§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ GENERAL GOLDS WORTHY (Hammersmith) rose to move a new clause giving power to make statutory declaration of danger to life.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
This clause is out of Order; it would require to be originated in Committee of the House.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
I wish to propose a referendum clause as to whether the Act shall come into operation.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The clause is not in Order, because it would require an Instruction to the Committee.
§ [The next new clause was in the name of the same hon. Member, and dealt with the limitations of the powers of the Irish Legislature.]
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
Clause 3 is an absolute prohibition of certain subjects. This new clause deals with a suspension of certain subjects.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I was rather coming to the help of the hon. Member by suggesting it as an Amendment to Clause 3; but as it stands it is out of Order. If it were moved it would be open to any hon. Member to propose that each subject involved in it should be embodied in a separate clause.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
I have a new clause to be inserted after Clause 5, dealing with the reservation of the Royal Assent.
MR. J. MORLEY
I rise to Order. Is not this the substance of an Amendment to Clause 5, and not a new clause?
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
I have next a new clause, to be inserted after Clause 7, providing for redistribution after 10 years.
§ [The next clause, in the name of the hon. Member, to be inserted after Clause 9, dealt with the appointment of Boundary Commissioners.]
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said, he desired to move the Second Reading of the following new clause:—The persons named in the Schedule of this Act shall with all practicable despatch draw up and submit to one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State a Report showing schemes for dividing Ireland into constituencies for electing Members to the Legislative Council, the Legislative Assembly, and the House of Commons respectively, and such Report shall be submitted to Parliament. Provided that in such schemes the number of electors in each constituency shall be as nearly as may be proportional to the number of Members returned by the constituency, and provided that in such schemes the existing boundaries of counties and boroughs shall so far as possible be followed.He regretted having been called upon to move it so unexpectedly, as he feared he could not now do so important a subject the justice it demanded, and which he would have done if more time had been allowed him. He was bound to say he thought the Schedules and the system of distribution were most unfair and unsatisfactory. They would lead to a representation of Ireland, both in Ireland and at Westminster, which would be by no means representative of the genuine opinion of the people of Ireland. It did not seem possible for Parliament to draw up a Schedule and arrange the distribution of seats. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had framed a distribution scheme which was much fairer than the one contained in the Schedule of the Bill; but, with all respect to that hon. Member, he held that it would be more satisfactory if they could establish a Boundary Commission with full and complete authority to go through the country and investigate the fair and proper divisions, subsequently laying before Parliament a proper and adequate scheme. There was, at least, a year available during which such a question might be considered and deliberated upon. An infinitely fairer and truer result could be thus obtained. This new clause was 1435 taken from the Act of 1886, whereby it was proved that a Boundary Commission should be established to distribute the constituencies in view of the Redistribution Bill of that period. The Commission did make the investigation; it presented its Report to the Secretary of State; that Report was laid as speedily as possible before Parliament; and the House was enabled, by means of the materials with which it was supplied, to arrive at a true method of distribution. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) had pointed out the impossibility, under present circumstances, of coming to any fair result, and of criticising the Schedules in an adequate or satisfactory manner. The House ought to appoint an impartial body of Boundary Commissioners, and ought also to lay down general principles for the guidance of those Commissioners in dividing Ireland into such constituencies as would give a full and fair representation to the different portions of the country, and of the different shades of opinion. It was notorious that in the present division of Ireland—that division of constituencies which the Bill sought to perpetuate—the representation of the South was extravagant, whilst that of the North was not larger than the corresponding divisions of England and Scotland. It seemed to him perfectly monstrous that when they were making such vital and fundamental changes as were provided for in the Bill, a matter of that kind should be left untouched, and that they should give to very small constituencies in the South a power far beyond that which they deserved according to their numerical strength, while they left great and prosperous parts of the North with a representation comparatively small. Seeing that the Government professed to safeguard the interests of the loyal minority in Ireland, it seemed to him that they should not leave these matters where they were on the plea of want of time. The principle contained in his clause was one which the Government would find it very hard to oppose, whilst that of the Schedules was one which they would find it equally hard to maintain. In submitting his clause he was confident that it was the only proper, fair, and adequate method of solving the problem.
§ Clause (Boundary Commissioners,)—(Mr. Parker Smith,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that if the Government scheme was one which had been adopted by the House after discussion, probably there would be something to be said for their putting it forward now; but inasmuch as no discussion took place on the Schedule at all, and as it was accepted by a very narrow majority—17—he thought he should be in Order in attempting to show the absolute necessity that existed for the new clause of his hon. Friend. According to the Government proposal, there were to be 80 Irish Representatives in the House after the Home Rule Bill came into operation. He should have thought it would have been considered of the first importance, in distributing these 80 Members, for the Government to do their best to secure a fair share—and no more than a fair share—of the representation for the loyal minority. After all that had been said about the duty of protecting the minority, he should have thought that the Government would have so arranged matters that the Schedule might have been quoted as a proof that the Government were willing to bring the principle of the protection of the minority into operation. He proposed to show the House that instead of this Schedule being fair, and there having been any pretence of protecting the minority, the Government had acted on precisely the opposite principle, and had denied to the minority the protection they ought to have had.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, he rose to Order. The hon. Member had stated that he proposed to discuss the Schedule in order to show its unfairness, and by reason of that to demonstrate the necessity for the new clause. He (Mr. Healy) wished to submit either of two things—either that the clause should be in some way an Amendment to the Schedule, or else that the Schedule should not be discussed on the new clause.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, as one who voted against 1437 the Schedule, might he point out that the new clause was inconsistent with the Schedule as it now stood in the Bill? The Amendment assumed that there were constituencies which had to be divided by means of the Commissioners, whereas the constituencies, as set out in the Schedule, were not in their nature divisible.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It does not follow that because this clause is inconsistent with the Schedule that, therefore, it would be out of Order to discuss it as a proposition. The hon. Member is so far in Order in referring to the Schedule—not in going through the whole of the Schedule to show that there is an unequal distribution of representative power, but as showing that there are cases which require the action of Boundary Commissioners.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he believed this was a problem which ought to be settled in the way his hon. Friend (Mr. Parker Smith) proposed. He proposed to show that the plan of the Government would work out unfairly, and that, therefore, the proposal of his hon. Friend ought to be accepted.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
That is a matter the Boundary Commissioners would be able to settle. If the hon. Member can show that any constituencies should be divided, or should include larger areas than they at present include, the action of Boundary Commissioners might be invoked.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, the Government Schedule proposed to abolish the present division of counties. His own constituency of Tyrone had to return three Members in future. It now returned four. Well, he thought the Boundary Commissioners ought to divide it into three. He could only demonstrate that by showing that the proposition of the Government was unfair, and that the Boundary Commissioners should deal with the matter. The constituencies should be divided by the Boundary Commissioners in a different way to that proposed by the Govern- 1438 ment. His own county had now four Representatives. Under the Schedule of the Government it would have three, and as a matter of honesty, on the face of things, one would suppose that the whole county was to elect the three Representatives, and that each elector would have three votes; but he was informed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that that was not so—and he had accepted the right hon. Gentleman as the greatest authority in the House on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman had conveyed to him that the Minority Clause would operate.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member must have misunderstood him. That clause would have operated but for the fact that it had never existed in Ireland. If the Bill applied to England or Scotland the clause would operate, but there had never been a Minority Clause in Ireland.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he must have misunderstood the right hon. Baronet. He would not proceed in that direction. County Tyrone was divided into four, and returned two Unionists and two Nationalists. Under the Government Schedule it would return three Members. If a Boundary Commission examined into the matter a Representative would be given to the loyal minority; but under the proposal of the Government the whole county would vote, and, therefore, the minority would be crushed. That was a clear case in support of the new clause of the hon. Member for the Partick Division of Glasgow. In like manner County Down now had four Representatives, but it would have three in future. And while the Government were doing this they were actually leaving a small borough on the border of the county— Newry—intact. Newry had a population of under 2,000, and County Down a population of 40,000. There, again, a Boundary Commission, if appointed, would so arrange matters that County Down, with its three Representatives, would give a representation to the minority—in that case a Nationalist minority. He might go still further, and show the necessity of something of this kind being done. The Government plan had evidently been considered on no principle at all save one, and that was to lessen 1439 the Unionist representation in Ireland. That, it appeared to him, was the general principle which had guided those who drew up the Schedule, and he could not give a more perfect illustration of it than by saying that County Kerry, which had four Members now, was to have three in future. Kerry had 21,000 electors, and was to be left with three Members; but Armagh, in the North of Ireland, with 26,000 electors, would only have two Members. No more plain and patent case of gerrymandering had ever been put into a Bill submitted to the House than the proposal of the Government. Those who ran might read in this matter. That one example was quite enough to show the necessity of having Boundary Commissioners to go into this thing in an unprejudiced way, and split up the counties so as to protect the minorities. The Government, he submitted, had not made the slightest effort to do anything of the kind. Ireland had 740,000 electors; and if the small boroughs had been left out, it was certain that constituencies of 8,000 and 9,000 would have been apportioned to make up the number of 80 Members, and that would have produced 22 Unionists, instead of the 15 for which the Government allowed. Nothing more gerrymandering than this scheme of the Government had ever taken place. The vote of the House when the Schedule was passed in Committee showed that even Members on the Government side were not all prepared to accept this shameful arrangement. The Government could not say, in view of this Schedule, that they were giving fair play to the minority, or that the Bill was not a disfranchising Bill. It disfranchised Dublin University, and took away 21 County Members, and, so far as it did that, it was a disfranchising measure. The Government, after the professions they had made, ought to be studiously careful to give the minority in Ireland a fair share of representation in that House. Because he was certain that they would not have that fair share, and because he was certain that they were being gerrymandered out of it, he supported the proposal, as the only fair one which could be submitted to deal with a difficult matter of this kind.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, this was a question which concerned 1440 all Members in the House. On the Reform Bill of 1885, the question of the boundaries was one which required great attention; and so far as he could understand these three-sided constituencies, unless there was some Boundary Commission to arrange and divide them, the majority in any county must return all the Members, and therefore there would be no representation of the minority. That struck at the very root of the principle adopted in the Bill of 1885, when the counties were divided into single-seat constituencies. He presumed that the Bill had been carefully drawn to minimise the representation of the loyal minority in Ireland. The cases quoted by the hon. Member opposite clearly showed that seats had been retained in those districts where there was a majority of Nationalists whilst a different policy had been adopted in those districts which now returned Unionist Members. They were given to understand that the reduced numbers would fairly represent the Ulster Loyalists; but, if that were so it was clear that the Nationalists in the South and West ought to be largely reduced. But the Schedule as it stood would do nothing to reduce them. It seemed to him strange that when this matter was brought before the Government they did not attempt to say a word even to defend their own views. The indictment brought against them by the hon. Member opposite was unanswerable. The Prime Minister would not dare to do in England or Scotland what he was proposing to do in Ireland. He should not have risen only that the Government seemed as if they did not wish to discuss this matter. They asked for a reason for the Government proposal, and he took it that the Prime Minister was bound to give a reply. The proposal was contrary to recognised principles, as was shown by the Debates on the Redistribution Bill of 1885—and shown by no one more strongly than the Prime Minister himself. They ought to have Boundary Commissioners appointed, for, though they might gerrymander to a certain extent, they could not do so to the same extent as the Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian)
I will endeavour to distinguish between the violent language 1441 of the last two speakers and the case for which they argue. They have brought forward allegations of the gravest character; and with respect to their violent language, it would have been better if they had observed that the Government Schedule rests upon certain distinct principles, and the guiding principle between county and county is the principle of population, which does not loot so like the corrupt intention which hon. Members are so ready to attribute to us. However, I go to their arguments. The hon. Member for South Tyrone says the Schedules provide for a representation of 80 Irish Members, and that only 15 of those will be Unionists.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The hon. Member, having made his own calculation, proceeds to frame upon it an indictment in scarcely Parliamentary language. Though the hon. Member has undoubted ability, he has something to learn in that direction. The allegation was most important, and the Government was most anxious that it should be examined. But it appears to us that the place for examining it is not upon such an Amendment as this, bur upon the Schedule itself. The new clause submitted, though it provides for the appointment of Boundary Commissioners to consider the question of boundaries, has no operative force whatever, and it is a clause which the Government believe it is not expedient to adopt. It appears to me that if, in considering the Schedule, the House of Commons determined that it was essential or important to apply to it the principle of the single-Member districts the best way probably would be to proceed by Orders in Council, which Orders would be subjected to the review of Parliament. No doubt the question of whether the plan of proceeding by population and observing the old distinction of counties and boroughs is a good one is a matter of opinion. It is open to argument; but if there should be a widespread opinion that such a, scheme is unjust, the Government are ready to consider the objection in all its particulars. But there is one point of great, importance which we should not shirk. I have stated what our motive was. In adopting the population scale, combined with the old divisions of 1442 boroughs and counties, our motive was to avoid the intolerable inconvenience which would be occasioned if Ireland were divided into one set of districts for the purpose of the Irish Legislature, and into another set for the purpose of returning Members to the Imperial Parliament. Surely it must be obvious to hon. Members that great inconvenience would arise in that way. Here the object has been to avoid that inconvenience; but if it is found on careful examination that our mode of division is unfair to any particular interest in Ireland, I am not at all sure that you would not be able to meet the difficulty by amending the Schedule. At any rate, I am quite sure that to attempt to argue the question on an Amendment which has no legislative force whatever—because the Schedule will have been acted upon before the Commissioners could proceed to make their inquiries—will be a waste of time. I make no charge against hon. Gentleman on the score of motive. I quite think the question is deserving of the judgment of the House, which judgment ought to be founded upon discussion, and I shall not object to discussion on the Schedule when the proper time for it arrives. The hon. Member for Tyrone has suggested that if the House be disposed to part with several of the boroughs in Ireland the county representation might be amended. That is a fair question to consider. It is a question which there is nothing whatever to prevent us from considering. But I think it might be inconvenient to proceed by an enactment which would provide for the appointment of Boundary Commissioners, and makes no provision for giving effect to the result of their inquiry.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
I will endeavour to guard myself against the use of language which might be called violent. But I submit that the right hon. Gentleman has not answered one of the objections that have been raised. The point we are discussing now is one of principle. The question is whether we shall, by hard-and-fast enactment, define the constituencies, or whether the constituencies ought to be defined by means of Boundary Commissioners. I would call the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that whenever constituencies have been readjusted Parliament has always proceeded 1443 by Boundary Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman himself shows that by the course he has taken in framing this Bill. You cannot do justice in the Bill if you have to deal with boundaries. How could the Committee define boundaries, and enter into a discussion as to how certain constituencies should be cut up? The Government knew that they could not define geographical areas which would be just, and therefore they have fallen back upon the old county boundary, which is an act of retrogression, and contrary to what we have been doing for years. We first had counties where two Members were returned, but the different sizes rendered it necessary that we should have throe Members. We tried in the Act of 1867 to remedy the defect in Great Britain by the minority vote, but that was found to fail. ["No, no!"] Well, it has not been thought by Liberal Governments a success. Then we returned one Member for different areas, so that in a large county the minority might obtain representation, and so that, as the Liberal Party contended, there might be a full expression of the opinion of the constituencies. In the present proposal, however, the Government were practically undoing what was done by the right hon. Gentleman in 1885. The Government are acting in the most unjust way to the Irish constituencies, which ought to be considered in the most sensitive manner. They are returning to an electoral system which leaves the minority entirely unrepresented. This is a most extraordinary course for the Liberal Party to take, seeing that they have always claimed that the minority shall not be put on one side, and it leads one to think there must be some reason behind. I would prefer to take it that the Government are anxious that this Bill should not be delayed for an hour, and therefore do not wish to do what was done in Great Britain—that is to say, appoint a Commission to work out the boundaries. The Bill is to be hurried on. But if it is hurried on the result will be an extraordinary amount of inequality, and that inequality all in one direction. Taking the City of Cork and comparing it with Belfast, the preponderance will be found to be enormous. The House has to consider whether it will accept a return to the old system of 1444 three-Membered constituencies, or will insist upon cutting counties up, as in Great Britain, into three constituencies, so as to prevent minorities being entirely shut out from representation. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) says, "Wait till you come to the Schedule." When are we to reach the Schedule? We have not discussed it at all yet, and have had no opportunity of doing so. Are we to have an opportunity? Am I to understand from my right hon. Friend that under all circumstances we are to have an opportunity of discussing the Schedule? But, even if we do have such an opportunity, we shall be bound to the Schedule principle, and shall be prevented from having any inquiry by the Boundary Commissioners. If, when the House reaches the Schedule it is found that the inequality is such as the House cannot deal with of its own knowledge, will the Prime Minister consent to delegation to Commissioners of the power of making inquiry into the question? This is so important a matter of principle that I do not care to turn to either hand in this controversy, and to ask whether there has been an attempt to obtain political power by the manner in which the boundaries are settled? But, certainly, the effect of the arrangement is to give political power. I hope the House will not consent to go backwards, and to shut out the minority from having any chance of electing Representatives. The House is asked to sacrifice the electors of this country and the representation of this country. Members are asked to give undue power to Irish electors, by enabling them to vote for three Members, when the English elector can only vote for one. Whatever is the answer given by the House, I know what answer will be given outside the House—namely, that the inequalities and the injustice of the scheme should not be committed at the expense of the electors of Great Britain.
§ * MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
said, he agreed very much with what the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. James) had just said—namely, that it was exceedingly desirable that the system of one-Member constituencies should be adopted. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) had made a most unjust charge, and one that 1445 showed how little he had considered the Amendment he Was supporting. If the hon. Member looked at the populations, he would find that the number of Members given to Armagh and Tyrone was about right.
§ * MR. ROBY
said, that, comparing the population of Cavan and Armagh, the proposals of the Government were reasonable enough, and they only looked unfair if the number of the electors was considered. His own view was rather in favour of taking population as the basis, and that was the view set forth in the clause before the House.
§ * MR. ROBY
begged pardon. He had the wrong clause before him. At all events, if population were taken as the basis, the number of Representatives given in the Schedule was about right. He very much desired, however, that some plan should be found—and he had not the least doubt that the Government could find one—by which the principle of single-Member constituencies could be maintained, and by which the basis of population could be acted upon, irrespective of the distinction between counties and boroughs. He did not think it right that because certain people lived in a borough they should continue to exercise a power which would not be given to the same number of persons in a county. It seemed to him that the difficulty in regard to future clashing might be got over if when the Irish Legislature, if they thought fit to do so, had fixed their boundaries the Imperial Legislature should adopt as far as they thought fit the boundaries laid down by the Irish Legislature. But on the necessary arrangements to obtain single-Member constituencies, the Government knew far better what to do than he could tell them.
§ MR. ROSS (Londonderry)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had attempted to justify the Bill by an appeal to population. He (Mr. Ross) considered that, whether they took the test of the numbers of electors or the test of population, the result was nothing short of gerrymandering. Let them assume that the number of Irish Representatives in the House was to be reduced to 80. The 1446 average population for each seat would be about 50,000, and the number of electors 9,200. If they took Armagh and compared it with Meath, the principle on which the Schedule had been framed would be apparent. Armagh, with twice the number of electors and twice the population, had only the same number of Representatives. He would like to know from whose brain the Schedule sprang? They had heard nothing about this. Fermanagh had only 745 electors and 1,500 population less than County Meath; but Fermanagh had one and Meath two Representatives. Kerry, with 20,700 electors and 178,000 population, had actually the same number of Representatives as County Down, with 38,000 electors and 208,000 population. Could anyone justify that? Leitrim had 14,000 electors and 78,000 population, and Londonderry 20,000 electors and 118,700 population; yet Leitrim had the same number of Representatives as Londonderry. The matter was beyond all argument. Had the Government invented this scheme, or taken it secondhand from someone well-acquainted with the art of gerrymandering? Gladstonian Members had pledged themselves to see that the minority in Ireland got fair play. How could they face their constituents if they supported such a palpably unfair scheme for gerrymandering? These facts and figure were beyond all arguments. No amount of fence or of skilful play, in which Ministers were so expert, would get rid of them; and, that being so, he respectfully submitted that they demonstrated to the nation that this Schedule had been put in the Bill for the purpose of crushing, diminishing, or destroying minority representation in Ireland. Surely the Government wore exposing the minority to enough harm and danger without depriving them of some appearance of proportionate representation in the new Parliament they proposed to establish? He submitted that this was a fraudulent Schedule. [Nationalist cries of "Order!"] He did not accuse the Ministry, but he submitted that they had taken it second-hand from someone who had designedly framed it to destroy minority representation. He appealed to the Liberal Members who had given the pledges he had alluded to to vote for the Amendment.
§ * MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
Sir, it seems to me that some Members of the House are not quite prepared to deal with this particular proposal. The hon. Member for the Eccles Division (Mr. Roby) showed just now that he had mistaken the clause under discussion, and he has not been alone in misconceiving the scope of the clause. It seems to be supposed that the clause, if adopted, will result in dividing the country into single-Member districts. There is not a word in the clause on the subject, nor do I think that this is its object. A subsequent clause standing in my hon. Friend's (Mr. Parker Smith's) name, shows that he desires to have three or five Members in each constituency. It has been conceded by my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that it is desirable in some way or other to secure the representation of minorities in Ireland. Everybody is agreed that this is an object worthy of attainment, if it can be attained. It is now generally regarded as essential for securing the object of representative government that representation should be obtained of the different divisions of opinion within the area represented. It has been proved up to the hilt that, on whatever principle the Prime Minister wished the Schedules to be drawn up, they did not provide those securities for proportional representation which his right hon. Friend himself desires to secure. The one object of the clause is to raise the question whether representation should be in proportion to population or in proportion to electors. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Roby) is in favour of representation in proportion to population; but he gives no reasons. On the other hand, I maintain that we ought to endeavour to obtain the representation of the opinions of those who send Members to this House; the electors are the persons Ave wish to have in miniature in the House; and the first condition of obtaining that result is to assign to each district representation proportionate to the number of electors it contains. To that proposition no answer has been given; and I do not see on what principle you can assign representation to a district in proportion to its population, unless, indeed, the electors are vested with their privileges by some unequal 1448 rights, such as prevailed in the Slave States before the Civil War in America. That cannot be so, seeing that the principle of the electoral franchise is the same throughout the country. The next question is whether the object would be best attained by districts returning a Member apiece, or by districts returning three or five Members apiece.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order! I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I must point out that he is anticipating a subsequent clause, which distinctly provides for proportional representation.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said, on the point of Order, he would like to ask whether, as the Amendment was built upon a Schedule which was not in existence, it was competent to move such a clause?
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
asked whether there was any precedent for putting the names of Commissioners in the Schedule; and whether they were not always put in a clause?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said, on the point raised by the hon. Member for Louth, a new Schedule could be brought in.
§ * MR. COURTNEY
I think, Sir, I shall be within the Rules of Order if I point out that this first clause is one for dealing with the Schedules as they at present stand. It is clear that some action is required, for if the Schedules remain as they now stand there will be great diversity of treatment as between different parts of Ireland. In some parts a bare majority will return a number of Members altogether disproportionate to any justifiable estimate of their power; and the whole representation will depend upon a chance majority after a keen contest between two highly-organised Parties. The result will be as objectionable in the return of three Members in Antrim as in any other county. It is a matter altogether independent of any controversy as between Home Rulers, Nationalists, and Unionists. Irish Members opposite will admit that it would be wrong that four Members should represent Belfast by virtue of the votes of the majority, which would be disfranchising the very considerable minority that exists there. The same objection applies to the other counties, and these injustices do not correct one another. By the operation of the Schedules as they 1449 stand you destroy the political life of the minority in Belfast or in the County of Dublin. If there is a Boundary Commission it will be said there is gerrymandering; but there need not be any suggestion of gerrymandering at all. We can take the existing electoral divisions and adopt a better method of election, which will secure that the minority shall be adequately represented, and we shall thus avoid the gross and indefensible injustices which are involved in the Schedules as they stand. I admit the present clause is insufficient. Some other step of a practical kind will have to be taken to arrive at a solution of the issues involved; but good service has been rendered in raising the question now, because when we come to subsequent proposals we shall know what we are driving at, and we shall have in view the character and motives that underlie these proposals.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, his right hon. Friend had pointed out clearly the impracticable nature of the clause before them. Strong as were his own objections to the Schedule, he could not support this clause, which ran directly counter to every Redistribution Bill that had been introduced in that House. Population had always been adopted as the basis of representation, and he objected to the introduction of any new principle when they were dealing only with the case of Ireland. [Laughter.] He had objected also to other clauses, on the ground that they embodied entirely new principles in dealing with the Irish case. The Census of 1881 was distinctly adopted as the basis of what was done in 1885. If they wore to look upon this as a, practical scheme they would have to ask what it meant. It was a most difficult clause to interpret. The Government difficulty was that while 21 county seats were taken away, no borough seats were taken. It was from that fact that their other difficulties had sprung. There were other difficulties, as, for instance, that the arrangement of 1884–5, relating to single-Member constituencies, would be affected. For that reason he could not vote for the Schedule, but he must vote against this clause.
§ * SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) had been charged by the Prime Minister with using violent 1450 language on that and other occasions, but his hon. Friend had very strong feelings in this matter, and so had the minority in Ulster. They thought this Bill meant the expatriation and the ruin of Irish Unionists. This proposal had been left unamended in Committee, and under the circumstances the right hon. Gentleman might understand a little the indignation of Irish Unionists at the gerrymandering which was proposed. Irish Unionists under the clause would be worse treated than they were now. The Prime Minister asked what proof existed for his hon. Friend's contention. How did matters stand now? Every Protestant in Ireland was against the Bill.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
§ * SIR T. LEA
said, the hon. Member said "No, no!" Perhaps there were a few Protestants here and there who said they were in favour of this Bill, and the late Leader of the Irish Party—Mr. Parnell—clapped them into Parliament when he found them; but they had to deal here with the broad question, and he said that, as a body, Irish Protestants wore against Home Rule. They had tested the question, and they had found Irish Protestants voting according to their convictions. He did not know how many Catholic Unionists were represented by the hon. and learned Member for St. Stephen's Green (Mr. W. Kenny); but, at any rate, the process of gerrymandering would affect the minorities, whether Catholic or Protestant. The Prime Minister said this was not the proper place for a discussion on the question. But would they have a definite promise that the Schedule would be considered, or that some other equitable proposal would be brought forward? He wished to show that the treatment to be meted out to the Unionists would place them in a worse position than they were at present. If they would refer to the figures of the votes for County Deny and County Meath they would see that, while the latter county had about half the number of voters that Deny bad, yet it returned as many Members as Derry. This showed that the provision for representation was inadequate, and what applied to Derry applied to Unionist representation throughout the whole of Ireland. Unionists had very strong feelings upon 1451 this subject. They would have this proposal of the Government upon no terms whatever, and he regretted that the Government had not given them the slightest hope that the Schedules would be amended with the object of making them fair towards the minority for whom he spoke.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke)—who is, perhaps, the highest authority in this House upon this question, or any question connected with redistribution—has told us that, although he disapproves of the Schedule which will be modified by this Amendment, he will not vote for it. I would beg to point out that we are now engaged upon the Second Reading, and that the clause can be amended when the Second Reading has been passed. Whether the clause is good or not in every one of its parts, I would point out that it will be necessary to deal with the Schedule when we come to it. The right hon. Gentleman wants to get the system of single-Member divisions, but that can only be done by Boundary Commissioners. We must trust them with forming a scheme. If we wish to have now boundaries we must have Commissioners to deal with the question of boundaries, and I am afraid if the right hon. Gentleman goes into the Lobby against this proposal he will not give a vote in accordance with his expressed opinions. Well, now, I pass to what is, after all, the important point—the attitude of the Government. I do not think anything could more clearly illustrate than that attitude does that the framers of the Bill never contemplated its passing. We have seen symptoms of that at every stage. They do not pretend that they have laid on the Table a scheme that can work. It is not a workable measure, and this is not a practical part of the scheme. There are eight constituencies which under this Bill will return three Members; and however large the minority, even if it is less than the majority by one only, it will be wiped out. Have the Government realised what the state of things is? There are many objections to the postponement of this question to the Schedule stage. Are hon. Members aware that you cannot have any single-Member constituencies on the Schedule 1452 until you provide your machinery? If the House leaves the matter over to the Schedules we shall find ourselves powerless to carry out what I believe is the desire and the intention of the great body of the Members of this House. But will that time ever come? I do not know what the plans of the Government are in regard to the discussion of the Schedules; but I would point to the extraordinary difficulties the House is placed under from the fact that hon. Members have not been able to discuss this Schedule in Committee. Had it been possible for us to deal with the Schedule we should have shown in Committee bow it bristles with anomalies, and an unanswerable case would have been established for bringing forward on Report a plan by which the principle of single Members could have been grafted on the Schedule. I noticed that the Prime Minister cheered a statement of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Roby) that the single-Member constituency was the right one. I do not know whether I am to interpret that cheer as meaning that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to adopt the single-Member constituency. The Prime Minister, indeed, stated in his speech that he was not wedded to this particular part of his scheme. I notice, however, that the right hon. Gentleman is not wedded to a good many parts of his scheme, or, if he is wedded to them, he finds divorce extremely easy. I notice also that the parts of the scheme most easy of divorce are not those which stand in favour with the minority in Ireland. It is, therefore, most important to know at this time whether I am to interpret the cheer of the Prime Minister in the sense that he is prepared to adopt something like the scheme for which this clause should be the proper preparation? That something must be done is conclusively proved by all the speeches which we have heard. The whole scheme of the Schedule has been riddled by speakers on both sides of the House, and the Prime Minister has not made the slightest defence of any of the inequalities or anomalies with which it bristles. The Schedule labours under every conceivable defect. It is unjust as between the towns and the counties; it is unjust as between the counties in the North and the counties in the South; it is unjust as between, the Loyalists and the 1453 Nationalists. Singularly enough, all the anomalies and all the mistakes in the Schedule tell, by an extraordinary coincidence, against the minority. Of all countries in the world in which you are going to start a scheme which is unjust to the minority and more than just to the majority the case of Ireland is chosen. There are countries, I well believe, in which it matters comparatively little what particular machinery of redistribution is brought into operation, because such is the homogeneous sentiment of some countries that an injustice done to one Party in one part of the country is met by an injustice done to the other side in another part of the country. Therefore, as to the ultimate balance of Parties, any particular plan does not greatly signify. But is Ireland a country like that? There the deepest divisions exist, socially and politically, running down to the very root of society; and there, of all places, something should be done to protect the interest of the minority. Yet the Prime Minister, unmindful of the just fears of the minority in Ireland, rejects these proposals and attacks the hon. Member for South Tyrone for the warm language he has used. My hon. Friend was amply justified in the language he used. He believes, and the Loyalists believe, that they are fighting for everything they hold dear. They see in this Schedule another instrument of oppression, another contrivance for handing them over helpless to their opponents; and the hon. Gentleman would be more than human if he did not protest against this matter being treated as a mere metaphysical question to be decided on academic principles, by gentlemen proposing this or that scheme of popular representation. The Government are bound to provide by this clause, or by some other means, some kind of machinery by which the gross injustices and inequalities with which the Schedule, intentionally or unintentionally, bristles shall be remedied. Some form of protection ought to be given to the minority in Ireland; some pretence of justice ought to be meted out to those who, should this Bill ever become law, would represent the relatively small powerless minority in the new Irish Legislature.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
It would be out of Order 1454 I think, to attempt to reply in detail to the attacks made on the Schedule by the right hon. Gentleman. But I might be allowed to describe the language of the right hon. Gentleman as grossly unjust to the composition of the Schedule. The scheme may be a bad one, but the right hon. Gentleman should be the last person to deny that it is a workable one. The right hon. Gentleman implies that the Government were probably biased in the principles on which they proceeded in the construction of the Schedule by a desire to get the Unionist minority even more inadequately represented than it is now. It was said that the Schedule was constructed on purely political lines. In one sense that is so. All schemes of redistribution and representation are constructed on political lines, and the representation of this House of Commons at this moment is still too largely empirical. The Government first took the principle of population. We said that every 75,000 of the population should have one Member, and every excess over 75,000 should carry with it another Representative. We have also gone on the principle, except in the case of Dublin University, of avoiding disfranchisement. I admit that the result is by no means perfect. [Opposition cheers.] I defy any hon. Member opposite who sets to work to construct a similar scheme for the purpose of this Bill to formulate proposals in which we should not be able to detect some considerable anomalies. The hon. Member for South Tyrone admitted that under the Schedule there would be 15 Unionist Representatives in this House.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I said, according to the calculation I have made on the present basis, the Unionists would secure under the Schedule 15 Representatives, and no more.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Yes; but what I say is that you will get under the Schedule exactly the same proportion of Unionist Representatives as now sit in this House. Fifteen out of 80 Members would bear the same proportion as the existing Unionist representation is to 103. Therefore the Schedule does no greater injustice to the Unionists than is done by the existing state of things, and it certainly is not the unfair and unjust thing which the right hon. Gentleman has described it. There is no reason 1455 why we should not apply the principle of one-Member constituency to the Schedule as it stands, and if we should find a strong opinion in the House to divide the counties in such a way as to give a large proportion, if not a complete set, of one-Member constituencies.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
A Boundary Commission? I wonder whether the House realises what is proposed. By hypothesis the Home Rule Bill is to become law. The moment that happens Ireland will vote for Members for two Chambers in Ireland, and for 80 Members who are to sit in this House. Then, when that operation is completed, or while it is completing, with all practical despatch a Boundary Commission is to go to work in Ireland, and is afterwards to submit a Report to the Secretary of State, who is then to submit that Report to Parliament.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
I do not think my clause merits that criticism. The Act is not to come into force until the "appointed day." Between the passing of the Act and the appointed day there will be abundant time for the Boundary Commission.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
That is not stated in the clause as proposed. The proposal comes to this—that, having got rid, as we hope, of the question of a Parliamentary Constitution for Ireland, the House is then to be asked to sit down to discuss an Irish Redistribution Bill. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: Why not?] I will not argue why not. I will only ask whether hon. Gentlemen really mean us, after the Home Rule Bill is passed, to consider an Irish Redistribution Bill for three bodies and on a new principle, which would be sure to give rise to enormous discussion. I think, under these circumstances, that the House will be very slow in supporting the Second Reading of this clause.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
What we should like to know is the view of the Government as to the ultimate form which redistribution is to take. My right hon. Friend has not shown from what point of view the Government believe they can give effect to a reform in the Schedule of the neces- 1456 sity of which they have now themselves become convicted. At all events, we may take it now that the Government are now prepared to follow the view that there should be single-Member constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman says they had a principle—they took the figure of 75,000. Why? Any less guileless person than myself would suggest that it was seeing that the result would be that a certain number of Unionists would be cut out. We are not quite clear as to who advised the Government upon this Schedule. It may have been said to them—"If the figure of 75,000 is adopted, you may be sure, at any rate, that the Unionist representation in Ireland will not be increased." However, the proposed basis is now seen to be unfair, and yet the Government are not prepared to vote for a Boundary Commission to examine into the matter. The Chief Secretary wound up by asking whether we would like to discuss a Redistribution Bill for Ireland, having passed the Homo Rule Bill? Certainly, if it is just and fair. Certainly, if it is necessary in fairness to the minority. We do not wish that this work, if it is to be done at all, should be scamped. The right hon. Gentleman says—"You will have a Redistribution Bill if you carry your clause." What is the alternative? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend that the counties are to be cut up without any knowledge which a Boundary Commission would afford? Our proposal is to have a Boundary Commission. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: After the Act.] Yes, after the Act has been passed. We have gone through that trouble in the case of Great Britain. Then why should we not do so in the case of Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman threatened us with more Irish business. But it is not we who wish to get rid of Irish business in this House. That is the object of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who say they do not want to legislate for Ireland any more. At any rate, if we are to part with legislating for Ireland, let us, in the interest of the Loyalists, deal with Ireland in the same manner as we have dealt with our own electoral concerns. I understand that if the Government see that there is a desire for one-Member divisions they will accomplish that desire by Schedule.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Then I wish to know whether we are to be expected at the last stage of the Report to accept a cut-and-dried plan from the Government for cutting up the counties into single-Member constituencies without adequate discussion. Why not accept this proposal for a Boundary Commission?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Government can make it effective if they choose. The alternative to a Boundary Commission is that we should proceed to cut up the counties without any knowledge at all. Will the Government, if this clause is withdrawn, bring up a clause of their own for a Boundary Commission which will deal with the Irish case as they before dealt with the British case? Or will the Government re-commit the Bill for the purpose of considering the divisions into which the counties are to be cut up, if we are not to have a Boundary Commission?
§ * SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, he was glad to see it admitted that the single-Member constituency was the only fair arrangement in Ireland, as well as in England. The introduction of the Reform Bill of 1885 was preceded by the action of the Government in appointing a Boundary Commission for England and Scotland. The Report of the Boundary Commission was prepared in a few months, and upon the basis of that Report the Government prepared the Schedule which was practically a part of the Act of 1885. Consequently the Government had their own precedent for the method of procedure, which ought to be adopted on the present occasion. So far as it went, he thought the whole argument in favour of single-Member constituencies was overwhelming. Any other system would work most unjustly against the Loyalists of Ireland. So far as he could see, the principle which the House laid down in 1885 should guide the Government on the present occasion in preparing the present Bill. There are only two ways in which to make the Schedule—with preparation and with knowledge, or without preparation and without knowledge. The Government could hardly adopt the former; and, therefore, the only 1458 course to pursue was to appoint a Commission and obtain their Report. There was a further point in connection with this matter, which, he thought, was of great importance. In Schedule 2 there were some constituencies which were to be divided, and others, that constituted the majority, which were not to be divided. Why was not the principle that was good for Cork and Dublin also good for Antrim and Donegal? The plan of giving the electors of such constituencies an overwhelming and preponderating power of voting must either be adopted, or else each elector should have only one vote, and in dividing the constituencies care should be taken that no elector voted in more than one of the sub-divided districts. The latter was the principle adopted in 1885, and in order to cut up these constituencies into divisions it was necessary to have the Report of a Boundary Commission after the various localities had been carefully examined by them. He submitted, therefore, that the Government would be acting on the rational lines they themselves laid down in 1885 if they were to adopt this new clause.
§ MR. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)
said, he desired to press upon the House the strong feeling that existed in all parts of Ireland in regard to this matter, and it would take a great deal more than they had yet heard from the Treasury Bench to make them alter their opinions. The County of Fermanagh, which had 12,000 voters, at present returned two Members. Under the Schedule the County of Meath, with only an electorate of 11,000 odd, was to return two Members, whilst the County of Fermanagh was reduced to one. The reason was obvious if the representation was looked at. The Loyalist minority in Fermanagh, numbering 35,000, was, under the existing method, enabled to return one Unionist Member; but under the Schedule it would lose its Unionist Representative, and would return a Nationalist. In the County of Meath there was a very small Unionist population, and therefore that county was differently provided for under this Bill, and was to retain its two Representatives. He would appeal to some at least of the Liberal Members whether the mode that had been adopted in the preparation of this Schedule was not in direct violation of the Liberal policy in 1459 1885? He admitted that in some of the Amendments that had appeared on the Paper an honest attempt had been made by Liberal Members to do justice to all classes in Ireland, and one that appeared in the name of the lion, and learned Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Little) would have raised the whole question of the representation of minorities in this Parliament; but, unfortunately, he had not seen fit to place his Amendment on the Paper on Report. The Unionists in Ireland could not hope that their Representatives in that House would be able to alter the fate of this Bill; but, as an Irish Representative of the loyal classes in Ireland, he felt it was his duty on the floor of the House to enter a protest against the Government proposals.
§ * MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)
said, that as the hon. Member had referred to the Amendment which he had put down, he would like to say a word or two with regard to the reason why he had not set it down on the Report stage. He had cast about in the House as to where he should receive support for that Amendment, and he had consulted a great number of friends on the subject. He regretted to say that he found that the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party was very distinctly opposed to anything like a minority representation in Ireland; and he thought that under those circumstances it would be useless to press the Members of the Liberal Party to support him, many of whom, he was aware, were very strongly opposed to that system. Speaking as an Irishman, he did not think that any system of single-Member constituencies would do justice to the minority in Ireland. He was anxious to get the best possible Bill he could for the future government of Ireland and for its representation in that House; but on neither side of the House had he got very much assistance as to the proper method of dealing with the very difficult subject of minority representation in Ireland. The Leader of the Opposition had apparently committed himself to single-Member constituencies so far as Ireland was concerned. [Mr. A. J. Balfour: I have not.] Then he misunderstood the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in company with a good many others.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
explained that what he had said was that he would vote for this clause as a proper prelude to any scheme, whether of single-Member or three or four Member representation, but that he would not commit himself, at the present stage, as to which alternative he would support.
§ * MR. LITTLE
said, that although this question had been discussed by the Opposition in the country, and notwithstanding that the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party was opposed to minority representation, yet the Leader of the Conservative Party had not, up to the present, made his choice between the two systems. That placed an Irishman, who was, like himself, a Member of the Protestant minority in Ireland, and who desired to see them fairly represented in proportion to their numbers and no more, in a very awkward position, because he did not know to what portion of the House to look for assistance. So far as he understood, the Radical Party were committed to single-Member constituencies, and the Liberal Unionist Party were opposed to minority representation. ["No!"] He meant the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party. The Conservatives had not made up their minds, and the only Members from whom he had received any assistance were the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) and the Leader of the Parnellite Party. The Schedule would shut out a Protestant minority in the South, who numbered about 300,000 or 400,000, from any representation in this House. Then they were asked to consider Amendments which he supposed the right hon. Gentleman the Loader of the Opposition had had the assistance of the intelligent lawyers and others who represented Protestant Ulster in this House in drawing up; but, up to the present moment, they had not put before the House anything like a scheme which anyone could understand. The Protestant minority in Leinster was at the present moment absolutely unrepresented in this House, except so far as a Member for one of the divisions of the County of Dublin accidentally represented it. Surely he was not to be told that the men of Ulster represented that minority. Would anyone say that the language of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), which was not of occasional but of 1461 perennial warmth, represented the feelings of the sensible Protestants in the South? On behalf of Leinster he demanded some scheme which would give adequate representation in the Irish Parliament to the Protestant and Catholic minority. He had formed the impression that in single-Member constituencies they would not have that share in the representation to which they were entitled. He was surprised that the light hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin, who in a certain sense was entitled to speak as a Representative of the Protestants of Leinster, had not brought forward a suitable scheme. The question was too serious to be decided by a mere Party Division. Between the clause and the proposal of the Government he did not know what to do, but he did not regard the Amendment as practical, nor as one which would work; and therefore he asked the Government to put before the House a plan which would provide a fair representation in the Upper House, in the Lower House, and in the Imperial Parliament, for the minorities in Ireland. He had no feeling of bitterness on the question; his desire was to see a practical measure, and his view of a practical measure was one which would represent all sections of society and all the various shades of opinion in Ireland. He did not say that the Protestants, because they were of a different religion, or because in many parts of Ireland they were the more wealthy class, or because in some parts they were the more enterprising class, ought to have a single Representative more than they were entitled to upon population; but he said that in a large Province like Leinster they ought not to be shut out from all representation. He had generally supported the Government on this Bill, and he had only voted against them in the direction of giving larger powers to the Irish Legislature; but he wished it to be understood that he was not going to vote for the creation of a Legislature in Ireland in which, forsooth, they were to be told that the Protestants of Leinster and Munster were represented by the Protestants of Ulster. He spoke frankly, and said that sooner or later, either by the Government or by the Opposition, a scheme must be put forth which would give some form of representation to the Protestant minority in the South. He made the same claim on behalf of the 1462 Catholic minority in Ulster. It would not be a desirable form of Government which shut out the Catholics in Ulster, in those counties in which they wore very nearly equal to the Protestants. Whatever might be the case in England, one-Member constituencies would not work in Ireland. He had spoken frankly, because he was desirous of making a good, workable Bill for Ireland, by which every interest and all classes of society might be represented in the two Houses in Ireland, and in this Imperial Parliament.
§ MR. PLUNKET (Dublin University)
said that, as the hon. Member who had just sat down had referred to him, he would like to say a few words in answer to his appeal. He must congratulate him and the House upon the very fair and frank way in which he had approached the discussion of this question. He agreed with almost all the premisses the hon. Member laid down: but the conclusion at which he arrived appeared to be in direct contradiction to the premisses he had placed before the House. The hon. Member had complained that he had made no effort to do anything for the representation of the Protestant minority outside Ulster; but, as a matter of fact, he had on two or three occasions called attention to this subject, and he must remind the hon. Member that by the processes which were adopted in Committee they never reached the opportunity of doing anything further in the matter. When the question whether the University of Dublin should cease to send Members to that House was being debated he urged that the two Members for that University would undoubtedly represent the scattered Protestant minority in the South and West of Ireland, and he was afraid the hon. Member opposite did not support him in the endeavour to retain that representation. If the Bill were adopted without the clause now proposed it would apparently be impossible for the Unionists to retain the seat for the Southern Division of the County of Dublin, through which the Unionists of the South and West could rely for representation. He therefore claimed the vote of the hon. Member in support of the clause. If the hon. Member neglected this opportunity of giving effect to his good intentions, he was not likely to have such a good one again.
§ MR. LITTLE
pointed out that without a boundary scheme the Amendment which he had placed on the Paper provided for minority representation in Ireland. He thought the boundary scheme was unnecessary in order to achieve that.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
asked the Speaker whether the Debate had not travelled wide of the clause?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Yes; I think the immediate question of the appointment of a Boundary Commission is being lost sight of.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
said, he agreed with the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. Dane) in regretting that the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Little) had withdrawn his Amendment; but he trusted he would support the present Amendment, which raised the same principle. The hon. Baronet the Member for St. Pancras spoke strongly in favour of single-Member seats; but he hoped the House would not prejudge that question. He might point out that neither in America nor in Franco had single-Member seats worked well, and Switzerland, in more than one of its Cantons, had recently adopted proportional representation. He simply rose in order to express the hope that the House would not prejudge the question until they had an opportunity of discussing it more fully. As he understood the matter, the Government objected to this Amendment because they said it would take up a great deal of time in determining boundaries. But, valuable as time was, there was something equally important, and in which the honour of that House was concerned; and that was that they should pass a Bill that should be fair and just between the different Parties in Ireland. When they were making such a tremendous change, the argument used by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was hardly germane to the question. The right hon. Baronet had told them that this would be introducing a new principle. But this Bill bristled with new principles; therefore, that argument had no weight with reference to the present Amendment. The main point was that they should do justice to the minority in Ireland; and, as really this was the only way in which they could do it, he hoped the hon. Member 1464 for Whitehaven (Mr. Little) would support his own principle by going with them into the Division Lobby. The hon. Member said the clause, as it stood, was not practicable and workable; but this was merely a Second Reading of the clause, and if it required Amendments in detail those Amendments could be made hereafter. The Government had practically admitted that the Schedule was not fair as it stood, and after that admission they must feel that it was absolutely necessary it should be amended. He hoped, therefore, the House would agree to the proposal of the hon. Member for Partick (Mr. Parker Smith) as the first step in the direction of that change which all sections of the House seemed to agree would be not only reasonable but eminently desirable.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The clause which is before the House really raises two questions of very considerable importance. In the first place, it raises the principle of redistribution—the principle of representation in this House according to population or the number of electors; and, in the second place, it raises, as we have seen in the course of this Debate, the question of representation of minorities. Now, Sir, I should find it very much easier to vote if I were quite clear as to what the Government intend to do in regard to this matter. Do they, or do they not, consider that their own proposals, as contained in the Bill, are satisfactory; and do they intend to support them? That is really the first question, for they admit that the proposal which they have made in the Bill is unsatisfactory even to themselves, and that it must be subjected to further amendment. Then all we have to consider is the details of that Amendment and the method of bringing it about; and upon that I am sure we might take any suggestion the Government are good enough to give us. In listening to the speech of the Chief Secretary, I confess I was a little doubtful whether the Government do not consider their scheme already perfect; because, certainly, a chief part of that speech was taken up in defending the existing proposal. My right hon. Friend complained that it had been alleged against the proposal of the Government that it is most unfair to the Loyalist and Unionist minority in Ireland; and he 1465 made it a matter of complaint that there seemed to be attributed to him and his friends a deliberate intention to make an unfair redistribution. I do not think any intention of that kind has been attributed to the Government; but it has been pointed out to them that, undoubtedly, that will be result of their proposal. It is capable of being stated in figures. Under a proper system of representation according to population, the Unionists in Ireland, even without any particular form of minority representation, would obtain 23 seats. Under the existing plan of the Government they will only obtain 15 seats. But then, says my right hon. Friend, they ought not to complain as to that, because even that is really about the proportion they enjoy at present. I do not know where the Chief Secretary gets his figures from; but I cannot make out by rule of three any proportion of the kind. On the contrary, at the present time they get 23 Members out of 103—that is, a little less than one-fourth. Under the new plan, therefore, they ought to have, in order not to be worse off than at present, 19 out of 80 Members, instead of which they have only 14, so that they will be four worse off than at present and eight worse off than they ought to be. And, Sir, it is not enough to say they are no worse off than at present. By the necessity of the case the Government are engaged in passing a Redistribution Bill in Ireland as well as other separate proposals; and when dealing with redistribution they ought to make things better than they are, and not worse. Do the Government really contend that, having a redistribution scheme to make for Ireland, they themselves, as Liberals, can stand up and defend their own scheme? The anomalies under this scheme are greater than any which my right hon. Friend attempted to correct in 1885 by his Reform Bill. With regard to boroughs, there are cases in which one borough has five times as much representation according to population as another, and a vote in one borough is worth five times as much as a vote in another. I say that is a perfectly monstrous anomaly. The Chief Secretary says—"We have had no ulterior motives in this. It is true our scheme has been empirical, but it has proceeded on certain rules. We have 1466 taken our standard of 75,000 population as a population which ought to give one Member." That would be very good by itself, and if it were carried out. But then comes in a most curious addendum:— "And we have also endeavoured to avoid disfranchisement." I should like to know how on earth can you make any redistribution scheme for this or any other country without some kind of disfranchisement in the sense in which my right hon. Friend uses the word? It does not mean to say we are to take a man's vote away, but only to take excessive representation from a particular constituency. That constituency will not be disfranchised; it will be included in a larger constituency, and it will have its fair and not an excessive share of representation, so that really there is no disfranchisement at all under any circumstances. But it will be easily seen, when you lay down the principle that 75,000 are to have a Member, and then correct it by the empirical condition that nobody is to be disfranchised, you will have a very queer scheme of redistribution; and it is in consequence of this correction, more than of the original principle, that the present scheme is so scandalous, unjust, and unfair. But I do not find that even this grand principle of 75,000 having a Member has been very strictly carried out. What is the state of the case? Here is Meath—a county of which some of us know more now than we did a year or two ago—a county which has a most unenviable reputation in connection with certain electoral proceedings. This county is singled out above all other counties, and having a population of 76,000 it has two Members given to it. I have said that by the rule of three I could not make out any such proportion as that suggested by the Chief Secretary, and I will now take a simple sum in subtraction. Take 75,000 entitled to one Member from 76,000, and you have 1,000 who get a Member, and your principle of one Member to 75,000 comes down in Meath to one Member to 1,000, because it is the additional 1,000 that gives that county its extra Member. I admit this is empirical, and that the Government have no ulterior motives; but it is a most curious thing that the result is that it is unfair, above all, to the Loyalist and Unionist population. Do the Government adhere to this scheme? 1467 Is this a scheme which they, as Liberals, are going to recommend to the United Kingdom? Is their idea of a redistribution scheme that there are anomalies in our present representation in this country? Yes; I suppose there are, and some time or other—we do not care how soon—we shall have a new redistribution scheme in this couutry, which will give some 20 more Members to the Unionist Party than they have at present. Do the Government cling to the anomalies? They do not object to the anomaly, because it gives them 20 votes more than they ought to have in the United Kingdom, and 8 more than they ought to have in Ireland! In either case the result is the same—a benefit to the Government, and a great anomaly and injustice in the system of representation. I should like to see the faces of the electors when hon. Members go to them and attempt to defend this particular scheme of representation. We are told, over and over again, that they are the true Liberals and the true Representatives of the Liberal Party; and yet we have the Liberal Party admitting that the anomalies in this country are to be defended, and in making a redistribution scheme they are careful to preserve not only every existing anomaly, but to make a lot more. That is the proposal which the Government have laid before the country. The Government admit they have not had time to consider all the details of this enormous Bill; and if they would say the matter has escaped their notice, and they are perfectly ready to alter it in the sense we all desire, I do not think the discussion need be prolonged, or that it will be necessary to insist on this or other Amendments. We might then wait very willingly until the Government brought forward an amended scheme. But that is not what the Chief Secretary says. He says—"We will not be unwilling to do this"—although he defends the anomalies— "if the general sense of the House is in favour of it." Who is to be the judge of the general sense of the House, and how is it to be taken? We have had that expression before. We had it in regard to the retention of the Irish Members, when my right hon. Friend declared the intention of the Government to propose and support it, but expressed, at the same time, a kind of indication that the Go- 1468 vernment might yield if the opinion of the House were clearly against it. When was the opinion of the House taken? Long before the House expressed any opinion at all the Government altered their own plan. Under these circumstances, the assurance that the Government will be guided by the general sense of the House is not one upon which we can rely; and failing any indication from them that they do not intend to carry their original scheme, I, for one, shall vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend near me, as indicating, at all events, an Amendment of the Schedule, and the whole system by which the future representation of Ireland in this House is to be determined. I will say one word about the question of the representation of minorities. The hon. Member below me used my name in a way that surprised me. He has an Amendment in favour of which he used some strong arguments— an Amendment which he is asking the Government to support, and he put this Amendment on the Paper. It has disappeared. We expressed our wonder that he had not taken the sense of the House upon it. He said he had made inquiries from a great number of individuals, including myself; he found I was against it; and because I was against it—and this is the greatest compliment that has ever been paid me —he actually removed it from the Paper. In the first place, the hon. Member will bear me out that I have never had any communication with him upon it.
§ * MR. LITTLE
(interposing) said, he could not bear out the right hon. Gentleman in that. He would remind him he had a conversation with him, in which he pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that he (Mr. Chamberlain) had spoken against minority representation in 1879. The right hon. Member for Bury took part in the conversation, and said that he was in favour of minority representation, whilst the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said he was opposed to it, and they were discussing this Amendment during that conversation.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I think I remember the occasion to which he refers. He spoke to me while I was sitting in the House. I told him what was perfectly true—that personally my feeling 1469 is against minority representation, and has been expressed both in this House and in the country on many occasions. But, because I expressed my individual opinion, which the hon. Gentleman could easily have ascertained is not shared by some of my right hon. Friends near me —by the right hon. Member for Bury, the right hon. Member for the University of London, and the right hon. Member for Bodmin—I really think he was a little hasty in withdrawing his Amendment from the consideration of the House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not see how, if he is going to run away from the battle before it has begun, he can ever expect to win a victory. I will only add, in reference to this matter, that I have always admitted—although in principle I dislike this question of minority representation very much, and could show some strong reasons against it—I admit that if ever a case could be made out, the circumstances in Ireland undoubtedly afford the strongest basis for any argument in favour of minority representation. But then I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that even such a plan as he himself proposed and placed upon the Paper would not secure what he desires—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman will not go too fully into the question of minority representation.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will conclude in a sentence. I was only going to say the plan proposed by the hon. Member would not, I think, secure representation for case where there are very small minorities, but would only do so when the minority itself was something like one-third or one-fourth of the constituency; therefore I think it may be possible, on reflection, that he also will think single-Member constituencies will, at all events, go as near as we can go to secure minority representation. In my opinion the satisfactory and complete representation of the minority in Ireland is an impossibility. I do not think it possible that any system can be found: but I think we shall get as near as we possibly can go by single-Member constituencies; and I would only, in conclusion, say that whatever view may be taken—whether you desire the system of 1470 minority representation, or whether you desire single-Member constituencies or any other form of re-distribution—if you do not agree with the scheme of the Government, if you desire it should be amended, you must vote for some such clause as that now before the House in order to lay the foundation for that amendment. We are not pledged to the words of that clause, and by voting for the Second Reading of the clause we are practically only voting in favour of an amendment of the scheme of the Government—that amendment, in the first place, to secure better representation of minorities; and, in the second place, to secure greater equality of representation in proportion lo population.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
We have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham for the 500th time declare in reference to the same discussion on this Bill that it was a very important question; and we have also heard from him in regard to this Amendment that if the Government would only indicate that they would accept some principle in regard to it that he would be quite prepared to suggest that the Amendment should be withdrawn. But I would also like to remind the Government of one thing—that when they gave the right hon. Gentleman any concession whatever he got up and said —"Is there no part of their Bill to which the Government can stick?" I would like to say one word on the principle of this Amendment. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Londonderry (Sir T. Lea) made a statement that we may roughly divide Irishmen into Protestants and Catholics politically.
§ * SIR T. LEA
said, he was sure the hon. and learned Gentleman did not wish to misrepresent him; but what he really said was that almost every Protestant might be taken as a Unionist, but the number of Unionist Catholics was not known.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Very well, the Protestants in Ireland, taking the entire Protestant community, are not more than 24 per cent. of the population. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has been good enough to state that there would be only 15 Unionists returned to Parliament under this scheme, and that is endorsed by the Fiat of Birmingham as gospel. I would like to ask the House if the Con- 1471 servative Party would be good enough to inform me which seats in Ireland they are going to lose? Because, as I make it out, my calculation is that they are certain under the scheme to get 18, and that they have a possibility of getting 21. If that statement is challenged, I shall ask the Tory Party which seats they are going to lose? There are the three Antrim seats; I suppose they will keep all these. Then there are the Armagh County seats. They have two of these at present, and they will certainly hold one—probably they will get two. There is an absolute Protestant majority in the County Armagh; therefore they would have two there. That would make five. Belfast borough? They would keep all these four seats; four and five are nine. Down County, three seats. They have three out of four at present; and, of course, having a majority of Protestants in the population, they would hold these three; nine and three are 12. Dublin County? They have one seat at present; will they keep that or not?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, the Nationalist majority in the North Division would swamp the Unionist majority in the South.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I will not go into any contested matter. Then Dublin City? They have one seat there now; will they keep that? [Cries of"Yes!"] Then 12 and one are 13. Then Fermanagh County? I should like to know are they going to lose that? [Cries of "Question!"] It is the question. It is exactly the question. I will give them that seat; 13 and one are 14. Then Derry County? They have these two seats at present; 14 and two make 16. Derry City? They have got that at present; are they going to lose it? [Cries of "No!"] Then 16 and one are 17.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
No, Sir; I would only say one word on another branch of this Amendment. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Little) stated that, in his judgment, there should be some protection for the Protestants of Leinster, to which I quite agree. But he was loudly cheered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Quite so; some representation for the Protestants in the Province of Leinster. It is a remarkable fact that, being most loudly cheered in that by the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), the right hon. Member for Bury is found to have an Amendment of his own later on in the Paper in order to deprive—because that would be absolutely its effect—he proposes later on in the Paper to segregate the voters into two classes: all men above £20 valuation to be in one class, which would be largely Protestant; and all men below £20 in another class, who would be largely Catholic; and thereby deprive Protestants of any representation whatever. Really, hon. Gentlemen opposite do not know what to be at. Any stick is good enough to beat a dog with; but if you get them down to concrete details, no one gentleman of the Tory Party has been good enough to give us the scheme which he himself would venture to propose. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have also complained of the inadequacy of their representation, but I understood the general view of the Unionist Party, especially the hon. Member for South Tyrone, was this—that they would boycott the Irish Parliament; that they would never attend it at all. I understood they were going to go to war with the Irish Parliament, and they all say so.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I never said a word about representation in the Irish Parliament. What I said was about representation in this House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The clause is this—that the Commissioners are to deal both with the Irish and the English Parliament. Surely, if you are going to go to war with regard to the Home Rule scheme, is it not a remarkable thing that you are now so solicitous for represen- 1473 tation in the Irish Parliament? and I have not the smallest doubt that the hon. Gentleman who has proposed the Amendment will muster into the Lobby all the future warriors upon the scheme. I would suggest to the Conservative Party that they would select which horse they are going to win on—either you are going to accept and work cordially in an Irish Parliament, or else you are going to go to war; but really, we are tired of both sides of the argument one after another, and both ad nauseam. There is one other observation I would make, and it is this: The Schedule has been complained of considerably as being too fair to us, and unfair to hon. Gentlemen opposite. For myself, I can only say I voted for the Schedule as a substantial working scheme; but in my judgment it gives the Tory Party a great deal more representation than they are entitled to. I do not grudge it to them, and I have only risen to say that the reason why in general I support this Pill is this: that in my judgment this Schedule, like a great many other portions of the Bill, gives the so-called loyal minority much more than they are adequately or equitably entitled to.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 196.—(Division List, No. 256.)
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said, he rose to move the clause which stood on the Paper in his name, and which dealt with facilities for allowing illiterate voters to record their votes. It read—In elections for the Irish Legislature, and in elections of Members from Ireland to serve in the House of Commons, no special facilities shall be given to illiterates for recording their votes.These facilities were at present given in the Rules under the Ballot Act of 1872, which conferred certain favours upon those incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, or prevented by religious scruples, and which then went on to confer like favours upon the illiterate voter. Under the Rules as they stood, a man who was unable to read and write was in exactly the same position as a man who suffered from any of these physical causes, or scruples of conscience. It seemed to him perfectly unreasonable that such facilities should be given to the illiterate voter—that the law should 1474 go out of its way to confer such privilege on a man who was more likely than the ordinary voter to vote unreasonably. There may have been something to say 20 years ago; but since then they had had an alteration in the general system of education and in the amount of education in all parts of the country, which had increased, as they knew, immensely. The percentage of illiteracy in Ireland had decreased from 33 per cent., according to the Census of 1871, to 18 per cent., according to the Census of 1891—it had, in fact, gone down to about half what it was. But the figures as to the illiterate vote were different. There were under 400,000 voters, and 85,000 voters polled as illiterates.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said, his figures were taken from a Return of the present Session, which did not give the figures of the non-contested constituencies; yet the number of voters who now voted as illiterates in that country was enormous —21½ per cent. of the whole number of electors. It was it curious fact that, whilst the proportion of illiterates in the whole country was only 18 per cent., the number of persons who voted as illiterates in Ireland exceeded that percentage by three. In England the percentage of illiterates was 1¼, and in Scotland less than one. In regard to the enormous mass of persons who had voted in Ireland as illiterates, he did not propose that steps should be taken, as in a number of States in America, to impose any kind j of educational qualification, but merely that no special privilege should be given them, and that they should be allowed to vote in just the same manner as other people. It took but a small course of reading and writing, he thought, to enable these people to have pointed out to them the right place for putting down the cross for a candidate. Anyone who failed to understand instructions upon this point must be not only very illiterate, but very stupid; and the real voice of Ireland could not be heard so long as such a system prevailed. The man who was so situated had pressure brought upon him to vote as his neighbours wished and as the priests wished. The men who were made to vote as illiterate were those who were con- 1475 sidered in doubt. In the booths they had priests as personation agents, looking on and listening to the questions put to the voter, and the paper was marked in their presence. It was clear, in such a case, that the man was not protected by the Ballot. He thought the protection of the Ballot was a matter of extreme importance—especially in Ireland. Recent disclosures had shown that the kind of pressure which he had indicated could be used, and by taking away these facilities they would show that the ballot paper was so simple that it could be understood and the franchise exercised even by those who could not read nor write. If a man was shown how to vote, if he wanted to vote in a particular way, there could be no necessity for these privileges being extended to him. He thought the case was clear, and he did not think it necessary to prolong discussion in reference to these provisions. He begged to move the clause.
§ Clause (Illiterate Voters,) — (Mr. Parker Smith,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
said, he was a Member of the Committee—the only Committee which had sat on the Ballot Act since the passing of that Act —and for that reason he begged to offer a few words in view of the experience he had gathered on that Committee. He was bound to say that the Amendment was one he could not support. He should be obliged to oppose it. His ground for doing so was that it asked them to make this alteration with regard to the return of Irish Members, and did not apply to the whole of the Kingdom. It seemed to him that to establish a distinction of that kind would be indefensible; and he could not imagine that many Members of the House would be willing to make that distinction.
§ * MR. PARKER SMITH
said, the only reason he did not ask to apply the principle to the whole Kingdom was that then his Amendment would be out of Order.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
said, that was natural, of course; and the statement of the hon. Member only showed that the 1476 question was one to be dealt with for the whole Kingdom, and not for a part of it. If the question was raised as affecting the whole Kingdom, he should be in a, different position with regard to the clause. He differed from many on his side of the House on the question, for he was strongly opposed to the continuance of these special provisions; and if the Bill proposed by a Member opposite affecting the whole of the Kingdom were proceeded with, he should vote for it. The Committee to which he referred had as a Member the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James). At the Committee the subject of the illiterate vote was brought up, and objection was taken by the Irish Members to the special provision. The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) offered himself as a witness, and gave very strong evidence against the provision. With the exception of the present hon. Member for Woolwich (Colonel Hughes), every single one of the witnesses was conclusively against the provision as a means for attaining the end that was in view when it was framed. The hon. Member (Mr. Parker Smith) told them of the use to which the provision was put in Ireland; but it would be only hypocrisy to say that it was not used in the same way in portions of this country. For his (Sir C. W. Dilke's) part, he considered it unnecessary. The illiterate voter could be taught perfectly well how to vote; and if that opinion prevailed with witness after witness in 1874 and 1875, how much more strongly must the opinion prevail now, not only for the reason which the hon. Member had pointed out—the progress of education— but for the reason that, Whereas at that time they had two-Membered constituencies, involving four candidates, they had now almost everywhere single-Membered constituencies and two candidates. It should be easier for an illiterate to be taught how to record his vote where there were two candidates than where there were four. He thought it would be quite safe to get rid of the provision, and if the proper time came he should support a measure having that object; but he could not support a proposal dealing only with the return of Irish Members to the House.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
said, his right hon. Friend (Sir C. W. Dilke) had 1477 stated clearly the reason why this Amendment could not be entertained. The subject of the illiterate vote might very properly be re-opened as a matter of policy, but it ought to be re-opened for Great Britain and Ireland, and not for the latter country only. It seemed to him that, for the reason stated by the right hon. Baronet, they could not entertain the proposal.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, they wore told that the only reason why this matter should not be dealt with was that any such provision ought to be applied to the United Kingdom. He was very much in favour of beginning where they could. Having once set the matter right for Ireland in this Bill, it would not be very long before the evil was corrected in England and Scotland. If they did not set the matter right in Ireland whenever they proposed to do so in Great Britain they would be strenuously opposed by the Irish Members. They had now an opportunity of doing away with that prospective opposition.
§ SIR H. JAMES
The right Iron. Gentleman the Prime Minister says this question, from his point of view, is narrowed to a matter of procedure, and that he objects not so much to the principle of taking this privilege away, but to the procedure by which it is proposed to take it from the Irish elector alone. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider that if we establish that the privilege is abused in Ireland and not abused in Great Britain, ought not the right hon. Gentleman to waive the question of procedure, and allow the system to be stayed? If it is a great and crying abuse in Ireland, why should it be perpetuated when the House has au opportunity of putting an end to it? I would call attention to a few figures. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the Irish are a quick-witted race, and will object to anyone saving that they are less quick-witted than the people of England or Scotland. I think he will say that they are entitled to equal electoral privileges, because they are able duly to exercise those privileges. If that be so, will the Prime Minister give me an answer to the following figures? The illiterate voters in Scotland number 1 in 100, in England 1 in 80, but in Ireland 1 in every 5 is an illiterate. Now, I ask the Prime Minister 1478 to account for that. Is it on account of want of intelligence? It cannot be natural. From those figures it, is apparent that in Ireland this privilege is a clear and certain abuse. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) admits that it is abused, I but he says —"So it is in Great Britain." But how is it that there is only 1 illiterate in 100 in Scotland and 1 in 80 in England? The proportion is infinitesimal in Great Britain, but in Ireland the proportion is so great that it interferes with the true representation of the place. If that is so, are we, with this opportunity before us, to say we will allow this abuse to continue? I will only give one other statistical figure to show that this system of illiterate voting is used by the Roman Catholic priests for the purpose of making the voter vote in his presence. The Prime Minister knows that the evidence given upon the County Meath Election Petition showed that in almost every booth the electioneering agent for one candidate was a Catholic priest. Why was that? It was because to that priest, as the agent, came the man who was called an illiterate, and in his presence was made to mark the voting paper, so that the priest might know whether he voted according to his (the priest's) will, and whether or not the voter should receive that terrible condemnation amounting almost to excommunication meted out to those who voted contrary to the desire of the clerical party. I will give some figures. I do not think it will be said that the Northern voter is one whit more intelligent than the Southern voter. But how can those who support the Bill explain away these figures? Six thousand seven hundred persons voted in the County of Antrim; 466 of them voted as illiterates. In the County of Cork, in the rural districts, where the priestly influence is overwhelming, out of 8,460 voters 3,044 voters said that they were illiterate. Is the Cork voter less intelligent than the voter of Antrim? Can it be said that the Cork voter is so wanting in intelligence that he cannot distinguish between two names? Yet it is to such an electorate that the Government propose to confide the control of all that is prosperous and loyal in Ireland. The Prime Minister says he wishes to perpetuate the system because procedure 1479 prevents him from inquiring into matter.
§ SIR H. JAMES
I thought he said that we should not proceed with the Amendment, because, as a matter of procedure, it ought to be applied to the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
No; I said that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean had clearly stated the reasons against the Amendment. I said nothing about procedure, though the right hon. Gentleman says that I did, and has repeated it several times.
§ SIR H. JAMES
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must be right in the construction he puts upon his own words, but I would remind him that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean said that this was not a proper occasion to entertain the matter, because it was sought to deal with Ireland alone, and the Prime Minister accepted that argument. That is what I call the argument of procedure. I take the objection to be that we ought, if we proceed at all, to proceed in relation to the United Kingdom; but I wish to point out that it is proposed to give to these illiterate voters a power they have never before possessed—they are to have a power and dominion over their fellow-countrymen they never had before. If the House is asked to give the Irish elector these new powers, ought we not to see that he is a man of such sense that he can distinguish by means of his eyesight between two names, and ought we not to take greater care not to give to third persons the power of knowing how a man votes, and of making him vote according to their will? This is really not giving power to the electorate, but giving it to interested persons who are exercising a corrupt power over electors in not allowing them to vote as they think proper. No voter is so stupid that he cannot distinguish between two names—one at the top and the other at the bottom. It has been suggested that, in order to insure that there could be no mistake, one name could be printed in red or yellow or green, so that even the 1480 most illiterate voter—unless he were colour blind—would know how to discriminate between two names. But the question is, are those who are asking us to pass this Bill entitled to ask that Home Rule shall be given to men who are either stupidly ignorant or stupidly cowardly and servile? In either case they are not fit for Homo Rule. If the Government gives them Home Rule, let them give it under proper conditions, one of which is that the voter shall have some intelligence and shall be a free man. Do not ask us to give votes to men who are blind and stupid, or to give them to what are worse—namely, persons who control the electorate for purposes of their own.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I rise principally to call attention to the very curious divergence between the policy of the Government on this question and their policy on another question not very long ago. We have had two speeches from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke), and on both occasions I failed to see any relevance between the argument and the facts laid before the House and the vote the right hon. Baronet proposes to give. The right hon. Baronet has made a powerful attack on the whole of this illiterate vote. He admits that this privilege is an abuse wherever it exists, and he admits that the necessity for maintaining it no longer exists, if it ever did exist. He admits that the Committee which examined it in 1875 and all the witnesses examined by that Committee wore unanimous in opposing it, and he says that if they wore unanimous then, the reasons against it now must be far stronger. And, lastly and most important of all, the right hon. Baronet admits that in Ireland this abuse has grown to proportions compared with which anything in England or Scotland is absolutely insignificant. But the right hon. Baronet said we cannot deal with Ireland alone in the matter; and, therefore, he would defer giving any operative effect to his opinions till the Greek Kalends, when a general Bill is brought in for the three countries. Let me remind the right hon. Baronet and the Government of the line they took up when we were discussing University representation. We were not then dealing with the ignorant voters, but with 1481 the best and most intelligent constituency in all Ireland; and the Government said if they did not disfranchise Trinity College, they would be giving Irish University representation a fresh start. What are you now doing to the illiterate voter? On your own principle you are giving him a fresh start. On the very principles on which you disfranchised the intelligent men of Ireland you refuse to disfranchise the unintelligent men of Ireland. Is that consistent? Can you not treat the man who cannot read with the same rigid impartiality that you have treated the man who has shown by the fact that he has taken a degree that he belongs to the most educated portion of the community? But that is not all. On what principle is the strange argument that we must not deal with Ireland until we deal with England and Scotland based? It appears to be based on the fact that it would be unfair to attack the Irish illiterate voter until they have dealt with the English and Scotch illiterate voter. If there is unfairness in the distinction, the unfairness is to England and to Scotland. In whose interest is it suggested that we should disfranchise the Irish illiterate voter? Is it on behalf of Englishmen or Scotchmen? No, Sir; it is on behalf of Irishmen. It is to make the Irish system a good system; if, is to give the Irish a franchise which will not unduly endow the Irish Catholic priest with a power which by universal admission the Irish priest has too often abused in the polling booth. That is peculiar to Ireland alone. The right hon. Baronet dealt with the inconvenience of applying a principle to Ireland which was not at the same time applied to Great Britain. It did not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to use that argument, nor in the mouth of the Prime Minister to endorse it. The Government have already in the Bill applied entirely new principles to Ireland which they refuse to apply to England and Scotland. You are adopting in Ireland au alteration in dealing with the franchise which, by your own confession, is bad, and you have refused to adopt one which, equally by your own confession, is good. I beg the Government to reconsider their determination. I cannot help thinking that it would be in their own interest to do so. They must know, after the disgraceful 1482 revelations of the Meath Elections, that nothing so shocked public opinion in this country as the illegitimate employment by the priesthood of their power over the people. Do not start this new ship of State ill-manned and ill-found without even the smallest chance of performing a successful voyage. Give it the best you have. Provide it with the best electoral machinery you can provide it with, and do not, on the plea that you ought to give equal advantages to England and Scotland, refuse to give that which you can give by a stroke of the pen to a country which more than England and Scotland stands urgently in need of it.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman opposite thinks that the Government have not acted consistently, and he refers to the case of Trinity College as an illustration of his argument. But I think the House will see that there is a marked distinction between the case of Trinity College and that now before the House. The Government plan involves a reduction of the, number of Ireland's Representatives, and, therefore, it becomes necessary to disfranchise some constituencies. I will test the soundness of the principle on which the Government proceed by asking whether if it were a question of creating a now constituency, any party would propose to give it to a University? ["Yes!"] But the whole current of political opinion throughout the United Kingdom is against, the continuation of the anomalous system of University representation. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That was not my argument. My argument was that, when gentlemen on the Treasury Bench are defending their action in regard to Dublin University, they say that not to disfranchise it would be to give it a new start.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
My answer to that is that the Government are engaged in re-casting the whole of the constituencies of Ireland, and in that state of things they cannot consistently, with the views they hold, overlook the fact of the position of Trinity College being anomalous. The right hon. Member for Bury (Sir H. James) was strangely excited in supporting the clause. He used language of exalted vehemence quite unusual with him on these subjects. Well, I do 1483 not conceal the fact that there has been in Ireland a use of the facilities afforded to the illiterate voter more than was justified by the circumstances. The right hon. Member contended that Irish voters were coerced to declare themselves illiterate, in order that their clerical tyrants might see that they voted according to their undertaking.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
It is the same thing. I say that many changes have taken place in relation to elections in Ireland. Of the action of a certain number of the clergy in Ireland I strongly disapprove, but I think there has been a great deal of exaggeration upon the subject. Anyone who has carefully followed the course of events in Ireland will observe that when the priests are moving in the popular direction they are all-powerful, but that when they are running counter to the popular feeling in Ireland they are comparatively powerless. It is not unfair to say that in many cases resort has been had to the illiterate machinery not as satisfying the requirements of the clerical tyrant at all, but as making it apparent in the interest of the voter himself that he has not been a backslider in the National cause. I believe that that accounts for a considerable amount, if not for the whole, of the illiteracy. I have had occasion to say more than once that it is impossible for any Government to deal, in a Bill of this kind, with everything they consider it desirable to introduce at some time or other in the regulation of public affairs in Ireland. They are laying down the main broad principles of government, and they consider that there is no reason why the House should step aside and in an exceptional manner apply to the case of Ireland a principle which has not been applied to England or Scotland.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, the Motion for the retention of the representation of Trinity College had been made by him, and the burden of all the speeches on the other side was that if Trinity College was allowed to retain its representation it would be giving a new start to University representation generally. But it seemed that they were perfectly prepared to give a new start to the illiterate voter. The Unionist Members contended that the proposal 1484 was made in the interest of the Irish peasant, who was now compelled to declare himself an illiterate voter, whether he was or not. He would take an illustration from his native county—Donegal. At the last election there were more illiterate voters in that one county than there were in the whole of Scotland. It so happened that he knew this division of the county remarkably well, and he did not believe that one in ten of the men who declared themselves illiterate were illiterate at all. This was a question touching closely the whole subject of the Ballot. The reason why the Ballot was introduced was to protect persons who were in an inferior or dependent or subordinate position from the undue influence of their superiors—to protect tenants from landlords and employés from employers. Who were the men of whom the Irish peasants were most afraid at the present time? Were they not the priesthood of Ireland? What class of men in all Ireland had used the most violent threats with regard to those who happened to vote in opposition to the views of their spiritual leaders? Surely no landlord or agent had ever used such threats towards electors as the priests had lately been using. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) said that when a Committee inquired into this question in 1875 the Irish Members fought most violently against the retention of the privilege now given to illiterate voters. Was that the attitude of the Irish Members at the present time? If so, would not the Prime Minister at once agree with his masters on this point as he had agreed with them on other points? But they were not opposed to the illiterate voters now, because it played their game. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. W. Dilke) said that the hon. and gallant Member for County Galway (Colonel Nolan) was in 1875 violently opposed to the system of illiterate voting. He (Mr. Rentoul) had no doubt that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was as much against the system now as he was in 1875, because he and his Party had suffered very much from that system. When it was said by the hon. and learned Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) that the right of private judgment was the right of 1485 private stupidity, surely there must be a condition of things in Ireland which required more stringent legislation than did the state of affairs in other parts of the United Kingdom. The figures showed that there was a strong case for exceptional legislation, whilst the whole theory of the Home Rule Bill was based on the assumption that Ireland needed exceptional legislation. At the last General Election every one in five of the voters declared himself illiterate. He did not think any Irishman in the House would believe for a moment that one in five of the electors were unable to read or write. It was absurd to suppose that 85,000 men in Ireland not only could not read the names of the candidates, but could not understand where they ought to put their mark. The Irish peasant was a man of wonderful acuteness. He was certainly more acute than the English or Scotch peasant, and he (Mr. Rentoul) would undertake to teach any number of Irish peasants in about three minutes where to put their mark on the voting papers with the certainty that not 1 in 1,000 of them would go wrong. Last year he travelled through all the counties in Ireland in order to pickup information on matters of this sort. He conversed with thousands of peasants, and was told all round, with laughter, that the illiterate voting was a complete sham, and that when a man was regarded at all doubtful he was told to declare himself illiterate. In one place there was a man who made poems for the whole neighbourhood at 1s. a-piece, and as he was regarded as doubtful he was compelled, to the discredit and scandal of the whole neighbourhood, to declare himself an illiterate voter. If there had been no other argument for treating Ireland exceptionally in this matter, surely the Meath Elections would have supplied sufficient evidence. In his opinion, the Irish peasants, in consequence of the prevalence of this system, laboured under a more crushing tyranny than they had ever been exposed to by landlords or agents. It seemed to him that after having spent a whole Session upon the Bill they ought to settle some question or other, and it would be something gained if they could come to a definite conclusion respecting the illiterate voters of Ireland.
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that the speech of the right hon. Member for the 1486 Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) struck him as being of an extraordinary character. The right hon. Gentleman was Chairman of the Committee which in 1875 came to a decision against continuing to give especial facilities to illiterate voters; but because the present clause applied only to Ireland the right hon. Gentleman declined to support it. Where would the Home Rule Bill itself be if that argument were freely carried out? A considerable number of hon. Members believed that there ought to be Home Rule all round. Suppose those Members said that, because they could not get Home Rule all round, they would not vote for Home Rule for Ireland, what would the Prime Minister say? The right hon. Gentleman admitted that there was a real evil, and that it was worse in Ireland than anywhere else, but he declined to deal with the evil in Ireland because he could not deal with it in Great Britain at the same time. At the last Election 3,725,972 voters polled in England and Wales, and only 46,109 voted as illiterates. In Scotland 406,040 electors polled, only 4,557 being illiterates. In Ireland, out of 395,024 voters, no fewer than 84,917 voted illiterate. Thus, practically, one in five of the Irish electors declared their inability to mark their voting papers. He would examine some of the detailed figures of the Irish voting. The Counties of Donegal and Londonderry adjoined one another, one being a Nationalist and the other a, Unionist county. At the last election in Donegal 16,797 voters polled, of whom 6,233 voted illiterate. In South Donegal 5,453 voters polled, no fewer than 2,254 of them voting as illiterates. Almost exactly the same number of voters polled in Londonderry as in Donegal, the precise number being 16,567, of whom 3,000, us opposed to the 6,233 in Donegal, declared themselves illiterates. Thus, in the Nationalist County of Donegal, there were about double the number of illiterates that there were in the County of Derry. An examination of the boroughs revealed some curious things. In the City of Dublin the mass of the people went against the priests and snapped their fingers at the Archbishop of Dublin. In that city there were only 538 illiterate voters, whilst in Cork, where the priests dominated the elections, and where the constituency was one- 1487 fourth the size of Dublin, no fewer than 1,090 out of 8,000 declared themselves illiterate. The truth of the matter was that the illiterate vote was merely an engine of the Roman Catholic priesthood. He had gone through two elections in South Tyrone, both of them being contests of the keenest and hottest character, and he would tell the House what he had seen with his own eyes in that division. He had gone into the polling booth on the polling day and found the Returning Officer sitting at his table with the personation agents on one side, consisting of laymen, and on the other side of priests. A poor man, who was a Nationalist, went in to vote, and the officials were so much accustomed to illiterates that they absolutely, without any statutory authority whatever, asked him whether he could read or write. He put a stop to this custom very early in the poll at the last Election by pointing out to the Returning Officer that he must restrict himself to the questions given in the Statute. When the voter, however, was asked the question he looked first at the priest and then turned round to the Returning Officer and declared he could not read or write. Thousands of these men absolutely perjured themselves every General Election in the polling booths, because they were frequently sworn and declared they were illiterate when they could read and write perfectly well. The poor men dare not vote except as their priest, who was looking on, directed them. He said this destroyed the Ballot Act. Why was it that the Nationalist Party appointed priests as personation agents? Why did they bring in clergymen to do work of this kind? He would challenge the Government to find in Ulster a Protestant clergyman acting as a personation agent. Clergymen in the South and West of Ireland were present in the polling booths in order to overawe the poor men who had not the courage to stand up against them. In Dublin the artizans had repudiated this priestly influence, and as a result there was a wonderful disparity between the number of illiterate voters in the County of Dublin and the number in County Cork. Some hon. Members had argued the question as if the Amendment proposed to disfranchise every illiterate voter, but the Amendment 1488 proposed to do nothing of the kind. It simply proposed to withdraw the privileges which the Ballot Act now conferred upon political agents. The illiterate voter would appear on the register just as he did now; but when he entered the polling booth he would be deprived of the assistance that the law now gave him—that was to say, he would have to take his paper and mark it as every other voter had to do. Every privilege that the law now conferred on ignorance would be withdrawn, and that was not disfranchisement. What took place at every election in Ireland in which serious interest was felt was this. Men were taken to a Nationalist committee-room on entering the village or town on the polling day. They were asked to mark a fac-simile of the ballot paper. If they showed any hesitation, or if the cross they made was half-au-inch too high or too low, they were ordered to declare themselves illiterate, and the priest was in the polling booth to see that they did so. That was a horrible system. It coerced thousands of men and perjured thousands more. Under the circumstances he should certainly support the clause.
§ SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, the Government had offered no reply to the arguments advanced by the Opposition. The Prime Minister had been reminded by the Leader of the Opposition that he was quite ready to disfranchise the electors of Dublin University, who represented the professional and commercial classes of Ireland.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ * SIR T. LEA
(resuming) said, that the Prime Minister was quite ready to disfranchise the electors of Dublin University who represented the professional and commercial classes of Ireland, but he was unwilling to allow anything to stand in the way of the illiterate voters of the West of Ireland giving their votes not according to their own reasoning, but in the way they were told to vote by those they were likely to obey. A Select Committee of the House sat to consider this very question of the illiterate votes under the Ballot Act. In their Report they advised that all special provisions for the assistance of the illiterate voter 1489 should be abolished, and that no voter except those suffering from physical disability should receive assistance in the making of the ballot paper. He would have thought that the Government would have taken the opportunity afforded by the Bill of dispensing with those facilities which were used in Ireland, not on behalf of the illiterate voter, but on behalf of tyranny. He was sure the Government would like to obtain the intelligent opinion of the people of Ireland in elections; but so long as the illiterate voter was allowed to retain his present position, it would be impossible to obtain that intelligent opinion. He wondered bow the hon. Member for South Donegal relished being told that he was the Representative of illiterate voters? He hoped the hon. Member would give his opinion on the matter by-and-bye.
§ * SIR T. LEA
said, that at the first election of the hon. Member for South Donegal his majority was just the number of illiterates who had voted. The hon. Member had slightly improved his position at the last election, because the illiterate voters had dropped to 2,250. But the case of the hon. Member for East Donegal was much worse. The hon. Member at the last election polled 3,530 votes. Of these 2,057, or more than half, were illiterate. In 1885 the hon. Member for East Donegal polled 4,000 votes, and of these he was sure 2,800 were given as illiterate voters. And yet they wore told that this was the free expression of the intelligent opinion of Ireland on Home Rule. The hon. Member for Down had said that he condemned the tyranny of the Irish landlords in the past, and for that reason he had supported the Ballot Act. He, too, had supported the Ballot Act, because he believed that by its means they would be able to get the free and intelligent opinion of all classes throughout the United Kingdom. But he had never supported the Ballot Act in order to do away with the tyranny of the landlord and land agent and substitute for them the tyranny of the priest and the agent of the National League. He had been in many polling booths during elections in East Donegal, and had seen there the priest with the agent of the National League ticking off on a list every man who voted. 1490 The illiterate voters came in in swarms and voted as they wore told by the priest and the agent of the National League. A voter of the county once said to him— "You abolished the powers of the landords; now free us from a tyranny which is ten times greater." [Cries of "Name!" from Nationalist Members.] Would the life, or property, or happiness of the voter be worth one minute's purchase if he gave his name? He knew the voter as well as possible, and he made that statement to him by his own fireside. It was impossible to obtain the free expression of the intelligent opinion of Ireland under the present system; and, therefore, in the interest of purity and freedom of election, he would support the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
The hon. Baronet has been, perhaps unintentionally, frank in one respect. He has made it clear what was the tyranny which made it necessary to pass the Ballot Act. Was it the tyranny of the priests, or was it the tyranny of the landlords? The hon. Baronet has admitted it was the tyranny of the landlords; and the mortal sin on the part of the priests, which neither he any other Unionist can forget or forgive, is that the priests of Ireland—when the people had no other friends but the priests—taught the people, helped the people, and inspired the people to stand up against this tyranny of the landlords. To the priests of Ireland is due the immortal honour of having organised the people against the tyranny of a territorial class, and of having brought the people to the point that the Imperial Parliament is about to confer on them the right of self-government. It argues either an extraordinary ignorance of the facts of Irish history or crass indifference to well-established truths to suggest that the people have any cause to fear the tyranny of the priests. The priests are bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of the people; they have sprung from the people; they have the same interests and the same desires as the people. The hon. Baronet would have been more prudent if he had avoided the subject of Donegal. He never had a word to say against Donegal so long as he sat for that county.
§ MR. SEXTON
Was not the use and practice of tyranny the same a few years ago as it is now? If it could be practised by the priests when the hon. Baronet sat for the county, after the Ballot Act, his argument against the illiterates was as applicable then as now. But the hon. Baronet had nothing but what was admirable to say of the County of Donegal so long as he represented it, though many of the poor voters of the county had never a chance, by reason of your political administration in Ireland, of becoming educated. What they wanted in education they have made up in common sense, of which they gave a signal proof when they expelled the hon. Baronet. The fact that my hon. Friend (Mr. Mac Neill) represents a division of the county is another proof of the discretion of the voters. If not learned themselves, they have chosen a ripe scholar and an upright politician, and that is more than is always done by the Universities, though I suppose there is not au illiterate voter within the sacred sphere of a University. Donegal is the one black spot in the British administration of Ireland. You have allowed the landlords there to extort rack-rents from the poorest and most miserable people in the world. Moreover, the people of Donegal speak only the Irish language. Irish is their mother tongue; it is in daily use amongst them; and owing to the crass stupidity—for I can call it nothing else—of the national system of education, you will not allow to be done in Ireland what is done in Wales—namely, that English should be taught to the children through the medium of the tongue they know, for you will not allow Irish to be taught in the schools. I recently read a Report of a School Inspector, for Donegal, I think—certainly for one of the Western districts of Ireland—in which he said he heard the children in one of these schools reading the lesson—"We get turf from the bog"; but when he examined the children who were reading so glibly, not one of them knew the meaning of turf or bog. The children are taught in a foreign tongue. The consequence is that they leave 1492 school without being able to read or write English, or the slight knowledge they do acquire of English soon fades away. If you had done 12 years ago what we asked you to do—if you had allowed in these Irish-speaking districts the English language to be taught to the children through the medium of the tongue they know, there would be less illiterates in Ireland than there are to-day; and if illiteracy prevails in Donegal it is because the children are not taught the English language through the Irish language. I say that this is a disfranchising proposition, and that it is most unequal and unjust towards Ireland as between the different parts of the United Kingdom. The Returns show that at the last Election there were 40,000 men in England who could not mark their voting papers. Do you propose that the facilities for these men should remain, and that their papers should be marked for them? I compliment Scotland on her small number of her illiterates. What is the reason? Because Scotland has the best parochial system of education in Europe. Will you allow the illiterates of England and Scotland to have their papers marked, while, forsooth, you take advantage of a Bill to give the Irish the management of their own affairs to introduce into that Bill a proposition that these 80,000 people, more or less, who voted as illiterate, should be deprived of their votes? That is a proposition so unjust that it cannot be entertained for a single moment. The argument is that these men could have marked their papers if they so pleased. Anyone listening to the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone could not have failed to sec that he replied to himself, and that he disposed of his own argument. Having first declared that many of these voters could have marked their papers, the hon. Member went on to give a graphic sketch of a rehearsal before an election. He described bow there was a room full of priests, that every voter was brought in to mark his paper, and that if he was unable to mark his paper he was told to declare himself illiterate. But was he not illiterate? If a man is unable to mark his paper safely so as to give his effect to the vote, how can he otherwise be described but as an illiterate man? I think it was quite proper for such a man 1493 to describe himself as illiterate. There are two ways of dealing with this question. One way is to deal with men who can mark their papers and will not, and the other way is to deal with men who cannot mark their papers. There has been on this matter the usual loose and reckless talk by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who speaks as if every Nationalist in Ireland had done him a personal injury. He talked about perjury. There is no perjury. A voter is not sworn as to whether he can read or write. He merely makes a statutory declaration, and if he makes a false declaration he is liable to suffer the penalty provided by the Ballot Act. I would advise the hon. Baronet and those who speak so warmly on the subject of illiteracy to put in force the penalty of the law against men who make a false declaration that they are unable to read or write. But I ask, is it just or right, because a certain proportion of these 80,000 may have been able to mark their papers, and did not, for some pretence or other—cases for which the law provides a penalty—that you should, therefore, take the vast majority of these 80,000 who undoubtedly are unable to mark their papers, and because of their ignorance deprive them of the right to the franchise? Surely, Sir, such a proposition cannot bear a moment's examination. The man who makes a false declaration may be punished; and the man who cannot read and write, and who is entitled to his vote, should not be deprived of his vote because another man has told a falsehood. No argument against Nationalism—as opposed to Unionism—can be drawn from these statistics of illiteracy. I look, for instance, to the County Fermanagh. County Fermanagh has two divisions: one represented at the present moment by a Nationalist, and the other by a Unionist. North Fermanagh is represented by a Unionist, and at the last election, when that Unionist was returned, had 5,400 voters. 1,187 voted illiterate.
§ MR. SEXTON
How do you know? I turn to Derry City with 3,900 voters, and I find that 680 voted illiterate.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. and learned Gentleman—perhaps it is because he is a new Member—credits the House of Commons with a greater measure of gullibility than that worldly-wise Assembly possesses. I go now to South Fermanagh. In South Fermanagh, which is represented by a Nationalist, there are 5,200 voters—almost precisely the same number as in the other division of the county—and 1,215 voted illiterate; 1,187 in one, and 1,215 in the other, and one returns a Nationalist and the other a Unionist. Now I go to Tyrone. At any rate, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. W. Russell) did not say there were any bogus voters in his division, though there might be illiterates. There are four divisions in Tyrone. The hon. Gentleman opposite represents South Tyrone, a Member of the same Party represents North Tyrone, and the other two divisions are represented by Nationalists. I wonder if the hardihood of the hon. and learned Member for Derry (Mr. Ross) will pursue his argument and say they wore only Nationalists who voted illiterate in Tyrone? Here are four divisions of a county, nearly evenly divided between Protestant and Catholic. In North Tyrone there are 1,738; in South Tyrone, which has the honour of being represented by the hon. Gentleman opposite, who from his speech to-night we would not think there was an illiterate or a bogus voter in his division——
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he spoke from experience when he talked of the evils of illiterate voting. He saw the terrorism exerted by the priests at the polling booths.
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not think the ministers of religion are to be reviled for being present at the polling booths. They were about the booths, and a man might be more useful outside than inside. In North Tyrone there were 1,738 illiterate voters; in South Tyrone 1,602, making together, for the two divisions represented by Unionists, 3,340 illiterate persons. In the other two divisions represented by Nationalists there are in one 1,485, and in the other 2,000, 1495 illiterate voters. Therefore, you have got in the Unionist divisions 3,340 illiterate, and in the Nationalist divisions 3,485. When I find in a county of great and wide extent, almost equally divided between Protestants and Catholics, the proportion of illiteracy almost emphatically the same in each division, I say it is trifling with the House of Commons to suggest that because people are of one creed or one race, that illiteracy prevails amongst them and not amongst others. The statistics of Irish education show that illiteracy amongst the Protestants of certain counties in Ulster is greater than amongst the Catholics. [Cries of"No, no!"] It is very well known that amongst the labouring population of Ulster illiteracy is a blight more on one side than on the other. My hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox) established that in the clearest manner in a recent Debate in this House. It is idle, then, to attempt to fix illiteracy on one creed or race more than another, and the more closely the question is examined the more it will be found that illiterates are to be found in both camps. Upon the general question of illiteracy in Ireland I say the sin is yours. The sin is not the sin of the Irish people. For many generations in Scotland, and for generations not a few in England, the resources of the wealthier classes have been brought to the door of the humble. There has been a splendid system of education in Scotland and an effective system in England for a long time. The National system was only founded in Ireland 60 years ago, and for many years it was only a skeleton system. It has only come into general utility within the present generation. Even at the present moment there are parts of Ireland where schools do not exist within any reasonable or practical distance of the homes of the children, and there are thousands upon thousands of children who have no chance of a school education. Sir, in connection with what I have already said there are many districts in Ireland where Irish is the tongue spoken, and where your primary system prevents any facilities whatever for educating children in English through the medium of the native tongue. Consider, also, how emigration has robbed Ireland of the young, who are those who are the 1496 better educated. The emigration of Ireland takes away about 500,000 every 10 years of people between 15 and 35. It is an emigration of the better educated—of those who can read and write. There is no community on the face of the globe so overburdened with the very young and the very old as Ireland, because those who emigrate are the best educated of her people. No one who has been through a contested election in Ireland can have failed to observe the very large population of old voters. Why is it? Ireland is an agricultural country—a country of farmers. The voter is the head of the family. The voter is mainly an old man; the young men and women are gone to America, and I have met dozens and scores of men over 70 and 80 in the polling booths. When these men were boys—and the old voters form a very largo proportion of these 80,000 illiterates—there were no National schools in Ireland; and even in later years, when the National system of education was established, and the children could go to school for a little time, the condition of life in Ireland was so hard, the territorial system which you permitted was so cruel and exacting, that these poor children, before they had more than well learned the alphabet, were obliged to go to the fields and work for the remainder of their lives, and I need not convey to such a body of men as those who are listening to me how soon the miserable smattering of education received in the primary schools fades away in a life like that. There are political and historical reasons—powerful and sad reasons—why the proportion of illiteracy in Ireland is much larger than it is in England and Scotland; and it is a most unjust, and I would say most wretched proposition, in connection with a Bill to give the people of Ireland the right to manage their own affairs, to insert a disfranchising proposal of this kind. Illiteracy has been going down in Ireland; a few years ago it was 33 per cent., now it is only 18 per cent., and I daresay that in the course of a few years, under the more sympathetic influence of domestic rule, illiteracy will have fallen to as low a level in Ireland as it is in England and Scotland, and there will be no longer even the poor 1497 pretence that there is for this Amendment to-night.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he thought the hon. Member for North Kerry had really answered himself. The only complaints which the hon. Member had to make against the clause was that there had been tyranny on the part of the landlords in Ireland in the past, and that education had not spread in Ireland to the same extent as in England and Scotland. But whose fault was that? Was compulsory education popular with the Nationalists? Was it not opposed by the hon. Member for North Kerry and his friends?
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, that if the hon. Member declared that he personally did not oppose compulsory education, he, of course, accepted the disclaimer. But there was one matter which the hon. Member had forgotten to tell the House. There were actually more illiterate voters who were over 21 years of age than there were in the whole of Ireland over five years of age. If there were only 18 per cent, illiterates in the whole of Ireland over live years of age, it was logically impossible and practically impossible that there could be 20 per cent, over the age of 21; and therefore it came to this: that a large number of men had voted as illiterates who were not illiterates. Then came the question—whom does it pay for these men to vote as illiterates? The answer to that question was given in the action of the hon. Member for North Kerry, who was the only man who had spoken in favour of special facilities being given to these illiterate voters to record their votes. But he desired to look at this question from the point of view of the principle which was at stake, and not so much entirely from the point of view of Ireland. What was the principle of the clause? A Select Committee had unanimously reported in favour of all special facilities for illiterate voters being abolished. That Report was signed by the present First Commissioner of Works and by the present Attorney General for England. 1498 The advocates of the clause merely asked that the recommendations of the Committee should be adopted. The Attorney General had said that the reason why the representation of Dublin University was to be abolished was because the University was not entitled to special provisions. If it was good to do away at once with the representation of the Dublin University under Home Rule for Ireland it was good to abolish the illiterate vote also; therefore he did not think the objection urged against the clause to abolish the special facilities that illiterate voters now had was a good one. But he must congratulate his hon. Friend who moved the clause upon the general consensus in favour of his proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) was in favour of the proposal, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) endorsed what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean; and, therefore, they had both these right hon. Gentlemen—who had more to do than anyone else with the Reform Act of 1884–5—now stating it as their opinion that it was time it was done away with, but that this was not the right opportunity. He would like to ask the Attorney General (Sir C. Russell), whom he now saw in his place, a question. They were now proposing to set up a Legislature in Ireland, to set up Home Rule for Ireland, to give Ireland control of all Irish affairs; and did the Attorney General think it would be right hereafter, when Ireland had got Homo Rule, and when it had got its constituencies in full voting power, that the Imperial Parliament should step in and disfranchise certain voters? Were they prepared to propose a Bill to abolish the special facilities for illiterate voters, not only in Great Britain, but also in Ireland when Ireland had a Legislature of her own? There was no reason whatsoever for this distinction. The Government had the power now to amend the law of Ireland in accordance with the decision of the Select Committee; they might also bring in a Bill next year to alter the law in a similar way for Great Britain, and both of these Bills might pass long before a Home Rule Parliament was established. He, therefore, thought the 1499 excuse of the Government was an idle one. As a matter of fact, it was part of the whole system by which the Reform Clauses were to be disposed of. Not one had ever been debated at all; the whole portion of the Bill connected with franchise and redistribution was passed without a word being communicated to the Committee. It was not the Schedule only, but the whole of Clauses 6, 7, and 8; therefore, the whole Reform Bill, as he might term it, for Ireland had been passed without debate in the House, and when they came to Report the now clauses were taken first, so that there was no opportunity of dealing with the Reform Clauses, which they hoped to amend. He did not know that it would be of very much advantage to use any arguments with the Government, because they sat on their Bench but would neither argue the case themselves nor pay the slightest attention to the argument of any other person; they had got their Bill, such as it was, and a part of it they would not allow to be altered in any way whatever. He could not but think that the Government wanted to send the Bill up to another place in as bad a shape as possible, to make it perfectly certain it would be rejected; and if that was what the Government wanted they could not do better than continue the illiterate voters. He was sorry that the Government would not accept this clause, which they admitted to be a proper, practical clause, and he hoped his hon. Friend would go to a Division, in order that the country might know which Members were in favour of taking away the privileges of the educated voters, while, at the same time, they retained the privileges of the illiterate voters.
§ MR. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
said, the right hon. Gentleman just now stated that the Bill had not been discussed; but he (Mr. Macfarlane) believed this was the 69th day it had been under discussion.
§ MR. HENEAGE
I said neither the 6th, 7th, nor 8th clauses, which deal with Reform, had been discussed.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that was so, but what was the cause of it? It was because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen spoke days and weeks on trumpery 1500 Amendments for the very purpose, he believed, of preventing a discussion of these clauses, in order that they might go to the country and say this Bill was passed without discussion. But on the question before the House, that of illiterate voters, he was strongly of opinion that the privileges and advantages of illiterate voters should be done away with; not in one country only, but in all the three countries simultaneously. He thought a voter must be exceedingly stupid if he could not learn the lesson of how to mark his paper without reading it, and he did not think it would make any difference in the result of the elections if the voter was to manage his voting paper in the best way he could. What the Opposition were doing was like quarrelling with the doctor as to the ingredients of his mixture, when they had a friend ready to throw it out of the window directly the doctor turned his back. The Amendments moved here were not genuine Amendments—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must confine himself to the immediate Amendment before the House, which is the illiterate voters.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he would confine himself to one sentence, and that was that when a measure was brought in for dealing with the whole question of the privileges and advantages of the illiterate voter he would support it.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
was obliged to the hon. Member for his assertion that he was in favour of depriving the illiterates of all their privileges; but he could not understand why the hon. Gentleman thought it should be applied to the three Kingdoms simultaneously, because he was one of those who tried to prevent that being done by depriving Ireland of the opportunity of being dealt with as the rest of the Kingdom would be dealt with. But he should not have intervened but for the observations of the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) with regard to a county about which he (Mr. Macartney) knew a good deal. The hon. Member referred to the two divisions of Tyrone, and said that, as the illiterate vote in those divisions was almost equal to that 1501 of two other divisions represented by Nationalists, it must be presumed that the Unionist Party contributed as many illiterate voters as the Nationalist Party. He himself had been connected with that county for 20 years as political agent and otherwise, and he had seen voters at election after election record their votes; but he had never seen a vote given by a Unionist elector as an illiterate, while almost every illiterate vote was given by Nationalists or anti-Unionists. The hon. Member went on to say that England was to blame for the illiteracy in Ireland.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, the hon. and learned Member for Donegal (Mr. Mac Neill), who was the champion of illiteracy in this House, representing, as he did, a county which contained the greatest number of illiterate voters, shared that view. But all parties in Ireland had started perfectly fair on the question of education, and if the Unionists or anti-Catholics were better educated when national education was instituted in Ireland it was because the members of the Church thought more of education than the Roman Catholics did. Not one of the national school teachers in Ireland would support the view of the hon. Member, that it was owing to the tyranny of the landlords in driving the Roman Catholics from the schools into the fields that they wore not educated. It was not, however, to the Irish landlords that the illiteracy of the Nationalist population was to be laid. The hon. Member for North Kerry said he had not opposed compulsory education in the House; but upon the Second Reading of the Secondary Education (Ireland) Bill, which was introduced by the Chief Secretary, the hon. Member said—I also object to this scheme because it makes compulsion absolute.He thought it was a pity that the hon. Member had not refreshed his memory before he intervened that night. Whatever might be the views of the hon. Member for North Kerry on the question of compulsory education, it was notorious that not a Roman Catholic Bishop in Ireland would consent to compulsory education within his diocese. And any- 1502 one who knew anything of Ireland knew that every priest in the country was against compulsory education, because they desired to prevent any authority interfering with the manipulation of the children of the congregation, and that they would rather see the children remain ignorant all their days than allow any other authority to interfere between them and the priests. It was an absolute absurdity—it was a monstrous allegation to make in this House—that the illiteracy of any portion of the Irish race was to be laid at the doors of Great Britain, which had spent millions of money upon education in Ireland. He had felt bound to intervene in the Debate on thi Amendment to correct these extra ordinary statements, which were made by the hon. Member with greater temerity than any statement he had ever made before. Ample reasons had been given why the Government should agree to this Amendment; but he presumed that those reasons which had prompted the Government hitherto to refuse Amendments would also prompt them to refuse this, and they would hand over the educated people in Ireland and the best interests in Ireland to be voted upon by men, many of whom were illiterate, but others of whom were prepared to come in and declare themselves illiterate, because they had not the manhood to declare themselves according to their convictions, because they were the serfs of the Roman Catholic priests.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 176.—(Division List, No. 257.)
§ MR. SEXTON
desired to make a personal explanation. He understood that on the last Amendment the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) had stated that he (Mr. Sexton) had said in his speech that night that he did not oppose compulsion when the Irish Education Bill of the late Government was before the House, and the hon. Member had thereupon quoted one sentence from his speech on the Education Bill in which he (Mr. Sexton) said—I also object to this scheme because it makes compulsion absolute.He had since referred to the speech from which the hon. Member had quoted, and 1503 he found his point was that before they made compulsion absolute some option must be given in the matter to the Local Authorities. He went on to say—I have not argued against compulsion in the abstract. I have said that under certain conditions compulsion may be useful, but I say ill regard to this scheme that it is a bad scheme; that it is a crude scheme, and that it is not accompanied by popular franchise.
§ * MR. PARKER SMITH
rose to move the following Clause:—(Proportional Representation.)The constituencies both for the Irish Legislature and for the House of Commons shall be of such size that each shall return three or five Members, and no elector shall be entitled to vote for more than one candidate.He said, he put forward this clause in the interests of what was called proportional representation. There was another phrase used for this same idea to which he had some objection, and that was the phrase of minority representation. This scheme was not merely for the benefit of minorities—it was a scheme of true representation according to the proportion in which the parties were divided. For example, if they had a county returning three Members divided into three single-Member constituencies, it I might easily happen that the majority of the electors of the county would return I only one Member, while the minority would return two. It might easily happen that in two of the three divisions one Party would have only a small majority, while in the other division the other Party would have a largo majority: and in that way it might happen, on the single-Member system, that the majority would return the minority of Members, and the minority of the electors would return the majority of the Members. It was to secure proportional representation—to secure that the majority of the electors should return the majority of the Members, and, at the same time, that the minority of the electors should have their fair share of representation—that he put forward the scheme shadowed forth in the Amendment. The principle of proportional representation was the true fulfilment of a phrase they had heard a good deal of lately. That was the phrase of one man one vote, and every vote of one value. That was a principle very sound in itself, 1504 and one which proportional representation carried out far more truly than did the single-Member system. The single-Member system they had in this country had, no doubt, great practical advantages. It was an advantage to be able to run single, and not to be responsible for another person, and also to have constituencies of such a size that a candidate might be aide to make himself personally acquainted with every part of it. In England and Scotland the single-Member system brought about a sufficiently fair representation of the different Parties. But in Wales and in Ireland, under that system, the majority were enormously over-represented. No one could say that in Wales the persons in favour of Disestablishment were in the proportion of 15 or 16 to one, or that in Ireland Home Rulers were as four to one when compared with Unionists. Yet that was the voting strength of the Members from Wales and Ireland in that House. They knew very well what the Prime Minister did. He put his telescope to his blind eye, and refused to look one inch beyond the voting strength, and he would not acknowledge that there was any feeling in Ireland not exactly represented by hon. Members who sat on the Benches opposite. Burke had said that Parliament should be a true microcosm of the nation, and that Parties should be divided there as they were in the country. But, under the present system, it was impossible that they could have fair representation in parts of the country where Parties were divided as two to one or three to two. It was, under such circumstances, impossible to secure fair representation by means of single-Member constituencies. Take, for instance, a constituency having 24,000 electors, 16,000 of whom were "Red" and 8,000 of whom were "Blue." If it were made a three-Membered constituency, or if it were divided into three single-Member constituencies, it was absolutely certain that the 16,000 voting for all three Members would return all three, and the 8,000 would return none at all, and would be unrepresented. But it seemed to him that 8,000 votes on the one side ought to be as good as 8,000 votes on the other, and that, if 16,000 voters returned two Members, then 8,000 voters ought also to have the I power of returning one Member; and it 1505 would be an infinitely fairer representation of the opinion of that county if the majority returned two Members, and the minority returned one Member. That, of course, would be the result if the scheme he put forward were adopted. If each elector in the county had one vote, and one vote only, the 16,000 majority would run two candidates, whom they would be sure to return, and the minority would be equally sure, by voting for one single candidate, to return their one Member. Under the present system he thought that both Parties suffered, though, of course, in different degrees. He considered that it was as unsatisfactory that the Nationalist in the North of Ireland should be unrepresented in the North, as it was that the Unionist of the South should be left without any representation at all. If there was to be any fairness in Ireland, some such system as that be now proposed would have to be adopted. His right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who was not in favour of these schemes in general, but had a very strong liking for single-Member constituencies, had said that in Ireland, if anywhere, some such scheme as this was required and was necessary; and it seemed to him (Mr. Parker Smith) it was of the first importance to all Parties in Ireland that they should feel they were represented in the different Houses which were to be established. It was not satisfactory that, the Unionists of the South should feel they had nothing to rely upon but Unionist Members from the North, whose position might often be different from their own, and it was equally unsatisfactory that the Nationalists of the North should not have their own Representatives expressing their views different to those of the South; and again it was important and right that both sections of the Nationalist Party should be fairly represented in the different Houses at Dublin and at Westminster. It was unsatisfactory that the Parnellites should be so much under-represented as they were in proportion to their real strength in the country. It was only by the adoption of some such scheme as that which he proposed that they could obtain their fair share of representation. What he wished to put forward now in moving this clause was the broad and general principle of equal 1506 value for every vote, and equal value could only be secured by some such principle of proportional representation. He begged to move the clause.
§ Clause (Proportional representation,)—(Mr. Parker Smith,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It is sometimes said, and said truly, that this Pill is of itself weighted with much matter, so as to make it difficult to deal with by the House. I should have thought that that itself constituted a very strong argument against making this Pill a vehicle for promoting particular doctrines and propositions which have no proper application or relevancy whatever to the plan before the House. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman, by this Motion and other Motions that he has submitted, is of the opposite opinion, and believes that the more subjects introduced into the discussion on the Pill, whether they are relevant or not, the better it will be for the purpose he entertains. But, for our part, we are not prepared at all to give any encouragement to occasions of discussion on this subject-matter which has no especial reference to the case of Ireland. There are hon. Members in this House of great ability who have adopted the belief that it would be for the advantage of the country to adopt some incorporating system—some of these, I will not call them fanciful, but scientific schemes, but they have had opposed to them the universal tradition of the world, and the long and, on the whole, the satisfactory experience of this country. These subjects undoubtedly have what in the eyes of some may be of great advantage—namely, that they admit of most elaborate argument, and of au almost unbounded expenditure of time. Be that as it may, and whether that advantage be great or not, we cannot consent to be parties to introduce into an Irish Legislature, under the circumstances that are now before us, propositions and plans which are not deemed suitable to the rest of the country when we are speaking of Mem- 1507 bers of this House. We desire, of course, that Members from Ireland who are to sit here should sit upon conditions as near as be to those to which we have accustomed in England. Now, Sir, in the case before us I believe I am correct in saying that a plan of this kind has been proposed for England, and has been argued with an ability and an ingenuity which, according to my recollection, were such as could not be surpassed; but I believe, though I do not personally recollect the precise figures of the Division, that that plan was rejected by an enormous majority. Well, if that be so— and unless some change of opinion has taken place with regard to British legislation—to propose such a plan now is merely airing those scientific ideas for the benefit of I know not whom and I know not what; but it is not proposing suggestions that a Legislature having practical aims in view can be expected to entertain for a moment. And now, Sir, we have ourselves very reluctantly departed, I am aware, from the existing practice of the United Kingdom in respect of what is called the single-Member system. We may have been right or we may have been wrong in departing from that system; but we have departed from it under the consideration of the very grave inconvenience that would have been experienced if we had adhered to it—namely, the inconvenience of a serious risk of having to establish in Ireland two different sets of electoral districts in the counties, causing an amount of confusion that I am afraid would have been found intolerable. We have been asked why we do not state our intentions with regard to single-Member districts, but we have said we are perfectly ready for fair and unprejudiced arguments on the subject, because there are many allegations made against our Schedule, every one of which we believe to be untrue, and which the hon. Member for North Louth would, if the Order of the House had permitted, have proved conclusively to be untrue by the figures. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head and dissents from that proposition, although I had not finished my sentence, and he could not possibly know what I have to say. What I have to say is that the hon. 1508 Member for North Louth knows more about Irish constituencies than any man in this House, and the hon. Member showed the untruth of the statement that 15 Members was the number which would be allotted to the Unionist Party under the operation of the present Schedule. Sir, before we undertake to decide between the inconvenience of the single-Member system if applied to Ireland, and the inconvenience of departing from the precedent now existing, which I grant has in itself authority, and therefore recommendation, we must have an opportunity of bringing out, for fair and full consideration, the conveniences on the one side and on the other, so that the House may have both sides before it when forming its judgment on the case. There is undoubtedly a convenience in applying the single-Member system, because we get, according to the judgment which prevails, a larger representation of varying views, and the views of those who might not be an absolutely numerical majority. I do not undervalue that consideration; but there is, on the other hand, the other consideration that nothing could be more worrying and annoying to the people of the country than to have saddled upon them great diversities of the electoral system represented in diverse districts of the same county, which would be such that no man would hardly know to what division he belonged, and where he should vote. I make the frank admission that there are advantages and inconveniences in the single-Member system. My desire is that the House should judge fairly between them, not from language distinctly imputing fraud, but from a careful consideration as to the weight to be placed in the opposite scale. The plan of the hon. Member has neither the one nor the other advantage. It has not the advantage of precedent; it has been rejected by an enormous majority when applied to England; and, having been so rejected, the hon. Member thinks, apparently, that it is quite good enough for Ireland. That is not the principle upon which the Government have proceeded. The hon. Member does not like the system of government we propose, and he does not like the system of election; and he, therefore, proposes a reconstruction of the electoral system in 1509 Ireland far larger than has ever been dreamt of before. All districts are seemingly to be abolished unless they are large enough to return either three or five Members out of the limited number of 80. By the means which the hon. Member proposes, the electors of Ireland would be puzzled and perplexed to a degree that would, I fear, inflict great grievances upon them. The hon. Member's plan possesses all the demerits of the Government plan, as well as all the demerits of the single-Member plan. No doubt the hon. Member's plan possesses scientific advantages which are not to be undervalued; but, when proposed for Great Britain, this Parliament set small store by them. Even if this were otherwise, I would say that this is an attempt at speculative legislation, and that this Bill ought not to be loaded and embarrassed with such proposals. I have occupied as short a time as possible, in order that as much scope as possible may be given to those who are opposed to the Government. I will not add any further remarks, but simply point out that it is impossible for us to accede to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman.
§ * MR. COURTNEY
The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has spoken of this as an attempt to overload the Bill, and he excused himself from accepting the Amendment by stating that it is not a proposal in relation to the United Kingdom at large. My right hon. Friend also refers to what occurred eight or nine years ago. Even if the decision of Parliament at that time were more deliberate than it was, it may well be that circumstances have arisen since which afford good grounds for reconsidering the action then taken. The experience of the elections since that time have impressed me more and more with the insufficiency of the reasons which then prevailed, and seem to point to the necessity of some such action as is proposed. I challenge altogether the accuracy of my right hon. Friend's representation when he quotes what was done in 1885 as a solemn, convinced declaration of the House of Commons against the idea now put forward. My right hon. Friend is aware of the severe conflict then going on, the pas- 1510 sions excited, and the dangers threatened, and that when a crisis became imminent the Leaders of the opposing Parties came together under the advice of sober counsels and concocted the system which was afterwards submitted to the House of Commons. Some hon. Members were resolute enough to protest against what had been done, and they were defeated by a very considerable majority; but I altogether deny the significance of that majority as indicating such a conclusion as has been attributed to it. The Party managers were in agreement, and the mass of their followers were helpless. They bowed to forces they could not resist, but it cannot be said they were convinced. My right hon. Friend's language as to the Unionists seeking to overload this Bill can only be used by anyone who doe* not appreciate what are the true difficulties of the Irish problem. The painful, the cruel characteristics of the situation in Ireland have more than once been referred to by the Chief Secretary, who has hail practical experience and has given study to the Irish Question; but my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government has never shown any suspicion of knowledge of those characteristics. In Ireland there are two opposing camps in strong antagonism; there is extreme acerbity between the two Parties. It is not like our system here; there is between the Parties no truce and no peace, and each regards the other with feelings of more than aversion—with sentiments of the deepest antagonism. The Chief Secretary will admit the truth of what I am saying; but the Prime Minister has never shown sufficient acquaintance with Ireland to recognise the importance of it. What is the fact? Whoever would set up a Legislature in Ireland is bound to consider well what preparation he will make for dealing with these circumstances, how he will bring a Legislature furnished with these elements of warfare into peaceful relations. In the past the peace between these elements has been kept, not always in the most judicial manner, yet with an anxious desire to do justice, by the force of the opinion of Great Britain. In the proposed new Legislature the moderating power of Great Britain will not be found; and, if we desire the experiment 1511 to succeed, we should provide some other means of enabling the Legislature to do justice as between all parties. As the hon. Member for Whitehaven has said, there are Protestants who do not share the ardent views of the hon. Members for Tyrone and Armagh, and who want to live in peace with Catholics. No encouragement is now given to such men, because by single-Member constituencies we compel society to divide itself into two parties, and make every election a fight between two extremes. Surely it would be worth while to develop the force of these moderate men by securing the representation of the middle class? This is what is sought for by this clause. It is a practical aim to reconcile the most threatening elements of Irish society by giving representation to a living organism in a living body. There is no such attempt made in the Bill, which, to use an inorganic illustration, resembles a proposal to represent atmospheric air by its 75 per cent, of nitrogen to the exclusion of its 25 per cent, of oxygen. The scheme of the Bill does not even give security for the representation of the majority, much loss for the representation of the minority. Look at Wales, where there; is an overwhelming misrepresentation of the majority. If you had a Parliament for Wales, constituted of the Members for Wales, would it represent the living elements of society in Wales? Are we not all conscious it would be necessary to supply the omitted elements by a Second Chamber, by persons brought in for other qualifications, or by some special machinery, so as to secure for the government of Wales a vital representation of its living forces? And what was true of Wales was equally true of Ireland. [An hon. Member: Birmingham.] I do not shrink from dealing with the case of Birmingham, but I am arguing this question without regard to these small personal considerations. I am referring to the ease of Wales, and urging that what is required there is still more required in Ireland. There is not in Wales that vital difference of race and religion, the inheritance that generations of supremacy and subordination have produced in Ireland. We must not shrink, if we are going to work out this problem, from new methods. My right hon. Friend has 1512 said that this question was settled in 1885, but he himself has departed from the settlement of 1885. I admit that in Great Britain, owing to the diversity of the population in different parts of the island, we do, under the settlement of 1885, secure in some measure a representation of the different elements of English and Scotch society; but the system is bad for the South-Eastern Counties, and does not do justice in the representation of Parties. It kills by stifling Liberal life in a wide breadth hero; it destroys Conservative growths elsewhere. It does not work well. It is not wholesome even for Great Britain to use this chance and untrustworthy method. But in Ireland it is fatal. It is hopeless to attempt to carry out the task of an Irish Parliament by the proposals of the Government or anything analogous to them. I would despair, indeed, if the result of to-night's action were to be conclusive of what is going to be done in respect of Ireland. I rejoice, though not in any mean or small Party sense, that the present Bill, after all, is not going to become law. One or two, or perhaps many, years will pass before an Irish Parliament is set up, if it is to be sot up at all. In the interval there will be opportunities for discussion and education. If the Irish Questions to De solved in any way that shall give promise of peace we must, by some means, secure within the Legislature we seek to set up representatives of those moderating and reconciling elements, without which our legislative machinery would become a wreck.
§ * MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said the speech of the Prime Minister was a specimen of the way in which this discussion was conducted. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was, as they knew, a great authority on this question. He (Mr. Bartley) was one of those who strongly believed in the principle of proportional representation, but he acknowledged that there were some practical difficulties in getting people to understand the question. With our educational system it was to be hoped the public would soon learn to see the importance of some system by which the real representation of the people would 1513 be discovered. The Prime Minister, treating this important matter in his most flippant manner, said there was nothing special to Ireland in the Amendment. As the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down declared, if there was any place to which it was special, that place was Ireland; so that, though the Amendment might overload and embarrass this wretched Bill, it was perfectly relevant to the future representation of Ireland. And although the Prime Minister told them of the unbounded time consumed in the discussion of the various points arising in connection with the Bill, he must remember that, in spite of this unbounded time, four-fifths of the Bill had not boon considered at all. The Prime Minister referred to the question of single seats. He said there was a certain inconvenience in a scheme of single seats, and he added that it should only be debated as concerning the whole of the country. He (Mr. Bartley) could not help being surprised at this attitude, which contrasted with his attitude at an earlier stage; of the evening on this very question of Irish representation and the appointment of a Boundary Commission. This seemed to him a very extraordinary way of facilitating the difficulties in which they were placed. The Prime Minister dwelt upon the point to which he alluded at considerable length. But, as the matter stood, in the several Irish counties there would exist the same complicated system as the Prime Minister had objected to—the system whereby an elector would have to vote on three different occasions for three different kinds of Representatives. In Armagh each elector would vote for one Member of the Legislative Council, for two Members of the House of Commons, and for three single-seat Members of the Legislative Assembly. In Cork County it was worse still. It would be represented by four Members for the Legislative Council divided into three, and one for five Members for the House of Commons divided into three, and two for seven single-Member seats for Members for the Legislative Chamber. The Prime Minister spoke of the plan of proportional representation having been rejected by the House of Commons by an enormous majority seven or eight years ago as if that settled the 1514 matter. But the Home Rule Bill itself was rejected by the House of Commons seven years ago, and yet it was again before the House. It seemed to him that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, and that they might some day have this proportional representation in spite of the Prime Minister's statement. Parliament could not be too careful about making the representation of Ireland in the new Chamber and in the House of Commons fairly proportionate to all the different interests in the country. They knew that Ireland did not now represent in fair proportion the different interests which existed vividly in Ireland, and what he objected to was that the Government proposal not only stereotyped, but accentuated all the recognised evils of the present system; and the only excuse the Prime Minister gave was that the Bill so revolutionised the whole Constitution that there was no time to consider the various points. They were to take them all on faith. But he, for one, objected to that, and should support the Amendment.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had commenced his speech by saying that this was a scientific plan. That was a great deal more than could be said of the plan of the Government, which was certainly not scientific. But he had some difficulty in agreeing to the proposal, and the difficulty was this—he did not know any place in the South or West of Ireland where the Unionist minority was not too slender, nor any Protestant place in the North where the Catholic minority was not too slender, to derive any advantage from the plan proposed in the Amendment. But, on the other hand, he should vote for the Amendment because, whatever might be its drawbacks, it was an infinitely better proposal than the Government plan. If he could get an assurance from the Government that they would establish single-Member constituencies be should be almost content with it; but he believed the Government had no such intention. The division between Parties in Ireland was so sharp that they even had their separate districts. The Prime Minister was evi- 1515 dently offended with what had been said about this precious Schedule, but he would not withdraw a single word that he himself had said. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they imputed fraud to the Government. He (Mr. T. W. Russell) had not used the word; but he said if the Government plan for giving representation to Ireland in the House had been drawn so that whenever a change was made it should be in favour of the Nationalist Party and against the Unionist. The Prime Minister could call that whatever he liked. For his part he adopted the American name, and called it "gerrymandering." That was the most innocent phrase he could apply to it. The right hon. Gentleman had called to his aid the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), and had declared that the hon. and learned Member had disposed of his (Mr. T. W. Russell's) statement regarding the representation of the Unionists under the Government plan. Well, what had the hon. and learned Gentleman done before he was stopped by Mr. Speaker? The hon. and learned Member had pointed out that the Unionists would have a Member for Dublin. They would if the single-seat constituencies-remained; but if the county voted as a whole, the Unionist representation would be destroyed. Yet the hon. and learned Member counted Dublin and Fermanagh in his list of Unionist seats. In the case of County Tyrone the Unionists now had two seats there, but if the county voted as a whole they would have none. He should vote for the Amendment not because he believed it embodied the best plan for meeting the difficulty, but because the plan of the Government would be ruinous to the Unionists of Ireland. Almost any plan was better than theirs.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said, that the plan proposed in the Amendment might not be the best that could be brought forward; still he thought it one that would be of very great value to the Unionists of Ireland. In County Tyrone at the last election 12,433 Unionist votes were recorded and 13,412 Nationalist votes—subtracting the 123 recorded for the Parnellite candidates. The Unionist strength of 1516 the county, therefore, was loss than 1,000 of the entire Home Rule strength; and yet, in spite of that fact, and having regard to the manner in which it would most likely be divided geographically, the county under the Government plan would not retain a single Unionist Member. In Donegal the total number of the Unionist voters at the three contested elections was 5,291. Three Nationalists were returned, but the highest number of votes polled by a candidate was 3,930. It was clear from that that if the country were divided into three it would be almost certain to return one Unionist. Then, again, in Tipperary the Unionists had altogether 3,359 voters, whereas the highest number polled by a single Nationalist was 3,284. Therefore, it was clear that the Unionists would have had one seat out of the four if the Amendment were in force. It was clear, therefore, that the plan was not purely academic, but would be attended with marked advantages.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Take Belfast.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said, an hon. Member invited him to consider the case of Belfast. Well, the Nationalists would have a Member under the system proposed, provided that Belfast had the representation it ought to have—namely, six Members instead of four. If it had only four Members, the Nationalists would not have one. The Prime Minister had said that they could not introduce for Ireland a plan which was not deemed suitable to the rest of the country, but the contention of the Unionist Members was that the whole scheme of the Home Rule Bill was full of plans that were not deemed suitable to the rest of the country. That being so, why not adopt the plan indicated in the Amendment? The Prime Minister said that would be adding a new weight to the Bill, but he (Mr. Rentoul) did not think that that now weight would be more disastrous to the measure than would be the throwing of a cork belt to a drowning man. If the Government had adhered to the single-Member system, they would have been logical in saying that they would not depart from the system which existed in England, Scotland, and Wales, but they had de- 1517 parted from that system in a retrogressive manner. They had stepped backward from the plan of single divisions, and when they had done that it certainly seemed to him well to press on them a system which would be very likely before long to be applied to the whole of Great Britain. The Amendment was one which, of all the Amendments which had hitherto been proposed, he should like to see adopted. He agreed with the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Little) that there were 400,000 Protestants in the South and West of Ireland; and these Protestants would be without a fragment of representation under the Bill. It therefore seemed to him a matter of the highest importance that the Amendment should be adopted. Though matters balanced themselves in some parts of the country, the existing electoral system was an absolute failure in Wales—greater, even, than in Ireland. The case, however, was strong enough in regard to Ireland, and he therefore supported the Amendment as a sensible proposal.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
As I have taken some interest in this question, I should like to say a few words in reference to the Amendment. The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Little), at an earlier part of the evening, alluded to my opinions, and said this was a proposition which I had told him I would not support. That is perfectly true. This is the first, and, perhaps, the only, occasion on which I find myself unable to support a proposition of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), with whom I am generally in entire agreement. I have had peculiar and, perhaps, exceptional experience of this question of proportional representation. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Paul), in an interruption which was a little more happy than his interruptions usually are, referred to Birmingham whilst the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin was speaking. Well, in the course of my public experience in Birmingham I have been for a large portion of my life fighting against proportional representation, first in connection with the old three-cornered vote, and afterwards in connec- 1518 tion with the cumulative vote which prevailed at the School Board elections. Under the three-cornered system we were able to maintain the unanimous representation of the borough, but in connection with the cumulative vote we were completely beaten owing to a miscalculation of our force. For three years a minority of practically less than one-third had the control of the School Board. Having had in that way an unfavourable experience of the system, I have formed a strong opinion against it —not, however, against the object my right hon. Friend has in view. The Prime Minister said the Amendment of the hon. Member for Partick (Mr. Parker Smith) was irrelevant, and he further insinuated—I observe that the Prime Minister, although he very much objects to anything which can by any possibility be described as an insinuation on the part of his opponents, is very free with insinuations himself— that the hon. Member's speech was made for the purpose of wasting time. I do not think that oven the Prime Minister will say that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin was intended to waste time, or will deny the eloquence and earnestness with which he has propounded on many occasions his views on proportional representation. While sympathising, however, with the object my right hon. Friend has in view, I do not believe any method can be de vised which is not open to even stronger objections than the misrepresentation of which we complain. In the first place, there will be a very great chance that, in trying to represent the minority, you will misrepresent the majority, and I do not hesitate to say that I think it is a greater evil to over-represent the minority than to under-represent the majority, and that is the danger which must be present to your mind if you adopt the particular plan of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin. The second objection was that you confuse the political issue. I have always held that one matter which is of the very greatest importance in securing both proper representation and the proper government of the country is that the issue should be sufficiently simple to be "understanded of the people." I object to anything that has a tendency to complicate or confuse the issues upon 1519 which we want to obtain the national decision, and I am convinced that any scheme that has been yet proposed for providing for the representation of the minority, even if it is a scientific process, will have a tendency to confuse the subjects placed before the people, and thereby to destroy the authority of the verdict when it is ultimately given. A third objection is that the moment you complicate the system of election you tend at once to increase the power and influence and authority of what is called the machine. The machine is necessary. Yon must have organisation. You cannot do without it in the extended franchise you have rightly given to the people of the United Kingdom, but you do not want to see organisation taking the place of, and imposing itself upon, the free expression of the will of the people. Undoubtedly, if you complicate the system of voting you make the machine so absolutely necessary that you give to it au extraordinary force—a force which is more than its due, tending thereby to falsify the real opinion of the people. Lastly—and this remark applies only to Great Britain-—I feel that the object which my right hon. Friend has at heart is, after all, attained in Great Britain in a rough-and-ready way by the system of single-Member constituencies. But when we come to Ireland the case is totally different, as it is also in Wales. There, owing in part to the largeness of the majority and the extreme separateness of the issues, there is a state of things under which the minority undoubtedly is under-represented. The minority in Ireland is represented by 23 out of 103. My right hon. Friend says that if in Ireland there were single-Member constituencies, and there were also redistribution and seats given according to population, the Unionists would have 23 out of 80, whilst under this Bill they would have 15 out of 80—I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) made it out 17. All the estimates are considerably under the number that the minority in Ireland ought to have. An impartial calculation might arrive at the conclusion that the minority in Ireland is one-third, and that would give a return of one-third even out of 80. Therefore, under no system whatever can it be pre- 1520 tended that we can secure for the minority in Ireland the full representation to which they are entitled, and I am quite satisfied that the Amendment will altogether fail to attain it. I believe it will come less near to the correct result than single-Member constituencies. The only way that I can see by which the object of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin can be accomplished would be by throwing the whole representation of the country into the pot, and allowing every part of the country, without regard to districts or constituencies, to vote for a list of Members in a preferential way. No doubt, in that way you would get a correct representation, but I could not accept a proposal of that kind, scientifically correct as it is, because, knowing as I do the political organisations of this country, I feel certain the system would break down in practice. It would be too complicated for the ordinary elector. What are you to do? In Ireland you are told one-fourth of the electorate are so illiterate that they cannot discriminate between two names. How, then, could they discriminate amongst a long list and put down 80 names in order of preference? Therefore, I come to the result that in order to attain the object of the right hon. Gentleman it would require an electorate of mathematicians and persons of great acquirements on the other hand. Therefore I shall be unable to vote with my right hon. Friend, and I hope that in the course of our subsequent discussions we may prevail on the Government to adopt the system of single-Member constituencies, with such a redistribution of seats as will secure that the representation in these constituencies is, at all events, in much nearer proportion to the population than anything which has yet been conceived.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I should not like the Debate to conclude without saying a few words. After careful attention to this subject, and having gone into the figures as well as I could, I was forced to the conclusion, when introducing the Local Government Bill for Ireland, that, if we were to do justice to the minority, some form of minority representation is absolutely necessary. The House will 1521 see by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that the question is not a Party one, and hon. Members, therefore, will follow the bent of their inclination in voting. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has said that in his judgment minority representation is a delusion, and tends to confuse the issues laid before the constituencies. That is an argument that should not be undervalued. On the contrary, I am distinctly of opinion that if we are to work the Parliamentary machine at all it must be with a Party system fairly and clearly divided, and, therefore, voting on clear and distinct issues at elections. But though I think that is true, broadly speaking, of such countries as England and Scotland, I think it would be of very dangerous application in a country like Ireland. Why is the double-Party system good for England and Scotland? It is because the Parties, clearly as they appear to be divided in this House and the country, after all consist of very much the same kind of people, holding very much the same kind of opinions. This may seem a very violent political paradox to some, but I am convinced that these are the only possible terms on which you are going to work Parliamentary Government as we understand the term. If you are going to try and work that system in a country where the division is as deep as in Ireland, or as it is in some other countries where the population is divided between races who are widely separated by history, and in some cases even by colour, you will find that you will fail. I think, therefore, that in Ireland you must do something that is not necessary in England to protect the interests of the minority. What is the second argument of my right hon. Friend? It is one with which I have the profoundest sympathy. He said if you are to have minority representation you will increase the power of the general electoral machinery. In Ireland do you think that any working of the machine will increase the acrimony of Party feeling, or augment the gap which divides religions, races, and opinions? The divisions there are ready-made, and cannot be augmented or diminished by the wirepuller. I venture, therefore, to think that in Ireland, at all events, the argu- 1522 ment of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) has not the weight which it undoubtedly possesses in England, and that, whether you augment or diminish the power of the machine, you will do nothing either to increase the breach that already exists in Ireland, or to bridge over the differences which unhappily divide society in that country. There is another argument, however, which has been urged both by my right hon. Friend who means to vote against this Amendment, and by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) who means to vote for it—an argument tending in the direction of showing that the clause itself would be inefficacious. It is said that in the North the Protestant and Loyalist minority is so overwhelming that it does not require any minority vote at all, whilst in the South the Loyalists are so thinly distributed over the vast area of Connanght, Minister, and Leinster, that no provision you can introduce will have the slightest effect. I do not deny that there is force in that argument also, but I will point out that there is a zone of what I may call doubtful counties, like Dublin, in which the population is fairly evenly balanced, or where, at all events, there is a very powerful and effective minority, differing in opinion from the mass of the voters. Unless you are much more successful in manipulating your constituencies than I believe you will be, you will not do justice to these large minorities. I believe that in counties such as my hon. Friend himself (Mr. T. W. Russell) represents, if you want to give the minority that fair representation to which they are undoubtedly entitled, some such scheme as that now before us is absolutely necessary. As the author of the scheme of representation contained in the Irish Local Government Bill, I cannot do otherwise than support the clause of my hon. Friend opposite, and I confess that I think the more we consider the very peculiar circumstances of Ireland the more we shall be driven to the conclusion that, in the first place, Ireland is unfit for Home Rule; but if you mean to give Home Rule you must safeguard it with provisions and arrangements which would be probably unnecessary, and possibly even noxious in Eng- 1523 land or Scotland, but which are absolutely most necessary in Ireland if you mean to give anything approaching representation to what are, after all, the most orderly, the most enterprising, and the most deserving classes in the whole Irish community.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
said, he had the honour of serving on a Committee which took evidence with reference to the cumulative vote, and there had certainly been a preponderance of opinion amongst those who had had experience of it that it worked extremely well. So far from producing any increase in political machinery, he believed that the clause, if agreed to, would have an absolutely opposite effect. It would also do away with, or very greatly minimise, the great evil of gerrymandering. Single-Member seats would, no doubt, be the next best plan; but in the case of Ireland they would not effect the object which was aimed at by his hon. Friend. The Prime Minister said that if the clause were adopted it would wreck the Bill. That entirely depended upon whether the Government intended to remodel the Schedule or not. The Prime Minister seemed to think that, in speaking of the system as "scientific," he was in some way condemning it. It was a far simpler system than that used at School Board elections, and directly it was admitted that it was a scientific system all that he contended for was admitted. In his opinion, it was the only way in which to secure the two great objects of representation—uamely, fair hearings both for the minority and the majority. He was confident that sooner or later some such system would be adopted in all countries in which the people desired to have a really fair and true system of representation.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 148; Noes 197.—(Division List, No. 258.)
§ It being after Midnight, Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.