§ (4.29.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
rose to call attention to the Livery Franchise of the City of London; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the Government should, in accordance with the recommendation of the Report of the City Livery Charities Commission, take action to abolish the anomalous franchise now possessed by the Liverymen of the City of London, which gives a vote to persons who have no direct residential or business connection with the city, and thus increases the evils arising from the defective state of the Registration laws, whereby many 159 persons are prevented from becoming qualified electors, while others become entitled to a plurality of votes.The hon. Member said: This is a question which has not been brought before the House for some considerable time. On the last occasion it was brought forward by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) in the year 1879. I shall have to trouble the House with a short history of this franchise, but I can promise that I will not go into any lengthened detail. At one time the 74 Companies that existed in the City had an actual life and being in connection with the crafts they represented. At the present time there are 12 great or wealthy Companies, owning a large amount of property, possessing most of them magnificent halls, and having a close livery. It is not to any great extent with them that we have to deal this evening. Besides these, however, there are 62 companies, which are known as the minor companies. Most of them are not at all wealthy, many of them have no permanent residences of their own; the fee for entering their liveries is a moderate one, and the liveries with their privileges are used as sources of revenue to the companies. I hope to be able to demonstrate to the House that this granting of the privileges of the livery for sums of money is not only detrimental to the life of the companies themselves, but leads to the manufacture of faggot-votes for the city of London. The origin of the Guilds is known, I believe, to all Members of the House. In early days they were representative of and had control of their particular crafts. They filled much the same position in connection with the commerce of the City of London as the chambers of commerce and trades' unions fill to-day. They dealt with all questions in connection with their crafts. How far they have fallen away from that position is well-known, and I think if you were to take the list of liverymen to-day you would find that many of the companies have no connection whatever with the crafts they are supposed to represent. It is most amusing to me on St. Thomas's Day to Bee a watchmaker putting in a plea for election as member of, say, the Spectacle Makers' Company on the ground that he is a watchmaker. There are few freemen 160 who are members of the craft with which the company is nominally connected, and still fewer who have obtained admission to the livery by that which ought to be the only legitimate means, namely, that of having served an apprenticeship to the craft. The companies had many privileges down to a certain period of their history, but it is a good many years ago since they virtually lost all power over their trade. There are one or two of them which have some connection with the industries they are supposed to represent, and I am pleased to say there are one or two others which, whilst they have no legal control over their trades, still take some interest in the technical development of those trades. There are four means by which a person can become a member of one of these companies. The first is apprenticeship, the second patrimony, the third redemption or purchase, and the fourth election out of compliment in the case of a man of distinction. I think the Grocers' Company is only one to which admission cannot be obtained by purchase. Entrance by means of apprenticeship has largely ceased to be employed on account of the corruption of the apprenticeship system. There are, however, still many of the companies that keep up the system of apprenticeship, although they do not necessarily have what are technically known as City apprentices. But I am sorry to say that in connection with this honourable means of getting into companies very great abuses have sprung up. Persons are nominally apprenticed and, without having served in the trade, are at the end of seven years admitted to the livery upon the testimony of their nominal masters that they have served their time. This I look upon as a very dishonest means of admission to a company. The person who thus enters a company does not, however, at once become a liveryman. In the larger companies it is difficult to get into the livery, but some of the smaller companies go about touting for liverymen with the object of getting the 25 or 30 guineas that are paid as an admission fee. The governing body of a City Company is called the Court of Assistants or the Court of Wardens, and is appointed from the livery. I am not going to trouble the 161 House by referring to the many Charters by which various privileges were given to City Companies. I will simply say that about the year 1435, the liverymen were given the right of voting for Members of Parliament for the City of London. At that time the City of London was really London, and within the city walls throbbed the life of the Metropolis. The banker lived over his counting-house, the artisan over his workshop, and the merchant over his warehouse. The franchise was then absolutely a popular franchise and one which could only be illustrated to-day by referring to our own system of household suffrage. It meant that all engaged in the various occupations and trades had a right to vote because they belong to a Guild and wore its livery. Of such a franchise as that no one could possibly complain, but what is the state of things now? These Guilds have lost their hold upon particular industries. Within the square mile of the City the life of London does not exist to-day. It has gone far beyond, and those who carry on the various avocations to-day do not think it necessary to belong to the Guilds. We have an entirely altered state of things in the City. Those who lived in the City of London in byegone times simply carry on business there now, and those who carry on business there have a qualification which gives them a dual suffrage, and I do not know why, whilst they are liverymen, they should have any other vote than that of liverymen. Yet this franchise is enjoyed, not only by these persons, but by persons who have no connection whatever with the City of London, directly or indirectly, and who do not live within its walls. The charters of these Companies in many cases limited the number of liverymen, and the Court of Common Council has done the same. But I want to call attention to this peculiar anomaly: As a rule it is considered that it is this House which increases the number of electors under any qualification, but in the case of these Companies it is not the House that extends the number of liverymen. It actually rests with the Court of Aldermen to say whether the number of liverymen in a particular company shall be increased. I would trouble the House with an illustration 162 of this taken from the proceedings of the Court of Aldermen itself. In the year 1880 a Report was brought up from the General Purposes Committee of the Court of Aldermen upon a Petition from the Needle Makers' Company for an increase in the number of their livery. At the formation of the Company the number was fixed at 50. The Report suggested that the number should be increased to 100, and that the fee for admission should be increased from £5 10s. to 25 guineas. In the discussion that took place some of the City fathers protested strongly against the proposed increase. The Report of the General Purposes Committee of the Court of Aldermen having recommended an increase of 100, an Amendment was moved that the number should be 200. Sir Thomas Gabriel protested against the proposal, which amounted to a sale of votes for the City at 25 guineas apiece in the interest of a Company that might be in want of money; and another gentleman not unknown to this House—Alderman Sir Andrew Lusk—described the proceeding as the "creation of new faggot-votes at a cost of 25 guineas each." But, in spite of the wise advice of these and other gentlemen, the Court of Aldermen passed the Amendment, and created 200 new liverymen of one Company, and, be it observed, this is by no means one of the 12 large City Companies. Does any hon. or right hon. Gentleman here think that is a state of things which can be depended on? Does the House think that the right of voting for Members of this honourable House ought to be bartered away in that manner? Does it not think that there should be a substantial reason for a qualification—a much stronger one than the mere poverty of one of these Companies who want something to put into their coffers, and get that something for a sum which, to the wealthy nonentities who seek the livery, is a miserable pittance. The average gross annual increase in the number of persons on the livery is 500, but this figure is reduced to about 133 owing to deaths and objections sustained in the Revising Barrister's Court. A most extraordinary feature of the increase of the livery was that it took place mainly since the election of 1868. Was the motive of those responsible for the 163 increase a desire to influence the representation of the City? I shall probably be told, as Mr. Alderman Cotton said when the question was brought forward on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Gateshead:—That two-thirds or three-fourths of the liverymen had votes independent of their freemanship in respect of premises which they occupied in the City.I have no doubt that point will be raised again, and that we shall be told "Well, it is quits true that a number of persons are on the franchise of the City for the livery, but if they were not in it in that way, they ought to be in some other way." Let us consider whether this statement is well founded. An analysis has been made of the present register of the City of London. It contains 32,728 electors. If the 629 county electors are deducted there is a register of 32,099 electors. The total number of livery votes included in that figure is 7,756, and deducting 1,950 voters who appear on the occupier's list, there are left on the register a total of 5,806 voters who have no qualification as owners of business premises or as residents. That is a little circumstance that requires to be got over. We are told "Oh! it is true that an anomaly exists, it is a survival of the fittest, and does not do much damage" As I have said, there has been an extraordinary development of the Livery Vote since the election of 1868. I will not trouble the House with many figures, but I should just like to mention what the increase has been since that date. I will give one or two examples of the way in which the voting power has gone up in connection with some of the minor companies—for I am not bringing a charge of a large increase against the larger companies, who are too Conservative to add to their numbers. The Basket Makers' in 1868 had one registered liveryman; in 1885, 27; and in 1891, 29. The Fan Makers' had 13 in 1868, 102 in 1885, 103 in 1891. The Framework Knitters' in the same years 21, 65, and 77; the Glovers', 34, 12, and 91; the Horners' 8, 11, and 41; the Needle Makers' 47, 104, and 83; the Pattern Makers', 20, 40, and 40; the Shipwrights' 26, 188, and 185; and the Tinplate Workers', 9, 65, and 56. In 1868 there were 6,131 persons on the 164 Register for the City with a livery qualification; the number rose in 1885, and now it stands at 7,756. These figures speak for themselves. They are very interesting, and show the way in which the franchise is still increasing. I maintain that it is indefensible, and ought to have been abolished years ago. The livery franchise ought really to have been swept away in 1832, when the Reform Act was passed, and when a great number of these franchises were discontinued. Unfortunately, instead of being put an end to, the privileges of registered liverymen were enlarged under that Act, and also subsequently under the Representation of the People Act of 1867, the residential qualification being extended from a seven mile radius to a 25 mile radius of the City. In all parts of the country, except the City of London, a person to have a vote under a non-residential qualification must reside within seven miles of his business premises, but in the City of London, instead of seven miles, you have a radius of 25 miles, which takes in a large part of the country, and enables the register of the City to be swelled enormously. The City is already over-represented, and if it were treated like suburban constituencies the non-residential electors would have to go, and it would be impossible to make the register up to 32,000. Then it would be impossible for the City to claim two representatives, as compared with other parts of the country. Put London in the same position as other constituencies, and how does it stand? The unfortunate lodger who has to move into the next street is disqualified. The lodger qualification is a delusion, a snare, and a fraud to those unfortunate people who cannot take the whole of a house, and where they come under the absurd definition of lodgers, and by which they are robbed continually of the right to elect Members of this House. The City is the spoiled child of this House, and I await with a great deal of interest the defence which the representatives of the City may make against this fancy franchise of theirs. A man may have premises outside the City, and he has his vote as a City Liveryman, and he has his residential vote. And this is the way in which they create a legitimate representation 165 of the people on great Imperial questions which are decided at the General Election. One defence of this is that it is ancient. It is ancient. Good in its origin, I will admit; now entirely superseded. We do not defend everything ancient. We do not believe a system of taxation good because it may have existed since the time of Elizabeth, though there are some illustrious people in this country who hold that opinion. It is said that liverymen are freeholders, and if that is so, every freeman of one of the large and wealthy companies is also a freeholder, because he is interested in the property of his company just as much as a liveryman. If that defence is put forward, you must be prepared to go a little further and ask for the qualification of the freemen of the City Companies as well as the City Liverymen. I do not know what defence can be put forward. I admit there is something sentimental in the defence of the representation of the Universities, by which learning is represented in this House—though in practice, the theory has not always been carried out, because when Oxford had the chance of turning out two of her best sons—Sir Robert Peel and the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Mid Lothian—Oxford took very good care to do it. I say there is only one course for the City, and it would be wise to accept it. The only remedy is that the evil should cease to exist. It is a blunder to resist reform, and the City should learn to march with the times. I am not going to ask the House to endorse the Report of the Royal Commission, namely—We think no further admission to the Livery Company should confer the Parliamentary franchise, and that such Act should contain a provision to this effect.That is signed: Lord Derby, the Duke of Bedford, Lord Sherbrooke, Lord Coleridge, Sydney W. Waterlow, Albert Pell, the late Mr. J. F. B. Firth, and my hon. Friend, the Member for Morpeth. Those were the Commissioners who reported that the time had come when this ridiculous and anomalous franchise should cease to exist. I shall be told that there was a Minority Report. There was, and it was to the effect that the recommendation did not come within the 166 scope of the reference to the Royal Commission. That Report was signed by Sir Richard Assheton Cross, Baron de Rothschild, and Mr. Alderman W. J. R. Cotton. The first two have gone to another place, where Radicals cease from troubling and Tories are at rest; and Mr. Alderman Cotton has disappeared from the political arena, owing to the activity of the hon. Baronet opposite, and to the gratitude of the City of London for the way in which he fought all these questions when he was here. I am, therefore, asking the House to support my Motion because it has been recommended by the vast majority of a strong Royal Commission. Out of the three who signed the minority, two of them were Representatives of the City of London.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
Then I made a mistake. A strong whip has been issued against this Motion, and the opponents of this proposition in a Report say—The Companies consist of freemen, skilled artisans, partly of liverymen and for the most part of the middle classes, and they pay a considerable fee to the common purse to take out the livery.That is not a popular recommendation, nor one that will do the City much good outside it own borders. It is for these gentlemen to consider whether they should always be putting themselves in antagonism to the popular sentiment. Another extract from the Report of these friends of the liverymen says—So far as we can judge, no movement whatever exists in London either against the City or against the Livery Companies.Lord Cross reported there was no demand for municipal reform in London. Yet the very Government of which he was a member carried the Local Government scheme for which London was struggling. Is the same course going to be pursued now—that of denying the demand for this reform? When the Government had to swallow the bitter pill that was given them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, whose Bill they opposed I will not say by what means, in 1884, they took care of the continuity of the City of London by placing it at the head of London. They were successful then, but if they think that they are going to shelve this 167 question to-day, they make a great mistake. If they resist this reform, they will simply draw public attention to the methods of the City, and be compelled to reform. I admit that this is only one branch of a bigger subject which will have to engross the attention of the country. I have troubled the House with this Motion because I think it a very anomalous qualification which exists in the City. I believe outside of London very few people are aware of it, and I shall consider I have done some good if I achieve nothing more than having called the attention of the public to this franchise. We must purify the means of election to this House. As long as you can in any part of the country purchase a vote for the election of a Parliamentary representative, it is a duty to fight against it, and not rest until the abuse is swept from the Statute Book.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the Government should, in accordance with the recommendation of the Report of the City Livery Charities Commission, take action to abolish the anomalous franchise now possessed by the liverymen of the City of London, which gives a vote to persons who have no direct residential or business connection with the City, and thus increases the evils arising from the defective state of the Registration Laws, whereby many persons are prevented from becoming qualified electors, while others become entitled to a plurality of votes,"—(Mr. James Rowlands,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (5.13.) MR. BEAUFOY (Lambeth, Kennington)
I think Representatives of Metropolitan constituencies may be excused for bringing before this House a question affecting London, for London matters do not receive that attention in this House to which they are justly entitled. I ask the House to carefully consider its vote on this occasion, because if it be adverse it will be considered out of doors that the time of the Royal Commission was wasted, and that the sooner some other method of inquiry is adopted, and some other way of bringing this question into publicity, the better it will be for the pockets of the people and the 168 advancement of public business. It seems to me that if the Report of the Royal Commission was justified in 1884, it is more justified in 1891, because the Redistribution Bill of 1885 swept away a great many anomalies, leaving this one standing alone like an island surrounded by the sea. The representatives of the City would act wisely if they did something to carry this Resolution into effect. Of the many arguments used for the retention of this livery qualification, none appears of any worth whatever. Of course, we shall be told that this livery franchise represents the wealth and intelligence of the City of London. It seems to me that wealth is only too well represented in this House already, for in the majority of cases the qualification for a seat in this House is that its possessor should be a man of wealth, or, at all events, of a competence; and it also seems to me that we can only hope to deal with social questions in a safe and reasonable way, not by electing a large number of wealthy representatives, but by the introduction of more Members belonging to the working class, who would represent the wants and wishes of the masses of the people. But it is also said that these livery votes represent trade; undoubtedly, as my hon. Friend has shown, they did at one period represent the trade and commerce of this country, and to a certain extent we are under obligations to the City of London for the manly way in which the liveries stood up for liberty in days gone by; but if hon. Members will refer to the Report of the Royal Commission, they will, on reading page 19, come to the conclusion that the claim of the liverymen of London to represent trade is a fraud and a hollow sham, and rests on no solid foundation. Doubtless they do perform certain duties, but these are few and trivial, and there are none of them that could not be much better discharged by properly constituted and competent public authorities than is the case at the present moment. Let me take, as an example, the Fishmongers' Company. That Company does, I believe, exercise a certain amount of control over Billingsgate Market, and for that we are greatly obliged to them; but there is no other city in the world that would be content to leave the control of the purification 169 and regulation of a large and important supply of the food of its inhabitants in the hands of an irresponsible private body. Surely, if such a market is to be controlled at all, it should be by some body which is itself amenable to public control and not by an irresponsible company who may or who may not discharge their duties. It is, moreover, a matter of fact that even in the discharge of this duty it has no statutory warrant, but its action is simply referable to a memorial custom which has existed in the City, and which renders it exceedingly difficult for any alteration to be made. It seems to me that even if it were desirable that trade should have a special representation in this House, and that we should here admit the representatives of special class interests, the City Companies are by no means the best representatives that could be found. Take, for instance, the Apothecaries' Company. They perform a certain public duty, and may in some degree be said to represent medicine, but if medicine is to be represented, it ought not to be by the Apothecaries' Company. Why should we not go to the College of Physicians or the College of Surgeons, and ask them to send representatives to this House—men who should represent not the very base and bottom of the profession, but the higher degrees of that profession, who might be expected to speak with weight and authority in this assembly. Again, there is the Scriveners' Company, who may be said in some sense to represent the public interest, because they institute examinations for notaries. I must confess that I am not very clear in my own mind as to what a notary is, but, at any rate, a notary cannot act in the City of London unless he has passed the examination instituted by the Scriveners' Company. Although in some degree that Company represents the lower branches of the legal profession, if we were to allow them to send representatives here we should be doing a gross injustice to the rest of the profession, because we should be ignoring the Incorporated Law Society, which in every sense is more fitted to represent the law. Therefore it appears to me that the claim made in support of the livery franchise on the ground of the representation of trade must, under 170 these circumstances, fall to the ground. In point of fact these gentlemen are not the representatives of trade, they represent no one but themselves. Hon. Members may remember the very interesting speech which was made by the hon. Member for Dundee some time ago on the question of the University franchise. Everyone who heard that speech must have felt that the hon. Gentleman had an exceedingly good case. He urged that all these fancy franchises were bad, but if the University franchise is bad it is not nearly so bad or so mischievous as the livery franchise, because the University is an independent constituency in itself. The members of the University return a representative of their own, and do not interfere with any other constituency, but in the case of the Livery Companies the liverymen swamp and overturn the votes of people much better qualified for the exercise of the franchise. To this extent the livery franchise is wrong. We have had already heard something about the minority Report signed by three eminent gentlemen, members of the Commission, who came to the conclusion that this subject of the livery franchise did not come within the scope of that inquiry, but however eminent these gentlemen might be, it appears that their colleagues did not agree with them, as they were in a minority. But there was one representative of the City who was really true to his colours, and who in a Report drawn up by himself defended the livery franchise up to the hilt, a procedure more creditable to the zeal than to the understanding of the hon. Gentleman. He seemed to think we ought not to disfranchise anybody. I may say that personally I have no such desire, but I think we ought to see that before we give superfluous votes everybody who is entitled to a vote should have that vote. Therefore we are anxious to remove this stumbling block to the proper exercise of the franchise, in order that we may be enabled to do justice to those thousands of the working classes who have difficulty in getting upon the register, not because they are not substantially qualified, but because they are excluded by the conditions of residence. Having adopted one general form of franchise, it 171 seems to me that these exceptions in favor of a particular class are most invidious and unsatisfactory, and I think the House would do well to show by its vote to-night that it will no longer allow such a state of things to continue. We may be told that this Motion is an attack upon the City. For my own part, I may say that if I am engaged in an attack on the City I am only doing one of those things for which I was sent to this House. The City is not in particularly good odour just now outside its own particular boundaries. The people outside the City are conscious they are suffering grievous injustice on account of the exceptional position occupied by the City itself, and they desire to get this injustice remedied. We may be told that this is not an opportune time for bringing this subject forward. We are told the minority have no right to stir in these matters. But, although we are now in a minority, I have no doubt that that state of things will undergo a change before very long. We have already had more than one bye-election, in which, the principles we profess have predominated, and we have had a County Council election which was indicative of a state of feeling very different from, that which made the Parliamentary representation of the Metropolis what it is. I appeal to hon. Members opposite, and especially to those members of the County Council who have seats in this House, although, as a rule, they arc supporters of the Government, to give us their assistance in carrying this Resolution; it is quite time we should take this matter into serious consideration. There have been many difficulties in obtaining the opportunity we have now secured. Only last year my hon. Friend secured a day for his Motion, but at the last moment the Government swooped down upon us and appropriated it themselves. Only the other day the Motion was in imminent jeopardy of suffering a similar fate on this occasion: but, having at last obtained the opportunity of thoroughly ventilating the question, I hope that we shall show that if we may not be in a majority, nevertheless a very large number of Members of this House regard the livery vote as an injurious monopoly, which is wrong 172 in principle, as introducing a fancy franchise into the Constitution, and a monstrous injustice to that greater London whose claims for recollection have been so long ignored.
§ (5.30.) VISCOUNT LYMINGTON (Devon, S. Molton)
I very much regret that the hon. Members who have already spoken have treated the question very much from a Party point of view, for it is impossible to argue the question entirely on Party grounds. The hon. Member who brought forward the Motion has given the House an interesting history of livery franchise, which was, however, abruptly cut short at the year 1867. Since that date a great Reform Bill has been passed by the Liberal Party at the time when it was at the zenith of its power, both in numbers, and unity, and cohesion; and if livery franchise is absolutely inconsistent with all Liberal principles it is strange that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, should not have exercised their great influence and have brought the matter before the House. As to what had been said in regard to the recommendations of the City Livery Charities Commission, I never heard a Report of a Royal Commission treated so curiously as the Mover of the Resolution has treated the Report of that Commission. In the first place, he singled out a particular clause from a general Report, and founded his case upon it. This, it seems to me, is essentially a question which can only be properly dealt with, if at all, as a whole, in a comprehensive measure, and not in piecemeal manner, that is now being attempted. I particularly object to the process of picking out from a Report a special clause and dealing with it by itself, irrespective of its bearing on other parts of the Report. The hon. Member asks the House to support his Motion in accordance with the recommendation of the Commission; and to abolish the anomalous franchise now possessed by the City of London liverymen. But that is precisely what the 173 Report avoids recommending; and, as a matter of fact, the recommendations of the Commission are not in accordance with the hon. Gentleman's Motion. The Report recommends that in future no further cases of livery franchise shall be created, but it did not propose to abolish the existing franchise. My hon. Friend's Motion, on the contrary, is a Motion for disenfranchisement. Again, Sir, it is quite contrary to the facts of the case to state that the livery franchise gives a vote to persons who have no direct business connection with the City. I think that by examples I can practically show the absurdity of that statement. It has always been felt that the City occupies a peculiar position as being, though not a place of residence, the centre of the commerce of the world. Owing to the fact that many great business concerns have been converted into Joint Stock Companies, many of the most representative men in the City would not have a vote for the City if they did not exercise the franchise as members of livery companies. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London is in that position, as are the hon. Member for the Sevenoaks Division of Kent, Mr. Tufnell the Chairman of the Royal Mail Steamship Company, and the great Spicer firm, the great Nonconformist firm in the City; owing to the fact that for general convenience it is the custom to register banks and other Joint Stock Companies in the names of their secretaries only, it follows that but for such votes as those conferred by the livery franchise some of the most influential, important, wealthy, and intelligent men in the City would otherwise be utterly unrepresented.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON
I am endeavouring to disprove the statement that the livery voters do not really represent large and important interests. The hon. Member who brought forward the Motion said that the result of the livery franchise is the manufacture of faggot-votes. If so, it is the most expensive process of manufacture that I have heard of. If any Livery Company 174 wishes to enlarge its franchise for political purposes it must first be free from the common restriction, by charter, of the number of its members. In the second place you would have, if I may use the phrase, to "square" that particular company, and having done that you would have also to "square" the Court of Aldermen, which is an open court in which political opinions for a long time have been equally divided. Then, if permission to increase the number of liverymen had been obtained, the faggot-voters would have to be elected by their companies, and as there are representatives of both parties in every company, the new liverymen would not be all of one party. A stronger objection is that a liveryman must have held his position for a year before he can exercise his franchise. Having made careful investigation, I find that the least amount for which any one can become a livery man is £30. That is in the Plumbers' Company. I think that in his calculation my hon. Friend forgot that in addition to the fees to be paid to the Court there is a Stamp Duty of three guineas to be paid to the Government. Again, the livery fines vary considerably. In the Mercers Company the Livery fine is only £4 13s., whereas the freedom fine is £200. I do not think my hon. Friend has adduced any argument in favour of dealing with this question by piece-meal legislation. On the contrary, the facts show that the livery franchise can be used by no political party for corrupt purposes. At the time when the Liberal Party was not very popular in the counties I saw something of the creation of faggot-votes, and I know that six or seven votes were usually created for £30. Faggot-votes may or may not be an abuse of the Parliamentary franchise, but it is clear that the livery franchise cannot be utilised for the manufacture of faggot-votes. As regards the general question, it seems to me that the City of London stands in a quite exceptional position as the centre of the commerce of the country, and as the head of the commerce of the world. Its position in commerce is in fact analogous to that 175 occupied by the Universities in relation to the representation of learning. The arguments of the hon. Members are based on conditions which cannot obtain, and they have not advanced one single case of the abuses they allege. There are anomalies of all kinds in the Parliamentary franchise, and if the House is to remove all anomalies and to proceed purely on the principle of One man one vote" in settling the franchise, it must be based strictly on population. Then the number of the Irish Representatives would have to be curtailed. I hope that the Government and the House will decline to accept the proposal of the hon. Member, because it is not justifiable in itself, and does not carry out the statements made in the Amendment. If the question is to be dealt with at all, it must be dealt with carefully and comprehensively, and not in the piecemeal manner proposed.
§ (5.45.) MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
As the noble Lord has pointed out, the Report of the Royal Commission upon which the Motion before the House is avowedly based contains, as a matter of fact, no such recommendations as those attributed to it. The words of the Resolution request the Government to take action to abolish the right of voting now possessed; whereas the Report of the Royal Commission merely recommends that no further franchise shall be conferred, and that any future Act on the subject shall contain provisions to this effect. The hon. Member, in moving the Resolution, has admitted that it deals with only a small part of a large question. It would, indeed, be altogether inconsistent and unwise on the part of the House to attempt to abolish in this fashion a franchise which has been in existence for 500 years, seeing especially that the whole subject of representation in the House of Commons has been carefully reviewed and dealt with more than once of recent years. The hon. Member (Mr. J. Rowlands) who introduced the Motion pronounced the livery franchise to be ridiculous. But what makes it ridiculous, and since when has it become so? The whole 176 subject was carefully considered in 1832. It was considered again by the leaders of the two Parties in solemn conclave in 1867. It was reviewed again, I imagine with equal care, in 1884, and on each occasion it may be presumed that the political leaders for good reasons held the franchise to be fair and just. Yet now we are asked to reverse these decisions, and, by so doing, virtually to pass a Vote of Censure on those former Parliaments which deliberately arrived at this decision. The hon. Member seems to have been a little wrong in his arithmetic. He told the House that these abominable creatures, livery voters, increased at the rate of 500 a year. How can he make that out, when their number in 1868 was only 6,000, and now it was only 7,700?
§ MR. KIMBER
Even then the hon. Member's figures are not correct, as the increase in 22 years has been only from 6,000 to 7,700. I do not wish to impute to him that he says what he does not believe, but these inaccuracies make his case all the more lamentable, seeing that he bases it upon such fallacies. The fact should not be forgotten, in considering the qualifications of the liverymen as voters, that as members of the Livery Companies they are called upon to perform certain duties and to exercise certain rights. It is an old and respected maxim that representation should go along with taxation. What is the position of the Livery Companies in this respect? They have corporate property belonging to them, property which by the law they can divide amongst themselves to-morrow if they wish, and on that property they have been deliberately taxed, by the present House of Commons and by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, higher than any other class of the community. I allude to the £5 per cent. levied on their corporate revenues. If these liverymen are amenable to taxation on their property, then surely they have rights of representation in connection with it. Why should 177 those rights be taken away and the taxation left? It seems to me that the word "confiscation" would be a mild one to apply to such a proceeding. Then, again, we are told that this livery franchise results in nothing less than faggot voters and votes to be purchased by money payments. But what is the ordinary franchise itself? Upon the payment of 4s. a week, or £10 a year, anyone who wishes can obtain a vote. That is a very small sum compared with what a livery vote costs. At the end of the Motion it is stated that the existence of the livery franchise increases the evils arising from the defective state of the Registration Laws,Whereby many persons are prevented from becoming qualified electors, while others become entitled to a plurality of votes.In regard to the first of the two last statements it is, so far as I can see, absolutely meaningless and unintelligible. As to the second statement, it seems to imply that the hon. Member is under the delusion that residents in the City, if they are liverymen as well, possess two rotes.
§ MR. KIMBER
Then the hon. Member must mean in his Resolution to ask the House to support the principle of "one man one vote," because that is the only other interpretation which can be put upon his words. If that is so, I shall be glad to hear it, because that will obviously involve a still more serious alteration in the present law of representation. Then the hon. Member has admitted that on the register of the City Companies there are 5,800 voters, none of whom possess, he says, any qualification other than their connection with a Livery Company. Now he cannot have taken the slightest pains to ascertain what those figures really mean. There are, as a matter of fact—and as I know from personal knowledge—large numbers of men, junior members of firms, head clerks, and so forth, who perform some of the most important and laborious work 178 in the City of London, and yet who, but for their connection with the City Companies, would not be entitled to any votes whatever. In the case of my own firm, for instance, neither of the two junior members, both graduates of Oxford University, and otherwise well fitted to exercise the franchise, was entitled to a vote, as each lived under the paternal roof, and neither has any sort of interest in the business premises. These are the cases which the livery franchise meet. The Act of 1867 was a measure as to the necessity of which all parties are agreed. It cannot be said to have been a Conservative Act, although it was passed by a Conservative Government. What was the state of things in the City at the time? The City was represented by four Liberals, and it was not until the election of 1868 that the Conservatives were able to secure one of the four seats. The Act of 1867 not only left the livery franchise intact, but extended the residential qualification from 7 to 25 miles. It is all very well for hon. Members to denounce the livery franchise as ridiculous and anomalous now that the political complexion of the City has been changed. There is another point of view from which this question should be looked at. The question of individual suffrage is, and must always be, intimately connected with the distribution of seats. The fact of there being 5,000 more votes in the City than there would be if the liverymen had no votes does not send any more Members to Parliament. It may be said it makes the position of my hon. Friend (Sir R. Fowler) more secure; it does not add to or take from the number of Members of Parliament, but if the question of distribution of seats is not taken in hand when you disfranchise so large a proportion as 5,000 voters out of 32,000 you may unfairly throw a seat from one side to the other. We hear much of the necessity of concessions to Ireland, but the day may not be far distant when England will ask something from Ireland. [Cries of "Question!"] It is the question. I recollect that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was speaking of the alleged inequalities between England and Ireland—it was before his conversion or perversion to Home Rule—said 179I know of no inequalities except two, and those are: first, that Irishmen are free from certain taxes"—I think he alluded to the House Tax, and the Land Tax—which Englishmen and Scotchmen are subject to, and that Irishmen participate in large grants of public money in which Englishmen and Scotchmen do not participate.Now we are to have a third inequality. While we have 86 Irishmen opposed to us here—a number out of all proportion to the numbers who send them here—we are to have the suffrage in our own constituencies cut down, which may, perhaps, throw additional seats from our side to the side of our opponents. I denounce this Motion as an ambitious attempt to deal with legislation which has always been considered one of the most important branches of our legislation, and I maintain that to attempt to deal with the subject in this off hand and piecemeal way is to reduce a large and important subject to most ridiculous dimensions.
§ (6.7.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
When the noble Lord the Member for South Molton rose, all who had heard previous speeches of his knew that we should hear most that is to be said against this Amendment. The noble Lord's remarks have been supplemented by those of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, yet I must own I do not think any case has been made out against the Amendment. The noble Lord and the hon. Member for Wandsworth resorted to an argument which can be used against any change or reform, namely, that in the case of a previous Bill this change was not introduced by the Party that is now recommending it. If this is to be regarded as a valid argument the Liberal Party may as well shut up their business at once, because the argument applies against every possible reform. The noble Lord put it in the most favourable form when he said the Liberal Party at the zenith of its power brought in a great Reform Bill that was meant to be comprehensive and yet did not welcome this change. It 180 was during the passage of that Bill through Parliament that the Liberal Government was turned out of Office by a hostile vote in the House of Commons. [Mr. MATTHEWS: The noble Lord referred to the Bill of 1884.] That being the case, it can scarcely be said the Liberal Party was in the zenith of its power. And that Bill was, as is well known on both sides of the House, of the nature of a compromise, and it could not have been passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords at that time unless it had been of such a nature. It was well known that many very important points of which the Liberal Party was then and is now in favour were only kept back because of the nature of the Bill; indeed, the Redistribution Bill was actually turned into an Act by the Conservative Government. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Kimber) asked us to bring in a comprehensive measure:—"Why," he said, "do you come down on Tuesdays and Fridays and propose abstract Resolutions about the livery vote." No change in the Parliamentary representation of this country has ever been made without having been introduced on a Tuesday or Friday year after year. The use of these Resolutions was that in a cool atmosphere the whole case can be put by its advocates before the House of Commons, and through the House of Commons to the country. The country can then see how much political backing a political question has. Unless Sir E. Baines had year after year introduced his Resolution for the reduction of the borough franchise, and unless other Members had done the same thing in respect of the county franchise, I do not hesitate to say those measures would never have been passed. The noble Lord gave a perfectly fair account of the Report of the Commission, but we are not acting only on the Report of the Commission. We want to go into the merits of the question, and on the merits there can be no doubt whatever. This Resolution refers to one constituency only, but it establishes a great principle. That constituency has only a population of 50,000, and has two Members allotted to it. That made the question very important, because, in the first place, that means an excess of political power in this particular constituency; and, in 181 the next place, it may be said to be a sort of ideal constituency, with regard to which we ought to establish an ideal representation. What is the real condition of the constituency? There are in the constituency 21,000 occupiers and 7,500 livery voters. I was reading the other day a most interesting book, The History of the Boroughs, published in 1794, at the moment when in the old Whig Party the ideas of popular representation were at a higher level than they have reached ever since, and in it I read that—The election ought to lie with the inhabitant occupiers of the City agreeably to our ancient and free Constitution, and there probably would be about 22,000.It is quite true that those 22,000, as described by the Member for Finsbury, were real, genuine residents living on the spot. But that is all altered now, and of those 22,000 occupiers I suppose that not more than one-third, or some 7,000, are real residents, and these are in a worse position than any other voters in the Kingdom. Elsewhere the resident voters are, so to say, diluted by non-resident voters, but in the City of London they are swamped. The constituency of Central Glasgow most nearly resembles the City of London. Of the 11,000 occupying voters 3,000 live outside the Division. In the case of the City of London, not 3,000 but 10,000 live outside the City. That grievance would be enough, but it is not all. Besides these out-voters, the 7,000 resident voters have to contend likewise with 7,500 livery voters; of whom not more than one quarter have any premises in the City, and probably not more than l-10th or l-20th reside in the City. They have bought the franchise with money down, just as they would buy a horse or a piece of furniture. Some of the prices given are very large. In the Cloth workers' Company it cost 100 guineas. In the Fishmongers' and the Goldsmiths' about 30 guineas. In the Fishmongers' there are 432 liverymen, and in the Cloth workers' 150 liverymen. Who are these bodies that they should be so represented even according to the theory that property 182 ought to be represented? The Fishmongers, have, I believe, an income of £55,000, and the Cloth workers' an income of £50,000. Now, supposing a country gentleman, or a man of business, has £50,000 a year, he will probably have three or four votes; if he is a brewer he may perhaps have 11 or 12. But these companies, with the same incomes as rich landed proprietors or men of business, have not 3 or 4, or 11 or 12, but 300 or 400 votes. They are, therefore, even on the theory that property should have a special representation, monstrously over-represented. I would just ask the House to look at the question of privilege as it exists in the City. The resident householders have 7,000 votes out of 29,000; that is to say, that each resident householder in the City has one-fourth of a vote. Now, let as see what the privileged classes have. First of all a member of these classes votes for the villa in which he lives at a distance from the City, or for his house in one of the fashionable parts of London. Secondly, he votes for his freehold property in the City as a county voter for the Hornsey Division. And not only does he vote for the Hornsey Division, where he does not reside and where he has not a shred of property, but he is so tenderly treated that two booths, and in one case three booths, are actually set up in the Guildhall in order that he may give his vote for Hornsey without having to leave his business for more than five minutes. This has been disputed once in the House, but I have documents which prove it beyond all doubt. In the third place he has a vote for the City itself—a vote which can be bought with money—and in the fourth place if he belongs to the class of University men and has taken out his M.A. degree, he can vote for his University. The noble Lord near me was, I believe, somewhat inaccurate in his statement as to the price of these livery votes. I think he was misinformed when he said it cost £25 to procure a vote. There are some Companies which are practically kept up for the purpose of making these votes. [Cries of "No!"] Well, it looks very like it. The Playing Card Makers' Company possess no property and charge a fee of 23 guineas for admission. The Loriners 183 have no land; there are 438 liverymen and the fine is £12. The Basket Makers' Company, with 29 liverymen, has an income of £35 from fees, and that is all spent on one entertainment. Now, if there is any sense about this system, if votes should be bought for money, the price should be the same, instead of varying from £120 or so to £12. But who would seriously propose to reform the livery franchise in such a way? There is only one possible reform, and that is to sweep it away altogether. Since the change in the franchise that my hon. Friend referred to, a man can by paying £12 or £20 live anywhere in Middlesex, or in the heart of Kent or Essex, almost any where in Surrey or in parts of Bucks and Herts, and tye assist in voting down the real residents of the City of London. This great injustice is accompanied by smaller injustices. The liveryman may change his residence as often as he likes, but when once he has paid his money he retains his vote for life. The ordinary householder, whenever he changes his residence and goes outside the precincts of the City, loses his one-fourth of a vote, sometimes for 18 months, and sometimes for much longer periods. The liveryman is not subject to the personal payment of rates and to all the chances of losing his vote that such a condition involves, but the ordinary householder has to pay his rates up to the day or he loses his vote. This country is pretty tolerant of anomalies if any public reason can be given for them, but for these anomalies no public reason can be given. There are, it is true, some 20,000 freemen still remaining in our large towns, but they are for the most part freemen of the whole town. They may have some local patriotism, some feeling that they owe something to the community—something of that feeling which in old days the liverymen of London displayed when they insisted that their Member should represent them on the floor of this House, even though he was rejected by the great majority of Members of the House. But in this case the liverymen are not attached to a great city. They are attached to certain isolated bodies, and I ask what reason is there that those bodies should have a special representation? Of all bodies they probably need 184 reform the most. I will read to the House the mere headings of the reforms which the Commission recommended, and which has not been carried out. They recommended that measures should be taken to prevent the alienation of the property of the Companies, and that means should be taken to secure the permanent application of a considerable portion of the corporate income to useful purposes. I am not throwing reflections on the Companies in this respect. They further recommended that a new trust should be declared where a better application of the trust moneys of the Companies had become desirable. Then came the recommendation about the franchise, which the House has already heard, and then there were recommendations that colourable apprenticeships should cease, and that excessive sums should no longer be spent on entertainments and on the maintenance and relief of poor members. Who were they who made these recommendations? Were they violent Radicals? They were Lord Derby, Lord Sherbrooke, the late Duke of Bedford, and Lord Coleridge. I object to these bodies having special representation in order that when these questions come before the House of Commons they should have an undue number of Members in this House to stand in the way of reform. The principle upon which we bring forward this Motion and support it is very simple. It is a principle which, during the last two generations, has constantly inspired all the changes which Parliament has made in reforming our representation, and that principle is, that to secure good Government, the Government should be in the hands of the greatest possible number of intelligent and independent men, and that each of these men who is sufficiently intelligent and independent to be a citizen shall have an exactly equal voice in the Government of the country. That has not been secured yet; but that has been the tendency of our legislation, and we ask that this system shall be abolished, that the residents—the real residents, the householders of the City of London—may have fair play in this question of the franchise, and not be absolutely swamped, as no other constituency in the country is, by people who have votes 185 elsewhere. Those bankers, merchants, and others of high character, of whom the noble Lord spoke as having votes in the City of London, surely they live somewhere—they are not houseless when they leave the City—and they have votes elsewhere? When we bring forward this Motion we want real argument, and until we get that argument we cannot but believe that the only opposition to this change is because the change may be of advantage to one political Party and a disadvantage to the other. That argument has been freely brought forward outside this House, but I am sure it will not be used in the House. In discussing these subjects we discuss them not from the point of view whether these men hold our opinions or the opinions of our political opponents, but apart from such considerations. It is our business to see that every citizen shall have fair play, and neither more nor less than fair play, in getting his share of political power; and in order that this principle may be established in the central constituency of the kingdom, where at the present moment it is extravagantly violated, my hon. Friend has brought forward this Motion, and I trust that every Member who looks at these questions not from the point of view of Party, but of principle, will vote with him.
§ (6.45.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS, Birmingham, E.)
In his opening remarks the right hon. Gentleman showed a singular forgetfulness of the achievements of his own Party. He described the reform of 1884—not of 1885—as that of the Conservative Party. That I deny. His Party was in power when the Bill became an Act, and was responsible for its final success, though not for its introduction. In December, 1884, the Act received the Royal Assent, and it is the great Party of which the right hon. Gentleman is so distinguished a Member that has the full credit of that Act. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that it is the duty of the Liberal Party to be perpetually tinkering with 186 the Constitution, and that if they do not do so they may as well shut up shop. He appears to think that every few years the whole system of the franchise on which representation in this House exists is to be reviewed and repaired, and that there should be no finality—that the tree should be constantly dug up by the roots to see how it is growing. I have listened attentively to the Debate, and the only argument I have heard against this franchise is that it is an anomaly. But though it is in some sense an anomaly, the framers of all previous reform Bills have left it untouched as they have many other anomalies. Why should it be attacked now? Nor is this so-called "fancy" franchise without its parallel in other parts of the country. Similar franchises exist in Leicester, Lincoln, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Nottingham, and Stafford. All these towns have their "fancy" franchise, and it is difficult to see why London should be picked out for special legislation. The right hon. Gentleman asserts that the only proper electorate for the City of London is its rated residents—a population of some 50,000 persons, consisting mainly of servants and caretakers, with a parson or two, while the wealth and intelligence of the City of London are to be left wholly unrepresented. That appears to me to be a representation of the City of London almost grotesque. The half million people who constitute the life, energy, intelligence, trade of the City of London are not really residents. I agree that as a matter of principle and for rough convenience some limit should be placed on the distance of out-voters. The ordinary limit is seven miles; in the case of these liverymen it is 25 miles. Having regard to the conditions of the suburban life of London, is this such an unreasonable limit? In the Local Government Act passed only two years ago the limit was fixed at 15 miles. Is that to be considered a retrograde step? Are we to be told that what we did two years ago is not to be mentioned as any ground or reason for our action now? I do not stand by this limit of 25 miles, but it is obvious that under the circumstances of the City of London some larger range of out-residents, as we may call them, is 187 required and does not create an anomaly in the sense in which it would be understood as applied to other boroughs. There has been talk about the livery franchise being bought. I am at a loss to see the distinction between the expenditure of money which makes a man a liveryman with a livery vote and the expenditure which makes a man the occupier of a tenement with an occupation vote. What is there so sacred in the expenditure of a little money in order to acquire a tenement, in which one need not reside, that such expenditure should give a vote, while the acquisition of liveryship should not? In other towns expenditure of some sort, sometimes very trifling, accompanies the acquisition of the livery, in the City of London the expenditure is much larger. Such acquisition usually costs some money, and carries with it the approval of a body of men who have the prosperity of the City of London at heart. It is alleged that certain companies offer their liveryship even to reluctant persons; that they go about "touting" for members. I am not aware of such cases. The figures do not appear to bear out that assertion. It appears that there are 7,756 liverymen on the electoral roll. Of these 290 are duplicates, leaving 7,466 liverymen with a vote. But 2,279 of these are householders, so that the number of liverymen voting who are not householders only amounts to 5,187. This the hon. Member who moved the Resolution seems to have entirely overlooked.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
I distinctly read out the figures from what I believe to be a correct analysis of the register made up to the present day.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The hon. Member assumed, I think, that householders were members of different Companies.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
Quoting from memory, for I have not the figures in my hand, I first took the gross number of electors on the register as it stands, then I deducted those who are qualified otherwise, and reading to these I arrived at 5,000 odd having no other qualification.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
I have now the actual figures: 32,728 electors, deduct 629 county electors, leaving 32,099. The livery votes included are 7,756, and, deducting 1,950 who are occupiers, the net result is 5,806 for the livery vote with no other qualification. This is arrived at after very careful analysis.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Mine also is a careful analysis, according to which there are 290 duplicates, and 2,279 householders, arriving at the same result. In round numbers, of 7,500 liverymen, 2,279 are householders as well, and therefore the real householders for whom the right hon. Gentleman opposite has so much affection. The hon. Member says that these liveries are over-represented in respect of their income, and he compares them with a large brewer. But does the hon. Member suggest that these companies exercise any direct influence over the votes of the individual Members? Notoriously the companies have no such influence. Another argument of the right hon. Gentleman was that the livery franchise encourages plurality of votes. A liveryman has a vote irrespective of residence; he may also have a University vote. But cannot the real resident get the University vote? Can he not also acquire a vote in a place from which his residence is not distant seven miles? If no better arguments can be cited for the exceptional treatment proposed to be applied to the livery franchise in the City of London, the case seems to me to be a very weak one indeed. I hear no demand for the abolition of the livery vote from the City itself. The City of London, which is the most interested in the matter, does not complain of being misrepresented by its voters; on the contrary, the whole City is unanimous in desiring to retain the livery vote. I hear no protests from those really representative of the City against the livery vote. The only persons against it are persons like the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Trevelyan), who, so far as I know, has no connection whatever with the City, or hon. Gentlemen like the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, 189 whose object is certainly not friendly, but hostile to the City. This, therefore, is an unnecessary, an uncalled for attack upon an anomaly, it is true, but an anomaly which has done no harm, and has worked to the satisfaction of all those who are subject to it.
§ (6.49.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
The right hon. Gentleman says the livery franchise stands on all fours with certain franchises existing in other ancient boroughs. Now, I distinctly traverse that statement. The anomaly in the representation of the City of London is absolutely unique. It is true that in certain ancient boroughs there are freemen, but the freemen who are entitled to exercise the franchise in these boroughs are only those who have acquired their freedom by servitude, or who take the freedom from some who have so acquired it. In London, on the contrary, freemen who, according to the Report of the Commissioners, consist mainly of artisans, are not entitled to the franchise, but this privilege is reserved for the livery men, who are drawn almost exclusively from the middle classes, and who pay in most cases a very considerable sum for what is called taking out their livery. So we arrive at this result, which I scarcely think will receive the approval of any candid Member in the House. I find that in round numbers the total electorate for the City of London is 32,000, and in round figures the number of liverymen 8,000. It is quite true that a certain number being liverymen have other qualifications, but that is an accident—it is not an essential feature of the case, and for present purposes it is absolutely immaterial. So we arrive at this result: that over a quarter of the voting power of the electorate of the City of London is directly purchasable with money. Now I say that is a scandal, and I think the scandal would have long ceased to exist had it not been for the subtle influence which the Corporation, of which this 190 livery system is an essential part, exercises over this House. I listened with great interest to the speech from the noble Lord (Lord Lymington) on this side, and which received a direct imprimatur from the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Kimber). The noble Lord seemed to stand aghast at a proposal which would have the effect of depriving members of Joint Stock Companies of votes for the city. Now, for my part, I have not that extreme reverence for Joint Stock Companies which the noble Lord appears to entertain. But it is not part of our proposal to disfranchise members of Joint Stock Companies; all we say is that to maintain the proposition that a man ought to have a vote because he is a member of a Joint Stock Company is simply ludicrous. The argument of the noble Lord would, it is clear, restore the very worst abuses of our old system of representation. Our Resolution has, no doubt, as the noble Lord saw, an intimate relation with a large principle, it has no doubt a bearing upon the principle of what is known popularly as "one man one vote," and I think it is instructive to see the attitude the noble Lord is prepared to take to wards that principle; but apart from that larger principle I submit the question is one which may fairly and reasonably be treated by itself, and I shall heartily give my vote with my hon. Friend.
§ (6.54.) MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
We have no intention of continuing the Debate from this side of the House, because we have heard the arguments adduced against us, and there is nothing in them to answer. The Home Secretary, the noble Lord on this side and his supporters opposite, have used the most old and crusted Tory arguments in connection with this matter. We are told that we ought to wait until we can reform the whole of the City Companies. Is either of the three gentlemen who used this argument, or is the Government prepared to introduce a Bill for reforming these City Companies? If they are not prepared to do that, are they prepared to give me and my friends any facilities 191 for carrying the other recommendations of the Royal Commission which have been so long before the House, to prevent the alienation of the funds under the control of the Companies? They are not prepared to do that, therefore there is nothing in the argument that we ought to wait until we can carry out all the recommendations of the Commission. Then it has been said, "Why have not the Liberals done this before?" It was rightly enough said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan) that is an argument against anything that could be done. There were reasons which are obvious now as we look back at 1884. The Liberal Metropolitan Members are determined to bring forward in the House whenever they can the disabilities under which London labours, and that is the reason why this subject is raised at the present time. For years we have tried to bring it forward, but the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has stepped in and appropriated private Members' time, and it is only now, when we have returned to a position of things that never ought to have been suspended, and which we are getting back to apparently only on sufferance, that we have found the opportunity of ventilating this question and calling attention to this anomaly. If we do not avail ourselves of these opportunities there is no preparation for the time when legislative proposals can be submitted. I do not argue the question now, it has been very ably argued by my hon. Friend, and nothing has been said on either side to shake his argument. A Liberal Unionist on this side has spoken of Liberal Governments of the past with a bitterness and sarcasm one would not have expected from one who professed himself a Liberal at the time. Almost the whole of the argument of the Home Secretary came to this, that he regarded the possession of the dual vote in this and other instances as an advantage, as part of the Constitution I suppose he would say, and for which he and his party are prepared in future to contend.
§ (7.0.) The House divided:—Ayes 148; Noes 120.—(Div. List, No. 36.)
§ Main Question again proposed.