§ Lords' Amendments considered:—
§ Lords' Amendments to the Amendment in page 27, line 21, agreed to.
§ Lords' Amendment in page 27, line 21, after Clause 49 insert Clauses 49a and 49b, the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. J. O'GRADY (Leeds, E.)
,in moving to disagree, said he wished he could move to omit all the Lords Amendments and leave the Bill to deal simply with dock matters alone, but he was told that was impossible, so he had no alternative but to confine himself to moving the Amendment he had placed on the Paper. There had been two Bills on this matter. There was the original Bill assented to by the city generally, which emphasised the principle that rateable value should not be made the consideration of representation in the city council, but that representation should be based upon the number of voters upon the register. The arrangement arrived at, although it increased 1426 the number of wards in the city from nineteen to twenty-two, did not disturb the total number of representatives, because nine members were taken from three wards in the centre of the city which were over-represented and allocated to the three new wards constituted by the re-arrangement. He thought everybody would agree that that was a very fair arrangement and was not objected to in the city generally. As a member of the Bristol City Council he knew the local circumstances. The Bill was presented and then an opposition developed among the members of a political Party which had dominated the city for sixty years, but which had now lost control, hence the second Bill which was now under consideration of this House. He wanted to emphasise the fact that the House of Lords' Committee was in no sense to blame for anything in connection with this Bill. They simply heard the facts presented to them and they did their best in the circumstances. They were without bias in the matter. When this second Bill went back to get the assent of the council to the Lords' Amendments, the whole matter was set before the citizens and they protested vigorously against the change that had been made in the Bill by the Lords Amendments. He did not think he would be saying too much in asserting that the public meeting was packed. A whip had been sent round by the Party who had been responsible for the opposition, and an hour before the meeting was timed to begin it was filled with the partisans of that particular Party. He drew attention to the fact also that this meeting was held in a small hall which could hold not more than 300 persons. The Labour Party with which he had been connected for a long period of years in Bristol felt great offence at the way things had been carried out—offence that a compromise had been effected between two political Parties without consulting the men who were mostly interested—the working classes generally. The result of the changes made in the Bill by the Lords' Amendments was that a new ward was created in the centre of the city and three extra representatives and an Alderman were added to the council. As. 1427 far as he knew the city, he thought that if this proposal were carried the representatives who would be sent to the City Council from that ward would be representative of one political Party from now to the crack of doom. The working men thought that the main principle should be representation based on the number of the voters upon the register. When the public found out the nature of the changes and how these changes had been brought about they held meetings of protest all over the city. Not only trade union organisations but the general body of citizens had expressed a strong protest against the action that had been taken and against the changes in the Bill involved by the Lords' Amendments. They even had the support of the Ratepayers' Association, which might in the nature of things have been expected to agree to representation being based on rateable value rather than on the voters' list. The Secretary of that Association had said that he thought no preference should be given to the educated or moneyed classes above the working classes. That was the whole gist of the protest he was now making. He trusted the House would take into consideration the protest of the citizens of Bristol. It might be asked how it was that they had not carried this protest to the House of Lords itself. They were, however, a poor Party and he understood that they could not be heard in the House of Lords except by counsel, and not having the money to go on with their protest in the House of Lords they had to do what they could in rousing interest in Bristol regarding this change. He hoped in these circumstances the House of Commons would disagree to the Lords' Amendment. They would have liked that part of the Bill to go through which related to dock matters at Bristol, but they had no alternative but to protest against this change by asking the House to disagree to the Lords' Amendments because they held that the gerrymandering which had gone on in this matter was not creditable to the men who had engineered the movement. He hoped the House of Commons would not stultify itself by agreeing to a proposal of this kind.
1428 Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment"—(Mr. O'Grady.)
§ *MR. W. H. DAVIES (Bristol, S.)
said he wished to recognise the temperate way in which the hon. Member had proposed the motion. He had not a strong feeling in regard to the way in which the wards of Bristol should be arranged, and he could not understand the strong feeling which had been brought into this question. The Bristol Council desired that there should be a general rearrangement of the wards in order that the urban ratepayers should have a larger share and larger interest in the representation than before. When the Liberal Party succeeded in obtaining a majority in the Bristol Council one of the first things they did was to appoint a committee to consider this question. The desire of the Party was not to rearrange the wards in such a way as to give them a political ascendency. All the Liberal Members would have been opposed to that idea. When the Liberal Party obtained the ascendency after sixty years of Tory Government they divided the aldermen between the respective Parties. At the Committee appointed to consider the rearrangement of the wards both political Parties produced a scheme; that of the Liberal Party was adopted by a majority. When the question came up for consideration before the House of Commons Committee there was a difficulty about locus standi of the Conservative Party who were opposing. Ultimately an arrangement was arrived at that the Bill should go through as unopposed. Upon the sub-committee a gentleman was appointed who represented the Trades Council of Bristol, but he declined to serve. It was therefore not correct to say that the scheme was carried out without any consultation with the Labour Party, and he was sorry any difficulty had arisen, because they had always been very friendly in Bristol with their friends on the Trades Council and had found them good comrades and good citizens. He was very sorry to be in disagreement with them over this subject. The new scheme was adopted by the Council by 1429 a majority of sixty-five to seven votes, so that the scheme which was sanctioned by the House of Lords Committee was one approved almost unanimously by the Corporation of Bristol. Unfortunately, his Labour friends disagreed with the proposal, and petitioned to be heard before the Lords' Committee. They did not appear, and he was sorry they did not seem to know that they might have appeared in person to state their own case. It was assumed, therefore, that the opposition was withdrawn, or was not to be proceeded with. If they had appeared and establish d a strong case against the scheme, the promoters could have withdrawn that part dealing with the re-arrangement of wards. Now if the Motion succeeded, very important clauses would be lost to the city for this session, and as Chairman of the Docks Committee he was most anxious that they should not be lost. Their dock undertakings were most important, and they could not afford to emphasise political differences too strongly. The wards proposed under the present scheme were a great improvement on what existed to-day. The number of councillors and the number of ratepayers in each ward were more nearly equal than before. They were advised that they could not ignore rateable value in considering representation. The scheme was fair and equitable, and one that the House should pass. It was fair and just. He did not desire that the Liberal Party should exercise its majority unjustly against the Conservative Party, and he hoped his friends would be satisfied with the protest they had made and would now allow the Bill to go through.
§ MR. GIBBS (Bristol, W.)
supported the Bill. The Conservative and Liberal Parties had agreed that some alteration in the scheme was necessary, and at the meeting of the town council that scheme was approved by a large majority. That meeting, he declared, was not packed. It was well advertised and the ratepayers had every opportunity of attending. This scheme involved less dislocation than the scheme originally proposed. It would confer great advantages on the labouring classes and he did not see why they should object 1430 to it. The present scheme of representation was absurd, and if this Bill did not go through the whole thing would have to be dropped.
§ *MR. J.RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
said he had been called in as arbitrator in this matter and he was bound from his examination of all the details to agree with the conclusions of the hon. Member for East Leeds. In the interests of sound and honest representation in Bristol this scheme ought not to receive the sanction of the House. The Dock Clauses were accepted by the Labour representatives, and those who were responsible for these clauses ought to have been careful not to mix them up with highly controversial matters. The representation of Bristol was bad at the present time, but the present scheme was not fair. Not a single representative of labour committed himself in favour of this Bill. Their fear was that as a matter of fact the scheme contained between Clauses 44 and 55 did not give that foundation of permanency that was necessary. The first proposal made had the acceptance of the Labour Party, the second was opposed from the beginning. It was perfectly true that sixty-five councillors voted for the second scheme, and only seven against it, but five of those seven composed the small but solid phalanx of the Labour Party. Undoubtedly one provision of the Bill should be to provide that the rateable value should be taken into account as well as voting strength, but that provision had been stretched to an inordinate degree in the present scheme. The first scheme to which the Labour Party assented was brought before the people of Bristol with the blessing of the town clerk of Bristol upon it. As a result of alterations made in the second scheme the House of Lords Committee asked that a town's meeting should be held. With regard to the town's meeting he would not say it was packed, as the term had been objected to, but he would quote fro in the Western Daily Press report which stated—A special whip had been issued through the Conservative Party, asking their supporters to assemble at the Guildhall at 12 o'clock, an hour before the time of the meeting, and endure 1431 the inconvenience of waiting. As a matter of fact great care was taken that the people who got inside the hall were in favour of the Bill.He quoted from reports of the meeting to emphasise the point that the Lord Mayor of the City admitted that the hall was not large enough for the purpose of the meeting. The accommodation was only large enough for between 400 and 500 people, and the population of Bristol was 365,000. The town's meeting, as a guarantee that the city had an opportuntiy of deciding upon this important measure, was an absoulte farce. He would deal with the newspapers. As to the first scheme, the Western Daily Press stated—If the city had twenty schemes it could not have a fairer one.The other newspaper said—We heartily dislike the new arrangements of the wards.The case of the Labour representatives was not a party one. Hon. Members would perceive that this Bill had not been properly handled, and that certain things which cropped up into Clauses 44 and 45 ought not to have been there. If this House were going to hold an impartial judgment upon this matter they would accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Leeds.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said that after listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester he had to confess that he should not care to go before him as an arbitrator, because he had not adopted an impartial attitude on this question. The meeting of citizens, to which allusion had been made, was held in the traditional meeting place of the Bristol citizens, which was the centre of civic life in the city. A great deal had been said about the first scheme that was brought in, apparently with the assent of all Parties, except the Conservatives, who, being left out, and having no locus standi made representations to the Home Secretary, and, in deference to their objections, the scheme was withdrawn. A great deal had been made of the fact that one of the sub-committee, a Labour member of the City Council, did not serve; but the fact was that he refused to serve because he could not get his own way. It was not fair to represent that the Labour Party in Bristol had no chance of putting 1432 their views upon the matter before the City Council. The only representations he had received on this matter came from one of the labour organisations of the city of Bristol some fortnight or three weeks ago, and he was convinced that if there had been any large section of the community he represented in this House who felt that their interests were jeopardised by this Bill some form of expression of their objections would have reached him. Supposing the scheme under the Bill came into operation, what would be the effect upon that part of Bristol which he represented? There were large suburban areas which needed representation upon the Council. The votes of something like 6,000 or 7,000 ratepayers were obliterated by the votes of a few hundred. The whole of that inaccurate and unjust representation was modified or done away with by this particular Bill. For the first time this part of the city would have fair honest representation in their local Parliament, and he hoped when the House went to a division the action of the citizens of Bristol and the decisions of the Corporation and the large interests concerned would be upheld.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL,) Yorkshire, Cleveland
said the town of Bristol generally was most anxious to have this Bill, which contained many matters of far wider importance than the question of the redistribution of seats. He would have been glad to have had a Home Office inquiry into this question, but it was too late to re-open it now, the Bill having passed through both Houses. When the matter came before the Committee of the House of Commons it was found that both the promoters of the Bill and its opponents were ready to come to an arrangement and the House of Commons passed the Bill on that understanding. Then it was found that the Labour Party were not prepared to agree to the new arrangement. It was impossible for the House of Commons to enter into the merits of a local redistribution scheme of that character. It was far better, he thought, that these matters should be decided outside Parliament by a local inquiry. 1433 But if they did come before Parliament, this House and the House of Lords, being unable to decide them by open debate such as that in which they were engaged, had delegated these matters to Committees, and those were the proper tribunals to settle them. When the matter was before the Committee of the House of Commons the Labour Party agreed to what was proposed. When the Bill was in the House of Lords it was then time for the Labour Party to state their case and ask for the alteration desired. However, the Labour Party did rot appear. They made no representations to the Committee. They were apparently under the impression that they could only do so at considerable expense and by the appearance of counsel. That impression, however, was wholly erroneous.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
replied that petitioners continually appeared on their own behalf before Private Bill Committees, and in a matter of this kind, which was in no sense a legal matter, a man with local knowledge would probably be able to state his case better than any lawyer. At all events, the Labour Party allowed the matter to go by default, and that being so, he thought the House would be placed in an impossible position
§ if they were asked to decide now the justice or injustice of a scheme which had passed through Committee and been assented to by the Lords. There were four conceivable courses which could be suggested. They might strike out the whole of that part of the Bill, but the procedure of Parliament did not allow that. The Bill having passed Third Reading in both Houses, the only matters which were still open to debate were Amendments which might be disagreed with by one House or the other. They might put such Amendments into the Bill as would force the promoters to withdraw it altogether. But this was a course desired by no one. They might disagree with the Lords' Amendments and go back to the first scheme proposed. (4) They might agree with the Lords' Amendments and accept the second scheme as it was proposed in the House of Lords. The last two courses were the only two alternatives which would appeal to the House, and seeing that the second scheme secured much greater support in the town council, while they might regret exceedingly that no general agreement had been arrived at in the matter, the only course possible for the House to adopt was to agree with the Lords' Amendments and to reject this Motion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 44; Noes, 139. (Division List No. 300.)1435
|Abraham, William(Cork, N.E.)||Jowett, F. W.||Robertson, SirG.Scott(Bradf'rd|
|Brace, William||Kelley, George D.||Shackleton, David James|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Lehmann, R. C.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim,S.|
|Byles, William Pollard||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Snowden, P.|
|Crooks, William||Mac Veigh, Charles(Donegal, E.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||M'Killop, W.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Murphy, John||Summerbell, T.|
|Ffreneh, Peter||Nolan, Joseph||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Gill, A. H.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||White,Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||O'Kelly,James(Roscommon,N.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Hazleton, Richard||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Raphael, Herbert H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Higham, John Sharp||Richards,T.F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Mr. O'Grady and Mr.|
|Hudson, Walter||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Ramsay Macdonald.|
|Acland-Hood,Rt. Hn.SirAloxF.||Ashley, W. W.||Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)|
|Agnew, George William||Astbury, John Meir||Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.|
|Allen,A. Acland (Christchurch)||Atherley-Jones, L.||Balcarres, Lord|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)|
|Barlow, Perey (Bedford)||Hedges, A. Paget||Pease,Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Barnard, E. B.||Henderson, J.M.(Aberdeen, W.)||Price, C.E.(Edinburgh,Centra])|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Radford, G. H.|
|Beach, Hn. MichaelHughHicks||Hills, J. W.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Beale, W. P.||Hobart, Sir Robert||Rees, J. D.|
|Benn.SirJ.Williams (Devonp'rt||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Billson, Alfred||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Richardson, A.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Houston, Robert Paterson||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Hyde, Clarendon||Robertson, Rt.Hn. E. (Dundee)|
|Brigg, John||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Rose, Charles Day|
|Brooke, Stopford||Jardine, Sir J.||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Brunner, J.F.L. (Lnacs.,I.eigh)||Jones,William(Carnarvonshire)||Scott, A.H. (Ashton-under-Lyne|
|Bryce,Rt.Hn.James(Aberdeen.||Kekewich, Sir George||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Burns, Rt, Hon. John||Keswick, William||Seely, Major J. B.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Gave, George||Laidlaw, Robert||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Cavendish.Rt. Hn. Victor C.W.||Lamont, Norman||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Clarke, C. Goddard||Lover, W. H. (Cheshire,Wirral)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Clough, W.||Lewis, John Herbert||Stanley,Hn. A. Lyulph (chesh.)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Long,Rt.Hn. Walter (Dublin.S.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Corbett,C.H.(Sussex,E.Grinst'd||Lupton, Arnold||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lynch, H. B.||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Cox, Harold||Macdonald,J.M. (FalkirkB'ghs)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Tennant,Sir Edward (Salisbury|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Callum, John M.||Thomson, W.Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Crossley, William J.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Ure, Alexander|
|Du Cros, Harvey||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Maddison, Frederick||Verney, F. W.|
|Emmott, Alfred||Marnham, F. J.||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Essex, R. W.||Massie, J.||Ward,W.Dudley (Southampt'n|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||Menzies, Walter||Weir, James Galloway|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Micklem, Nathaniel||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Ferens, T. R.||Montagu, E. S.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Whiteley,George (York,W.R.)|
|Forster, Henry William||Morse, L. L.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wiles, Thomas|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Newnes, V. (Notts. Bassetlaw)||Winfrey, R.|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Newnes, Sir George (Swansea)|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||O'Brien,Kendal(Tipperary Mid||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Mr. Howell Davis and Mr.|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Paul, Herbert||Gibbs.|
Question, "That the word ' now ' stand part of the Question," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Remaining Lords' Amendments agreed to.