was done then they could do now, provided they all assisted the Government in passing a good measure of redistribution next year. In that event, they would probably find no insuperable difficulty in getting out the new list, so that an appeal might be made to the new constituencies as early as November, 1885.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
trusted that his hon. Friend (Mr. Lewis) would not insist upon pressing the Motion to a Division. On a former occasion he had ventured to say, in reference to the Motions of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. A. Grey) and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), that they were not worthy of occupying the time of the House, except that those hon. Members might have felt themselves called upon to obey instructions. The Bill would 841 have been got through last Friday if it had not been for pettifogging clauses of this kind, which were of no use to the Bill, and could be proposed for no other purpose than to occasion delay. Dilatory Motions were at times desirable; but as everybody wished to complete the Bill that night, and there was no other mischievous legislation, as far as he could see, on the Paper, the sooner hon. Members would proceed to withdraw these clauses, none of which were worth the attention of the House, the better it would be. Hon. Members opposite, by the Motions they had introduced, had thrown the Report over until to-day; and if they persisted in making similar Motions, they would throw it over again until Monday. Three Motions, coming from the other side of the House, had already added three days to the discussion of the Bill, and he thought that was quite enough.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, the impression on the minds of hon. Members on that side of the House was that the Government had had no intention of following the precedent of 1867 and 1868 in regard to the immediate appointment of a Boundary Commission if it had not been for the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). But the circumstances of 1867 and 1868 were very different from those of the present year. There was at present far greater work in store for the House than there was before them in 1868, and there was no question as to the completion of the Business of Parliament in 1867, although it was very doubtful whether the work they had now before them could be satisfactorily disposed of in 1884. What was done in 1868 was simply the carrying out and completing of what had been done in the year before. It would be most unsatisfactory if a Franchise Bill were to come into operation without a Redistribution Bill having been previously passed. That was admitted to be the great difficulty, and it did seem strange that all this time should be occupied—he would not say wasted—in fighting the question whether a particular date should be put in the Bill, instead of the words suggested on that side of the House—that the Act should not come into force until a scheme for the redistribution of seats had been passed. It was not merely a question 842 of the population of boroughs, but how they were going to arrange for the counties so that the voters, to be introduced by the new Franchise Bill, would be able to vote. Under these circumstances, although they quite admitted the difficulty of fixing on any year, he thought it would be much better to fix on 1886 than 1885.
§ Amendment negatived.
The next Amendment, which stands on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Coleraine Sir Hervey Bruce), will now be out of Order, as it was virtually decided by the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley). The Question no w is that the clause be added to the Bill.
§ Clause read a second time, and added
§ MR. HOULDSWORTH
rose to move the insertion of the following Clause:—(Extension of the seven mile limit in cities and boroughs.)So much of the twenty-seventh and thirty-second sections of the Act of the Second year of the reign of King William the Fourth, chapter forty-five, as relates to the residence of electors within seven miles of any city or borough, shall be repealed, in respect to electors otherwise qualified to be registered and to vote for Members in Parliament for such city or borough: Provided always, That no person shall be registered as an elector for the said city or borough, unless he shall have resided for twelve calendar months next previous to the fifteenth day of July, in any year, within the said city or borough, or within twenty-five miles thereof, or any part thereof.The hon. Gentleman said that, notwithstanding the advice which had been given by the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Thomas Collins), he would venture to move the clause of which he had given Notice; and, although it was not one of so exciting a character as some of those which had preceded it, yet he thought, especially to those concerned, it was of as great importance as many which had received the attention of the Government and of the Committee. The Committee would be aware that, as the law at present stood, the occupiers in boroughs who had an occupation franchise were not obliged to reside within the area of the borough in order to make good their claim to be put upon the Register, and to exercise the Parliamentary franchise. It was quite suffi- 843 cient, in order to secure those privileges for them, that they should reside within seven miles of the boundary of the borough. That was a provision which was inserted in the Att of 1832, when the borough occupation franchise was introduced, and its intention seemed to have been perfectly clear. While, on the one hand, it asserted the principle that residence was to be a condition upon which the occupation franchise in the borough was to be exercised, on the other hand it gave a reasonable amount of elasticity to the definition of what residence really was in connection with the franchise, for the purpose of including among those persons in boroughs who were to exercise the privilege all those who were practically resident in the borough, although technically they might not sleep within the borough area. In the year 1832, and for many years succeeding, he had no doubt that this evident intention on the part of the Legislature had been fully and fairly carried out; and that there had been probably no boroughs in which genuine occupiers would not have had a good occupation franchise, and would not have been able to exercise the franchise when an election occurred. But matters in that respect had changed very considerably since the year 1832, and the consequence was that the condition of these boroughs was very different from what it was then. He was there to assert that at the present moment there was a very considerable number of occupiers who had a perfectly legitimate qualification for the franchise who wore practically disfranchised by the seven mile limit, which was now in operation. Of course, the Committee knew quite well the circumstances which had arisen to produce that result; and he ventured to point out to the Committee what they were, and why they should not be held to be any reason for disqualifying these occupiers. It had arisen principally from the fact that the boroughs had increased very considerably, and owing to that increase, and owing to the industries taking possession very naturally of the centre of the towns, the residences of the occupiers had been gradually driven further and further away from the centre. On the other hand, co-incident with that change there had been a great extension of the railway system, which enabled occupiers who had business 844 premises in boroughs to live further away from the centre of those boroughs; although, at the same time—and he asked the Committee to remember it— they were not dissevered in interest from the boroughs, and were practically as resident within the areas of the boroughs during the daytime as they ever wore when they slept within them. Pie was not in a position to give, with any degree of fulness or accuracy, the number that the seven mile limit at present affected, or the number that would be enfranchised if his proposal were adopted by the Committee, and the seven mile limit were extended to 25 miles. There was one source, however, from which he was able to get some statistics, which perhaps would assist the Committee in forming an estimate. In most of the boroughs a list was prepared annually—perhaps not in all of them, but in most of them—of those occupiers in the boroughs who lived within seven and 15 miles from the borough boundaries. The object of preparing that list was this—that, as the law at present stood, the qualification for municipal honours and municipal offices had been extended to 15 miles; and, therefore, there was a list supplied of occupiers within seven and 15 miles which gave some information with regard to those who resided within those limits. He found within all the boroughs that he had had access to that there were a certain number who lived between those limits; but he would only venture to give, as the basis of his calculations, those who were on the lists for Manchester and Liverpool. In Manchester the number living within the limit was 380, and in Liverpool it was 246. He might point out to the Committee, however, that these lists were not thoroughly full, although accurate as far as they went, because he found that there were several boroughs in which no such lists were kept; and he was informed that even in those boroughs in which a list was made out annually, no great trouble was taken on the part of those who were entitled to be on the list, to put their names upon it, simply because it did not entitle them to the Parliamentary franchise, and they had no particular object in placing themselves upon the list. But he had ventured, from these statistics, and taking into consideration that the position of 845 Manchester and Liverpool would probably be the same as that of Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, and possibly of Dublin in this matter, and of similar boroughs, such as Bradford, Sheffield, and others, to make a calculation which he thought was a reasonable one. From these statistics he was led to believe that if his proposal were adopted some 4,000 or 5,000 occupiers, who were at present disfranchised by the simple force of circumstances, and not by the intentional will of the Legislature, would receive a vote. Now, this was not entirely a novel proposition. In 1867 the Government of that day did not find any difficulty in dealing, in a large measure of justice, with a number of similar and subsidiary matters, and the consequence was that they acquiesced in and adopted a proposal made in that House to extend the seven mile limit, in the case of the City of London, to 25 miles. He had taken the wording of that clause, and it was the wording which he had put down for the clause which he now ventured to propose. He hoped the Government would sanction his proposal. It was not at all a question of Party. It would not affect one Party more than another, but it would affect both Parties in an equal degree; and he believed he should have the support of his hon. Colleagues who sat on the other side of the House. He certainly could not see that it would have any effect upon Party proportion either in that House or in the various constituencies, and it seemed to him to be in thorough harmony with the principle of the Bill the Government had introduced. They had introduced a Bill for the purpose of dealing justice, with an even hand, towards certain persons who were outside a particular arbitrary line which was drawn in 1867, and they said, very properly, that as there was a similar class of persons placed in precisely the same circumstances outside the area of the boroughs, who were in every respect the same, or, at any rate, similar in class to those within the boroughs, that as one had the franchise the other ought to have it also. He was quite willing to admit that he had never entertained any doubt whatever as to the justice and wisdom of that proposal. He had always heartily supported the assimilation of the household, borough, and county franchise on the broad principle that he could not see 846 any difference between the class of householders in the various counties and the borough householders in the various boroughs. The proposition he made was in thorough harmony with the principle of the Bill. At present there was an arbitrary line up to a certain limit. Outside that limit there were bonâ fide residents of the boroughs, men who were following their avocations and daily transacting business, not only performing their own business, but transacting civil and municipal duties in connection with the boroughs, and yet by the action of this hard-and-fast line they were practically disfranchised, while those who remained and slept within the seven mile limit, but who were in no other way practically more resident in the boroughs, had the privilege of the franchise. Now, he contended that that was an injustice which the Government ought to remove. His proposal did not seem to him to introduce any new principle. It did not raise any question of residence. He adopted the question of residence with regard to the boroughs, although he was free to confess that he did not see any reason, especially now an assimilation was to take place between the borough and county franchises, why the condition of residence should still remain. But, as far as his proposal was concerned, he accepted the principle of residence fully as it was adopted in 1867. It did not affect those who owned property, and it did not seem to him to introduce any principle which, the Government might not fairly accept. It simply did this—on the ground that there were those who were bonâ fide residents within a borough, following their avocations within it by day, and connected with it closely by interest, by property, and by personal attendance day by day, and who yet, by the mere circumstance that they did not happen to sleep within a certain limit, were deprived of a vote, was an injustice which ought to be swept away by the Legislature, on an occasion when they were engaged in extending the franchise. He would further urge that the class of occupiers on whose behalf he was speaking were the very best class of citizens they had in the boroughs. They were, as a rule, the most educated class—a class who were calculated and able to lead public opinion, and who, probably, did most for the welfare and good of the 847 borough in which they practically resided. He had no doubt what the objection would be against his proposal, and it was the only objection he could conceive that could be brought forward against it—namely, that it would give to those who would be enfranchised under his clause two votes, whereas at present they had only one. His answer to that was simply this—that at present those who lived outside the borough area and within the seven mile limit had two votes, and that the class which he wished to see enfranchised, and who were at present disfranchised by the force of circumstances, would only be placed in the same position as those who resided within the seven mile limit. He thought that, if the question of having two votes was a serious objection to the proposition he made, it ought to be carried a great deal further, and the question, of the possession of two votes should be considered in its entirety as to how it affected the various classes of the community. If two votes were not to be allowed, and the new principle was to be one man one vote, then let thorn adopt it after a regular and thorough discussion of the question; but do not let them, in the meanwhile, do injustice to a certain class of individuals, and the very best class of citizens in the boroughs, who devoted their daily leisure and their money to the benefit of the borough—do not place them in the position of being disfranchised, and, as far as the Parliamentary lists were concerned, keep them out of the exercise of rights that belonged to householders of very inferior position. Further, he maintained that if this objection against having two votes had any weight, it would be infinitely better that the occupier, connected as he was with the borough should lose his county vote and retain his borough vote. Another reason, which he would bring forward, was that the severance now taking place between the better class of occupiers in the borough and the lower class who still resided within the borough was becoming more and more a social question of very great importance; and it behoved the Legislature, whenever it could, to do all in its power to encourage the connection between the boroughs and the great mass of the people rather than to introduce and perpetuate any system which would make a greater disseverance between them. 848 There was one other argument which he would urge upon Her Majesty's Government in considering the question; and it was that, as far as he could see, his proposition would not introduce any new peril to the Bill, which he, for one, was anxious to see passed through both Houses of Parliament. He did not see that this proposal of his infringed any principle of legislation which could in any way imperil the Bill; but it would do substantial justice to a number of persons, amounting to at least 4,000 or 5,000, who would value the privilege conferred on them just as they felt a grievance in losing the franchise in these very boroughs. He would only add that if the Government would not accept the proposal, it would go very far to make him feel that they were not entitled to the credit of endeavouring to do justice to every part of the community in respect of the franchise! — a credit which he, for one, had been hitherto glad to accord to them. He begged to move the clause which stood in his name upon the Paper.
New Clause (Extension of the seven mile limit in cities and boroughs,) —(Mr. Houldsworth,) —brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be road a second time."
I hardly think the hon. Member himself can have considered the consequences of the Motion which he has made. In my opinion, it is one of the most objectionable that has been offered to us during the discussion of the present Bill. First of all, he proceeds to extend the number of persons residing beyond the limit outside the borough, who shall have the power of voting within it. Now, what is the history of this seven mile rule? The history of it is this—When it was proposed by the Government of Earl Grey, it was a question whether persons doing business in the borough, but sleeping outside its limits, should have a vote in returning Members to Parliament or not. In those days the county franchise was a freehold franchise, together with certain other qualifications; but I am now speaking of the way in which the seven mile rule came in. The seven mile rule came in because it was intended to prevent the evil of keeping without any 849 Parliamentary vote a great number of persons having offices and large pecuniary interests in a borough, but residing beyond its limits, and who would not, but for this provision, in consequence of residing beyond its limits, have had a vote either for the borough or for the county. That state of things has been done away with almost entirely, and almost all these gentlemen have votes already. Probably nearly all of them have a vote in the county, although it is possible that a portion of them have not. Our Bill, however, will give to every one of them a vote in the comity. Secondly, the proposal of the hon. Gentleman is simply a proposal for the purpose of extending the principle of double voting. Now, what does the hon. Member say? He says that the principle of double voting is either good or bad; that it ought to be either universal, or it ought not to exist at all. I hope the hon. Member will not drive us to that alternative. If he does, he will certainly place us in a position of great difficulty. We have proceeded with the utmost tenderness towards the principle of double voting. We have done nothing to impair it; but I hope we shall do nothing to extend it. Has the hon. Gentleman considered what sort of change he proposes to make in what I may call the residential areas of the boroughs? Has he taken the pains to go even through a rule of three sum? Has he considered how much larger the residential area of boroughs will be under this clause than it is now? If his proposal is accepted the effect would be to multiply the areas 10 times over. If he will take pains to compare the superficial extent of a circle having a radius of 14 miles with the superficial extent of a circle having a radius of 50 miles, he will find that it would be increased by 10 times as nearly as possible, and for certain purposes all this great territory would form a portion of one great borough. How is this to operate? How is it to operate in Lancashire, where large towns are to be found at no great distances, probably not more than eight or 10 miles apart, all over the county? Gentlemen in a large way of business would have warehouses and establishments of more than £ 10 annual value in a number of towns, and for every one of them they would be enfranchised and entitled to vote under the clause of the hon. Gentleman. But 850 they are not resident in these towns, and the clause of the hon. Gentleman goes distinctly to weaken, and weaken very greatly, the residential character of the borough franchise. It is impossible for the Government to accede to such a clause. We conceive that the true basis of the whole representation is the household franchise. Now, the householder does not receive the slightest benefit from the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. His object is to increase the weight of that element which is completely different from that of the householder. First of all, there is the element of the £ 10 householder, who, after all, will represent in the main, after the passing of this Bill, the principle of property; then there is the principle of the householder and the head of the family, and, perhaps, another class of voters—the freemen. The hon. Gentleman proposes nothing in regard to the freemen, although with respect to them the Government have carried their Conservative tenderness in this Bill to the point of leaving them in full possession of their privileges. But I am not prepared to say that the voting power of the freemen should be extended by giving them permission to live within 25 miles of a borough and still to retain a vote. I do not think it necessary to follow the hon. Gentleman into all the details of his proposal. It would increase the residential areas of boroughs ten-fold. It would increase the weight of the property franchise directly in boroughs— it would weaken the residential character of the constituency, and it would double many votes. The hon. Gentleman says that the persons he proposes to enfranchise are quite as much residents as those who sleep within the borough. I question that. The hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about the city with which he is connected; but all of us know something about this question. And every man who has a connection with a borough, but who lives in the country, does not pursue business in the borough. There are a large proportion of individuals who have a great deal of leisure, some of whom go twice, or, perhaps, only once a-week into the borough. These gentlemen cannot be regarded as residents, and the proposal would undoubtedly weaken the residential character of the franchise, which is the essential basis of our measure. Upon 851 that ground alone I am not prepared to extend the principle of double voting by new enactments introduced for that purpose, and I must object to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. It cannot be permitted that any man should be at liberty to split up his property into 50 fragments, and have a vote in respect of every one of them. When the hon. Gentleman says it is a question of justice, my answer is that it is not a question of justice at all. The question of justice is to allow a man who is a competent citizen to have a vote for a Representative in Parliament; but he is not to be allowed to multiply his property by pieces and fragments as much as he likes. Our system is liberal towards property as it stands. We do not propose to. interfere with the liberty which already exists; but we strongly object to this principle of multiplication.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman was so decidedly disinclined to entertain in any form the proposal of his hon. Friend, He thought the right hon. Gentleman could not have recognized the change which had taken place in the circumstances of the case in regard to the residential qualification for the enjoyment of the borough franchise. As far as the borough was concerned, it was the place where a man lived during the day, the place in which he carried on his business, where he exercised his influence, the place in which he was known, and was charged with all the duties of citizenship; but the effect of the present system was to disfranchise and exclude that man in the borough with which he was so thoroughly identified. They would have this curious anomaly, that under this Bill a man's servants—the people living in his offices and employed in his warehouses—would be enfranchised in the boroughs, while he himself would not have a vote for those boroughs. What was the practical value of the 25 miles sought to be attained by his hon. Friend as compared with the seven miles which had been the law of the land for many years? It was practically a really shorter distance in point of time from the borough than the seven miles were when the principle was first established. Nowadays a man who had business in a town and lived in the country passed to and fro—not once or twice a week, as the right hon. Gentleman supposed, but 852 every day. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] He was speaking from his own knowledge when he said that the great majority of traders in London, in Westminster, and in the large constituencies —the great majority of the most influential, and the most worthy, and the most respectable of those traders, had of necessity to pass from their offices in the evening to their homes at a much greater distance than seven miles in the country, returning the next day; and they did this, not twice a week, but, as a rule, five, and even six days a week. They were citizens to all intents and purposes. They slept in the county, but they were not identified with the county, and the county franchise to thorn was of comparatively small value. Their avocations wore such that they could not record their votes in the county. In most cases men of business came into London, Liverpool, and Manchester on the morning of the election, and they did not record their votes for the county in which they resided. The greater the respectability and the responsibility of the trader connected with London, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Bristol, and other large towns, the more certain he was to be disfranchised as far as his place of business was concerned, notwithstanding the fact that his interests and his influence were linked together with those of the place in which he transacted his business. It certainly was a great anomaly and even a grievance that persons placed in this position should be denied the privilege of the borough franchise.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he never questioned the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith); but he must express astonishment that the right hon. Gentleman should have manifested such earnestness, and refrained from proposing to extend the limit to 50 miles, in order that a large number of persons who lived in Brighton, and whose places of business were in London, might enjoy a Metropolitan vote. If the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Houldsworth) was to be entertained, he did not see why it should be limited to 25 miles. It ought to be 50 miles, so as to enable the persons to whom he referred to enjoy borough votes. The hon. Member said that he expected to receive the support of his Colleagues on that 853 side of the House. He had not the honour of being a Colleague of the hon. Gentleman, although he had a very sincere respect for him; but he was a next-door neighbour, and he would promise the hon. Member that he would not have his (Mr. Arnold's) support in reference to the clause he had submitted to the Committee. The Prime Minister, throughout the discussion of the Bill, had been absolutely consistent in declining to entertain any proposal for conferring a property vote. He (Mr. Arnold) entertained great objections to the further extension of that mode of voting; and, but for the desire not to occupy the time of the Committee unnecessarily, he should have desired to give expression to them. So far as this proposal went, he entertained the strongest objection to it, on the ground that it involved the extension of the property vote in the direction of nonresident voters in boroughs.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, he had listened to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in reply to the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Houldsworth) with some surprise. He quite agreed that the proposal to increase the boundaries of the boroughs to the extent of a 25 mile limit would have been highly objectionable; but the Motion of the hon. Member was nothing of the kind, and only referred to those who were occupiers, but resided outside, and it involved no extension of the area of the borough whatever. He differed entirely from the right hon. Gentleman in regarding the borough vote as a household vote. It was an occupation vote. It was introduced because it was thought desirable that the occupier in a borough should have a vote; and at the time it was introduced, with the exception of the City of London, seven miles would cover the practical limit within which people who carried on business in a town were able to live outside the area of the town. But in consequence of the alteration in the principles of locomotion, by which a number of people were able to go away by train into the country, that limit of seven miles was altogether altered, and the seven mile limit might be said to be done away with altogether. As had been pointed out, a large number of persons who transacted their business in London resided in Brighton; but there was no other town in England 854 where the same relations existed as between Brighton and London. It was not only the class who desired to seek pleasure, or the mere wealthy class, who now lived outside the large towns. He had the honour of representing, in his constituency, a far larger number of the middle and lower classes who were employed in London and occupied daily in business in London than of the wealthy classes. Most of the merchants of the City lived outside the limits of the Division of the county which he represented (East Surrey); but so far as the clerks were concerned, a very large number of them formed a portion of his constituency, and if anyone would stand upon London Bridge from half-past 6 o'clock in the morning until 10 he would see thousands upon thousands coming in by train, the whole of whom would be excluded from the franchise in reference to their occupation if there were not a 25 mile limit in regard to London. That being the law for London, he thought it was hard that the suggestion of his hon. Friend should be treated as it had been by the Prime Minister in regard to Manchester, Liverpool, and some other large towns of that description. The 25 mile limit might be too great, and the majority of the occupiers in the large towns might be included within a less limit; but he certainly thought that some alteration of the existing system ought to be made if they were to maintain the principle that every occupier in a borough was entitled to vote. As to these persons enjoying the county vote, it was not so. He would take the case of Brighton, where certainly a great number of people lived outside the town; but very few lived just outside, and it was not until they got to Burgess Hill, Hossacks, and two or three places of that kind that they found any of the residents of Brighton living outside. The persons included by the adoption of this proposal would not be very large, and certainly the seven mile limit was of very little value in these days. Probably if they took a limit of 10 miles they would include most of the persons who, as a general rule, transacted business within the area of a borough and lived outside. It was absurd to say that if they extended the limit they would increase the residential boundary of the borough to the enormous extent suggested by the Prime Minister.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he thought the proposition which had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Houldsworth) was a very important one. He had, however, some diffidence in offering any observations upon it, after the warning hon. Members had received from his hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins), who had deprecated further discussion at that stage of the Bill. But while he could not agree with that suggestion, he could guess what was in the mind of his hon. Friend. No doubt he thought it was useless to discuss in detail a Bill which practical people felt had no chance of ever forming a portion of the law of the land. The Prime Minister said the Amendment was most objectionable. Why? Because the right hon. Gentleman said it would simply enfranchise what he called the leisure class of persons. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say it would enfranchise those who attended a place of business once or twice a-week, and he considered that to be most objectionable. He would not pursue that point further than by asking the right hon. Gentleman if he did not consider that, upon sanitary grounds as well as upon the grounds of more justice, it was desirable to offer every inducement against the aggregation of large masses of persons within small areas, and to enfranchise persons who were virtually occupiers, but who resided beyond the limits of the borough. The right hon. Gentleman had not made any reference to the important precedent which had been quoted by his hon. Friend—namely, that Parliament had deliberately, with its eyes open, extended the provision, now suggested, to the City of London. He imagined that the right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that fact, or it would have been almost disingenuous not to have referred to it. An hon. Friend near him suggested that it must have been a point which had received the support of the right hon. Gentleman himself, seeing that it was passed with the unanimous approval of Parliament, including the right hon. Gentleman himself, who at that time—1867—took so prominent a part in the debates. His right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had reminded the Committee that the circumstances under 856 which the franchise was now exercised with regard to residence had very considerably changed in the boroughs. His right hon. Friend pointed out that the development of the railway system enabled persons now to live at a considerable distance from their place of business, and here it was that the sanitary considerations he had referred to came in. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was as anxious as the rest of them to diminish the evils of over-crowding in the large centres of population, and he ought to be disposed to assist to the utmost of his power in inducing persons as far as possible to extend the areas within which they resided. Then on this ground—what he might call the sanitary point of view—as well as the ground of expediency, it was most desirable not to place any obstacle in the way of the legitimate extension of the borough areas. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the fact that freemen would be included in any possible extension of the boundaries as suggested by his hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman had reminded them on more than one occasion, certainly on one within his (Mr. J. Lowther's) recollection, that he was determinedly hostile to the very existence of the freeman. Well, the right hon. Gentleman recalled to their recollection that the freemen were for the present exempted from the general disfranchisement to which he was subjecting the wealthier classes. He thought that was a matter of which they ought to take note. For his own part, he had no desire to endorse the principle in any sense, and he should, therefore, give a cordial support to the clause.
§ MR. WARTON
said, it would be in the recollection of the Committee that several Amendments which had been brought forward at the earlier stage of their proceedings had invariably been met with the same observation by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister—namely, "This is an Amendment which cannot be accepted." The proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Houldsworth) was undoubtedly a proposal of enfranchisement; and if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was sincere in desiring to enfranchise capable citizens he could not understand why he refused to accept the clause, because certainly the 857 citizens proposed to be enfranchised under it were as capable as any in the country. People who carried on business in towns, and were able to live in the country, appeared to be very obnoxious to the Prime Minister, who evidently wished to bring the country as fast as he could to a dead level of democracy. He could not forget the 4th section of the Bill, by which a large class of persons had already been disfranchised—namely, those who were in the position of rent-chargers and tenants in common. Probably under that clause something like 10,000 capable citizens would be disfranchised. He really thought that the object of the Prime Minister was to give the franchise to as many incapable citizens as possible, and to disqualify as many really capable citizens as he could. Certainly, it would be impossible to find any class of more capable citizens than those which the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester would enfranchise. And, again, it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman was not quite happy in his calculation with regard to area. But it was not a question of area at all, because they would not find that the class of persons in question were equally distributed. They must remember the facilities offered by the railway; a gentleman who lived 25 miles from town could get up and down quicker than he could a shorter distance in his own carriage. But it seemed to him that the Prime Minister had chosen to ignore the changed conditions of life in this respect.
§ MR. ECROYD
said, this was a question of great importance to large and populous cities, and he was much disappointed that the Government had not seen their way to accept in its integrity, or in part, the Amendment of his hon. Friend. He confessed his inability to follow the argument of the Prime Minister, who spoke of his hon. Friend's proposal as one to extend the property vote. It was not a question of property at all; it was a question of occupation voting only; and seeing that the Government made occupation, and not residence, the test of the capacity to vote for boroughs, he did not see that it was open to the Prime Minister to base his argument on the question of residential occupancy as opposed to occupancy alone. If it was 858 a question of residence, the Bill ought to have rested on other grounds. It must be familiar to every Member of the Committee that in consequence of the demand for space in large cities, it had happened in London, Liverpool, Manchester, and other great towns, that the population formerly resident there had been driven, not of their own will, to live outside the city or borough limits, and the effect of suburban railways had been to extend the operation of this influence far beyond the wealthy class and the heads of large businesses of whom the Prime Minister spoke. It was well known that in all great mercantile cities there was a considerable body of shopkeepers, clerks, warehousemen, and others, by no means in a position of financial ease, but either carrying on small businesses or possessing a very limited interest in the large concerns they served, who, for the health of their families, had been driven to live beyond the limit of seven miles; and, in his opinion, it was a great grievance that they should be excluded from the franchise in the boroughs in which their interests lay. He considered it a great mistake on the part of the Government to refuse this very moderate proposal; and he should certainly vote with his hon. Friend if he went to a Division.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he represented a constituency (Liverpool) largely concerned in the application of the principle contained in the clause. That was not the first time that the subject had been brought under their notice. For a long time past there had been a large number of citizens of every class who lived outside the town of Liverpool, to deprive whom of the vote for the borough would be to inflict a very great hardship. For his part, he entirely agreed with the argument of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Eoroyd) that, the main principle of the Bill being occupation, and not residential franchise, the clause should be accepted; and he could not help thinking that the Government took a very unfortunate view of the question. They seemed to look at every Amendment as affecting the rights of property; as if every proposal that came from that side of the House must necessarily lead in that direction; whereas the effect of their not accepting the Amendment would be, that a great number of clerks and others 859 employed in City business would be disfranchised. He was obliged to his hon. Friend for having brought this question forward, and that, too, in a way which ought to commend itself to the Committee. Therefore, in the interest of a large body of men, who, as the Bill stood, would be disfranchised, he should vote for the clause.
§ MR. HOULDSWORTH
said, in view of the support which had been accorded to the clause, he should be compelled to ask the Committee to divide on the Motion for its second reading. The two main misrepresentations of the clause which had been laid before the Committee had been made by the Prime Minister, who said that it was in the interest of property. But it had no connection with property; it was a proposal to enfranchise, or, rather, not to disqualify, persons who were exercising the functions of householders—capable citizens, who, as the Bill stood, were disqualified. The other argument against the clause certainly did not coincide with his experience. He believed the Prime Minister was thinking of the Metropolis when he spoke of the labouring population; and he seemed to have forgotten that the Metropolis was specially privileged. But, as far as he knew the boroughs in question, and he was acquainted with every one of them, he believed that the number of the labouring class who would be disfranchised would be insignificant. The class for whom he claimed qualification wore in every way entitled to the consideration of the Committee, and he found that in Manchester they contributed 60 per cont of the rates. He had always understood that representation and taxation went together; and on that ground he asked the Committee to divide on his proposal.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 137: Majority 99.—(Div. List, No. 125.)
§ DR. COMMINS
said, the clause standing on the Paper in his name was one which he trusted the Government would see their way to accept, for it proposed nothing more than to carry out the principle of the Bill. There was a clause in the Act of 1832 which disfranchised everyone who received parochial relief, and which, at the time the Act was passed, was not an improper clause, be- 860 cause the number of persons who came within its purview was small as compared with what it was now. The laws of public health, which rendered hospitals of great importance, were imperfectly understood, and very few persons had recourse to them except paupers. Very few persons also had then recourse to dispensaries for relief. Since that time, however, an immense impulse had been given to the establishment of institutions in which relief was not only given, but pressed upon the people; and unless some provision were introduced into the Bill to prevent the clause of the Act of 1832 having effect, there would be a very large disfranchisement of persons otherwise entitled to vote. Again, under the Public Health Act of 1875 a large number of persons were obliged to have recourse to public hospitals whether they would or not, and those persons were simply pauperized for the benefit of the community at large. In a section of the Act of 1875, a magistrate might remove any person sick of a contagious disease to a public hospital under certain conditions; and that had been done in London, Manchester, Liverpool, and elsewhere. Whenever there was anything like epidemic disease, as there was at the present time in London and Liverpool, large numbers of people were sent to the parish hospitals by the magistrates' orders. There were 200 or 300 small-pox cases in the Liverpool hospitals at the present time; what the number was in London he knew not, but it must be very considerable. The object of the clause he was about to ask the Committee to read a second time was to prevent the clause of the Act of 1832 operating under conditions which were never contemplated when the Act was passed. They were all proud of the development of sanitary science; but the application of sanitary science and the gratuitous distribution of medical aid to those who stood in need of it under the circumstances he had described ought not, in his opinion, to carry with it disfranchisement. It was no longer ago than last Sunday that a collection of money was made in all the churches throughout the country which was distributed amongst the hospitals; and it would appear, from a statement published, that no less than 75,000 persons received medical relief within the non-endowed hospitals in London, 861 and that there were 900,000 persons who received outdoor relief. Now, according to the provision of the Act of 1832, every one of those persons would be disfranchised; and not only was a man disfranchised who himself received medical relief, but he was disfranchised if that relief were obtained for his wife or child. Again, in addition to this form of hospital relief, there was a very large system of parochial relief which was in operation in London, Liverpool, and the large towns. The parish authorities paid the doctors to attend at certain centres, and anyone applying there could get a bottle of medicine for 3d. This was not looked upon as alms, but the doctor who gave the 3d. worth of medicine was paid by the parish for his services, and by the law of 1832 every one of the recipients would be disfranchised; they had to go to the relieving officer who made out the relief tickets, and they were disfranchised ipso facto. That would apply to all who went to the hospitals subscribed to last Sunday, and, under the circumstances, would constitute a very great cruelty. Again, in all large towns, as was well known, there were large bodies of men, who sought employment in docks, manufactories, and similar places, constantly exposed to accident, and there was no place where their cases could be so properly attended to as the ward of a hospital. The consequence was they were sent to the nearest hospital, and it was quite right they should be, because, if they were not sent there, the injured persons would most probably die. Yet every one of these people would be disfranchised unless the clause which he proposed was introduced into the Bill. He said it would be a cruel state of things that a great army of operatives, who were liable at any moment to accident in our dockyards and factories, and who went to a public hospital for relief when an accident occurred to them, should be disfranchised; and, in his opinion, the persons so situated would have great reason to complain of the hardship. There were always a number of persons belonging to an unwholesome and mischievous class who went about seeking grounds on which they might disfranchise their neighbours, and these would make the fact of a man having received 3d. worth of medicine at a public dispensary either for himself, 862 his wife, or his child, a reason for objecting to him at the annual revision of the list of voters. The dissatisfaction which would result would, therefore, be another mischievous consequence of allowing the Act of 1832 to remain unaltered in the sense indicated by his clause. He knew it for a fact that in Liverpool, for instance, hundreds and thousands of men had been disfranchised in consequence of busybodies going about and discovering that voters had themselves been treated at public hospitals, or that their wives or children had received medical aid. Something ought to be done to check this mischievous and unwholesome activity, and to put a stop to this system of disfranchising men. There was just one reason more why the clause he proposed should be accepted by Her Majesty's Government. Under the Public Health Act of 1875, power was given to magistrates, upon a doctor's certificate, to send to hospital anybody who was suffering from an infectious disease. In every case the compulsory removal was for the benefit, not so much of the individual removed, but of the inhabitants of the court or alley in which the outbreak of disease occurred. Public officers could be sent to disinfect the house in which the disease had broken out, and this alone would be sufficient to cause the disfranchisement of the occupier of the dwelling. He asked the Government whether, in the interest of the public health, seeing that the Public Health Act imposed on people the necessity of accepting public treatment, it was not reasonable to prevent the disfranchisement of people who, through no fault of their own, were obliged to receive treatment at a public dispensary? He begged to move the clause which stood in his name.
New Clause (Medical aid not to disqualify voter,)—(Dr. Commins,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."—(Dr. Commins.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member had made his statement very clearly, and put his case very well before the Committee. He agreed with some portion of the hon. Member's remarks; but, at the same time, he was unable, on behalf of the Government, to 863 accept this clause, and he hoped the Committee would refuse to read it a second time. The hon. Member had almost confined his argument to the case of hospitals; and with regard to the town of Liverpool, he had, no doubt, made out a strong case in favour of the acceptance of his clause. But the clause was a very wide one; it covered every form of medical relief, and would prevent disfranchisement from medical relief of any kind. By so doing, he believed they would take away the greatest of all inducements which existed in this country to lead people to join Friendly and Provident Societies. Having said thus much against the clause, he could assure the hon. Member that he should be disposed, on behalf of the Government, to support it if he were to propose a Bill separately for removing- some of the existing disabilities in reference to certain kinds of medical relief. Some action had been taken in this direction in the past. In the winter of 1878–9 a Bill was brought in by the present Member for Carnarvonshire, then Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), intituled "A Bill to remove disqualification by medical relief for infectious or contagions diseases." That measure, which, passed the third reading in the House of Commons, proposed that no person should be deemed to be disqualified to be registered as a voter, or to vote at any election of a Member, or Members, to serve in Parliament for any county or borough by reason only that he, or any member of his family, or any person whom he was liable to maintain, had received medical treatment or relief for any infectious or contagious disease as an in-patient or out-patient of any hospital, infirmary, or dispensary established or maintained by any sanitary authority or Poor Law authority, or at which he had been so treated or relieved by the order or with the sanction of any such authority, or the medical officer thereof. The Bill was greatly altered in the House of Lords, and it was limited to cases where patients afterwards repaid the cost of their maintenance in hospitals. The promoters of the measure did not think that in that limited form it would meet the object in view; they refused to accept the Lords' Amendments, and the Bill fell to the ground. He thought the provisions of that Bill would meet the object the hon. Member 864 had in view; and if he thought proper to introduce a similar measure, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would be very glad, on behalf of the Government, to support it. There was a recognition of the principle, as far as infectious diseases was concerned, in the Municipal Corporations Act of 1882. Section 33 of that statute provided that—A person shall not be disentitled to be enrolled as burgess by reason only that he has received medical or surgical assistance from the trustees of the municipal charities, or has been removed by order of a justice, to a hospital or place for reception of the sick at the cost of any local authority.That dealt with the cases of compulsory removal for infectious diseases. To show that the Government agreed with the principle, he might point out that on the Diseases Prevention (Metropolis) Act, which was passed last year in view of a possible cholera epidemic, a clause of that kind was inserted and passed by Parliament. Clause 7 of that Act provided—That the admission of a person suffering from an infectious disease into any hospital or hospital ship provided by the managers, or the maintenance of any such person therein, should not be considered to be parochial relief, alms, or charitable allowance to any person, or to the parent of any person, and no such person or his parent should by reason thereof be deprived of any right or privilege, or be subject to any disability or disqualification.He might point out to the hon. Member that if he intended to deal with this subject in any future Bill from a medical or public protection point of view, there was one other matter which was not included in the present clause, and which might very well be included—he referred to the case of lunatics. If a man had a lunatic child admitted into an asylum, was the father made a pauper, and, therefore, disfranchised? The matter was doubtful; but the late Lord Chief Justice Cockburn seemed to say that a man would be disfranchised in such a case. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke), on behalf of the Government, would not object to an exemption being made in such a case. As the clause now stood, however, he could not consent to its insertion in this Bill.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that this clause would very detrimentally affect Friendly and Provident Societies. If 865 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford North-cote) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had been in the House, he felt sure they, as Members of the Friendly Societies' Commission, would have testified to the great importance of upholding the principle of self-reliance amongst the people. As he (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) worked as an Assistant Commissioner under those Gentlemen, he noticed in a most marked manner the evil influences of the Poor Law upon the poorer people. In the more rural districts of Leicestershire and Derbyshire it was seen that the Poor Law stepped in to help people who really ought to have helped themselves. Friendly Societies ought to be encouraged; but he felt that if the Committee adopted the clause of the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Commins), a great blow would be struck at such Societies.
§ MR. PELL
said, he hoped the hon. Member (Dr. Commins) would accept the suggestions which had been made to him by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. They were very moderate suggestions, and they led him to hope that at some future time he would be able to give effect to his desire, at all events as regarded those persons who, in consequence of some infectious disease, had to be removed out of the position in which they would have remained had they not been attacked by such disease. With reference to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham (Mr. Lyulph Stanley), he might state that the Friendly Societies in the Principality of Wales had made remonstrances, ineffectually, he was sorry to say, against the lavish way in which the Boards of Guardians of several of the Welsh Unions administered outdoor relief, especially in the medical department. The extension of Friendly Societies in Wales was seriously interrupted by this weak and injudicious action of the Boards of Guardians. He felt that one of the first steps many a poor man took in the direction of pauperism was the acceptance of medical relief of some insignificant nature. The Statutes were in accordance with the feelings of the people; and though he divided the House upon the third reading of the Bill of 1878, he felt that 866 a strong case had been made out for certain exceptions to be made to the present law. The hon. Gentleman (Dr. Commins) had gone a long way towards securing the acceptance of the principle he advocated; but he (Mr. Pell) did not think he would improve his case if he were to divide the Committee upon his clause.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, his object had been to call attention to what he believed was a matter requiring a remedy. He had no doubt, particularly after the very handsome offer made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, that he would achieve his object without dividing the Committee on the present occasion. There were many cases in which it was necessary to protect people from being pauperized. In the case of explosions in mines, accidents on the railway, on board ship, in warehouses, and the like, it was often imperative to take the injured person to the nearest hospital; and he submitted that such a person was quite as much entitled to immunity from being pauperized as those who were compelled to accept relief under the provisions of the Public Health Act. He would not repeat what he had said; but he should be very glad to co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in aiding the passing of any Bill which might be brought in to carry out the object he had in view. He would ask leave to withdraw his clause.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
suggested that the hon. Member should allow the clause to be negatived, lest it might be re-introduced.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. WARTON
, in moving the following new Clause: —(Contract requisite for service franchise.)No man shall be entitled to vote by virtue of any office, service, or employment, under the third section of this Act, unless at the time of his entering into such office, service, or employment, a contract was entered into and made between him and his master or employer, to the effect that he was to have the use and occupation of such house by way of payment or part payment for his services,said, that it was in perfect sympathy with the Bill. However much an hon. Member might disapprove of a Bill, there was always the possibility of its passing, and therefore it was his duty 867 to endeavour to amend it. With this view he had put this clause upon the Paper, and it seemed to him that the Prime Minister would be able to see his way to accept it. He proposed it with no Party motive, but simply to prevent any mistake being made as to the real meaning of the new service franchise, and to guard against all possibilities of fraud. He thought it was very important that, in introducing a new franchise of this sort, it should be clearly understood that there was a certain time when the franchise should be created. Now that the Act could not come into force before the 1st of January, 1885, and no registration could possibly be held in respect of this Bill until the autumn of 1885, there was plenty of time for masters or employers to consider whether or not they intended their servants to have the franchise. In his opinion, it ought to be clearly understood that before a man could become possessed of the service franchise he should have entered into some contract or agreement with his master or employer. He did not mean to say that the contract or agreement ought necessarily to be in writing, but he was of opinion that the 3rd section of the Act would have a very mischievous effect unless both parties know what their duty was. It was well there should be no uncertainty as to whether a man could become possessed of the service franchise or not, and, indeed, it would be positively wrong to let people come into possession of this new franchise without they understood their exact positions. He thought the Committee would come to the conclusion that his clause would prevent fraud under the Service Clause of the Act, and he therefore submitted it with confidence to the consideration of the Committee.
New Clause (Contract requisite for service franchise,) — (Mr. Warton,)— brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
said, he did not question the good faith in which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridport proposed this clause. He had, however, given the best consideration in his power to it, and he found himself unable to agree altogether 868 with the hon. and learned Gentleman. He submitted, in the first place, that with regard to the service franchise, the facts would be of such a patent character as to the employment and the residence of the persons that there was no risk at all of their being misrepresented or misunderstood. A man who applied for a franchise in this case differed from most of those who would apply for a franchise, insomuch as there was one other person at least interested in the matter. He had felt it his duty sometimes to oppose Motions made for additions to this Bill in what he might call the Liberal sense. At the present moment he considered himself acting in quite a different interest, for according to his belief—he did not disguise it and he had never disguised it—this Service Clause was a clause which would go to strengthen the Conservative interest in the country. Let him take a considerable class of persons, a very proper, competent, and I capable class of voters under this Bill, I who would come in by means of the service franchise, but who would be liable, not to coercion or intimidation, but friendly influence—legitimate influence—which, he held, would tell very much in favour of the Conservatives. Coachmen living in the houses attached to the stables, gardeners, and gamekeepers—three important classes of persons existing to the extent of many thousands, and quite capable of voting—would come in as a rule under the Service Clause, and no other clause. As far as his experience went, it was totally contrary to the custom of the country to make any contract with these people. It might be held, perhaps, that written contracts would be wise; but still the whole thing was so generally worked upon the principle of confidence—upon simple verbal contracts—that he did not think the Committee ought to force people to adopt the practice of written contracts. It might, perhaps, be well to recollect what was the consequence of the provision in the Irish Land Act of I860 requiring written contracts. The consequence of that provision was that the Act was an absolute failure, and that not a single person got the benefit of the Act. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would, after what he had stated, agree with him that, on the whole, there was no real danger to be apprehended in this case.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he thought there were some parts of the country where questions had been frequently raised in the Revision Courts as to whether contracts of service were such as gave a residential qualification apart from the service. He could not help thinking that the clause, as it stood in the Bill, was open, to some extent, to the objections that had been advanced against the present law, and that the time of Revising Barristers would be frequently occupied with a class of questions relating to the qualification of persons claiming under this clause. If his hon. Friend went into the Lobby, he should go with him.
§ MR. WARTON
reminded the Committee that some time ago they had got into considerable trouble, which was not yet disposed of, as to what was the meaning of "dwelling-house." It was possible that this Bill might not extend to more than two persons; but there might be a question as to several persons being qualified, and he wished to draw a distinction between different persons dwelling in the same house.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. WARTON
said, the next clause he wished to move had been stigmatized a "fancy franchise;" but it seemed to him that a man who held £100 of Government Stock, or other Stock, was a respectable and capable person who was entitled to the franchise. If the Government were sincere in their desire to enfranchise all capable citizens, he could no see how they could object to his proposition. The possession of the franchise through the possession of money would show that these persons were as fit as other persons to exercise the franchise under this Bill. In order to give permanence to the qualification, he had provided that the voter must show that he possessed the Stock at the time of registration and at the time of voting.
New Clause (Money franchises,)—(Mr. Warton,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he could not assent to the clause, objections to which were very apparent. In the first place, 870 it had already been decided that rent-chargers should not have the franchise on that account, although their income was, in a sense, derived from real property; and, in the next place, if a man possessed £1,000 of Stock, and he had 10 sons, he would be able under this clause to divide that £1,000 among the 10 sons before an election, and so create 10 votes, even though when the election was over he took the money back. This would greatly facilitate the making of fagot votes; and, further, if the vote were refused to holders of Railway Stock, and yet given to these owners of personal property, a very objectionable anomaly would be created. For these, as well as other reasons, the Government could not accept the clause.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
pointed out that, under this clause, residence would be required, and he should support it, feeling that the possession of personal property ought not to be altogether disregarded in conferring the franchise.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he should be willing to make the possession of Railway Stock a franchise qualification, and he held it to be right to enfranchise those who owned property obtained by industry and frugality. There was an increasing amount of personal property as compared with real property, and on that ground he urged the adoption of this proposition.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
agreed in the view that the Committee ought to have regard to personal property as well as to freehold property; but he did not think there had been any evidence to show that injustice had been done, for, as a rule, those who owned £100 of Stock would be already on the Register as householders or lodgers. On the whole, he thought the hon. and learned Member might be content with having raised the question, and would not press the clause.
§ MR. WARTON
said, there might be a case in which a family of grown-up young men lived in the same house with their father, but had acquired this amount of Stock from their own earnings, although they were not on the Register as lodgers or householders. He would withdraw the clause.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he wished to move the next clause standing on the 871 Paper in his name, relating to soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant seamen.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HNNRY JAMES)
said, he wished to take the opinion of the Chairman as to whether this clause was a matter that could be dealt with on a Franchise Bill. His hon. and learned Friend would, he thought, agree with him that the effect of the clause would be, not to give any qualification, but to provide that if a soldier or sailor was ordered abroad, instead of appearing personally and recording his vote, as compelled to do under the Ballot Act, he should leave his voting paper with the Returning Officer to be used by that person on the day of the election. He (the Attorney General) would not wish to shut out the hon. and learned Member from any legitimate right; but he submitted that this Amendment did not deal with a mode of voting with which this Bill had anything whatever to do, affecting, as it did, merely enfranchisement. As a matter of fact, the clause was only an alteration in the mode of voting in favour of one person as against others. It seemed to him, further, that the clause was put out of court by the rejection of the clause proposed by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) on the previous Friday.
§ MR. WARTON
wished to say a word upon the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. His impression was that the Bill was for the purpose of enfranchising, and here were persons who, from the accidents of their profession, were sometimes unable to vote when they ought to do so. It was not a question as to the mode of voting, but the Amendment was merely to prevent the disfranchisement of soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant seamen. These men were bound to leave home at the call of duty, and he did not think that by so doing they should forfeit their right to vote. The question was one of avoiding disfranchisement.
The view expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General also struck me, and induced me to consider this point. I think, if the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at it carefully, he will observe that the clause of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) is quite of a different character 872 to that proposed by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), which was as follows:—(Votes of officers and men in the Navy and Army.)Every officer and man enrolled in Her Majesty's Navy or Army who shall he registered as a voter in any constituency of the United Kingdom shall, when stationed or engaged on Her Majesty's service more than twenty miles away from the constituency in which he shall he so registered, but in some part of the United Kingdom, be entitled to give his vote for such, constituency at the place at which he shall be so engaged or stationed, under such, conditions and in such manner as may be prescribed by Her Majesty in Council.That clause was in Order; and as Her Majesty in Council might prescribe some form of voting similar to that proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport, I cannot rule the hon. and learned Member's Amendment out of Order.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was glad he had got over that difficulty; and perhaps now, having done so, it might not be altogether too much to expect that he might bring the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General to agree to his proposal. Soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant seamen were very deserving and respectable men—he used the word "respectable" because he thought a man who was a "capable citizen" was worthy of great respect. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had agreed with the noble Lord the Member for North Northumberland (Earl Percy) as to the necessities of the case; and it was very curious, therefore, that he should now have turned round, as against those whose enfranchisement he had been in favour of, and try to exclude them from the franchise. When Amendments for the extension of the franchise came from the other side of the House they were accepted, or, at any rate, favourably considered; but when proposals came from the Oppposition Benches they were at once rejected. He would urge hon. Gentlemen calling themselves Liberals to exercise an independent judgment upon this matter, Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite must remember that they would have to face their constituents, and perhaps sooner than they thought likely. When they did so, and when they were asked what position they had taken up in this matter, they would have to say 873 that instead of maintaining the principle that those who ought to have a vote should be able to exercise it, they had opposed the extension of the franchise to soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant seamen who were ordered away on service. If he understood the spirit of the Bill, it was to enfranchise; and he should think that those who were in the honourable discharge of duties, particularly when that duty was the defence of their country, were certainly entitled to their share of the franchise. These persons were treated by the Government as men who were not to have a vote. Who knew that, if this Amendment were not accepted, the Government would not, when the occasion offered, perpetrate some piece of sharp practice by sending away on some foreign service large numbers of men whom they had reason to believe were dissatisfied with the administration of the Service to which they belonged, and were likely to vote in favour of the opponents of the Party in power? It was difficult for the soldier or sailor to get a qualification at all; but when they had obtained it, and when the moment came when they were about to exercise the franchise, if they were obliged to go away from home for the short time during which an election occurred, it would be a very hard thing. He would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister really wished, in their hearts and consciences, to deprive these people of the power of voting? As for the paltry question of machinery to which the Attorney General, in his few observations just now, seemed to give prominence, that was altogether beside the mark. If the hon. and learned Gentleman could devise a better machinery than that proposed in the clause, he (Mr. Warton) should be very glad to adopt it. He himself had not been able to think of a better; but if such were brought before him, he should be very glad to accept it. It seemed to him that the Returning Officer, who was, as a rule, very respectable, was a person eminently fitted to discharge a trust such as that he would confer upon him. They must, in this world, depend upon the honour of many persons under many circumstances, and surely a Returning Officer, who was at present entrusted with onerous duties, would be a fit person to hold these 874 voting papers. The position the Government took up upon this question showed the sincerity of their professions with regard to the enfranchisement of "capable citizens." He begged to propose the clause standing in his name.
New Clause (Votes of soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant seamen,)—(Mr. Warton,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, it would be quite impossible to accept this clause. It would only assist a very few persons to the exercise of the franchise. It would not assist those men ordered away before the issue of the Writ, but only those ordered away from the place in which they were qualified to vote to another station after the issue of the Writ. It would only, therefore, assist those men ordered away within a period of three days in the case of boroughs—as that was the time which elapsed between the issue of the Writ and the election—and in the counties some seven or eight days. The Government were opposed to it as a matter of principle. Why should they give this advantage to the soldier and sailor, or anyone else, away on duty? If they gave this privilege to the soldier and sailor, why not extend it to others? The commercial traveller was frequently away from home, and, no doubt, was often away from the district in which he was qualified to vote during an election. Builders' assistants, again, and many artizans, were frequently away in the employ of their masters at election time. Furthermore, persons who were ill, and were not able to go to the poll, could not exercise their vote, for it was not said that the Returning Officer should go to them. In all the eloquence of the hon. and learned Member, delivered as it was, by the way, in a low voice, so far as he (the Attorney General) could gather it, the argument seemed to be that accident might prevent these people from coming to the poll; but accidents might prevent a great many people from coming to the poll. The whole effect of the clause would be to alter the Ballot Act and do away with the secrecy of election, as it would enable a man to put his vote in the hands of another person, or to vote 875 with the knowledge of that person. That being so, the Government felt it necessary to oppose the clause.
SIR HENRY FLETCHER
said, that, speaking as an old soldier, he should like to point out to the Attorney General that there was a great difference between the circumstances of the soldier or sailor and the carpenter, joiner, or artizan whom the hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to. The soldier or sailor was ordered off on public service, and could not get permission to remain in his district in which he was qualified to vote, whereas in all probability the carpenter, joiner, or artizan might obtain the consent of his employer to come home and vote. Then, again, whereas the ordinary workman would in most cases only be sent away a few miles, the soldier or sailor might be ordered away to India, or some part of the Colonies, whence it would be impossible for him to return. With all due respect, therefore, to the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General), he wished to point out there was a great difference between the several classes referred to. He (Sir Henry Fletcher) had taken no part in this discussion hitherto, although it had been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for North Northumberland (Earl Percy) to enfranchise any man serving in Her Majesty's Sea or Land Forces and occupying separate quarters. There was a distinction to be drawn between the cottager or day labourer and the coachman, because the officer of a regiment had a greater right to go into the married soldier's quarters than a master of a labourer or coachman had to go into his house.
The hon. and gallant Baronet is not in Order in going into that question. He can only discuss the clause before the Committee.
SIR HENRY FLETCHER
said, he, of course, bowed to the decision of the Chairman; but he did hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, upon this question now before them, would take into consideration the differences of the soldier and sailor and the ordinary artizan.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General did not appear to perceive the meaning of the clause, but seemed to confound the time of the issue of the Writ with the nomination. If he (Mr. Tomlinson) 876 was right, he believed that six days elapsed between the issue of the Writ and the nomination day.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, the nomination day took place the day after the issue of the Writ, and the polling two days after that in boroughs. He had stated three days in order to be safe; but it might not be more than two.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he believed six days might elapse between the nomination day and the polling day. Even if the Government could not see their way to accepting this clause, they ought not to dismiss it without some expression of sympathy for the soldiers and sailors who, through being ordered on foreign service, might be unable to exercise the privilege of voting.
§ Clause negatived.
§ LORD ALGERNON PERCY
said, he wished to move the clause standing in his name, the object of which was to extend the franchise to every man, not otherwise qualified, who should pay the Income Tax. The object he had in moving the clause was to enfranchise a very numerous class of persons who, while possessing a large stake in the country—a far larger stake than those whom the Bill would enfranchise—would yet, as the Bill stood, be excluded from the suffrage. There were many men, clerks and others, resident in London, who only occupied their lodgings for short periods, who went into the country for part of the year and travelled up daily to perform their work, and who, therefore, did not oven obtain the lodger qualification. There were also many people who preferred to live in hotels, and to move about from place to place, and who, of course, had a greater stake in the country—having a sufficient income to pay Income Tax—than the majority of lodgers. Moreover, it was not impossible that this class would considerably increase. In America, for instance, a large portion of the well-to-do people had now taken to living in hotels much more than they formerly did. These people, it must be remembered, paid a much higher rent—probably treble the amount—than the ordinary lodger paid, and that they also possessed intellectual power, and were better educated than the majority of lodgers. The clause he proposed would cover officers in the 877 Army who did not reside in separate quarters, and it would remove the disability under which they laboured in consequence of their being marched from one place to another, and, therefore, not having a sufficient residence to qualify them for the lodger franchise. Then, he thought, the clause was sound in principle, because it made representation and taxation go together, whereas there were many who were enfranchised under this Bill—notably those under the service franchise—who paid no taxes whatever. The Attorney General, a short time ago, in the discussion of a previous clause, had drawn the distinction between real and personal property, and said it was necessary to retain the present provision that real property was really to give a qualification for a vote; but he (Lord Algernon Percy) would point out that the occupier of a mud-cabin in Ireland, and the lodgers who would be enfranchised under this Bill, could not be said really to possess real property. This clause might be objected to on the ground that it would create a sort of floating constituency; but that objection might also be taken to the lodger franchise, particularly if it were proposed, as it was suggested a short time ago, to reduce the period of occupancy. Under the clause he was now moving, payers of Income Tax, if not otherwise qualified, would, on production of a certificate that they had paid Income Tax, be allowed to vote; and he did not think there would be any difficulty as to registration, because they would vote either in the district in which they paid the tax, or in that in which they resided. This was necessary, because in the case of Railway Stock the tax would be taken from the sum the taxpayer received, and, therefore, he would vote where he was residing. He (Lord Algernon Percy) hoped the Government would accept the clause, or some other Amendment having a similar object, because he thought it was a proposal in the spirit of the Bill. The Government and the Liberal Party had taken great praise to themselves as to this Bill, from the simple fact that it enfranchised 2,000,000 of people; but if they did not accept some proposal of this description, they would find themselves in this position, that whereas occupiers of mud-cabins in Ireland, and the criminal classes whom the Government were so anxious to in- 878 clude— [Sir ASSHETON CROSS: Hear, hear!]—would under the Bill enjoy the franchise, a large class of respectable, intelligent, highly educated, and, to use the Prime Minister's words, "highly capable citizens," would be excluded from any voice in the government of the country. He begged to move the clause standing in his name.
New Clause (Income Tax payer to have the franchise,)—(Lord Algernon Percy,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had cheered the remark that the Government desired to have the criminal classes on the Register of Voters; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in the Reform Act of 1867 the Conservative Government took exactly the same course as that adopted by the present Government. They put the criminal classes on the Register, and the right hon. Gentleman neither cheered, nor raised his voice against it. He (the Attorney General) was afraid to be too brief in his reply, otherwise the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) would accuse him of having treated the Committee with disrespect in not following his example and making long speeches; but the Government had already stated their objection to the principle contained in the clause. The reason for giving a vote to those who were householders was because that class were usually the heads of households, and bore the responsibility of heads of families; whereas if they gave the franchise to every person who might pay a few shillings of Income Tax—for no particular amount was specified in the clause, and they must assume that that Income Tax might be varied from time to time by the action of Parliament—they would have persons entitled to vote who might not have been a week in any particular place, and might not be at all identified with the interests of the locality in which they voted. There was no qualification in the clause as to the length of residence. Payment of the tax for one year would suffice to 879 qualify a man, and he would have a right to vote if he had lived less than a week in one particular place. The Government had considered the right of property in regard to the franchise to the extent which the Prime Minister had mentioned that evening; and to give the vote to that very light description of property was not a course to which the Government could assent.
§ MR. WARTON
said, no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer was anxious to increase the Revenue by every legitimate means, and he would put it to him, therefore, whether this would not be a valuable clause, inasmuch as it would induce persons who now escaped payment of the Income Tax to declare their liability in order to obtain the franchise? He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would carefully examine the proposal, and that he would give a very different answer to that which they had received from the Attorney General. The right hon. Gentleman could not be bound by what had been stated by the Attorney General in his absence; he was at liberty to take his own view of this matter. It had always seemed too great an anomaly to him (Mr. Warton) that working men who received good wages should not pay Income Tax. This would be the means of inducing them to do so, and he could not see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer could refuse his support to the proposal. Many working men would gladly pay Income Tax, if by so doing they made themselves "capable citizens." If there was any principle which had ever been put before them with great force, and repeated again and again on both sides of the House, it was the principle that taxation and representation should go together. That was the principle that they all in their sober moments asserted; but when they came to consider the matter as a Party question, they either asserted the principle or denied it as their interests at the moment dictated. They remembered that the United States had broken away from this country for the reason that taxation was not associated with representation. The principle was a most sound one, and should be recognized by the House of Commons, that he submitted—that the man who voluntarily taxed himself was the man above all others who should have the right to vote.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GUILDERS)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had addressed a special appeal to him (Mr. Childers), requesting him to look at the clause, and to give his support to the principle contained in it. So far as he understood the clause, anyone, not otherwise qualified, who paid Income Tax, would ipso facto be entitled to a vote, for the clause said—Every man, not otherwise qualified, but paying Income Tax, shall by such payment be qualified to vote in the polling district in which such Income Tax is paid, or in which he is residing, as the case may be.He must say that there could be no better contrivance than this for the manufacture of fictitious votes. If he were anxious to secure a constituency, and did not care what means he adopted to secure his end—that was to say, if his sense of honesty would allow him to resort to bribery—he should take care that 200 or 300 persons should pay a small amount of Income Tax, who otherwise would not do so, so that they might ipso facto have the power of voting. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) had tempted him by his proposal to add to the Revenue, but it was one he did not feel at all willing to accept.
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
said, he hoped the Government would give a little more consideration to this proposal, believing, as he did, that it was one of great weight. It deserved the very fullest consideration. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General based his remarks just now upon the statement that in 1867 the Government of the day did not propose to disfranchise criminals; but he would point out that the House of Commons was older to-day than it was then. No doubt, they had benefited by experience, and the question of enfranchising or not enfranchising criminals was one which deserved full consideration at the hands of the Committee and of the Government. For this reason, he should in all probability, at a later stage of the Bill, bring the question of the enfranchisement of criminals before the notice of the House again, and he trusted that by that time the House would have became so thoroughly educated on the question as to be able to come to a right decision, and not to the determination at which they arrived 881 the last time they discussed the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had said that the whole principle that underlay the giving of a vote under this Bill was the enfranchisement of the householder—of giving the vote to a man occupying a house, and being as it were the head of a family. Well, if that were the reason the Government had extended the borough franchise to the counties, well and good; but that was no reason why they should have extended the lodger franchise to the counties also, because a lodger did not occupy the whole of a house, and was not, as a rule, the head of a family. In most cases the lodger lived in one room. It seemed to him (Viscount Folkestone), therefore, that the clause now moved by his noble Friend was one which, with the example of the lodger franchise before them, deserved a certain amount of discussion, and he trusted that it would be considered therefore by the Committee. It appeared to him there were other classes of persons who would be enfranchised by this proposal of his noble Friend besides those who had been referred to. Tutors, for in stance, would not be enfranchised by this Bill—tutors who lived in houses occupied and owned by their employers. People who occupied this position must necessarily be of great attainments and thoroughly educated, and they certainly would be much more capable citizens, and much more capable of exercising the franchise, than the majority of those it was now proposed to include by the Government. Besides tutors there were many other persons, well educated and thoroughly capable of exercising the franchise in the right and proper way, who would not get it unless such a clause as this were passed. There were curates, for instance. A great many of these gentlemen resided in the houses of their rectors or their vicars, such residences being bestowed upon them in part payment of their service. These gentlemen, capable as they were, and well educated as it was necessary for them to be, were all debarred from exercising the franchise by the provisions of this Bill. If they got the franchise under this clause, he did not think there could be any doubt as to their exercising it with as much intelligence as the occupiers of the mud-cabins in Ireland, to whom reference had been made by his noble Friend. 882 There were many places where several curates were employed in one district, and they were in the habit of occupying what were called clergy houses. He did not understand that these gentlemen would be enfranchised by the Bill, and hon. Members, if they would refer to the part of the Bill to which he was alluding, would find that that was so. The Committee, he thought, would agree with him that these curates, and gentlemen in their position who might not come under the lodger franchise, would be much more capable of exercising the vote than, as he had already stated, a great many who were to be enfranchised by this measure. At any rate, the matter was one which should have full discussion, and should not be dismissed by the mere observation that the Bill was for the purpose of conferring an occupation franchise, and that it did not contemplate a property qualification. He had much pleasure in supporting the clause of his noble Friend.
§ MR. GREGORY
could not but think that it was a fair proposition, that the payment of Income Tax should qualify a man to exercise the franchise, where it arose from and represented in that case the possession of property. The payment of Income Tax was a real qualification, as it was an indication of realized property; and he, for, one could not see why a man possessing such a substantial stake in the country as property upon which Income Tax was paid to the State should not be allowed a voice in the management of the affairs of the country. No doubt, care should be taken that the payment of Income Tax to qualify for a vote was a boná fide payment, incident to the possession of realized property. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had suggested that the clause would lead to the manufacture of fictitious votes—that was to say, to the paying of the Income Tax in order to give men a qualification; but precautions could be easily taken against a fraud of that kind. For this reason, he rather preferred the clause standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson), which said—Every man who has resided within a county or borough for a period of twelve months, but has not by reason of such residence a qualification to he registered as a voter in such county or borough, may he registered as a voter and 883 may vote, upon proving that he has, in the year for which he claims to be so registered, paid or had deducted from the income of any real or personal property accruing to him during such year income or property tax to the amount of not less than ten shillings.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that as he understood this clause it was one for the purpose of enfranchising anyone who liked to pay Income Tax. If this clause was carried, he wished to give Notice that he should move an addition to it to the effect that any person who chose not to pay Income Tax could be excused on giving up the franchise. That seemed to him a very natural corollary, because if they said to a man—"If you pay the Income Tax you shall have a vote," he did not see why they should not say to him—"If you do not claim a vote you shall not pay Income Tax.
wished to point out that in a great number of cases of payment of Income Tax, particularly in regard to the public Funds, and he believed in all cases of foreign securities, the tax was deducted by the agents authorized to pay the money, and the registration authorities, therefore, would have no cognizance whatever of the fact that Income Tax was paid. A very infinitesimal amount of Income Tax might be charged in this way. For instance, if a mail had 20s. in any of these securities, the interest he received, however small might be the amount, would have deducted from it a certain sum for Income Tax, if a coin sufficiently small to cover it could be found.
§ LORD ALGERNON PERCY
said, after the discussion which had taken place, he would ask leave to withdraw the clause.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he was not quite certain that, in the event of the clause of the noble Lord being negatived, he should be in a position to move the clause following it which stood in his name, and therefore, with the permission of the Committee, he would make a few remarks with regard to it on the present clause. His noble Friend and he had had some conversation as to the mode of introducing into the Bill a clause with reference to giving a qualification by the payment of Income Tax, and the result had been the two clauses which appeared on the Paper in their several names. Now, the clause 884 which he had intended to propose certainly got rid of the objection urged by the Attorney General to the clause of the noble Lord.
said, the hon. Member would not be in Order in discussing his clause upon the Question before the Committee.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
rose to Order. He had understood the Prime Minister to wish the clause of the noble Lord to be negatived; and he asked whether, if that event took place, it would be competent to his hon. Friend to move the clause which he had placed on the Paper?
pointed out that the clause of the hon. Member was substantially the same as that of the noble Lord, and could not, therefore, be put if the latter were negatived.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the hon. Member had pointed out that his clause differed from that of the noble Lord. He trusted the Committee would allow it to be discussed.
said, they were entirely opposed to the principle of the clauses, and must object to the proposal to discuss it should the Amendment of the noble Lord be negatived.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, in that case he would say a few words on the principle. In the first place, it would be very easy by the addition of words to remove the effect which it was objected the clause would have on account of the payer of Income Tax not being in a fixed position, or being connected with a residence or local habitation. He and his noble Friend, assuming that the Bill was to pass that House, desired to make it as good a Bill as possible; but they were under some difficulty in carrying out their views owing to the way in which the Government put forward, without rhyme, reason, or sequence, that Amendments were not to be discussed on their merits, but were to be rejected simply because the proposal was not in the mind of the Prime Minister, because they did not accord with the arbitrary views which he assumed to be proper with regard to the basis on which the franchise ought to rest. He (Mr. Tomlinson) had asserted on several occasions that, in his opinion, it would be a great misfortune if hon. Members did not insist upon the right of property as distinct from occupation to be repre- 885 sented in that House. He thought the main objection to the clause might be met by Amendment; and therefore he trusted the Committee would allow it to be read the second time, with the view of amending it, if desirable, in the direction indicated.
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was perfectly right in supposing that the principle of the clause was raised in a form which many people did not approve; but he would point out that if the clause were read the second time, it would not be in his power to amend it. This proposal, as he said, was a mode of creating a new property qualification. The Government were against that in all forms in which it might come before them; and on the last occasion he might observe that the Government views were supported by a majority of 137 to 38. Therefore, the hon. Member could not be surprised at the position taken up on the present occasion with reference to his Amendment. Although the clause had evidently been carefully framed, he did not think that any clause could raise the property qualification satisfactorily at all; because, if the Committee assented to a qualification on an Income Tax basis, the forms in which the principle might be embodied would be of endless variety. Under the circumstances, he was sure the hon. Gentleman would not be surprised that the Government should challenge the principle, and that they should not be disposed to agree to the second reading of the clause.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the argument of the Prime Minister was not the same as he had before urged against the clause. The present objection was upon a matter of detail; but he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) wished to have the principle and not the details of the clause discussed. The hon. Member for Preston, it had been ruled, could not move his clause on that occasion; but he understood that the hon. Member would hereafter raise the question of property qualification on a scale which would not confine it to the basis of Income Tax — that it would be raised on Report in such a form that the Prime Minister would not be able to take objection to the proposal on either of the grounds put forward by him on the present occasion. He should therefore 886 reserve the further observations he had to make on the proposal of the hon. Member until its principle was discussed, as it certainly would be on Report.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, that the question on which the Division alluded to by the Prime Minister had been taken had nothing to do with property qualification as he had described it to be. It was a question of the kind of residence required for the exercise of the occupation franchise.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 21; Noes 99: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 126.)
said, the clause in the name of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) relating to the appointment of a Boundary Commission could not be moved, inasmuch as it was not within the scope of the Bill, a circumstance which he thought the hon. Member must be aware of, because he had moved words of the same import, as an Instruction to the Committee, at a former stage of the Bill.
§ Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 249.]