§ COMMITTEE. [Progress, 20th November.]
§ [FOURTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2 (Parish meetings).
§ SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
I should like to ask the Government whether the words "Local Government electors" give the best description of the electors under this Bill? Under the last Local Government Act the phrase used was "county electors," and, as there is a chance of confusion arising between the old and the new classes of parochial electors, I would suggest the term "county elector" instead of "Local Government elector."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
I have conferred with those more competent than myself to decide the question, and they prefer the designation "Local Government elector."
§ * MR. W. M'LAREN
said, he desired to move the Amendment which stood in his name, and which provided that all married women who would be entitled to be on the Local Government Register of electors if they were single should be 1381 included in the franchise created by this Bill. The object of the Amendment was to prevent what many of his hon. Friends feared would be the effect of the Bill if it passed in its present form—namely, the disfranchisement of those married women who were ratepayers, and were entitled to vote at present for Vestries and Boards of Guardians. He trusted it would not be necessary to discuss this matter at very great length. The position of those married women was one of considerable doubt in regard to all other elections, but with regard to the old parochial franchises relating to the election of Vestrymen and Guardians there was great simplicity in the matter, as the sole Register in these cases was the rate book, and every woman whose name was on it was entitled to vote for both. Since the Married Women's Property Act had passed a considerable number of married women who were actually ratepayers paying rates in their own names had been put on the Register, and when he spoke of the married women he was not referring to those who wore living apart from their husbands, or whose husbands might be abroad; he referred rather to those who were living with their husbands and had property of their own on which they paid rates. It was to these that he desired to secure the right of voting. Very great change would be made by the Bill in its present form. The rate book was no longer to be the Register, but the Government proposed that the Local Government Register and the Parliamentary Register should be the Register on which in future parochial elections should be conducted. He had nothing to say against that change provided the House accepted his Amendment, which would prevent the only injustice that could possibly occur owing to the change of Register. The position of married women on the Local Government Register was wholly different. No doubt the Local Government and burgess lists were made up from the rate book, but they had to pass through the hands of the Assistant Overseer, whose duty it was to make up a preliminary Register and submit it to the Revising Barrister. In case after case the Revising Barrister had struck off the name of a married woman when informed that she was married. There were cases here and there in which married women had been 1382 allowed to remain on the Register by accident, or oversight, because the Revising Barrister believed they were widows; but if there were a husband living, and the Barrister heard of it, he would assuredly strike the name off the Register. And the Courts had upheld that decision. In the case of "Queen v. Harrald," which arose in Sunderland in 1872, where a candidate was elected by a majority of one, it was then discovered that two married women had voted for the successful candidate. The unsuccessful candidate petitioned against his return; the case was heard before Chief Justice Cockburn and other eminent Judges, and it was unanimously decided to disallow the votes of the two married women. Both votes were struck off, and the seat was awarded to the petitioning candidate. In one of these cases the woman had been deserted by her husband; in the other the woman had been married nine days before the election, and that disqualified her. That decision had governed the decisions of all Revising Barristers ever since. It was clear, therefore, that whatever might have been the intentions of Parliament on this matter the Courts had held that coverture did disfranchise married women. The view that all these disabilities of married women would have to be removed by special Act of Parliament had been confirmed recently by the case of Lady Sandhurst, who, having been returned to the London County Council, was unseated, and the Judge declared that though there were no words in the Act preventing a woman from being elected, yet, without a special enactment in their favour, it must be held that all women were disqualified. This disability would have to be specifically removed by legislation. Additional proof of this was found in the fact that in the Scotch Local Government Act and the Scotch Municipal Act married women were distinctly excluded, and that was done on the ground that the law of Scotland should, in this respect, be made the same as that of England. He hoped the Committee would now see its way to remove this disqualification. He was convinced that the House did not intend to disfranchise married women who were now entitled to vote. There might be objections to enfranchise new classes of women, but as to disfranchising those 1383 who already had votes it was inconceivable that that should be done in these days. It never had been, and he trusted it never would be done. They were bound to safeguard the rights of all now entitled to vote, yet Parliament was now face to face with the fact that owing to the odious and almost obsolete doctrine of coverture, married women were prevented from voting under the Local Government Act. Why not put in an Amendment to make it perfectly clear that married women might be at liberty to vote under this Bill, provided that they were ratepayers. He had no desire by this Amendment to enfranchise any women who were not ratepayers. He did not argue that married women had any better right to vote than single women. Some people seemed to suppose that married women had more sense than their single sisters. He should be inclined to think that there was probably more wisdom in many cases on the part of those who remained single than on the part of those who got married. All he contended was that married women had as good a right to vote as single women, if they had the same qualification. He appealed to the Government and the Committee to clear up the existing doubts, to settle the question, and to declare that when they were paying so much attention to the wants of the agricultural voters, they should not be deaf to the legitimate claims of married women. He did not think anyone would argue that the average agricultural labourer was the intellectual superior of the average married woman. The House had on the previous Thursday sufficiently indicated its desire that this Amendment should be carried. Since the vote on Thursday, when about 70 Liberal and Nationalist Members voted for the Instruction, he had received the names of at least 30 other Liberal Members who were anxious that the Amendment should be carried. He knew the Amendment was cordially in harmony with the general views of the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and he believed the Prime Minister and his colleagues were also anxious to do justice to married women and single women alike. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would be agreed to.
In page 2, line 2, after the word "electors." to insert the words "or of a supplementary list of all the married women who would be entitled to be on the Local Government Register of electors if they were single."—(Mr. W.. M'Laren,)
§ Question proposed, "That those words lie there inserted."
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
I think, Mr. Mellor, it will be convenient to the Committee if I at once state the views of the Government on this Amendment, in view of what passed on Thursday night. My hon. Friend (Mr. W. M'Laren) has stated very fully what the present position of the law is, and what is the evil of which he complains. Under an Act, which I think my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) had a considerable part in passing in 1869, Parliament extended for the purposes of the municipal franchise the meaning of certain words in the Municipal Corporations Act, so as to make language which purported to be confined to the masculine gender apply to the feminine gender. I think I am not saying too much when I express a confident opinion that the intention of my right hon. Friend and of Parliament at that time was that women should be placed on the same footing as men with reference to municipal elections; with reference to Boards of Guardians the franchise has always been that of the ratepayer. If a woman is registered as a ratepayer she claims, and in a vast number of cases has exercised, the right to vote in the election of Guardians, though I may say in passing that the Local Government Board has invariably declined to express an opinion as to the legality either of such a vote or of a married woman sitting on a Board of Guardians. Then we have the same principle applied generally to all urban elections, and under the Local Government Act of 1888 the municipal franchise was extended to the counties. Therefore, for local government purposes, whether in towns or counties, and also for Poor Law purposes, duly qualified women are entitled to vote. If the law had remained there of course there would have been no necessity for an Amendment, but in a case decided in 1872 by a very eminent bench of Judges—the late Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, the late Mr. 1385 Justice Mellor and the present Lord Hannen—a unanimous opinion was expressed that by the Common Law the right of a woman respecting any political or public office was merged on her marriage. The Court held that if Parliament intended to confer upon women the right to vote it must say so in so many words, and, in fact, alter the Common Law upon the question. That decision has never been appealed against, and of course has been accepted as the law since then, (although some eminent lawyers have expressed doubt whether the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 has not affected it), and Revising Barristers and Overseers have removed otherwise duly qualified women from the Register on the ground that they were married. I do not know whether that extends to School Boards, although as the School Board is elected in urban districts on the Municipal Register a woman who is removed from the Municipal Register will, as far as urban districts are concerned, be removed from the School Board Register. It has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke), and also by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. W. M'Laren), that there is no doubt whatever that married women not only have voted and can vote, but are legally entitled to vote in the election of Guardians. That is not the opinion given by the highest authorities to Her Majesty's Government. We are advised that the disqualification which the Court of Queen's Bench said was created by the Common Law applies to all voting whatever, and we are advised that if the question was raised with reference to voting, either on a School Board or on a Board of Guardians, the ruling in that case, unless it were reversed by the Court of Appeal, would have to be followed, and married women would be disqualified from exercising those franchises. Of course, that is an opinion and not a decision. We are creating not a new Register, but an additional constituency, so to speak, for the purpose of this last proposed change in the rural Government of England. If I understand the decision of the House correctly on this subject it is this—that the disqualification of married women should cease; that is to say, where a woman is otherwise qualified, and is on 1386 an existing Register, and as such entitled to vote, she should not be disqualified by reason of her being a married woman. That is, as I understand, the intention of the House, and it is a decision which the Government of course will endeavour to carry out. There is, however, another question raised in the Amendment of my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend says also, "Create a new Register altogether, which is not in existence at the present time, a Register of women who, if they were men, would be entitled to vote." That, of course, would involve a new Register, a new revision, and a variety of other procedure. I think the House will see that that raises a very difficult question. It raises the question of the enfranchisement of single women who are lodgers, or who hold other qualifications for the Parliamentary franchise. I do not want to go into that question at present, but it is a totally distinct question from that of the disqualification of married women. The House is pretty well agreed upon the disqualification question; but I am not sure that we would be agreed if we attempted to discuss the other question involved in the Amendment. Now, what I would propose is this: I would ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, and I on my part shall propose to insert a new clause removing the disqualification of married women altogether, where they are otherwise duly qualified to vote in local government elections, including those for the School Board, the Guardians, the County and Town Councils—in other words, to rescind or repeal the decision in the case of the "Queen v. Harrald." I think that proposal deals fully and frankly with the matter, and I ask my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said that, although he had no cause to regret the opposition which he offered in former years to women exercising the Parliamentary franchise, he felt that the tempering of his views by time would prevent him exaggerating the extent of the proposition now before the Committee for conferring the vote upon women for local purposes. As he understood, the Committee was practically dealing with this question, not as a stepping-stone to further extension of voting power upon women; they were doing nothing to confer an ownership vote upon married 1387 women; they were dealing simply with the vote that would be given to a woman if she were upon a Register relating to local purposes. Practically it was a proposition of a comparatively limited character. Those who did not wish to see the voting power of women unduly extended had this precaution, that before a married woman could obtain the vote now proposed she must be rated. If she lived with her husband, in almost every instance she would not be rated; the husband would be the person who would be rated. It had been suggested that married women might have such influence with their husbands that they might ask to be rated instead of the husband. He did not think the objection had much weight. If a woman had such power over a husband as to be able to persuade him to allow her to be rated in order that she might exercise the vote, she could always persuade the husband to vote exactly as she liked. They had, therefore, to deal only with this one limited class, that of married women living apart from their husbands. There might be instances whore there were separate establishments, like a woman keeping a shop, but that would be exceptional, and therefore the Amendment went simply to the extent of saying that where a married woman living apart from her husband was rated she should have the vote. In such case the woman was almost precisely in the position of a single woman. Although to some extent his judgment was not an impartial one, yet he saw the injustice, if they admitted it was right for a single woman because of her being on the Register to have the vote for local purposes, of depriving a married woman who was in the same position of the like privilege. Therefore, although ho would naturally be inclined to oppose the proposition if it were carried to a greater extent, he would not offer any opposition to the present Amendment.
§ * MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, that his reasons for thinking that the proposal of the Government ought to be accepted were not the reasons advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury. It was known that he entertained extreme views on the subject of women's suffrage; but he would rather 1388 discuss it now from a practical point of view than from the point of view of principle. He appealed to the Committee whether they did not think and feel that the addition of married women to the Parochial Register would be a clear advantage to the parishes, and for more reasons than one. There was no more important subject than that of the conditions of home life in the parish—the sanitation and decencies of the homes. Did hon. Members think that such questions as these could be dealt with better without the help of women, and particularly of married women, the mothers of the country? Everybody who was familiar with Poor Law administration or with the affairs of a parish must know how much benefit had accrued from the assistance and co-operation of women on Boards of Guardians. There was another reason why he was strongly in favour of the proposal. He believed they were all of opinion that it would be well if the people in the parish, of all classes, could be got together on a common ground, and work harmoniously together for the good of the parish, and, undoubtedly, the presence of women on elected and Governing Bodies would naturally tend in that direction. Everyone who knew anything of country life knew of the exceptional influence which educated women of leisure exercised on the poorer classes in softening the asperities that frequently arose between classes. With reference to the Amendment, he counselled his hon. Friend the Member for Crewe to accept the offer of the President of the Local Government Board with the limitation fixed upon it.
§ * SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
asked whether the arrangement proposed by the Government would carry also the right of election to this and other Public Bodies? That was a vexed question, and a good many people would like to know how that matter would stand.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
We do not propose to touch the election to offices not created by the Bill. But the House, I think, is of opinion that women, married or single, who are rated and on the Register, should be capable of being elected as Parish Councillors just as they are on Boards of Guardians. I agree with every word of my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax. Nobody who knows anything of the admin- 1389 istration of the Poor Law will undervalue the inestimable advantages of having ladies on these Boards.
§ * MR. GIBSON BOWLES (King's Lynn)
said, that if Amendments of this tremendous importance were to be lightly accepted by the Treasury Bench, and introduced into the Bill incidentally, he did not know where the extension of the Bill would stop. This was a Bill for local government; it was a Poor Law Bill; it was a Church Disestablishment Bill; it was a Reform Bill, and now they were asked to make it a Bill to turn women into men. ["No, no!"] Yes, absolutely; because they had been told that the disqualification as to voting which attached to all married women by law was to be removed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Crewe had referred to the "obsolete and objectionable doctrine of coverture," by which he meant the ancient institution of marriage, as disqualifying a woman from voting, and the President of the Local Government Board proposed to introduce incidentally and by the way into a Bill for the improvement of local government a new clause removing all disqualifications from married women. That was a most tremendous change, and a change that should not be suggested, and still less accepted, in this casual way. And for whose advantage? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury had told them that this change would be for the sole and exclusive benefit of women who lived separated from their husbands. He could understand the merits of women who performed the duties of mothers and wives; but he could much less understand the merits of women who could not perform the duties of wives, nor become mothers, living, as they did, apart from their husbands. Therefore, the Government were asking the Committee to make a tremendous change in the law for a class that least deserved it. There might be something said for giving every privilege which a man enjoyed in political and public life to married women, for no women deserved it more. A woman that was not married was one of the failures of her sex. If they were not going to give those advantages to women at large, they should give them only to those who were the successes of their sex—the married women. But the Government proposed to give the advan- 1390 tage only to the failures of the successes of the sex—the married women who had been first married and then separated from their husbands. No doubt, where a woman was so unfortunate as not to have a husband and so fortunate as to have property, there was considerable ground for allowing her to exercise the rights of property. But he had never understood that hon. Gentlemen opposite admitted that property conferred any right, but the right to be taxed. Now they were told that property conferred a right on women far beyond the rights which married women possessed; and they were to have all the feminine men and masculine women coming down to the House in force to ask them to change the ancient institutions of the country instantly, and in a casual way. When he proposed to the President of the Local Government Board, in the most modest way, to divide the Bill into two, and to put the Poor Law part of it into a separate vessel, the right hon. Gentleman rejected it with scorn, on the ground that the Bill was not over-weighted. He proposed to lighten the cargo. The right hon. Gentleman now proposed to take the married women on board. Undoubtedly that would greatly increase the cargo in the Bill, and very seriously increase the difficulties of passing it. There were a number of people who held the idea that women, delightful as they were in their proper sphere, should not be introduced into public and political life; but if they were to be introduced into that life, let it be in confirmation of a great principle, duly considered and properly affirmed, and not in this wholly casual manner.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn, who was a very able Member of the House, and always spoke with great effect, could not have heard the Debate on this subject the other night, or else he would have appreciated the fact that, so far from its being a Radical change that was proposed in this Bill, it was a Conservative change. The Bill, as it stood, disfranchised married women, and all that the right hon. Gentleman promised to do was to insert an Amendment to prevent married women being disfranchised. As the matter stood, in practice married women had votes, and in London they were a very numerous class—not women living apart 1391 sense, but the wives of butlers and others in service. It was thought better that the wives should be rated rather than the husbands, and the wives always voted. An experienced clerk of one of the largest Vestries in London wrote to him—It has always been the practice to include the names of all persons who are duly rated in accordance with the Act, without regard to sex.If the Bill had passed without the change promised by his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, all those women who voted and were entitled to vote would have been disfranchised. His right hon. Friend had stated that ho was advised that if the question were brought before the Courts all these women would have been disfranchised in Vestry and other elections. But high authorities considered that these women had a legal right to vote; and all his right hon. Friend promised was that he would prevent the disfranchisement of these women under the Bill.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I do not wholly agree with some of the things that have been said by my hon. Friend behind me. I differ from him in desiring to see the suffrage given for all purposes, political and local, to women; but I do practically agree with him in thinking that the particular change proposed by the hon. Member opposite, and assented to by the Government, and apparently about to be assented to by the House of Commons, is a much more important departure than the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean appears to think, or is obvious at first sight to those who have taken part in the Debate. It appears to me that we may proceed upon one of two principles. We may say that all women who have any property in a locality shall have a voice in managing the finances of that locality whether they were married or single, and that would be a perfectly intelligible proposition; but undoubtedly it would involve this consequence—that when the question of the franchise came up again we should certainly not be able to draw a line between married women and single women. If you assent to the proposal now made you may give up all hope of being able to draw a distinct demarcation between married women and 1392 single women, either in relation to municipal or local franchises, or, as I believe, in relation to the franchise for this House. This is a very important decision, because you cannot throw the whole question back upon the interpretation certain Courts of Law have put upon the Common Law; you cannot go back upon the decision of the House in 1869; you must face this fact—that if this Amendment be accepted the whole controversy with regard to the women franchise in political matters will enter upon a new phase, and, do what you will, you will not be able to exclude married women possessing certain qualifications for a vote for this House whenever this House attempts to extend the women franchise in the smallest degree. That is an ample reason for considering the matter most seriously. But another reason is that if you adopt the principle of this Amendment—which practically means that married women who have an interest in property in a locality shall have a right to vote for the locality—the right cannot be restricted to occupiers. It is true that by the existing system there are two entirely separate Registers, one for Parliamentary and the other for local elections; and it is true that the Local Register as at present constructed does not admit the owner at all. That is an arbitrary and illogical distinction, and it is one which the Party opposite were pledged to obliterate. They mean to give effect to the principle of "One Man One Vote," which will practically have the effect of preventing a man from voting on account of the possession of property when he is not an occupier. You may turn the owner out of the Parliamentary Register, but you can never turn him out of the Local Register. I venture to lay it down dogmatically, without attempting to argue it now, that it will be an injustice to say that, however great may be the interest of an owner in a locality, because he resides in the next parish he shall have no voice in the management of the district in whose welfare his property gave him a great interest. That is a proposition the House will never accept; and the result will be that when it carries "One Man One Vote"—if it is ever carried—it will have to reconstruct the Local Register as distinct from the Parliamentary Register, and to put upon the 1393 from their husbands, in the ordinary Local Register people turned off the Parliamentary Register. When these are put on the Local Register, of course women who have property and are not rated as occupiers will go on necessarily; and I venture to suggest to the Government that, if this Amendment passed, they cannot put on women who are occupiers and pay rates and exclude women owners who also practically pay rates. Surely they will not attempt to draw a distinction between the two classes when the whole distinction is one based upon a certain accident of legislation, and not upon the merits of the case, not upon substantial justice, but upon the peculiar manner in which from time to time we happen to have drawn up our Registers for Local and Imperial purposes. As to the immediate conclusion to be drawn from my remarks, my impression is that personally I should be prepared to assent to the proposals of the Government. I can only draw two conclusions from what has been done. In the first place, we have made it absolutely impossible in the future to keep off those women we are putting on this Register from the Parliamentary Register; and, in the second place, I believe it is impossible in the compass of this Bill to exclude from the existing Register those women owners of property who do not happen to be rated as occupiers.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, the proposal before the Committee, to which the Government had assented, was one of great simplicity. Hitherto married women on the rate book had voted, and had been capable of being voted for, and many women had sat with great usefulness on various Public Bodies. A decision of a Court of Law delivered many years ago was to the effect that married women had no legal right to vote. Under the Bill as originally drawn it only alluded to single women, and practically disqualified all those who were married, but who hitherto had voted. The object of the Amendment was to remove that which, he believed, was the unintentional consequence of the wording, and to put married women in the future, in respect of the rate book and of the Local Register, in the same position in which they stood in the past. They had accepted that position, and were very glad to think that 1394 the matter had been settled so amicably; but then his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition came in, and used very good logic; but why should his right hon. Friend administer such strong meat to the babes on the Treasury Bench? They had not found any difficulty in taking the dose: they were taking it in quantities. It was still a far cry to the admission of women to the Parliamentary franchise. ["Hear, hear!"] Not so far, however, as the Home Secretary thought; but it was not going to be done in this Bill, or Parliament. When that question arose they would be able to discuss it with ripened wisdom. Meanwhile, ho deprecated raising these burning questions, which could lead to no practical effect, and which might have a disturbing influence, which he desired to avoid, on the Treasury Bench.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, that so far as the pledge now given was concerned, he had no objection to it, and was indeed, very glad to hear it. For several years he had had a Bill of one clause, which the right hon. Gentleman would see would do all he wanted. He did not know whether the lion. Member for Crewe would move his Amendment For his part, he would be no party to this Amendment as a settlement of the question. He supported women's suffrage in its entirety; and if the new clause of the Government limited the right to vote to married women who paid rates, say of £20, he should oppose it as being a clause in favour of the rich as against the poor. He also objected to any proposal which would allow male lodgers under the service franchise to vote and refuse that right to female lodgers.
§ * MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
protested against the spirit in which the subject had been treated by the hon. Member for King's Lynn. Those who were in favour of equal rights for women were most strongly in favour of the purity of the marriage tie. He could not understand why women's franchise should not be extended. The wider the franchise given to women, the better it would be for the purity of all classes, and he therefore strongly supported the Amendment.
§ SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, it must be admitted that it was startling to find themselves suddenly confronted with an entirely new question, involving a vast change in the law, and 1395 determining that a married woman should no longer be subject to the present disqualifications. This was to be done in order to enfranchise the small number of married women living apart from their husbands who happened to come on the Register as occupiers. He objected to it being determined that man and wife should no longer be considered one, but two. They had not had in the course of the Bill any proposal so momentous or far-reaching.
§ * MR. W. M'LAREN
said, he regarded the offer of the President of the Local Government Board as very reasonable, and also as very generous in the matter of the enfranchisement of married women, because, whereas his own Amendment was of necessity limited to the purposes of this Bill, and would allow married women to vote only for Parish and District Councils, the right hon. Gentleman had pledged the Government that they would on a later clause of the Bill introduce words which would enable married women ratepayers to vote for every local Governing Body. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had made an advance upon the Amendment, and he suggested at the same time that it would be better, in view of the difficulties surrounding the second Amendment which stood in his name, not to raise that point. He cordially accepted the offer of the Government, and would not ask the Committee to discuss the second Amendment, which raised the very much wider question than the question before the Committee—namely, the enfranchisement of women for the purposes of this Bill on the lines of the Parliamentary Register. He accepted the offer of the Government to remove the disabilities of married women for the purpose of all local government elections. That was distinctly stated, and was well within the recollection of the Committee. This was not only a question of enfranchising married women who were separated or who lived apart from their husbands. He doubted whether there were a very great number of married women living with their husbands who were rated; but there were cases in which married women were rated in respect to their own separate property, and those women would undoubtedly get the benefit of the Amendment. This was not an Amendment to 1396 benefit rich women at the expense of poor women, as the hon. Member for Caithness seemed to think. There were a considerable number of poor married women who kept little shops and houses in their own names. As regarded the effect it might have on women's suffrage, he was disposed to agree with the Leader of the Opposition; but he did not think it made much difference, because the House had long foreseen that if women were enfranchised for any purposes at all, the matter could not be dealt with apart from the question of including married women. He cordially accepted the offer of the President of the Local Government Board. He had not the slightest doubt he would carry it out in the fullest sense, and he therefore begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Although the suggestion now under consideration has been reduced within very moderate limits, yet it touches the fringe, at any rate, of a subject of so much importance. I think the Committee would do very well to have the clearest possible understanding as to what is meant. The hon. Member who has just sat down has attempted to bind the Government and the President of the Local Government Board to introduce a clause at a later period which is to give the franchise to all married women ratepayers, not only in respect of Parish and District Councils, but of School Boards and Town Councils. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that that is beyond his power. He could not touch Town Councils and School Boards, unless I am much mistaken, without a re-committal of the Bill, and an Instruction to the Committee, and I cannot think that the President of the Local Government Board went altogether as far as the hon. Member for Crewe imagines. This is a matter of very great importance. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that all he proposed to do by his clause was to see that the existing practice was not altered. My right hon. Friend says that under the existing practice certain married women who are ratepayers have votes, and he did not intend to deprive them of those votes. In view of the very suggestive remarks which have fallen from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bod- 1397 min, whose well-known views on this subject fill me with horror, I think that those Members of the House who are opposed to any extension of women's suffrage ought, at all events, to make it perfectly clear that if now they are prepared to accept the suggestion of the Government it is distinctly on the understanding laid down by the President of the Local Government Board that what is intended is to prevent any change in the existing practice, and that it is not intended to carry it one step further. To deal with Town Councils and School Boards as suggested would be distinctly to change the law, because whatever might be the case—whether it be legal or not for married women ratepayers to vote in Vestries—it has been decided to be illegal for them to vote at Town Council elections. Therefore, if the Bill now makes it legal we should be changing the law as well as the practice, and would be adding to the privileges which married women ratepayers now possess. That my right hon. Friend has distinctly declared he has no intention of doing, and I must therefore ask for a further explanation.
§ ME. H. H. FOWLER
I do moan to propose to the Committee to make the change in the law to which my right hon. Friend refers.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
Certainly. I find that widows and spinsters are already on the Register of Municipalities, Local Boards, School Boards, Guardians, and of all other Local Authorities. It has been decided by Courts of Law that the fact of marriage disqualified those women, and they are, because they are married, deprived of their votes. My right hon. Friend was not in the House on Thursday night, when the Government were defeated. On that occasion there was a general expression of opinion that that disqualification should cease. It would be very absurd to make a disqualification cease for urban districts outside a town and extend it to voters inside a town. By such an arrangement you would have the anomaly of married women living outside the boundary of a borough being allowed to vote, and married women inside the boundary, though equally qualified, being deprived of the franchise. It will be a question for the authorities of the House 1398 to say whether the Bill will require recommittal in order to introduce the change proposed. I am aware of the difficulties of the point, but I should make the proposal, and I will read to the Committee the draft of the clause I propose to introduce, although, of course, I could not pledge myself to the use of the exact, words. At present what I propose to insert is the following:—A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from being on any Local Government Register of electors, or from being an elector of any other Local Authority.If it is necessary I should not shrink from asking the House to re-commit the Bill in order to insert this proposed clause.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not question the logic or propriety of what has fallen from my right hon. Friend, but it is quite different from what—unintentionally, no doubt—he gave the Committee to understand in the earlier stage. My right hon. Friend then distinctly stated that he intended to make no change in the existing practice. Now, it is perfectly clear that the clause as my right hon. Friend has read it would make a very important change in the practice with regard to Town Councils. I will not say anything about School Boards, I because I do not think the matter has been decided in their case, but in regard to the franchise for Town Councils, it is now proposed by the Government to make an important change, and under those circumstances I shall most certainly oppose that change when the clause is brought up.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, many Members of the House who voted for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crowe on Thursday last did so in order to give power to the Committee to consider the matter of preserving to women the votes they already had. They did not desire to see the right of voting by women extended; therefore when the right hon. Gentleman shadowed forth a proposal which would largely extend the right of voting by women he could assure him that there were many in the House who would meet that proposal with strong opposition. For his part, he should approach the question mainly from the point of view of an opponent of the proposal to give the Parliamentary franchise to women, and anything which 1399 tended to strengthen the ease of those who desired to bring about that change ought, he considered, to be opposed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I am surprised at the statement the right hon. Gentleman has made, that the vote given the other night was only given in order to prevent women from being deprived of a vote that they already possess, because the Speaker decided that no such Instruction was necessary, and struck out the only thing to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman and his friends voted for an Instruction to create a franchise which does not exist. That was, I think, a most extraordinary misapprehension. I do not think my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham apprehended correctly what my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill said. My right hon. Friend did not say that be was only going to apply this alteration to cases actually in practice in spite of the legal decision. He gave instances where, in spite of the legal decisions to which he referred, it was still the practice, but the whole of his statement rested on this ground—that he desired in point of fact by Act of Parliament to reverse that legal decision, and he said it would be perfectly unreasonable to reverse that decision with reference to one class of electors and not to all. It is very desirable that we should quite clearly understand what this Amendment now proposed does and does not do. The Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to frighten "the babes of the Treasury Bench," as my right hon. Friend behind me said, by figuring to them the tremendous consequences which are to follow from this Amendment. He said it settles the whole question of married women for the future, but for myself I cannot see how. But for the present all that is proposed to be done is to put a married woman who is living apart from her husband on the Register. The general case will be that of a married woman who is living what is termed under Common Law as a feme sole, and who was allowed under the old Common Law certain privileges as to trading and so on. It has been suggested that the fact of these women living apart from their husbands consti- 1400 tutes some reflection on them. But there are femes soles whose husbands are employed abroad in the Army, in the Navy, in India, and in other occupations, and who are obliged to remain behind in this country. These women are just as much entitled to vote as if they were single; and the proposal only amounts to this—that these women shall not, merely because they are married, lose the privileges which they would enjoy if they wore single. The right hon. Gentleman opposite also raised the tremendous difficulty of the property vote of women in local elections. But the single woman votes for occupation and not for property, and the whole basis of electoral qualification in these local elections is occupation and not property. Therefore, the question before the Committee does not raise anyone of those questions which the right hon. Gentleman said it would include. The Government only desires that there shall be no concealment in this matter, and that the Committee shall understand quite clearly all it is doing and all that it is not doing. I am aware that other proposals of wider extent has been prudently suspended for the present; but the Government has been asked why they are weighting this Bill at all with the female question. That is rather a hard thing to throw in the teeth of Her Majesty's Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite insisted that the female question should be introduced into the measure, and Her Majesty's Government kissed the rod, and, in this case as in every other, endeavoured to meet the opinion of the majority of the House of Commons in a reasonable manner consistently with the decision which the House arrived at on the point. I and my right hon. Friend trust that, under these circumstances, the question may be disposed of in an amicable manner.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, lie was himself in favour of enfranchising every man and woman in the county, but he very much deprecated the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board told them he intended to make. He thought what the right hon. Gentleman had now done would have the effect of retarding the passage of the Bill and of opening up Debates, the end of which neither he nor the right hon. Gentleman could see. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman 1401 saw what this amounted to, and certainly the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not grasp it because he was talking just now of this being a little matter. He would put to the President of the Local Government Board and to the intelligence of the House this point: If the right hon. Gentleman got the Committee to accept his Amendment relieving married women of the disabilities under which they now laboured, he would ask him whether this would not be the condition of things not only in counties, but in municipal boroughs? A man and his wife lived in a house together; they got the landlord to accept them as joint tenants, and the condition of things then would be that every married man would have two votes, one for himself and one for his wife. His right hon. Friend behind suggested that the man might have none, but the wife might have two. That meant, as to a municipal borough like Birmingham or Sunderland, that they were going very nearly to double the constituency, and without ever having given the people of those constituencies any chance of saying what they would do in the matter. He pressed that upon the Government and the Committee. He had said that ho himself was in favour of the largest enfranchisement it was possible to give, but he certainly would not be in favour of giving a married man in Sunderland two votes, and a widower and single man who were ratepayers one vote. He did not think that was fair, and he was amazed that a Liberal Government should propose an Amendment which would have that effect. He would put to his right hon. Friend another point. He understood they wanted to get this Bill through before Christmas, if possible. There had been mutterings in the Press and amongst themselves on that side of the House that some of the hon. Members opposite were disposed to obstruct the Bill. He would tell his right hon. Friend that if he deliberately—without having been asked by the hon. Member for Crewe, for the hon. Member did not ask for so large a thing—of his own free will introduced this much vexed question into the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government would be the greatest obstructors of their own measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had already given them notice that he was 1402 going to discuss the matter. It was a large matter. He had heard the Member for West Birmingham make long speeches about small matters, and many speeches; but when it came to be a large matter, which he freely admitted this to be, he foresaw, with the right hon. Gentleman's ingenuity and capacity, that they should probably have interminable Debates, and he warned the President of the Local Government Board that this fatal promise he had made—unless he changed his mind—would prevent the Government getting this Bill through in anything like reasonable time. And what a want of sense it showed! It was the country people that were crying for reform. It was not the townspeople who had raised any question; they had had their liberties for years, and were reasonably content. But it was the counties that needed reform, and here came his right hon. Friend into the midst of the County Bill, and threw in this apple of discord, with the effect that they would be retarding, and probably not getting this Bill through at all. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to judge from his speech, had realised how great a change this was which the President of the Local Government Board proposed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
* THE CHAIRMAN
ruled several Amendments out of Order, including the following, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere):—In page 2, line 3, after "parish," insert "provided that persons whose names are included in the Parliamentary Register of electors in respect of the ownership of property shall not be parochial electors by virtue only of such entry.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE,
on a point of Order, desired to know whether the Chairman's attention had been called to the fact that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Northampton specifically raised the question of the freehold voter, whereas the Amendment last night raised the question of the Parliamentary Register. There was no opportunity on the Amendment of the previous night of raising the question of the freeholders separately, and there had been up to the present time no op- 1403 portunity of raising it. He admitted that the discussion largely turned on the matter.
* THE CHAIRMAN
The whole discussion turned on that question, and this is inconsistent with what the Committee has already decided.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
ventured to ask whether those who believed that the lodger service franchise ought to continue, and who did not consider that the freeholder ought to have a vote as a Parliamentary elector, would have an opportunity of stating their views and taking a vote thereon?
I must inform the hon. Member it is out of Order for the Committee to touch the Register of Parliamentary voters without an Instruction from the House, so that it will be impossible for us to entertain this question.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
submitted, with all respect, that the Amendment of his hon. Friend did not touch the Parliamentary Register in general. What he proposed to do was, on a portion of the Parliamentary Register, to insert a proviso for local government purposes only.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I have pointed out that it is out of Order to touch the Parliamentary Register. With regard to the Amendment itself, it is clearly inconsistent with what the Committee has already decided.
§ MR. J. G. LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)
proposed the following Amendment:—In page 2, line 3, at the end insert, "and the agents, duly authorised for that purpose, of every Corporation or company charged to the rate for the relief of the poor.The hon. Member said, he moved the Amendment for the purpose of correcting a mistake which had occurred in this Bill. It was a curious fact that the same slip was made in the Vestries Act of 1818, which was corrected in an Act of the subsequent year which contained the very words he now proposed. Take the case of Railway Companies. A Railway Company at the present moment were entitled to vote for the Overseers, and might not only have one vote but might be entitled to 12 votes in respect of the property they held. Under the Bill as it stood now they would be disentitled to vote at all. It was not so much a question of voting as being pre- 1404 sent at the parish meeting. Under a subsequent clause of the Bill it was provided that no parochial elector might be present at the meeting at all, so that not only had the company no power to vote on the subject of the expenditure of the rates they very largely paid, but they were not to be entitled to be represented at the discussion on that expenditure. In one parish with which he was acquainted the rateable value was £4,457, and the North Eastern Railway Company paid £2,422, or a good deal more than half the rates of the parish. He was informed that the same company paid one-seventh of the whole rates for the County of Durham, and under these circumstances it appeared to be hard that the company should have no right whatever of being present at the meeting. They were clearly interested in the expenditure of the rates and in any increase of the rates—which would probably be the outward and visible sign of the passing of this Bill; therefore, it was highly desirable this clause should be added. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 2, line 3, after the word "parish," to insert the words "and the agents, duly authorised for that purpose, of every Corporation or company charged to the rate for the relief of the poor of such parish."—(Mr. J. G. Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
was sorry that the hon. Gentleman attached so little importance to this Amendment that he had not placed it on the Paper. It placed the Committee at some disadvantage by not being on the Paper, because, not having seen the Amendment, they were not able to refer to the various precedents and other arguments. He could not accept the Amendment, because it was proposing to add a third qualification to the Parochial Register. They had already the Local Government Register and the Parliamentary Register, and, as he understood the hon. Member, he wished to go back to the Vestry voting when owners voted by proxy. That was a principle he could not accept.
§ MR. J. G. LAWSON
(interposing) said, this was not the case of a Vestry meeting, and it was not exactly a proxy. The representative of the company appeared rather as the company. It was not proxy.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
It is voting by proxy whether he appears as the company or not, and this is to put on the Register somebody who is not entitled to vote for a member of the County Council or a Member of Parliament. That is an Amendment we cannot accept.
§ MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
said, what the right hon. Gentleman stated was correct so far as it went, but his object was very largely a technical one. There must undoubtedly be cases where the entire burden of the rates would fall upon the particular class of property described by the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment, and surely the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to disqualify owners of that property because they could not be individually rated in the parish themselves. He admitted they would have to depart from the usual practice; but the right hon. Gentleman had proposed to do so in the composition of the Parochial Register, because ho was going to have a Register for parochial purposes. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that certain electors should be placed on that Register, and a mark placed opposite their name to indicate they were only entitled to vote at parochial elections. If he bad departed from the usual practice in that respect, it was only fair that in the case of the large owners of property, who had to bear the greater portion of the rates of the district, and where the increased expenses would be the outcome of the work of the various Councils, that they should have a vote through their accredited and authorised agents in the Council itself. The objection of the right hon. Gentleman was purely technical, and the alteration asked for might easily be made.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
considered this was a matter worthy of some consideration in the interests of the well-abused Railway Companies. As the hon. Member for Thirsk had said in the County of Durham, the North-Eastern Railway Company paid one-seventh of the total rates of the county, and in many parishes they paid considerably more than half the total rates. It did seem somewhat hard upon a Corporation of that character—even although they might be a Railway Company—that they should be asked to contribute an enormous sum in the matter of 1406 rates and then not have a single voice in the distribution of that money. He admitted the right hon. Gentleman had had short notice of the Amendment, but it was a matter he might well ponder over and see whether he could not on the Report stage do something for the Railway Companies.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
There will be no objection to a re-discussion of this question on the Report stage. As Chairman of the Durham County Council, I would ask the hon. Member for Ripon if the Railway Companies in Durham, which pay one-seventh of the rates, have any vote for the Durham County Council? They have not, and yet there, I think, is the overwhelming taxation and not in the 1d. rate of the Parish Councils.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
The right hon. Gentleman has several times over-reiterated that he has no desire to impose any disqualification on persons who were at the present moment entitled to the privilege of a vote. I must say that is on the whole a sound doctrine. The right hon. Gentleman has apparently lost sight of the fact that under the existing practice the recognised representatives of public companies have the privilege of recording a vote. My hon. Friend the Member for Ripon mentioned the case of a large Railway Company with which he is individually connected. I can mention some stronger cases than that. Of course, the Railway Company only pays, comparatively speaking, a small proportion of the rate in any given parish. I myself happen to know, within my own personal knowledge, of parishes where the vast proportion of the rates are paid by the lessees who are working mines, and whom you are deliberately proposing now to disfranchise. In the parish where I myself live the largest ratepayers are a Limited Liability Company, and I know several other parishes where, if you take away the Limited Liability Companies, you take away the payers of a very large proportion of the rates. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it just and in accordance with the first principles of equity and fairness that the largest contributors to local burdens should be absolutely disfranchised, for that is the result of the decision he has just announced? I can quite sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman, who has the 1407 charge of a very difficult and complicated measure, as being to some extent embarrassed by having suddenly obtruded upon him a question requiring very careful consideration and also consultation with his Departmental guides and the draftsman and others with whom in like matters he consults; therefore, I say my hon. Friend would be satisfied with the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman, upon some later stage of the Bill, would undertake to embody in accurate Parliamentary language those elementary principles of justice which my hon. Friend has so very properly urged on the Committee. This is not merely the case of a casual contributor to a comparatively insignificant rate, or even such a case as the hon. Member for Ripon mentioned occurred in connection with Railway Companies and other large companies; but it is literally the fact that in a vast number of parishes the great bulk of the rates are contributed by those whom the right hon. Gentleman now proposes calmly to disfranchise. I think the right hon. Gentleman does not realise the importance of the question, and of course it is not brought forward in a mariner that will enable him to give it full consideration. I hope, however, he will consider the matter with his advisers, and at a later stage of the Bill bring up words to carry out what is desired by this Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I do not think this is quite so unimportant a matter as appears, and the right hon. Gentleman only gave us one argument against it which was of some value from the point of view of the drafting of the Bill, but an argument which has no force or substance in itself apart from the drafting of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has brought forward the analogy of the County Council, and has told us that in the County Council, the representatives of the railways as such, have no vote at all, which is, of course, quite true. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in no county in England are the Railway Companies in that county without representatives—I will not say on the County Council—but without voters for the County Council, whose whole livelihood is bound up in the success of the railways. There necessarily must be voters in every county who depend absolutely 1408 on the success and the prosperity of the railway, and whose interests are bound up in the interests of that railway; therefore, whatever be the formal position of the railway in connection with the Council, the Railway Companies cannot truly be said to be wholly without representation in county affairs. Take a parish of the kind mentioned by my right hon. Friend near me, where, perhaps, the great proportion of the rates are paid by a company. If it were a Railway Company it might be that not a single individual connected with the railway would be resident in the parish, and the station itself might be in an adjoining parish. You might thus have a vast amount of property absolutely unrepresented by the County Council. The technical argument is not of much value, and I cannot doubt that the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers could get over the difficulties on that head. There is a really substantial case to be met, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not refuse, between this and the Report, to give the matter his best consideration.
§ MR. CORNWALLIS (Maidstone)
could not see that the objection of the right hon. Gentleman to adding another qualification to the Register had the weight which he seemed to attach to it. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would be adopted.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 150; Noes 220.—(Division List, No. 325.)
*MR. J. H. JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham) moved—
In page 2, line 3, after "parish," insert, "every owner, male or female, who shall be otherwise qualified, and shall have made his or her claim to be placed on the Local Government Register.
The Committee would see that the question he raised was whether female owners should not be allowed to vote. He did not see why they should be excluded.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
said, it was very inconvenient when Amendments like this were not on the Paper. On a point of Order, he would ask whether an Amendment could be received in this form, and whether this was not rather in an opposite direction from that which had been already adopted by the Committee? The 1409 Parliamentary Register had been adopted; this Amendment included freeholders a second time over—on the local as well as the Parliamentary Register.
said, whether that was so or not remained to be seen. The question raised was not one of Order.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, he thought the point was one of Order. For his part, he could not make sense out of the wording of the Amendment.
§ * MR. J. H. JOHNSTONE
said, that he understood the reluctance of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to grapple with this point. The Parliamentary Register had been taken as a part of the Register upon which the Parish Council electors should vote, hut that did not include female owners. The object of his Amendment was that these female owners should have a voice and a choice in reference to Parish Councils. He thought very many advantages would arise from the female owners being thus enfranchised and given power in these matters. Why should the female owner, who, perhaps, possessed a great portion of a parish, be excluded? Supposing he (Mr. Johnstone) possessed his owner's franchise, and was entitled to exercise it, and that he died; then, although he had had the franchise, his widow would not be entitled to it, and could not vote. He did not think many words were needed to present this claim to the consideration of the Committee. He did not wish to detain the Committee at any length, as he thought the claim was a fair one, an honest one, and one that deserved their consideration.
In page2, line 3, after "parish," insert, "every owner, male or female, who shall be otherwise qualified, and shall have made his or her claim to be placed on the Local Government Register."—(Mr. J. H. Johnstone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he was bound to say he did not understand the Amendment. He was entitled to ask 1410 that Amendments of this sort should not be sprung up the Government and the Committee——
§ An hon. Member: It is on the Paper.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he could not accept the Amendment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had last night pointed out the desirability, for the purpose of reconciling conflicting claims, of taking the Parliamentary and Local Government Registers, even though there might be isolated cases in both instances when, perhaps, they would not apply. Taking the case as a whole, the Government preferred to stand by those Registers, without doing what this Amendment would do. The Amendment would alter the Local Register, which would create confusion. He must ask the Committee to adhere to the two Registers as they were.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to notice something he (Mr. Balfour) said last night in favour of making a plan of adhering to the two Registers. He did point out that the Parliamentary Register was a rough-and-ready method of dealing with the matter; but he said nothing to convey the idea that he thought the plan of the Government was incapable of amendment. He was sorry that when the right hon. Gentleman did quote what he said last night he did not also quote what he said this evening, for he took some trouble to show that it was impossible, illogical, and absurd to enfranchise the ratepayer and not the owner. This was what he appeared to do. The hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Johnstone) tried to make out a consistent plan. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) had spoken of his (Mr. Balfour's) want of logic on this question; but in this case he hoped they would have the right hon. Gentleman's assistance in increasing the women voters. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board spoke as if only a small class would be enfranchised by this Amendment. As a matter of fact, those who would be enfranchised were a large and important class. Everyone 1411 would know cases in which women were the sole owners of real property in a parish; and the absurdity of excluding them, while giving votes to other women who were ratepayers, was, he hoped, what the Committee would not consent to do. The right hon. Gentleman had declined to argue the question. He seemed to think they ought to accept what he said, and adopt the Government plan of the two Registers. He did not think the complication that would be introduced into the clause by the Amendment was one of which the Government need complain in the least. They got rid of inequity and of an anomaly—one that could not stand against public opinion. The Government bad laid down a non possumus. He hoped, however, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) would feel that in making this appeal be had on his side logic and common-sense. They bad enfranchised the women ratepayers and the man owner, and now they were asked to enfranchise the woman owner. He did not see any argument against doing that, and unless they got something more assuring from the Government on the point—something more in the shape of reason—be would support the Amendment if his hon. Friend went, as be hoped he would, to a Division.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, the right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, right in his argument; but they should go farther, because if they were going to enfranchise the woman owner they must enfranchise the female servant. The argument must prevail all round if it was to prevail at all. He thought the Amendment was one that ought to be withdrawn, if only out of respect to the Committee. If they looked at it for a moment and asked what an "owner" was, they would see that it meant some person qualified under existing rights in respect of the ownership of property. The Amendment said, "every owner, male or female." He thought they should get rid of the errors of form. If the owner was a male be was already qualified. The Amendment said, "male or female, who shall be otherwise qualified." As his right hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Sir H. James) asked: Qualified for what? There was no explanation here. And again—"shall have made his or her claim." There was no explana- 1412 tion of what claim. He did hope that the Amendment would be withdrawn, as-it would introduce confusion in the matter.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
said, he did not think the Amendment would have been discussed at any great length, and but for the fact that it was supported by the Leader of the Opposition it would not take up much time. The word "owner," and the technical sense in which it was used by the Courts, applied to five different classes of persons—freeholders, freeholders with life interest, copyholders, and there were two different classes of leaseholders. By the Amendment they would ask the Courts to put an interpretation on the word that it never bad in law. It was a question that ought to have some consideration. Then, again, there was the question of sense. It appeared to him that by the Amendment they would enfranchise the male owner twice over, for he was already on the Local Register. It seemed to him that the Amendment should be withdrawn and put into some shape which would enable it to be discussed.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, he would submit to the Committee that the criticisms of right hon. Gentlemen opposite were unjust to the Mover of the Amendment. In substance the Amendment bad been on the Paper for some time. The only alteration was the substitution of Local Register for Parliamentary Register. The latter would be out of Order, and so they had to get a different form of words, and these had to be rather hastily drawn. The question was whether they were not, to give a female owner, who was qualified to vote, the same right as if she were a man. He thought it was a little too bad, when a Bill of this kind was under discussion, that complaint should be made when they asked for some undertaking in regard to this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to say that he recognised that there was a point for consideration, then let the Amendment be withdrawn, and let the right hon. Gentleman, as in other cases, pledge himself that be would bring up a clause.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
said, if that were done by all means let the Amendment be withdrawn. They would not hold the Government to any form of words. It 1413 was a question of substance. There could not be the slightest doubt that the meaning of the word "owner" was an owner who was qualified to have his or her name on the Register. If that was not so it should be altered. Two or three words would put them right. It was the principle they were asking the Government to discuss. There was nothing to prevent the owner, otherwise qualified, from voting; but they intended to prevent an owner who was a female from voting simply because her name was not on the Register at the present time. He thought they should have an undertaking in regard to that. It was quite just to say the Amendment had not been on the Paper. The Amendment on the Paper was altered. The original proposal not having been acceptable in point of form, the only way in which the question could be decided was by moving this Amendment. Do let them discuss the matter as one of principle, and do let some Member of the Government state what their intention was. Did they oppose the matter as a question of principle or a question of form, which would not be just to the hon. Member who had put the Amendment on the Paper?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman said these words were capable of legal construction, and he (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would not contradict the assertion. He hoped, however, that if a legal construction were to be put upon it the hon. and learned Gentleman would himself be the judge who would have to give the interpretation. At present it was beyond his (Mr. H. H. Fowler's) limited comprehension for the reasons which had been well stated by the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Liskeard and the Forest of Dean. He (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would not make a promise he had no intention of keeping. He did not propose to bring up words to carry out the intention stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, but as at present advised he should offer opposition to the proposal not only now, but also in Report if it was repeated then. If the question were raised on Report it would be his duty to consider everything that could be said in favour of it, but lie should oppose it on Report as now. This question was raised and fought out on the Bill of 1414 1888. He did not agree with the late Government in the view they took. He had always thought that the House was at that time deprived of a very valuable opportunity of raising the question of the revision of rating and of putting the rate directly on the owner by the action the late Government then took. They had positively refused in any shape or form to put the owner on the Local Government Register. It was now proposed by an Amendment which had not appeared on the Paper to repeal the legislation of 1888, and alter the whole system of the Local Register. That might be a right thing to do, but let them have notice of it. He was not sure that it would not require an Instruction. The crowning argument was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard—namely, that if they were going to break down the Parliamentary Register to let in one class of women they must break it down to let others in. He had resisted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe asking the hon. Member not to raise the question of the enfranchisement of women. Women; were not enfranchised by the Bill. No woman by means of enfranchisement was made a voter who was not a voter now. What the Government asked the Committee to do was to remove the disqualification affecting a certain class, and that in a technical sense was not enfranchisement. If they were going to break down the existing Register and create another they must reopen the discussion as to the freeholder—which some hon. Gentlemen were anxious to do—they must reopen the discussion as to the lodger, and also as to the service franchise. The principle on which he proposed to take his stand—it might be a stupid and ignorant one, but, at any rate, it was an intelligible one—was that the electors of the new Parochial Councils should be those already on the Register, cither as local government or Parliamentary electors. Beyond that he was not prepared to go.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, lie should he sorry to desert his friends on this occasion, but if a Division were taken he should feel it his duty to support the Government. It was said that no reason had been urged why the proposal should not be accepted. He would give one 1415 which would always guide hint in opposing any proposition to include women in the management of public affairs from whatever part of the House it might come. He believed that men and women were made with differeut duties, functions, and responsibilities. "Women's Rights" advocates always seemed to him to wish to commit them to the assertion that Providence in the creation had made a great mistake, and that if they had been left to manage matters they would have done much better. So far as he was concerned, he could not admit that any one in that House had a right to undo or alter the work of Providence.
§ * MR. J. H. JOHNSTONE
would remind the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had invited opinions from all parts of the House as to what they thought of the measure and how they considered it could be improved. He regretted that when, in response to this invitation, views were brought forward which, though honestly submitted, did not meet with the approval of the Government, they were met with something like "laughing the case out of Court." He hoped that another opportunity might be found of submitting this proposal in, perhaps, a more polished form. He would withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he wished to move the following proviso, if it were in order:—Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall enable the non-resident voter to vote.For his part, he considered that the most important feature of the Bill would be to have a clear and sound list of parish voters, because he hoped that they would eventually arrive at the period when a man would have by the same qualification a parish vote, a county vote, and a Parliamentary vote. They evidently must go to the bottom of things and start with the parish vote, and see that that was a fair and legitimate one. At present they had, or would have, three Registers—the Parliamentary, the county, and the Register now proposed, which would really be an amalgam of the County Council and the Parish Registers. The county franchise excluded lodgers and servants and all non-resident freeholders. 1416 That was a very good basis to start on. Already the Committee had decided that they would exclude the lodger and the service franchise, but he also wanted to exclude the non-resident freeholder or the leaseholder—or whatever they liked to call him. He objected altogether to the principle of non-resident property qualification—a principle which was first introduced in 1430, in the reign of Henry VI., and he need hardly say that everything done in the time of Henry VI. did not find favour with him in 1893. Prior to 1430 all the inhabitants of a district met in the County House and voted for a Parliamentary Representative. By the Act of Henry VI. the 40s. freeholder was introduced, and that was modified or rearranged in the Reform Act of 1832, the franchise being somewhat raised, but a number of leaseholders being included. The President of the Local Government Board had argued that as the freeholder paid rates he should be represented. But, as a matter of fact, the freeholder would have his own representatives in the Parish Council. The freeholder let the land he did not occupy to someone else, and that someone else would have a vote for the Parish Council; although the freeholder would have to pay a portion of the rate indirectly, he would have to pay another portion of it directly, so there was the greatest guarantee that the tenant would represent the freeholder, because the freeholder could not be injured without he himself being injured also. Another statement of the right hon. Gentleman was that they would be disfranchising the freeholder from his present right to join in the election for Guardians. That was perfectly true. These people at present had a vote for Guardians, but they had to put themselves to a great deal of trouble to get on the Register. It was not an automatic matter; but the right hon. Gentleman was now aiding and abetting them by placing them on the Register. But there was another reason against this. The Government, so far as he understood, was pledged during the present Parliament to bring in a Bill depriving these non-resident freeholders of the right to vote at Parliamentary elections. He was referring to his old friend the Newcastle Programme.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
"Not at all," said his right hon. and learned Friend, but the right hon. Gentleman was not the guardian of the Newcastle Programme. He was its opponent. He (Mr. Labouchere) was one of the guardians of the Newcastle Programme. He was an expounder of it.
§ * SIR H. JAMES
"One Man One Vote" does not get rid of the ownership vote, because if a man has only one qualification, and that of ownership, he would still have a vote under the Newcastle Programme. I think that is your programme.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the programme went further than the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think. They objected to plural voting. The right hon. Gentleman would say that this was not plural voting. Each individual voted in a particular place and for a separate assembly, but did the right hon. Gentleman remember what happened during the discussion on the County Councils Bill? Even the Conservative Government did not venture to urge so monstrous and preposterous an arrangement as that under which the right hon. Gentleman shielded himself.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman would look at the Act he would see that no man could vote for two County Councils. ["Yes!"] They had hoard of the Irishman who had said that he could not be in two places at one time unless he were a bird. If these gentlemen could reside in two places they could vote for two County Councils. He objected to the proposal of the President of the Local Government Board, because, according to the democratic creed, property ought not to carry with it a right to vote. He also objected to it because residence in a place enabled a person to understand local requirements, and such knowledge was requisite for those who took part in local government. His third objection was that, if the proposal were agreed to, a certain result would be the creation of a vast number of fagot votes. Hon. Members might say that that would not occur. He had observed, however, that every insidious thing that the law allowed at elections was done, and therefore it was no use to tell him that fagot votes would not be 1418 created. Landowners would divide their land or tenements into a number of fagot votes, and would be able in a large measure to swamp the opinion of the inhabitants of the locality. Though it was somewhat hurriedly drawn up he thought his Amendment would meet the requirements of the case. If his Amendment was rejected they would sanction in Parish Council elections a qualification which was invented by Henry VI. for the express purpose of limiting the popular franchise. That principle had always been opposed by Radicals. The Tories themselves, when establishing County Councils, did not venture to introduce this qualification. he should be glad to hear any reason why it should be introduced into the Parish Council and not into the County Council franchise. As it was, he claime 1 for his Amendment the vote of every Radical who was actuated by principle, and of every Tory who was actuated by consistency.
In page 2, line 3, after the word "parish," to insert the words "provided always that nothing herein contained shall enable the non-resident owner to vote."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he must say, with all respect to his hon. Friend, that this was a rediscussion of an Amendment which had been already considered. They had already decided that the Parliamentary Register should form part of the Register for parochial elections. He had adhered to that against the arguments of hon. Members opposite, and he was not going to recede from that position in dealing with Amendments from the Ministerial side of the House. He would make an appeal to hon. Members; if questions of this kind were to be raised and debated over and over again it would become impossible to pass the Bill. Without going into questions touching Henry IV. or Henry VI., the Government took things as they found them. As he had announced on Monday night, they were determined to adhere to the inclusion of the Parliamentary Register as it existed.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
thought the right hon. Gentleman was a little hard on his hon. Friend, though he (Sir C. Dilke) did not share his hon. Friend's views on 1419 this question. He was bound to say that the change proposed was so great a one that the hon. Member was justified in asking for an opportunity for placing his opinions on record in a Division. There had been some discussion, but there had not yet been a Division on the particular question raised by his hon. Friend—namely, whether nonresident owners should be entitled to vote. The Division had been taken on the general question of the Parliamentary Register, and on that subject different views were taken as to the lodger and the service franchises. There was a great deal of sympathy with the view of the hon. Member outside the House, and it was not easy to come to a decision in the matter one way or the other. The Bill proposed that, for the first time, without a division of the rate between owner and occupier, the former should be given the right to vote at local elections. The owner had had a vote for some purposes, but until now he had never had it in the parish. [An hon. MEMBER: He has it.] No; he had no vote in a Vestry. It was a domestic quarrel between Radicals as to how they should next year deal with the question of voting. There were two ways of dealing with the subject of One Man One Vote, but the present Amendment would put difficulties in the way of the adoption of that principle in the sense in which it was understood by the Liberal electorate of the country, who took it to mean that an owner should cease to vote as owner, and should only vote as occupier. The Liberal electorate held that unless the object aimed at were accomplished in that way they would never be able to accomplish it in any other way satisfactorily. He (Sir C. Dilke) should hesitate to vote against the Government on this occasion, as he thought that the owner ought to be enfranchised not only in the parishes, but even in the boroughs in connection with the division of the rate. He should take no part in the Division.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said that they, on the Opposition side of the House, were all gratified at the firm attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in resisting the Amendment. At the same time, he must complain of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, 1420 who, having read the Member for Sussex a lecture on the character of his Amendment, declaring that he did not know what it meant, urged the Committee to extend every consideration to the Amendment of the Member for Northampton, which was drawn up in precisely the same language. It seemed to him that the favour with which this Amendment was viewed by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite was due to its being an attack upon property. With regard to County Councils, he himself had two votes for one Council, and he imagined that many other people were similarly situated. He happened to be a resident occupier in two divisions of the same county.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire)
said, he wished to express his satisfaction at the course taken by the hon. Member for Northampton in entering this final protest against the action of the Government with regard to non-resident owners. He would remind his right hon. Friend that not only he, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, and also the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the discussion on the division of rates in the Local Government Bill of 1888, distinctly repudiated the notion that it was necessary to give votes to non-resident owners. He would also remind his right hon. Friend that earlier in the Session he had assented to a Bill which abolished the property owners' vote in relation to Boards of Guardians and District Councils. He thought, therefore, that in introducing those votes in this Bill relating to Parish Councils the right hon. Gentleman was repudiating the attitude and the truly democratic declaration of himself and his colleagues on previous occasions.
§ * MR. FREEMAN-MITFORD (Warwick, Stratford)
said, the hon. Member for Northampton had stated that those persons who lived in the parish were the best qualified to vote on parish affairs. But there were many owners who, though they did not live in three or four parishes, still had as much interest in those parishes as if they did. They were familiar with all the local affairs, and it would be most unjust to deprive them of a share in the management of those affairs. A man might live technically in one parish, but there might be to the 1421 right of him a parish in which he held property, and to the left of him another parish in which he held property, and he might know every man in each of the villages. Such an owner, if he did his duty, would in most cases have an absolute sympathy with the people who were cottage owners and small ratepayers. It was most important that these men should not be disfranchised parochially. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had declared that this was the first time that the parochial franchise had been given to owners. He (Mr. Freeman-Mitford), however, begged to say that owners had always in certain cases had the right of voting at Vestries. That was a right he had exercised himself in parishes in which he did not technically live. The proposal of the Bill was by no means a new departure. It certainly, however, would be a new departure to deprive owners of parochial rights in parishes in which they did not technically reside. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was taking so strong a line on this point, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he would have the support of every county Member on that (the Opposition) side of the House on this matter.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had referred with great sympathy to persons who had property here and everywhere, and who might, by the Amendment, be deprived of the power of voting here, there, and everywhere, though they might have no residential qualification. He (Mr. Picton) confessed that his sympathy was with another class of people—namely, those who had hitherto been overborne by the powerful influence of gentlemen of property. He believed he interpreted rightly the claims of the Bill when he said it was designed for the emancipation of the multitude from these influences. He was sorry to vote against the Government, whom he respected and admired, but he did not see how he could help it if he was to be consistent as a Radical. Take the case of a great landowner who did not live hi a parish and had no particular responsibility, but who had very strong views of one sort or another. 1422 It would be quite possible for him to establish various little ownerships which would augment his power. He had quite sufficient influence as it was, and if they allowed him to vote, though a nonresident, he could bring in a number of non-resident voters as dependents from various parts of the country or from the neighbourhood of the parish itself. In this way the large landed proprietor could multiply his own personal vote. In a case where the number of electors was only 40 or 50 the owner could override them, and so carry out his own views. He (Mr. Picton), for one, must protest against the continuance of any such oppressive power. They had suffered from this disproportion for a long time past, and he would vote against any part of the Bill which would tend to continue it.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down feared that the large landowner might create dependencies in every parish in which he happened to have a vote. But he would be able to do that whether he happened to have a vote or not.
§ MR. PICTON
said, that what he had meant to say was that such an owner might turn a number of non-residents into owners.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that if the owner put these people in the parish they would be residents. ["No, no!"] At all events, he would point out to the hon. Member that this Amendment merely excluded the vote of a large landowner in a parish neighbouring to the one in which he lived. A non-resident freeholder occupied a very different position in a Parliamentary election from that which he would hold in a parish election. In the case of a Parliamentary election for a county constituency the freeholder might be entirely non-resident, while in the case of an election for a parish he might reside in the next parish. Considering that an owner paid a large amount of the rates of a parish, he certainty had a right to a vote for the Parish Council. A man could not, be called an absentee because he did not happen to reside in every parish where he had property. Some confusion had arisen about the County Council vote. No man could vote in two divisions in the same county, although he had 1423 property in different divisions; but, on the other hand, if he had property in two counties he might vote in each of these counties. On the same analogy no man should vote twice in the same parish; but any man who had property in different parishes ought to be able to vote for the distinct and separate Councils of those parishes. The Government by refusing to accept this Amendment was merely carrying out the principle of the Local Government Act of 1888. County Members on the Opposition side of the House were much obliged to the President of the Local Government Board for the firm attitude he had adopted, and they considered it would be a most monstrous injustice if the Amendment were carried out.
§ * MR. DARLING (Deptford)
said, he was glad to hear that a Division would probably be taken on the Amendment, especially after the declaration made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke), to the effect that the attitude taken up by the President of the Local Government Hoard would make it utterly impossible to carry out a portion of the Newcastle Programme. He (MR. Darling) should like to have on record the names of the Members of the Government who, by voting for the Amendment, proved that they were in favour of the non-realisation of the Newcastle Programme.
§ * MR. DARLING
apologised for having been led astray for a moment from the point before the Committee. The hon. Member for Northampton had stated that the present system dated back to the time of Henry VI., and that he objected to it for that reason. But the hon. Gentleman's Amendment also dated back to the reign of Henry VI. The contemporary of Henry VI. who proposed it was Jack Cade.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to point out that that respectable Radical was not a Member of this House, and that he suffered for his opinions.
§ * MR. DARLING
My only reply to that is that the hon. Gentleman is a Member of this House, and I regret 1424 to say that he has not sufficiently suffered for his opinions.
§ * MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, it appeared to him that the attitude taken by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. H. Fowler) on this question was one which would receive the hearty approval of every one who had a due sense of equity. As the right hon. Gentleman was providing for the future government of parishes, he very naturally proposed measures by which every one who was interested in the parish should be a voter. The three classes of people who were interested in the parishes were the residents, the occupiers who might reside outside, and the owners who were similarly situated. No one could say that any one of these three classes was not interested in the management of the parish affairs, and the Government were, therefore, very rightly proposing to include each of them in their voting machinery. To say that there was anything in that contrary to the principle of "One Man One Vote" was to show a singular blindness to the actual position. The Committee was dealing with the area of a single parish, and within that area each man would have one vote, and only one. When the larger area of the nation was dealt with, the Committee could with equal consistency set up the plan of "One Man One Vote" for it.
§ MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)
remarked that the Amendment which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had said embodied the cardinal principles of Radical policy was in direct opposition to the principle of the division of rates between occupier and owner, which was held very strongly on both sides of the House.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 287.—(Division List, No. 326.)
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the question the Committee now had to decide was how many votes each man should have. The Bill prescribed but one vote, but his desire was to incorporate in the measure the provisions of Section 3, Chap. 69, of the Act of 1818, a well known enactment which gave large ratepayers one vote for each £25 annual rent, the aggregate number of votes not 1425 to exceed six. In other words, the Amendment proposed that those who paid a large amount of rates upon considerable property should be entitled to have up to six votes at the election for a Parish Council, or any other purpose for which the parish meeting had been called upon to vote. That was a plain and important principle; it was obvious that it was plain justice that the man who owned the whole village, who paid all the rates and taxes, and in whom the prosperity and well-being of the parish life was vested, should have more voice in the parish meeting or in the election for a Parish Council than the cottager who lived in his cottage and for whom he actually paid the rates. Of course, he would be told by the Government that this principle was not applied in Parliamentary and in County Council elections, but his answer to that was that the considerations which applied to Imperial concerns or to the great areas governed by the County Councils had no relation whatever to limited areas with small populations like rural parishes. The interests of a village were so intertwined and interlaced that it was almost unavoidable that men would vote according to their own interest, and would exercise any influence they might possess. Under such circumstances, the principle of "One Man One Vote" could not be properly applied. He hoped, though he feared it was hoping against hope, that the Government would consider the principle of the Amendment favourably; at all events, he had felt it his duty towards those whom he represented to move the Amendment, and he hoped the Committee would extend to it its indulgent consideration.
In page 2, line 5, to leave out from the words "consequent thereon," to end of sub-section, and insert the words "shall vote according to the provisions of Section three, Chapter sixty-nine, of the Act of the fifty-eighth year of George the Third, 1818."—(Sir H. Temple.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The effect of this proposal is to apply to the new Parish Councils the old principle of plural voting which applies in Vestries. I can quite understand that the hon. 1426 Baronet was hoping against hope when he brought it forward. Of course, the Government cannot accept the Amendment in any shape or form. One of the vital principles of our Bill is the abolition of plural voting. There is no plural voting in County Councils nor in Municipal Councils, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's brought forward in 1871 his Bill for establishing Parochial Boards, of which this Bill is a lineal descendant, one of the points he dwelt upon in his speech was that it would abolish the plural vote. I believe this to be absolutely essential to any satisfactory scheme of parochial reform. In the last provision I showed that I fully recognised the rights of property with reference to the parish, but I do not recognise the overwhelming or the overpowering rights of property. In respect of the various matters of local government dealt with in this Bill, the poor man has interests, especially in regard to insanitary houses, of equal and perhaps even greater importance than those of the richest man in the parish. It is desired and hoped that this Bill will enable rural labourers to improve the conditions under which they live. Our desire is to reform the old Vestry system; one necessary step towards that is the abolition of plural voting, and I cannot think that hon. Members opposite will support a retrogressive Amendment, which would be fatal to one of the chief objects of the Bill.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, there could be no doubt that the proposal of his hon. Friend might properly be described as to some extent retrogressive, and it would retain what most people regarded as an anomaly. It was, therefore, not likely to find favour with the present House of Commons. But it was not quite the proposal to disfranchise the poorer people, as had been suggested. There was a tendency to regard the owners who benefited by this system of plural voting as solely the large owners; but he believed that these large owners in many cases did not derive any benefit from a franchise because they did not exercise the privilege. But there were a large number of people, quite irrespective of the large landowners, who looked upon plural voting as only just and fair. Sometimes four-fifths of the property in 1427 a Union would belong to men who were essentially small owners; and he had heard of many complaints from these men, who said that they would have to bear the burden of the poor rate without having a proportionate voice in the election of Guardians. They felt it would be an injustice that they should be placed at the mercy of those who practically had no property at all. But however just the contention of his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston might be, and it was easy to prove that the system he advocated had worked well in the past, its adoption in this Bill would be a return to a practice which the House of Commons had long ago made up its mind to depart from. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet did not. agree with him and would be prepared to defend the proposal, but for himself he confessed he believed the best method in which the owner of property could exercise a salutary influence was to sacrifice his leisure and take an active part in local affairs, content to appeal to the people on the basis of popular representation rather than upon any such safeguard as plural voting. Under the circumstances he could not vote for the Amendment, and he hoped it would not be pressed to a Division.
§ * MR. FREEMAN-MITFORD (Warwick, Stratford)
said, he did not think the Amendment of his hon. Friend would lead to anything but undesirable friction in Parish Councils. As one who hoped to sit on the Parish Council of his parish, he would much rather meet his fellow Councillors as one who had the same voting power as others than as an owner who had six votes against their one. A man who tried prudently and earnestly to do his duty on equal terms with his fellow parishioners would exercise more influence than a man who had unequal voting power, which would only awaken the jealousies and arouse the susceptibilities of others.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I only rise to enter a caveat against a practice in which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill indulges, always in the most courteous manner, and that is to quote a portion of the Bill of 1871. The right hon. Gentleman said that not only in the Bill, but in my speech I advocated the abolition of plural voting. That natu- 1428 rally gives the House the impression that that was a separate policy to the one advocated by the Cabinet of that day. But it is misleading to say that I advocated the abolition of plural voting without adding that by my own Bill I propose the direct representation of owners. I only ask that if the Bill is referred to it should be taken as a whole.
Mr. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, the hon. Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool had spoken on this matter entirely from the view of the owners, and he never once mentioned the case of the tenant farmers, who were entitled to share the benefits of the Act of 1818 equally with the owners. He could not agree with the suggestion that this matter should not be pressed to a Division. The Central Association of Chambers of Agriculture, of which he happened to be Chairman, had expressed and had placed on record a decided opinion that great injustice would be inflicted by this Bill on occupying tenant-farmers, who had a large preponderance of voting power over the freehold voters. Let them take the case of an ordinary parish at the present time. A tenant-farmer outvoted the landlord hand over hand under the Statute of 1818. It was, he knew, the fashion in these times to advocate a democratic policy. But he himself was not an advocate of democracy. He believed hon. Members generally desired that this measure should be a just one; and if they would only dissociate their minds from claptrap and catch phrases they would have a chance of attaining the object of the eminent Liberals who laid down the doctrine that taxation and representation should go together. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of this as a measure to disfranchise the smaller voters he did one of two things, he either failed to understand the Statute of 1818, or he used a description of it which he had no right to apply. What the Act of 1818 did was not to deprive a single person of his right to vote, but to apportion the voting power on the basis of rate contributions towards expenditure, which was sorely called for in such a case as the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had put before them—a parish with 80 houses and 55 compound householders. No one surely would contend it was just that the rates paid by a small minority should 1429 be spent by a majority who contributed little or nothing towards the rates. The ordinary principles of justice ought to insure that those who contributed the largest proportion of the taxation ought to have some adequate voice in the expenditure of the taxation. He did not believe that, even the most timid popularity hunter need have any apprehension as to the feeling of the public at large on this question. He believed that the tenant-farmers were almost to a man opposed to the abolition of the process for allowing some adequate supervision over the expenditure of the rates to those who paid the rates. It was only common justice that those who paid the piper should have the right to call the tune. He did not believe that any Member would controvert the justice of that, though they might think it inexpedient to give expression to the sentiment. They had been told that this proposal was not contained in the Act of 1888. He could speak without personal bias on that matter, because he was not in Parliament when that Act was passed, or ire would have proposed an Amendment like the present, and given the House the opportunity of expressing its judgment upon it. He believed the great mass of the supporters of the late Government were strongly in favour of the retention of plural voting; and he knew that the late Government had lost the good opinion of a great many of their best supporters in the country for the timidity they had displayed in not adhering to what was undoubtedly the opinion of the great mass of the Conservative Party on this subject. The County Council Act of the late Government had a great many faults in his judgment, but none so bad as the omission of some adequate system of property in local government.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, that hon. Members on the Government Benches seemed to think that all the popular arguments were in favour of their side of the question. But he should like to call their attention to a very suspicious circumstance in connection with plural voting. Some years ago an Act was passed, called the Hobhouse Act, which gave a locality power by a bare majority of votes to do away with plural voting altogether in that locality. But as that Act had not been put into operation, it proved that plural voting 1430 was looked upon by the country generally as a fair arrangement. Then, again, it was one of the absurdities of this Bill that it did away with plural voting in the parish meeting, where money matters were concerned, but left the old system in the Vestry, which he thought was the last place it ought to be left. They were told that this Amendment would disfranchise the agricultural labourer. In his own district of the country they had been for some time past doing away with the bad system of engaging labourers by hiring them about Christmas, under which they lived in the farmers' houses through the year, practically as bondsmen, and substituting for it the system of married agricultural labourers living in their own cottages. But now the farmers were saying that if they were going to have these married labourers outvoting thorn as occupiers in the parishes, they would get rid of them and go back to the old system of having I single men, hired by the year, living in their own houses.
§ * MR. J. H. JOHNSTONE
said, that nothing he had heard in the course of the Debate had shaken his belief in the justice and equity of plural voting. He also had an Amendment on the Paper to secure plural voting, though he admitted it needed modifications, for to give, as at present, so large a number of votes as 12—six as owner and six as occupier, which might also be exercised by proxy—might give too large a preponderating influence to one particular occupier or owner in a parish. He regretted that the Government should give to this Amendment only their old answer, "that it would spoil the symmetry of their Bill." But he could assure them that plural voting was by no means so unpopular as they imagined. When the matter was put fairly before the working classes, they were thoroughly satisfied, having a vote themselves, that those who had a larger interest and a larger stake, and from whose pockets the larger share of the rates came, should, as a matter of justice and fairness and equity, have a larger vote than the men who paid no rates at all. Recognising, however, that it would be unnecessarily taking up the time of the Committee if he were to move his Amendment, which was next in Order, he would not do so, but would content himself with 1431 these few observations in support of the principle of plural voting.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member who has just sat down has told us with perfect truth that the agricultural labourers, and the labouring classes generally, would at once see the inequity of giving the whole rating power into their own hands, while the payment of the rates was confined to a very small class in every parish; and if I thought this Amendment was the only possible way of meeting that inequity, I should certainly feel myself bound to support my hon. Friend in the Division. I would suggest to my hon. Friend, however, that it is not necessary to force the Committee to a Division, because I have some hopes that before we get much further in the Bill a great deal will be done, at least, to take off the edge of that injustice. There are proposals with regard to rating which will get to the root of the difficulty, and to those proposals I mean to give my heartiest vote. There are also proposals for minority voting and for the direct representation of owners. I shall not anticipate the discussion on either of these two important Amendments, but I think both of them have certain advantages as compared with the existing system of plural voting. That system does give to the occupier in rural districts and to the owner in urban districts a great share in the constitution of elected Boards, but it is so different to perfect any system, and there is so little direct relation between the amount of power given to a man and the amount of rates he has to pay, and it is on the whole a provision so calculated to irritate and produce jealousies between classes, that I venture to think, despite the fact that it has worked fairly well in the past, and that if we adopt it we must find other means of meeting the difficulties raised in the Bill, it is not a provision that we can hope to maintain in a Bill for bettering local government; and therefore I would not record my vote in favour of the Amendment, though I have much sympathy with its object.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he was quite willing to take the advice of the Leader of his Party and withdraw the Amendment. He understood the President of the Local Government Board to have said that this proposal meant the disfranchisement, or the virtual disfranchisement, of 1432 the agricultural labourer. The right hon. Gentleman had not a shadow of justification for making such a statement. In the extract he had read from the Act of 1818 it was expressly stated that every man rated up to £50 should have and be entitled to one vote and no more. That would exactly be the position of the agricultural labourer—he would have one vote under the Amendment. How, then, could it be said that the Amendment meant the disfranchisement of the agricultural labourer?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I withdraw the word "disfranchisement," and will say it would mean the "swamping" of the agricultural labourers.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he also objected to the word "swamping" as unjustifiable, because the owner, who seemed to be a sort of prey to the right hon. Gentleman, would never have more than six votes at the outside, and as the agricultural labourers would be ten to one in a parish, they could not be swamped. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in saying that only the largo landowners would benefit by the Amendment. For every one landowner that would be benefited by the Amendment a great number of tenant farmers and small freeholders would be benefited. The class for whom he pleaded were amongst the most benevolent, beneficent, useful, meritorious, and respectable in the community, and he would further say that the right hon. Gentleman, in his plea for divorcing taxation from representation, was following a most un-English procedure.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ * MR. COURTNEY
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester had referred to the proposal he was now about to submit to the Committee, and to another proposal to secure the separate representation of owners and occupiers, as methods for meeting the difficulty which lay at the root of the Amendment just disposed of. The suggestion as to the separate representation of owners as distinguished from occupiers was down in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire, and he should be extremely sorry, in the event of his own Amendment being negatived, if there should be any objection to entertain the separate and 1433 distinct method which his hon. Friend submitted. They had hitherto been eon-fined to discussing the composition of the constituency of the Parish Council—whether it should be confined to ratepayers, whether the owners of property should form part of it, and whether male and female should be admitted on the Register on equal terms. Having settled the constituency, they now proceeded to consider the question as to the way that constituency should be represented on the Parish Council, and how the Parish Council should embody the different views, the different aspirations, and different opinions of the constituency which elected it. His right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board had more than once said, in considering the question of the composition of the constituency, that his great aim was to bring together all classes within the parish—to enable the squire and farmer and peasant, the parson and the Dissenting minister, all to work together, in a friendly spirit, over the affairs common to the parish in which they dwelt. That, he believed, was the aim of all hon. Members, and the question he now submitted was how best to secure that aim, not merely in the composition of the constituency, but also in the composition of the Board which was to represent that constituency. He would submit to his right hon. Friend that it was a small benefit to secure in the constituency all kinds of interests and all kinds of opinions, unless they gave some promise of equal accessibility to the Board which would represent the constituency of the different interests and the different aspirations in the constituency. If they adhered to the proposed plan of giving to each member of the electorate as many votes as there were persons to be elected, they did give, in appearance, an equal accessibility, but they did not give a real security for equal accessibility; for a majority of the electors, however small, which held one opinion would be capable of returning all the members of the Board. Under such a system they would have no security that they would get on the Board, which was to administer the affairs of the parish, representatives of all those persons which his right hon. Friend showed such a lively interest to bring on the con- 1434 stituency of the Board. There must be the same reasons for bringing on the Board these various elements that there were for having these various elements in the constituency; and they would fail in their generous aspirations in securing equal treatment of all classes of electors, unless they brought on to the Board, in due proportion according to numbers, rights, and powers, the different elements in the constituency which was to elect the Board. If they were going to bring the squire and farmer and peasant together they must not give power to the peasant alone to elect the whole body of the Board. How, then, were they to give oven treatment to the squire and farmer and peasant? How were they to give even treatment to minorities? He need not now argue in an abstract way in favour of the representation of minorities in representative assemblies. There was a time when the representation of minorities was fully denied. But that time was passed. It was now generally admitted by all who considered the problem of elections that it was desirable to secure on the elected body representatives of the different opinions and views in the constituency. The method that had found favour of late for bringing about that desired result was by cutting the area in which the constituency lived into single-member districts. But here there was no proposal for cutting up the parish in any way for the purpose of electing the Parish Council. The whole body was to be elected, not in separate areas, but by one area in one process of voting. Therefore, if it was desirable to have some method of bringing into the Parish Council representatives of the different classes, opinions, and aspirations in the constituency, they must resort to some other plan. When they were discussing the Second Reading of the Bill he ventured to suggest a particular plan for meeting the difficulty, which would also realise the popular cry of "One Man One Vote," which was re-echoed by persons who did not really comprehend what it meant. It was supposed by those who did not understand the cry that "One Man One Vote" would give absolute equality amongst the electors not merely in the form of election, but in realising an equal representation on the assembly elected. But that was not so. 1435 A majority in a large electorate could, under the plan of the Government, determine all the candidates, and they might have a minority of three-sevenths in the electorate without a single representative in, say, seven representatives of the electorate. If they aspired to the realisation of that which they professed they would look favourably on some plan that would secure that amongst the seven representatives three would represent the three-sevenths minority, and four would represent the four-sevenths majority. They should aim at obtaining in an elected body a proportionate representation of those who constituted the electorate, and "One Man One Vote," if rightly carried out, and the principle aimed at really secured, would be found to result in "One Man One Vote, and One Vote for One Candidate." He had not put this proposal on the Table, because politicians were not familiar with it, but he had put on the Paper an Amendment as to the cumulative vote, the operation of which was known in their School Boards, and was familiar to persons not only in the large towns, but to large numbers in their parish areas. That would secure exactly what they were aiming at, and their experience of the School Boards showed—he would not say with mathematical exactness—a real representation of all throughout the division. This method was altogether opposed to the suggestion touched by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kingston (Sir R. Temple), or advocated by other Members, which savoured of privilege, and gave a large power to persons of property; it was founded on the principle of true equality, and as such might be accepted with the knowledge that if once adopted it would be retained. He might claim that this suggestion of the cumulative vote had not only been adopted and worked on the School Boards of this country and Scotland, but was adopted by the late Government and incorporated by them in their scheme of the Local Government of Ireland. They saw how essential it was in the government of Ireland in constituting Local Bodies to undertake the affairs of different districts in Ireland, to secure the presence on the Boards so created of persons representing the 1436 different parties and classes that divided Ireland, and they introduced the cumulative vote, so as to bring about, as nearly I as possible, proportional representation in the bodies they proposed to set up I in the separate parts of Ireland. He was well aware there was some prejudice against the cumulative vote; he was well aware that it had not given on its introduction all the satisfaction that was expected of it; but he believed that the dissatisfaction it created when first adopted had been diminishing steadily year by year. ["No, no!"] Well, he was about to give some reasons for that opinion. He believed that when first adopted some reckless experiments were tried at Birmingham and elsewhere, and the result produced was the election on the School Board of a majority which did not represent the majority of the electors of Birmingham. The manipulation of the cumulative vote at first occasioned a great deal of difficulty and produced a good deal of ill feeling, and his hon. Friend below him seemed to think that had not died out. He would refer his hon. Friend, if he wished to know what was the estimate of the most experienced in relation to the working of the cumulative vote, to the evidence given before a Select Committee of this House in 1885. Mr. Forster was not only a Member of that Committee, but he gave evidence himself testifying to the value of the cumulative vote in making the Educat in Act a workable measure. The evidence generally was strong in declaring that without the cumulative vote the Act could not have been worked satisfactorily, and that by experience the difficulties surrounding the cumulative vote were passing away. Speaking of his own division, the working of the cumulative vote, so far as he knew, was satisfactory, and difficulties were passing away from its operation. The real difficulty in the working of the cumulative vote, such as it was, arose mainly from the size of the School Boards which were elected under its operation. Where the School Boards consisted of five, six, or seven members, I the operation of the cumulative vote was much more simple, and it was more easily worked than it was where the School Board consisted of 15 members. The Committee that sat on the matter did not 1437 come to any judgment, but he thought he might say, on the part of some leading Members, the view that impressed them at the time was that the objections against the cumulative vote were diminishing, and the difficulty of working it was passing away, and that probably if they provided, in the case of those towns represented by 15 members, for their division into three areas, each represented by five members, they would remove the difficulty, and would relieve the vote from the embarrassment of manipulating 15 votes. He would suggest, therefore, that the Government, if favourable to the adoption of the cumulative vote, should facilitate its working in those parishes where the number of the Parish Councils were large by providing that the area of the parish should be divided so that no individual elector should have more than five or six votes. He believed that could be easily done, and it done they would have the election carried oat with extreme facility, and at the same time they would have on the Parish Councils elected under its operation members representing all the parties to be found in the parish. He did not want to labour this question very much more. It was urged by some that they were here dealing with a, class of the electorate less qualified for such operations as the giving of a vote under this system. He admitted the electors in rural parishes were not such persons as might at first sight be thought well qualified to deal with the votes at their command. ["Hear, hear!"] His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer cheered the remark, and he presumed the right hon. Gentleman thought it was one that was important. He admitted it was one of considerable plausibility, but the right hon. Gentleman might think he had some answer to make to it. The answer he had to give was that in his county they had a great many School Hoards which were not confined to the towns; in fact, there were more of them in the country than in the towns, and the electors of these Boards were the class of people that the right hon. Gentleman by his cheer deemed incompetent to work the cumulative vote. But they had done it, and he found no complaint whatever. If the peasant voter of Hampshire could 1438 not, the agricultural labourer in Corn-was perfectly competent to give his vote under this plan, and the election of School Boards in so many rural parishes was a complete proof of the ability he claimed for them. This was a matter of considerable importance with regard to Parish Councils, which he desired might be truly popular and a reconciling institution—that they might bring within their functions all classes of the community, who would get to know and respect one another by joint action. If they wanted to realise this great aim—and it was a noble aim, and he rejoiced to think this Bill in some way gave them a promise of bringing about that result—if they wanted to realise it they must adopt some way of bringing in those who represented the different classes. He had not and would not put it on any question of Party; he had not and would not put it on the question of protecting those who had to pay rates; but he put it on the great principle, if they wished to make their Parish Councils truly representative of their parishes, to make them in the best sense of the word civilising—and he might almost say Christianising—institutions to develop the spirit of common interest and common action between the different persons who constituted the society of the parish, they must adopt some such machinery as he had suggested in his Amendment. He proposed it not with any sanguine anticipation of its being at once adopted, but with a perfect belief in its value and ultimate success.
In page 2, line 6, to leave out the word "or," and insert the word "but."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'or' stand part of the Clause."
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members1 were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said the proposition of the right hon. Member for Bodmin was for the introduction of the cumulative vote, and he had of course, in common with all Members, listened with the greatest respect and attention to all that he had said. The right hon. Gentleman 1439 was truly a great authority on this important subject. He had given more thought and more philosophic reflection to the matter than perhaps any other living man, and he was very anxious to pay the tribute of his admiration to the ability and constancy with which the right hon. Gentleman had advocated this most important principle. He (Sir R. Temple) believed it would answer and perhaps might be preferable for these Parish Councils, and, therefore, if they went to a Division he for one should support the right hon. Gentleman, though he must confess with a certain amount of misgiving, for the reasons he would presently explain. In regard to this cumulative vote, perhaps he was the only Member of the House who had had experience of it on a gigantic scale. He had seen it carried out at three General Elections throughout the Metropolitan area, and he had seen perhaps 150 Members elected by it. He himself had been elected by it for three elections; therefore, he ought to know, if anybody did, how it worked. He would pass over the immense inconveniences which arose in the apportionment of votes, the distribution of support, and the various arrangements that had to be made, because these inconveniences were only incidental to great areas. Such difficulties and inconveniences would not occur in reference to the Parish Councils, because there the areas were limited. He must admit in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's argument that the cumulative vote in the Metropolis had always produced exactly the effect which the right hon. Gentleman considered it ought to produce. It had invariably caused any section that desired to be represented to have a due share in the representation, and it had enabled every section of the people, every class of thought or sentiment, or even of religion, to have a fair share of representation on the great Boards. So far experience was absolute in respect to the efficacy of the plan. There were practical drawbacks, however, in the result. It would not do for him to criticise his colleagues and fellow members of the School Board, but he might venture to say, without giving the least offence to anyone, that on any great, Board or large body elected under the cumulative vote there would be degrees of merit. There 1440 would be a scale, and some would be at the top and some at the bottom. He was afraid it would be found that those who were at the bottom of the scale had been returned by the cumulative vote, whilst those who were at the top were just the best men whom the electors desired to see returned, who did not want the cumulative vote, and who would have fought their battle and won their way without its aid. They were entirely independent of the cumulative vote. It ought not to be so, but it was.
§ MR. COURTNEY
(interposing) said, that no person ever obtained so many votes as Mrs. Garrett Anderson. She had, he believed, over 40,000 votes; but if she had had to depend on the ordinary voting the number of persons who voted for her would not have been sufficient to elect her.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
forgot the figures in that particular case, but he thought that if she had desired to stand Mrs. Garrett Anderson would have been elected in any constituency. She was a lady of great prestige, name and fame, and also of winning grace, and she would, he considered, have been returned, quite irrespective of the cumulative vote. He thought it would be found that if there were any persons elected who were what might be called "faddists," or to represent any section of the people who might be regarded as objectionable in any way, they owed their return to the cumulative vote. This, however, only showed the efficacy of the vote, and he could not deny that so far the system was perfectly successful. No doubt there were sometimes members elected on the cumulative vote who would not otherwise be elected and whom everybody wished to see elected. For instance, in a place like London it was obviously desirable that on a Board of 65 members there should at least be some Roman Catholics, but they would never be elected without the cumulative vote, so that there were undoubtedly advantages attending the system. There was one great advantage of the cumulative vote, and that was that it prevented anything like wire-pulling or 1441 manipulation, and he apprehended that would be a great deal gained in regard to parochial elections. He had listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Goschen), in which he pointed out that the system might become a small political machine in every village. He supposed the Government would not he sorry to see that. But they (the Opposition) would be very sorry to see it, and they desired that this machine should be innocuous for any kind of caucus-mongering for any particular party or cause. That is what be (Sir R. Temple) would like to see. There were many various advantages that would be gained by the system advocated by the right hon. Member for Bodmin, and for that reason he was prepared to support him.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Mr. Mellor, I am not surprised to hear that the hon. Baronet intends to vote for this proposal, for there is no one who has more consistently voted for every proposal to make the scheme of Parish Councils inoperative. With reference to cumulative voting, I am not surprised that the Member for Bodmin was the person to bring this question forward. He is a man who has a heroic passion for minorities. He is in favour of giving to the minority all the rights belonging to the majority, for proportional representation is intended to prevent the majority exercising its rights. To give to a small minority the power of the majority is a scheme that will always seem welcome to the Member for Bodmin. It is a conundrum not easily understanded by the peasantry; but the Member for Bodmin said that in his county it was thoroughly understood. That is the result of 25 years' education in proportional representation. That a man is to vote for a candidate whom he does not prefer in order that he may secure a majority for some purpose which he does got understand—that seems to be the ne plus ultra of the cumulative vote! If Jones wants to vote for Robinson, he is told that will not do; that he must vote for Brown in order to give effect to the cumulative vote, and 1442 by a process of manipulation Brown gets a majority, so that the minority is turned into a majority—it is to have the same power as the majority. We are told the cumulative vote would put an end to wire-pullers. Why, the man could not vote without wires. The voter ceases to be an independent voter for the man he prefers. That is part of the arrangement. The voter must vote for somebody else in order to bring about the effect desired by the cumulative vote, and that is the reason wiry the cumulative vote has become so unpopular. I heard Lord Beaconsfield deal with this matter, and it was impossible for his wit to be more brilliantly exercised than in discussing conundrums of this kind, and he said that this system would give the rights of the majority over to the minority. It has been said that the system has been used in School Board elections. I admit there has been one advantage. The circumstances are peculiar to those elections under the name of the "religious difficult." Small sects have received a voice upon the School Boards, and they have been enabled to return their men by the cumulative vote. That is a good thing in some respects; but we also know that sometimes extremely undesirable men have been returned at the head of the poll by this combination. We heard a good deal about the agitation in the rural districts. I do not think there is anything that would please the agitator more than the cumulative vote, which would enable him to return his man at the top of the poll. I believe the system would puzzle the agricultural labourer, as it puzzles me. In my right hon. Friend's constituency the elector always votes for the person whom he does not himself prefer, but whom somebody else does, and he generally succeeds in returning the man whom somebody else wants. But the constituency of my right hon. Friend has had, as I have said, 25 years' education in the principles of proportional representation. It would be extremely difficult in its application elsewhere. I do not think the reason which justifies it in the School Board election—to secure religious representation—is such as would make it applicable in General Elections for other purposes. For my part, I desire to 1443 abide by the old plan, as I object to the minority, by any ingenious process, being enabled to defeat the majority.
§ MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured once again to turn into ridicule a practical proposal made from the opposite (the Conservative) side of the House, and supported by his hon. Friend behind him (Sir R. Temple). He did not think the right hon. Gentleman should have again flaunted in the face of the Committee, and in a most gratuitous manner, his disbelief in the ordinary intelligence of the agricultural labourer. It was a new experience for them (the Opposition) to have to stand up in defence of the agricultural labourer. Hitherto, the charge used to be made against the Party to which he belonged. It seemed that now the tables were turned. They were positively told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the peasantry—a term of honour, and one that he liked—would be unable to understand this complicated system of voting, although they were asked to believe that they were well able to understand Home Rule and foreign policy. He thought the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was one that the House would not accept. He thought there was nothing in this system which it was not perfectly possible for the peasantry to understand.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I said I did not understand it myself, and that I did not think the peasantry would understand it better.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, the right hon. Gentleman said the peasantry would not understand the system, and then he went on to describe what it was. He (Mr. Long) was not going to compare this system with any other. He was not of that class of politician who believed in departing from what had been good enough for the country; but the position in which they found themselves differed 1444 from that in which they were in the past on this question. The County Councils were brought into the discussion to do the work which the Local Government Board ought, to do; and, although they (the Opposition) were denounced for not proceeding about local government in a proper way, the Government congratulated themselves that they were in the present instance, in reference to Parish Councils, setting about the work in a proper way. They might argue as much as they liked and might succeed in leading the Court away, but they would not succeed in getting the people to ignore the fact, which was well known, that the conditions which would surround the contested elections for Parish Councils would be totally different from those which surrounded either Parliamentary or County Council elections, or even elections for the London School Board. They had heard a good deal about the landlords and landowners. For his part, as a landowner, he was not ashamed to face any inquiry into the way in which they bad discharged their duties; but he would point out that the landowners would take no part in the contests, the only residents in the parishes being the parson, the tenant farmers, and the labourers. There was, therefore, all the difference in the world between an Imperial election and a Parish Council election, because in the Imperial election they had two distinct Parties, and the elections were decided with very small effect from local considerations, whereas parish elections would often be decided, not in regard to public questions, such as recreation grounds, drainage, or water, but in relation to some small local difference. They would have the employers, then—the tenant-farmers—and, on the other hand, they would have the labourers, the men who were working for these tenant-farmers. Was it not possible that circumstances might arise between the two bodies—the tenant-farmers and the labourers—for which the former were not responsible, and over which they had no control, and that, in face of such circumstances, public questions would lie forgotten, and the vote taken on lines which would be designed to punish the farmers—the minority? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the effect of the Amendment would be to give power to 1445 the minority over the majority. He did not wish to say anything that might seem to reflect upon one who had given such service in this House, hut he could not help observing that such a statement was unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman, who should not have spoken of the Amendment under discussion in any such form. There was no attempt whatever to give to the minority rights which belonged to the majority.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman would contradict him when he said that neither Mr. Disraeli nor anybody else ever discussed the question when a Bill of this kind was under discussion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not produce any quotation showing that the matter had been discussed in this way before. He was anxious to see the Bill a success if it was to become an Act of Parliament; but unless the Government provided for the representation of the minority, the Bill would fail to answer their expectation. There was a minority on one side with distinct interests, and a majority on the other with equally distinct interests. A distinct issue would be raised between them—social differences, and differences between employés and employer. They would in this case, he thought, feel bound to give to the minority some principle of representation—some method of representing their views. If they did not, the result would be that the minority would be shut out altogether, and it would be in the power of the majority to revenge what they would probably conceive to be wrongs inflicted upon them. There were, therefore, circumstances in connection with these Parochial Councils which justified the anxiety of those who contended that the rights of minorities should be protected. He was free to confess that he was not afraid at all of the arguments which were constantly adduced by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They said—"You did so and so in your County Council Bill of 1888, and why should you make a dif- 1446 ferent proposal now?" No one regretted more than he did the absence of Mr. Ritchie, the late President of the Local Government Board, who so ably conducted the Act of 1888 through the House; but if that right hon. Gentleman were present, he (Mr. W. Long) was certain he would be the last man to claim for his Government and Party that everything they had done was beyond criticism, and that it would not be desirable to improve upon some of the work they had effected in the light of subsequent experience. He (Mr. W. Long) did not say that because the proposed plan was not adopted in 1888 they were precluded from adopting it now. He knew, and he was sure hon. Gentlemen opposite who had endeavoured to forecast what would be the practical effect of the Bill when it was passed, also knew, although they might not like to say it, that there were circumstances prevailing at present entirely different from anything that had surrounded or affected County Councils or Local Boards or other forms of local government that had hitherto been adopted in this country. Hon. Gentlemen must know that it was desirable that there should be some special protection for the rights of minorities under circumstances such as those he had endeavoured to describe. He maintained that there would be in many parochial elections an absence of any general clearly-defined policy that would guide men on one side or the other. There would be a tendency on the part of the employed to go against the employer. Difficulties arose in the most extraordinary way. When times were unusually bad and the weather had been unpropitious employers were often sorely tried in their tempers and were not able to bear themselves towards their neighbours with the same good nature that they otherwise would. He knew many instances where the most trivial circumstance—an unintentional word on the part of an individul—had led to the most bitter feeling that it had taken years to remedy. What was the effect of that state of things? To drive men into two opposite camps; and in the Village Council they would not have the chance of one district counteracting against another as they had in the County Council. They would not have different 1447 sorts of men coming forward, but the Councillors would be gathered from a small area. He maintained that sound reasons had been given for asking that there should be some form of minority representation under this Bill. Though where the issues were plain, and the areas large, and the number to be elected large enough to admit of the return of men of all shades of opinion, he had not been in favour of exceptional measures, he believed that exceptional circumstances existed in this case, and he supported the Amendment in the firm and honest belief that there was a danger to minorities, that if there was to be a fair and just system of parochial government the minority should be protected, and that the course proposed was, on the whole, the best and most practical way of carrying it out.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, he supported the Amendment. He did not base his support on the distinction that had been drawn between parochial life and that of a county or Parliamentary constituency, although he admitted that, there was a great deal in the words that had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. He was himself in favour of proportional representation, and should like to see it applied even to larger areas, but he desired now to urge the greater ground that existed for applying proportional representation to parishes under the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the cumulative vote would in this instance transfer the rights of majorities to minorities. Did the right hon. Gentleman include amongst the right of majorities the right to deprive the minority of all representation whatever, because that would be the result of the passing of the Bill as it at present stood. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he relied upon Mr. Disraeli for that dictum. But the Prime Minister, speaking on the Reform Bill of 1884,owned that if they were to aim at an ideal franchise they would in all probability have to consider the proportional representation of minorities. Against that in dealing with Parliamentary elections or even with County Council elections the Prime 1448 Minister argued then, and others had argued since, that in the first place the system was complex, and that in the second place they got a kind of rough justice by one-Member constituencies or, at most, two-Member constituencies. The advantages of the proportional system in the case of parish elections would be greater than in the case of County Councils or Parliamentary elections. In Parliamentary elections the voter was only called on to decide at most between four candidates, and as a general rule only between two; therefore, to give up that system in order to introduce the system of the cumulative vote they would make a great sacrifice of simplicity and make a serious advance-towards complexity. But under the scheme now in the Bill the operation was already somewhat complex. The elector had to distribute 15 votes in any case. He would have to give his votes en bloc, so that they had already what might be compared to scrutin de liste. The voter would have to vote for the whole ticket. He would be instructed to vote for 15 individuals, and if that were the case a majority of one in any village would exclude the minority from all representation whatever on the Council. All that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin urged was—and it was not a very extravagant plea—that where in a parish in which the Council consisted of 15 Members, one-fifteenth wished to put forward certain views that they should be allowed to have one representative—it came to no more than that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite jumped to the conclusion that this small majority of one-fifteenth would always be the landed interest—the rich against the poor. But it was just as probable—he thought it was more so—that the small minority that they wished to see represented would be "the party of progress," who wished to see a higher standard of sanitation adopted and amenities introduced into the social life of the village. Whatever the small minority, he contended that it should be allowed to express its views on the Parish Council.
§ * SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
said, he was very sorry that this important question had come on at such an inconvenient moment, and that so few 1449 Members had had the advantage of hearing the able and convincing speech of the right hon. Member for Bodmin. No answer whatever had been given to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. They had had a speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer full of his usual jokes and good humour, but he made no attempt to seriously grapple with the great and important question before them. The proposal was nothing now. The system proposed was not, altogether the best, but it was one of which they had had a great deal of experience, and which had worked satisfactorily. It was to be regretted how little mankind would listen to the voice of experience. In 1885 a Committee of that House inquired carefully into the working of the system. Their labours were cut short and they made no Report, but the evidence spoke for itself. The representatives of the Education Department gave strong evidence in its favour. So did the Chairmen of the principal School Boards of Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and others. Mr. Forster gave evidence that the successful working of his great Act had been in no small measure due to the cumulative vote. On the other hand, the system proposed in the present Bill, the scrutin de liste, he denounced as the very worst that could possibly be devised. Moreover, some system by which minorities could be represented was even more important for these Parish Councils than in School Boards. In large cities there were differences between different districts. In one there were mainly large houses, in another streets of shops, in a third workmen's dwellings; one district might be Church of England, one mainly Nonconformist, and a third, say, Roman Catholic. In rural parishes there would be no such divisions of areas. The proposal in the Bill would throw the whole power into the hands of one class. Moreover, the tendency of the system in the Bill would be to make the elections political. If the Amendment were not adopted there would be a great deal of bitterness and a keen sense of injustice, and in the interests of fair play, in the desire for the satisfactory working of Parish Councils, and in the interests of the Bill itself he earnestly hoped that the Committee would support the Amendment.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that his right hon. Friend had said that it had been conclusively shown that in School Board elections the working of the cumulative system had been altogether satisfactory up to the present time. That was a matter upon which he at once joined issue with his right hon. Friend.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
I said it was not altogether the best, but that it had been satisfactory, and I quoted the opinion of those who had had experience to that effect.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that whatever the precise words were he wished to deal with this point. He had had experience in School Board elections. He had been a member, and had been Chairman of a School Board in an average populated borough, and he was also familiar with the working of the cumulative vote in his gigantic neighbour Birmingham, and he hoped that before the Debate closed his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham would give the Committee the benefit of his experience with respect to the effect of the cumulative vote on the Birmingham School Board. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed his opinion on the subject on many occasions and with considerable force and power. The one advantage of the cumulative vote was with reference to the difficulty which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out, but which did not arise in connection with this Bill—namely, the religious difficulty. Feeling that they had to deal in their educational system with the conflict between the supporters of denominational schools and of School Beard schools, it was thought reasonable that those who were in a minority should have a representation on the School Board in order to protect the interests of certain schools and to promote certain views. That was the argument by which Mr. Forster 1451 justified the cumulative vote. But he would like to read to the Committee later evidence than that to which the right hon. Baronet referred—the evidence taken before the Royal Commission of 1888. Although that Commission was not a Radical one, or one by any means of an advanced character, its judgment on this matter was well worthy of consideration. They said that several witnesses had pointed out the anomalies which had arisen in the working of the cumulative vote within the limits of their own observation, specifying, among other things, the uncertainty of the result, the occasional rejection of valuable members of the School Board, the defeat of popular candidates, the election of representatives of some popular cry outside educational questions, and the occasional failure of a majority of voters to return to the Board a proportionate number of representatives in harmony with their views. They went on to say that it could not be denied that the cumulative vote had certain drawbacks. In consequence of the impossibility of the electors being able to judge of the probable success of particular candidates, the tendency was to accumulate votes on one candidate instead of distributing them among several. That was not a very strong testimony in favour of the working of the cumulative vote in School Board elections. His own personal experience was that while the cumulative vote, no doubt, had secured a certain religious representation which otherwise would not have been obtained, yet it had prevented the full expression of the views of the electors, and they had had, again and again, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out, a minority placing its candidate at the head of the poll. They had also had combinations of small numbers of voters—a small proportion of the electorate—putting all their votes on one candidate or the other, and securing their return. He would ask hon. Members who advocated this why they did not propose to extend this principle to municipal elections, at which there were three and four and six Councillors returned for one district? His objection to the cumulative vote was that it did not secure what it claimed to secure. It was advocated by the hon. Gentleman opposite, on the 1452 ground that, by its means, they would put a minority in possession of power.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, he had not said anything of the kind. What he said was that the best method would be to give a minority a fair share of representation—a totally different thing from putting them in power. They had never asked that a minority should have control, but that they should have a voice in the representation.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he accepted the correction. He did not think the minority would be wiped out under a system of single voting. He thought the principle that controlled all other elections would apply—namely, that the good man who was likely to do the work best would be the man who would be elected. He did not agree as to the probability of a certain man being voted against although in favour of some popular movement, because of a conflict as between employer and employed. He would read to the House what he considered a good illustration of this question from a speech of Mr. John Bright. Dealing with this question in one of his most powerful speeches in Birmingham, Mr. Bright said—When the Bill was first going through the House of Commons, the clause which Mr. Lowe proposed was not exactly like his minority clause; if possible, it was a still more absurd proposal. It was one which I have already discussed here two or three years ago. He proposed—in his borough, for example—that every man should have three votes, and that he should give all his three votes to me, or divide them among myself and my colleagues, or give them to Mr. Sampson Lloyd. What would have been the result? It would have been just this: that if Mr. Lloyd had been the only candidate on the Tory side, and supposing that he could poll 10,000 votes in Birmingham, if every one gave him three votes, he would actually record 30,000 votes, and therefore, although he was a candidate who only had 10,000 supporters out of 40,000,ihe might come in even at the head of the poll. That, I think, I once described as reminding me very much of a donkey race, where the last donkey is declared to win. But what did Mr. Lowe say about it when he moved his proposition? It was this: he was complaining of the democratic and popular character of the Bill, and he said, 'All our other arrows have been shot: not one remains in the quiver, so that if this does not hit there will be nothing left but one single uniform franchise to be in-trusted to, and left in the hands of, the lowest class of society.'1453 On the grounds he had stated he hoped the Committee would not accede to the Amendment. It was said that the matter had not been argued by the Government, but they had argued that it would, be an unworkable scheme for the purpose for which it was brought forward. They did not desire that the majority in a parish should be deprived of the power to which they were entitled. The attempt to introduce this new-fangled mode of voting into political institutions—because if that was good for this constituency it must be good for other constituencies—was one which he hoped the House would not accede to, and he ventured to ask, the subject having been now under discussion for some time, that the Committee should come to a decision upon it.
§ * MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he thought the proposal before the Committee was one which, considering the circumstances of the country parishes, demanded careful consideration. Much had been said about the working of the cumulative system in large towns, but the circumstances of the country parishes were somewhat different. The system had worked not unsatisfactorily in most of the country School Boards, and as far as he knew, the Vice President of the Council (Mr. A. Acland) did not at present propose to alter it. He (Mr. Hobhouse) thought there were strong arguments in favour of applying the System to the new constituency which was being set up by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had asked why it was not proposed to apply the system to the municipal boroughs. The municipal boroughs were going institutions, and might be fairly content with their present mode of voting. In many cases they were divided into wards, which made all the difference. It was one thing to propose to alter the system of election to existing institutions, and quite another to propose that when an entirely new body was being set up in a new area the Committee should not consider carefully the best mode of voting to be adopted. All who had had any experience of Local Adminis- 1454 trative Bodies would admit that the presence of minorities extremely valuable, that the action of uncontrolled majorities was apt sometimes to be hasty and ill-considered, and that it was very desirable to obtain at all events a small minority for the purposes of criticism and discussion. In the County Councils this result was obtained by means of the numerous county divisions which had been adopted. In the parishes there would be nothing of the kind. In most of the parishes there would be no wards, and there would be no system under which a small minority could be sure of getting even one representative on an ordinary Parish Council. These Councils would not be bodies meeting in public, and having everything that passed reported. He expected they would be more like Committees meeting in private, and arriving at their decisions free from public criticism, and almost free from the control of the parish meeting. In many country districts in his part of England there was a large body of Churchmen and a small body of Nonconformists. He thought that if the whole of the 5, 10, or 15 Councillors were elected in the ordinary way the Churchmen would very often vote in a body together, and the Nonconformists would get no representation at all. He should very much deprecate such a result. He thought it very desirable that there should be representatives of all denominations on Parish Councils, and that they should all have their special wishes attended to. In other cases there was a strong class feeling in villages, and it would be most lamentable if the employed, who would everywhere be in a large majority, voted as one class against the employer. This might be satisfactory at first to hon. Gentlemen of certain political opinions, but it would not be satisfactory in the long run, nor would it tend to make the now institutions popular. It would only embitter feelings, set class against class, and cause general complaint and dissatisfaction. He did not think the example of the School Boards had been quite sufficiently attended to. There were not many complaints in country parishes with regard to the constitution of School Boards, and when there was an elaborate inquiry 1455 into the subject a few years ago the result of the deliberations of the Education Commission was a recommendation that the cumulative system should be continued, though it was said there were other systems of representation which were really more perfect in the abstract. The ordinary householder was already perfectly familiar with the cumulative system, and it was ridiculous for anyone to say he could not understand it. He felt sure that if the Amendment were accepted the final working out of the Parish Councils would be much more satisfactory and just to the different classes concerned.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, he had been unable to refrain from laughing when the hon. Member who had just sat down was painting the sorrows of the poor Nonconformist who in a country parish would be debarred from representation. The Radical plan under such circumstances had always been to argue and educate and fight until they turned their minority into a majority. This seemed to him a much better plan than to come in as a miserable fag-end with the aid of the minority vote. The supporters of the Amendment had argued the matter entirely on the ground that the minority vote secured representation of different classes of opinion. He submitted that this was not the main point Parliament had in view in creating a Public Body. The main point was to create a machine that would work. Instances had been given with the object of showing that the cumulative system had worked well on School Boards. He was a member of a School Board for years, and he would tell the Committee what he thought was the fault from an executive point of view of the present system of cumulative voting, which he admitted secured the representation of various classes of opinion. In the great town to which he referred his Party knew they could carry 10 men under an ordinary system of election, but they knew that if under the cumulative system they put up 10 men they would not have them all returned. They therefore chose 1456 to put up half the number of members of the Board plus one, so as to give them the smallest majority possible. Therefore they put up eight. Their opponents put up eight also, and the result was that his Party carried their eight, whilst their opponents obtained seven seats. He admitted that for a deliberative machine a proportion of eight to seven might be admirable, but a School Board was not a deliberative so much as an executive machine, and he was of opinion that the weakest executive machine one could have was one composed of eight men on one side and seven on the other. If one member of the majority was about there was no chance of doing anything except by the casting vote of the Chairman. When it came to executive work, such as visiting schools and examining parents and children, the minority, in those days of bitterness, would not do their share of the work. Therefore, so far from the cumulative system securing an effective Board it provided the most powerless machine that could possibly be conceived. He had always been in favour of securing on Public Boards a majority, with something to spare, in order to provide for all the chances of this transitory life. He did not believe for a moment that it would happen in many cases that all the men on one side would get on the Council, and all the men on the other side would be left off. One hon. Member had said it would be a sad thing if a large employer of labour failed to get on the Parish Council. He (Mr. Storey) would not give 2d. for a large employer who could not get on the Council. If a large employer were a decent man, and had sympathy with his fellow parishioners, he would have no difficulty in getting on the Council. He did not believe that gentlemen opposite would be unable to secure election for themselves; his fear was that they would be returned in far too great numbers. The fears that had been expressed about non-representation of minorities were chimerical. Let the Committee act in this matter in the old-fashioned way; let the majority, where it could, win, and let the minority, where it was defeated, teach the people and instruct them in their views until they could transform themselves into a majority.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has an idea of representative assemblies which, known probably to most I think, will be known probably to most of those who listened to his interesting and eloquent speech. He appears to regard a representative assembly as chiefly an executive machine. I have always hitherto been old-fashioned enough to regard the representative assembly as being, in the first instance at all events, a deliberative machine. I am aware that there are opinions which are, perhaps, losing ground in very influential quarters; but still, I think there must be traces of the old tradition by which it was supposed that elected assemblies were largely chosen for the purpose of discussion, for the purpose of balancing argument against argument, and so arriving at a better conclusion. The hon. Gentleman apparently thinks that an elective assembly is like a Cabinet, and that, like other such machines, it must have at its back a majority so large that it may ignore opposite opinions, and even any slight defections from its own side. I think the hon. Gentleman deeply deplored the fact that he once belonged to a body which only had a majority of one. He thinks that his Party cannot carry out its views with such a narrow majority, and he wishes to make provision against the natural defections from a Party which he described as one of the chances of this transitory life. I suppose the hon. Gentleman counts himself as among the chances of this transitory life in the Party of which he is an ornament, because, if I remember rightly, he has not always been found supporting that Party. But, Sir, the hon. Gentleman is really fighting against the general tendency of popular opinion. The Committee will remember that when we were discussing the framework of the Reform Bill of 1884, it was admitted on both sides of the House that the principle of minority representation was one that ought to be interwoven in our electoral scheme, and the chief reason why the plan of single-Member constituencies was adopted was because it was supposed that that plan would insure the representation of every class and shade of political creed. If 1458 the desirability of this was admitted with regard to Parliamentary Institutions, the problem remains, is it not equally or still more desirable in the case of such a unit as the parish? In many cases the parish consists of 200 individuals, 90 per cent. of whom belong to the class of agricultural labourers, the remaining 10 per cent. being made up by the squire, the parson, the curate, the Nonconformist minister, and the local publicans. Is not that a common case. Can you conceive any social unit in which minority representation is more desirable than a unit so constituted? It does seem to me it is absolutely necessary, by some machinery, to deal with this particular aspect of the question. Some such machinery has been devised. To secure minority representation my hon. Friend the Member for Sussex earlier in the evening proposed plural voting, and an hon. Member opposite (Mr. Rathbone) has on the Paper an Amendment to give landowners separate representation, because they are landowners. But there is a grave objection to both these plans—namely, that they would distinguish in the parochial unit certain persons as having special privileges. The hon. Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire wishes to give the landlord special representation.
§ * MR. RATHBONE
I am providing for the cases of the small as well as for the large owners. I do not refer to the landlord at all.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I confess I used the word "landlord" in the sense of a man who owned land, and my hon. Friend wishes it apparently to be taken in the sense of a man who owns large quantities of land. He would give the owner certain representation as owner; but this Amendment now under discussion is not to give the landlord as landlord special privileges, but to give such privileges to the landlord and farmer together. There is something to be said in favour of both Amendments; but, still, both have the same defect—namely, marking out certain individuals for special privileges. I have no abstract or pedantic objection to privileges; my objection to a privilege is that it generally does great injury to the person who 1459 possesses it. Because that is my opinion I object to the privileges proposed to be given. If in one small Parish Council there are 15 persons, three or four of whom are elected by privilege, and the rest by popular vote, the latter will inevitably taunt the minority of three or four with being the representatives of a class and not of the people, and the fact that this charge can be made against them will prevent them from exercising the legitimate influence which they ought to exercise in the Parish Council. These are my main objections to the two plans to which I have referred, but the same objections cannot be urged against the scheme of my right hon. Friend opposite.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer understands it. It must be evident to the Committee that the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin would put all electors on the same level. Under it, although a man might own the whole parish, he would not have a single electoral privilege over the small lodger in some tumble-down tenement in a corner of the parish. For the reason that all would be on an equality it appears to me that there is an intrinsic superiority in this plan of minority representation over any other artificial scheme that can be suggested. Of course, there are objections to it, as there are to every plan. I cannot, however, say that it is open to the objection urged by the President of the Local Government Board, who quoted speeches of Mr. Bright and other eminent authorities to show that, under certain circumstances, a man with a minority of votes would be returned at the head of the poll. This is not, however, a question of being returned at the head or at the bottom of the poll, but of who is retnrned. The man returned at the head of the poll is elected by the party who, under this system, least understands the method of organising its votes. The point of importance is that every class and section should be represented in pro- 1460 portion to the representation which it bears to the community. The objection to the School Board vote is that it gives an undue chance to the crotcheteer and the faddist. No doubt many School Boards are unduly oppressed by the presence of faddists, and of all faddists the educational faddist is probably the most tiresome. But I do not think that in parochial matters there will be much scope for the faddist. I do not believe in the existence of the working men with a special fad for some system of drainage, or with an abnormal contrivance for the water supply, or even particular views about playgrounds. Even if here and there some village faddist does become a terrible bore, that is an evil that all representative assemblies have to put up with. It is an unfortunate incident of our existence as representatives, but I do not think it would militate against the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I do beg the Government to hesitate before rejecting this Amendment. If they do, their scheme will end in having a Village Council in which rates are paid by about 10 per cent. of all the people allowed to vote, and they may in these cases even have a body in which the whole of the rates may be voted by people who do not pay a farthing towards them. I put it to the Committee. Is that tolerable? Is it a scheme which any sane man can adopt for himself? Is it a scheme which honest men can ever adopt for the affairs of other people? Let us take the precaution which offers against that unhappy result. It is a plan well understood wherever it has been tried, and which, while it may have its defects, at any rate does not possess the fault for which nothing is a remedy—namely, that of returning to the Parish Council a number of individuals who have nothing whatever to do with providing the finances for the parish work, and which may exclude, by some unhappy accident, every element calculated to lead, with judgment and moderation, the deliberations of these Councils, which you are with so light a heart setting up. Let us, at all events, adopt some plan by which we might insure to the Parish Council of the future that every class shall be represented, without conferring invidious distinctions and futile privileges 1461 on special classes and special sections of I the community.
§ * MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, he had for a great many years taken a deep interest in this subject, and he did not regret the time occupied in its discussion. While he did not feel inclined to vote for this proposal, he would, if it had been modelled more on the lines of the scheme of Mr. Thomas Hare, had felt compelled to support it. The present proposal was, if without giving offence he might use an offensive yet expressive term, a sort of bastard system. The system of cumulative voting was objectionable, because it was anti-democratic and led to such a waste of voting power, as was seen in the case of the first Marylebone School Board election, when he was a candidate running with Miss Garrett and Professor Huxley, and when something like 30,000 votes were wasted upon the lady. Indeed, it had been calculated that had those votes been properly distributed a majority of the seven candidates actually returned would not have been elected. A fear had been expressed by one or two hon. Members that the labourers in the rural districts would swamp the votes of the wealthy or propertied classes. Similar fears were entertained when the suffrage was largely extended by the last Reform Bill, and a deputation waited on the late Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli to point out the danger. But he now held, as he then argued, that not the slightest danger of the kind was to be apprehended. He believed the propertied classes would be represented on the Parish Councils just as they had been on other Public Bodies. He should be glad if "Hodge" would elect men of his own typo, but he had no hope of this taking place, at least for many years to come. He could only repeat, that had some scheme on the lines of Hare's system been proposed he should have felt bound to vote for it, but the cumulative system of voting was an imperfect and clumsy attempt to secure a representation of all interests, it was not calculated to produce the results desired for it, and consequently he could not support it.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 186; Noes 114.—(Division List, No. 326.)1462
*MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon) moved—
In page 2, line 7, after the word "elected," to insert the words, "but subject to the provisions of this Act respecting the separate representation of ownership and other voters.
That Amendment, which was the first of a series, the foundation of which was the direct division of the rates between owners and occupiers, would meet many of the objections which had been urged against the last Amendment, and he ventured to claim for it the votes of many who had spoken against that Amendment. He claimed the vote of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for his Amendment did not propose to give minorities rights of majorities; and he claimed the vote of the Leader of the Opposition, for the object of the Amendment was not to give privileges to any one class, but to bring home to every class their duties. He was convinced, as the result of the experience of a long life spent in active service, that Englishmen might be relied upon in 99 out of 100 cases to perform their duties if they were brought home to them. But if busy men were left to seek out their duties for themselves, he was afraid they would often omit to perform those duties unless their attention was called to them. The Amendment, as he had said, was the first of a series, of which the foundation was the direct division of rates between owners and occupiers, with which was naturally connected that of the constituency which was to elect Parish Councils. In his opinion, it was a most important point, for the good management of the work of the Parish and District Councils and the Poor Law, and security against waste, hinged upon these local Parish and District Councils being fully representative of the good sense and experience of the whole community. All classes must join in the work, if it was to be well done; and our system should be such as would induce, nay, almost force, them to do so. He thought he could prove that his Amendment would affect this: that they would tend to concentrate knowledge and experience on the work of local government, and to safeguard the administration of it from extravagance and waste. He had been himself a working Guardian for about 30 years, and was indeed the oldest Guardian in the large parish of Liverpool. But
he had not contented himself with the experience thus gained, but have sought information from the most experienced of our Poor Law officials and Inspectors; from all those he could reach who were interested in all the work of Poor Law reform in our own country and from the relief and local government systems of other countries. His Amendment would not in any way interfere with the abolition of the plural vote. All persons might be elected on the principle of "One Man One Vote," and at least four-fifths of the Governing Body will be chosen by the democratic part of the electorate, who had the overwhelming preponderance of voting power. The owners would have to depend, not on their votes, but on the influence which they naturally possess when they place their wider range of experience and leisure at the disposal of the locality and work heartily with their colleagues. Such co-operation of ex officio Guardians was most heartily valued and welcomed by the elected Guardians and did not excite the smallest jealousy. Now he would point out that the part of the Bill with which his Amendment dealt, to say the least of it, was as it stood, without his Amendment, a leap in the dark; and in the case of from one-third to one-half of the Unions it would oust the very men whom their Boards (though consisting overwhelmingly in numbers of elected Guardians) had elected as their Chairman. Could they have a more striking proof of the good work such men had done, or of the good influence they had, than the fact that they had not only not aroused jealousy, but had gained the hearty confidence of their elected colleagues? He ventured to say that any one who had studied Poor Law administration, not confining his attention to his own parish only, but had got information from our most experienced Inspectors and administrators, knew the value and knew in England the difficulty of getting owners, men of leisure and patriotism, to take regularly their share of the work as Guardians. This difficulty did not exist in Scotland, and why? There the rates were divided between owners and occupiers, and the owners had direct representation of the Local Governing Bodies; and there the owners and their represen-
tatives took the most active share in local government. Again, in Ireland the importance of this was well and generally recognised by men who differed on almost everything else. In sitting for three years on the Committee on Local Government and Taxation for Ireland, nothing struck him so much as that every witness, whether summoned by the landowners on that Committee or the Home Rulers, advocated, as one of the objects to be aimed at, the inducing more men of wealth and leisure to take their share in local government. Only so recently as the discussion on the Bill on local government, introduced by the light hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, speaking on different days of the discussion and independently, two of the ablest Leaders of the Nationalist Party in Ireland, the hon. Member for Kerry and the hon. Member for Louth, objecting to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman for obtaining this object, actually proposed to divide the rates between owners and occupiers, and give the owners direct representation of one-half on the Governing Body, contending that taxation and representation should go together. That would be too much, in his opinion, as they would not find enough owners to work steadily, and the one-fifth that he proposed would have more influence for good and avoid jealousy. He was quite certain that the legitimate influence of owners in local government would be very much greater if they consisted of a small minority, and had to trust to their position and knowledge and wider experience to influence their colleagues than if they had the voting power. There was a serious fear on the part of those who had taken an active part in the administration of the Poor Law that by the proposals of the Bill as it stood they were risking a return to the vicious system which existed previous to 1834 in the Poor Law.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I must rise to Order, because I submit the question of the Poor Law which my hon. Friend is now raising is not in any way concerned with the clause under discussion. Most of the remarks of my hon. Friend are directed to the 19th clause of the Bill, which provides who are to be the electors 1465 of the Guardians of the parish. What we are now dealing with is simply the parochial electors of the parish meeting, and I submit that a discussion on the Poor Law is outside the clause.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I would submit, on the point of Order, that the clause under discussion defines the qualification of the parochial elector, and that therefore the hon. Member is in Order.
§ * THE CHAIRMAN (Sir J. GOLDSMID)
thought the hon. Member would be out of Order in going into the details of the Poor Law; he is in Order in referring to the Poor Law as an illustration of the qualifications of those who should be represented at the parish meeting.
§ * MR. RATHBONE
said, that he could not take his illustrations from the Parish Council, because they did not exist; and accordingly he referred to the Poor Law. He would ask the Committee to consider whether these fears were exaggerated. They were shared by all he knew who had worked long and perseveringly at the reform of Poor Law administration. He would earnestly ask the attention of the Committee while he stated how, within his own knowledge, when he should have thought the danger would have been at its minimum, it did exist, it did reduce the wages of a class who could least bear such reduction, and now, by a somewhat wider experience than would be possessed by men who had not large business or leisure to acquire information beyond their own district, it was successfully dealt with. In his attendance as a Guardian at the relief quorums in Liverpool, he found that women with large families, especially girls, furnished one of the largest sources of pauperism, one of the most dangerous and difficult to deal with. His business, which was a somewhat varied one, brought to his knowledge, when he was studying this question, that within 30 miles of them in the manufacturing districts they could not start machinery which required the labour of just such families. The fact was that the demand in Liverpool was much more for the labour of men, and in the manufacturing districts of women and children. He therefore engaged a gentleman who had some time to spare to go round for him and arrange with correspondents in places whore manufacturing was increasing to advise their Charity Organisation Society of vacancies 1466 for employment. He then arranged that the Charity Organisation Society should send one of their best agents to attend the meetings of the relief quorums on the parish, and take charge, on his behalf, of any families who were suitable, and to find employment for them, with adequate wages, in the manufacturing districts; and further, they arranged that their superintendent of outdoor relief should go over carefully with the relieving officers the relief lists and select all those families who were suitable for employment in the manufacturing districts. They migrated, in about two years, 1,100 persons, and all these, except a few inveterate paupers, whose only place was the workhouse, remained and prospered. The manufacturers to whom they went lent them money to pay for furniture, and repaid to them their fare; so that the cost to him was small of removing these poor people from pauperism, and being a burden on the ratepayers of Liverpool. That was not all, and it was to this point that he wished particularly to direct the attention of the Committee; at the end of two years from that time he heard constant complaints of the difficulty of getting charwomen, and that they had to pay for a very common charwoman 2s. a day and her food. He could not at first believe that it could have arisen from so apparently insufficient a cause as the removal of 300 or 400 of that class from the labour market in Liverpool; and, out of the 1,100 migrated, there were not more than 300 or 400 heads of families who were working in Liverpool, though three times that number of the family were wage-earners whore they sent them. He asked their chief relieving officer and others for an explanation, and he could find no other than that the removal of 300 or 400 beyond the number of those who were charwomen, and in similar occupations in Liverpool, had not only put those removed into circumstances of comfort and independence, but had raised the wages of the whole of this large class, than whom no class deserved more their sympathy, and if necessary their help, but whom they were crushing down from independence into pauperism by the relief they were giving to keep them there, instead of assisting them to go whore they wanted. But when he came 1467 to consider his experience as a merchant, he remembered that it was quite in accordance with the rules of supply and demand. But the Committee might ask, how does that apply to the Amendment before them? It did apply very directly and decisively. They in Liverpool had an admirable set of Guardians, nearly ail consisting of men chosen for some special qualification which made them useful in some part of the management of the great and varied concerns of the parish of Liverpool, anxious to be careful of the ratepayers' money, but at the same time anxious to give relief where it ought to be given. But if they had not had one or two men who, from experience and leisure, were led to study these questions on other than mere local experience or grounds, they should have continued to waste the ratepayers' money, and to injure and depress a large class peculiarly deserving of their thoughtful care. If such a thing could happen in a town like Liverpool, with its large variety of experience, energy, and public spirit, must it not be the case that other places with less advantages in this respect must be led, if they deprived them of those who had already experience of these dangers, and if they did not do their best to provide as far as they could, on all those Local Bodies, men whose wealth, and leisure, and experience, not principally local, might show them these dangers—was it not likely they might be led to that most dangerous of all mistakes, injudicious outdoor relief, depressing wages, and the industrious, and creating pauperism and demoralisation. He entreated the Government and the Committee not to remove the existing safeguards without producing a substitute, and the substitute he proposed was the natural and logical one. It did enact a much needed act of justice, for it would relieve the occupiers, who were the most numerous and the least wealthy portion, from an unjust share of local taxation, and it was required in the interests of the owners, for it would bring home to them before it was too late the danger of the undue growth of debt, which, as he showed in his speech on the Second Reading, might under this Bill and previous Acts involve a 6s. 8d. rate, simply for interest and repayment of debt, the locality haying to bear besides all the current ex- 1468 penses of the administration of its local government. It did not matter how small the representation was, if it forced owners to appoint representatives who would be in a position to warn the Administrative Bodies against waste and jobbery. He quite agreed that many of those whom they would put on the new Administrative Bodies as representatives of the working men would be a valuable addition to these bodies, especially on the side of initiation and progress, but there would be risk of their committing, from want of experience, the same mistakes-that had been committed before, and by inadvertence and good nature, while anxious to do their very best, they might miss the warnings of experience. The Amendments he proposed were perfectly simple, and would not in any way overload the Bill, though they were necessary to complete it. They were mainly taken from the Eating and Local Government Bill introduced by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was President of the Poor Law Board in 1871, and did not interfere with existing contracts; and though the representation be only one-fifth, they would have done enough in ensuring the representation of men of leisure and wide experience on the Local Governing Body; and, combined with the division of the rate, they would have supplied the necessary safeguards. But let them not plunge into the unknown without some such safeguards. He would like to say one word as to the bearings of his proposal on the passage of the present Bill. As now one of the oldest Members of the House, and a most attentive observer of its proceedings, he did not think it possible to carry this Bill in any reasonable or practicable time, unless they met in some way the just fears of those who believed that as it stood it would disorganise and demoralise the administration of the Poor Law. And, surely, the sooner they removed these fears the better for the chances of a good Bill, and of passing it into law; for, if those fears were allayed, not only would they not have obstruction, but he believed they would be astonished at the rapidity with which they could deal with the whole matter. They would obtain, he believed, the cordial support of all classes to pass this as a good measure into law. One word as to the objections that had been brought 1469 against these Amendments. He was told that they wore reactionary. He thought he might venture to claim that no man in that House had worked longer or more earnestly to push forward the reform of local administration than he had. When, in co-operation with his friends the hon. Member for Bedford and the right hon. Member for Halifax, they tried, nearly 25 years ago, to draw attention to the rapid increase of the demands made on their system of local government, and the increasing expenses and debt, they were told that, while it was most desirable that the system should be formed and simplified, they had no force behind them to carry the matter; and the failure of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1871 to carry out his reforms showed that there was only too much truth in this. But they were convinced that if people only knew what was going on around them, and the rapidity with which the matter was progressing, there would be no want of such forces. So they set themselves to work, and with the assistance of Mr. R. S. Wright, now Mr. Justice Wright, a clear, concentrated, and complete statement of the then state and progress of their local government, taxation, and debt was produced. What they must be careful of was that while we gave new life and energy by the infusion of more democracy into their local government system, they did not, on the other hand, inflict a great damage by launching the new bodies deprived of the experience and safeguards which were gradually won, and endangering, in the case of the Poor Law, their local administration. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 2, line 7, after the word "elected," to insert the words "but subject to the provisions of this Act respecting the separate representation of ownership and other votes."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I am sure, Sir, that nobody who takes an interest in local government, and certainly not those who are the responsible friends of this Bill, can forget or overlook the great services performed to local government by my hon. Friend many years ago; and an admirable book of which my hon. Friend was the real author, 1470 although not the nominal author, upon the subject put the country under a debt of gratitude to him. Therefore, any remarks of his are entitled to and will receive most careful attention. I should like during the two or three minutes that remain to ask my hon. Friend to look at what his Amendment really is. The House has already decided that the parochial electorate shall consist of the persons who are on the Local Government Register of electors and on the Parliamentary Register of electors. The House bas not yet decided, nor is the question before the House at the present time, that those parochial electors shall elect Guardians. That is a question which will come upon Clause 19. That clause contains provisions for the election and qualification of Guardians. It would be out of Order, I submit, to discuss that question now, but when we reach Clause 19 we will deal with it. We are now on Sub-section 2—That each parochial elector may at any parish meeting, or at any poll consequent thereon, give one vote and no more, on any question, or in the case of an election, for each of any number of persons not exceeding the number to be elected.I understand my hon. Friend's Amendment to be that the parochial electors voting at a parish meeting, and voting upon the questions of expenditure in the parish, are to be divided info two classes; that four-fifths of them are to be the ordinary parochial electors and one-fifth are to be electors representing the owner voters. But I think my hon. Friend has forgotten that we have retained the owner voter. There was a Division on it last night, and by a very considerable majority it, was decided that the freeholder should have the right to vote. Therefore, my hon. Friend's Amendment is reduced simply to the question whether the owner voter is to be put into a separate class, and whether that class—whether it consists of 1–5th, or 1–20th, or 1–100th of the electorate—is to nominate one-fifth of the parochial electors. That would be a case of plural voting or of minority voting, which would be more objectionable than other plans which the House has already rejected. It would create invidious distinctions and cause futile divisions. I say candidly that I would prefer the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Bodmin, and would rather have the 1471 cumulative vote than divide the constituencies in the way my hon. Friend proposes. I am anxious that men of property, leisure, culture, and influence should take a prominent share in the work of parochial government, and I believe the best course for them to take is to enter the Parochial Council in the same way in which they enter this House—by means of the votes of the constituencies, and not by the aid of fancy franchises. When we come to consider the 10th clause I shall be happy to work out with my hon. Friend the question of the Parish Council incurring a debt which would represent 6s. 8d. in the £1. I think he has not read my Amendment of limitation on the Paper. If he works the matter out, I think he will see that the extreme rate a parish could be called upon to pay is not 6s. 8d. but 6d. But that is not the ground upon which I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment. I say nothing about the strong arguments my hon. Friend has used about the Poor Law. I do not wish to underrate that question at all, but the proper time for the discussion of that question will be when the 19th clause is considered, which not only creates the parochial electorate, but deals with the very words in the Amendment—namely, that "each elector may give one vote and no more." What we are dealing with now is the Parochial Council, and I must ask the Committee to adhere to the decision expressed over and over again that there shall be one uniform constituency, "One Man One Vote."
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I certainly agree with the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman as to the attention that ought to be paid to any words that fall from the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire upon this subject. I think he has done service to-night in calling the attention of the Committee to the effect of certain proposals of the Bill. It is impossible for us adequately to discuss this question in the few minutes that remain, and I rise simply for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentleman a question on one very important part of his observations. Certainly I have understood that it was an important part of this Bill that there should be one Register of parochial electors, both for parochial elections and for Poor Law elections. Now I 1472 understand from the right hon. Gentleman that all he desires to do by this clause is to establish a Register of electors for parochial election, and that when we come to the 19th clause, which deals with the Register of electors for Poor Law purposes, Her Majesty's Government are quite open to Amendments, which may alter that Register so as to make it an entirely different Register, and arranged on a different principle to that which they have laid down for parochial elections. What I am anxious to know is, is that the position of the right hon. Gentleman or not? Because if it is not his position, I really do not understand his objection to the discussion of the question at this stage. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us an answer.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
We have already settled in this clause who the parochial elector is to be. Now we are on the sub-section dealing with the mode in which he is to vote at the parish meetings. In Clause 19 it is proposed that the parochial electors shall be the electors of the Guardians, and the Government have no intention of proposing Amendments to that clause. It is for the House to propose Amendments to it. It is for the House to say whether they will accept the parochial electorate or not for Poor Law purposes.
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.