§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. DICKINSON (St. Pancras, N.)
in moving the Second Reading of the Elections and Registration (London) Bill, said he would like, first of all, to explain the reason of the extremely short time given to the House in which to consider the provisions of the Bill previous to its coming on for discussion. A fortnight ago he had no idea at all that he would be called upon to move this Bill on that particular day, and in the ordinary course of procedure, he least of all expected that by the fortune of the ballot its introduction would be so early. However, the fortunes of the ballot had given him the opportunity of which he had availed himself, although he would have wished that the House could have had more time to consider the me sure. But he had done all he could to put hon. Members in possession of the Bill, and by the courtesy of the officers of the House, arrangements were made by which the Bill was placed in the hands of Members twenty-four hours earlier than it would have arrived in the ordinary course. No one recognised more than he did that any Bill of this kind, dealing with registration reform must raise so many complicated issues, that it was quite impossible for anyone to think that, however carefully prepared, it was not open to amendment and legitimate criticism. So far as the Members representing London were concerned, they were only too anxious that the fullest consideration should be given to what was suggested by the measure, and certainly they would not hesitate to consider any proposal from any quarter of the House for the amendment of its provisions. It was perhaps necessary in the circumstances that he should give more time than he had intended to an explanation of the leading features of the Bill. The object of the measure was to enable the electors of London, who had the proper qualifications laid down by Parliament, to be put upon the lists and to record their votes, and he could not help thinking that this proposition was one that would command the assent of both sides of the House. 1234 He did not believe that there was any Member of the House who did not desire that every facility should be given to people, who were otherwise properly qualified and entitled to vote, to be put on the register and so enabled to record their voice in connection with the affairs of the nation. If that principle were granted, he could not but think that many hon. Members opposite would give the Bill their support. With several of them he had worked for years—in opposite political camps it was true, but with the same object in view, namely, the benefit of the people of London. He hoped, therefore, that they would co-operate with him in the discussion of the details of the Bill. He did not wish to anticipate objections needlessly, but there was one main objection to the measure to which he felt bound to refer, namely, that it was not right to deal with one particular area separately from that of the whole country. That he admitted at once was a valid objection, since it was undoubtedly expedient that the election of the Parliament of this country should as far as possible be effected on a uniform system. But even if it could not be shown that there were reasons why London should have special treatment—though he thought that he would be able to prove to the House that there were such reasons—still, if there were amendments of local machinery which would enable a better record of the wishes of the people to be obtained, then, he submitted, there was no reason why they should not make some such alteration in a place like London, even if it did not apply to the rest of the country. But he thought that he would be able to convince the House that on this subject London held a very peculiar position, and was really entitled to special treatment. There was one very remarkable fact in the case of the Metropolis, and it was that the number of voters on the lists in proportion to the entire population was far smaller than in the rest of the country. In London the number of electors per 1,000 of male adults of the population, was 539, whereas the proportion in the country at the same period was 671, a difference 1235 of 132. Calculating this out, he found that if the number of electors per 1,000 male adults were the same as in the country, the result would be that there would be an addition of 168,000 persons to the London electorate. This was an extraordinary figure, and he did not want to place his argument upon it too high, because there were many reasons that might bring about this result. The social habits of the people, the constant coming in and out of London, and the migratory life of many Londoners, all rendered it inevitable that there should be a smaller proportion of electors on the lists than in other parts of the country, where residence was generally more permanent. At the same time he thought he was justified in saying that in London there were scores of thousands of persons whose names ought to be recorded on the list of electors, but who were kept off the registers by reason of some technical detail or difficulty, such as those which it was the object of this Bill to remove, and he asked the House to conside whether some legislation could not be passed to rectify this anomaly. Apart from the social habits of the people of London, there were two main facts which accounted for a considerable proportion of the difference to which he had referred. First of all, there was the fact that Londoners when changing their residence in London often moved from one Parliamentary borough to another; and, secondly, there was the fact that the system of registration was not sufficiently efficacious to get the names of all electors on to the register who were otherwise entitled to be placed on it. From what he had heard from registration agents and others, he claimed that he was within the mark when he said that, in every twelve months, at least 20 per cent. of the electors changed their abode. He was purposely putting the figures low. Many of those who moved from one place to another thereby lost their right to vote. The House would readily understand why this was. When the voter moved from one borough in London to another he lost the vote for the borough he had left and a year, and sometimes two years, elapsed before he got a vote for the borough to which he had moved. He wished to make it clear 1236 that this Bill dealt with Parliamentary boroughs, and not municipal boroughs. In London there were twenty-eight Parliamentary boroughs and twenty-nine municipal or metropolitan boroughs, including the city. It happened that the number of metropolitan boroughs was nearly approximate to the number of Parliamentary boroughs, but they did not coincide. For instance, the Parliamentary borough of the Tower Hamlets included two municipal boroughs, whereas the Westminster municipal borough included three Parliamentary boroughs. Although in some cases the areas were fairly approximate, still, as a matter of fact, there was not one single metropolitan borough that was exactly coterminous with the Parliamentary borough. The consequence of that was that they had two distinct registers of electors, and the difficulties arising from that were very great. It was impossible to state the number of voters affected in this manner. In his own constituency last year, 330 removals were actually traced to other Parliamentary boroughs in London, and if that figure was applied to London as a whole there must be at least 25,000 or 30,000 persons who lost their votes simply by reason of the fact that they moved from one house to another. The number was probably much greater, but he was anxious not to put the case too high. This did not hold good elsewhere. Ever since the Reform Act of 1832 it was laid down that it was not necessary to occupy the same premises in a borough during the whole twelve months, but it would be sufficient to occupy different premises in immediate succession in the same borough, and in almost every town in the Kingdom a person could move freely from one house to another, and yet retain his right to vote. In this respect London ought to be placed in the same position as other cities, and he asked those who were opposing the Bill whether they really had considered that in so doing they were refusing to Londoners a right which Parliament had given to everybody else. These facts justified him in asking the House to give special consideration to London, because it occupied this special position. The Bill proposed a very simple remedy. It proposed to make London, 1237 not twenty-eight Parliamentary boroughs, but one Parliamentary borough and that would bring about the alteration of the law as regarded successive occupation which he had advocated. It would also have some other important results, one being that it would affect the position of the plural voter. In London, the plural voter flourished like a green bay tree. Not only was the climate eminently suitable, but the ground was laid out expressly for him, and there was no difficulty on the part of a man who had a business that extended all over London in having and exercising twenty-eight votes. He shrewdly suspected that one of the reasons for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, was that he realised that his constituency would be affected by this alteration in the law. He believed that no fewer than 12,000 of the electors who so wisely returned the hon. Baronet to Parliament had duplicate votes somewhere else. In London, it was found, not long ago, in going through the register that there were no fewer than 60,000 electors who had duplicate votes somewhere or another, and, of these, 36,000 had duplicate qualifications within London, This condition of affairs did not hold good in any other city. Ever since 1878 it had been abolished in other towns, and it had now been made the duty of the revising barrister, where he found that a person had more than one qualification in any borough, to put him down for one qualification, and to remove his name from the Parliamentary Register in respect of all the other qualifications. So far as Parliamentary representation went he had only the right to his one vote. In the same way he asked why not do the same for London. There were other results that flowed from this change, but they were matters for discussion in Committee. There were, however, a few leading points that he hoped he might present to hon. Members. One result of making London one borough was that there must be one returning officer, and the Bill proposed the Clerk to the London County Council, though he was open to consider other suggestions. At present there were two officials concerned with elections in London, the sheriff of the City in the City of London and the sheriff of the county in the county of 1238 London. The latter appointed the returning officers for Parliamentary elections outside the City and in doing so it had been his practice to select persons who were not particularly connected with the local administration of London. In six instances he had appointed as returning officers town clerks of Metropolitan boroughs, and in twenty-one instances he had selected other persons. The result of this, in his opinion, was not good and certainly not cheap. The London County Council elections were conducted on almost exactly the same lines as Parliamentary elections. The only difference as far as he knew was that whereas there were some 600,000 electors for Parliament, there were 800,000 for the county council. The system that had been adopted for the county council elections had been that the Clerk of the Council, whose jurisdiction ran all over London, including the City, was the returning officer, and he had made use of the services of the town clerks in the various Metropolitan boroughs with very good and cheap results. He found that the cost of the County Council elections was nearly 25 per cent. less than the cost of the Parliamentary elections. It was clear then that the system under which the present returning officers carried on their elections was unnecessarily expensive. The Bill had a provision which would alter the law in London as regarded the hours of polling. That, he had no doubt, would provoke the criticism that the hours ought not to vary as between London and the rest of the country. But London suffered in a very special manner through the early closing of the poll. London differed from other urban constituencies by the long distances that people had to go to their work. It also differed very largely in the late hours that they worked. He did not know whether people realised the long time that Londoners were away from their homes. Thousands of working men for five days in the week were not near their homes between eight in the morning and eight in the evening and these people were debarred from exercising their voice in the affairs of the nation because the poll was fixed from eight to eight. An experiment had been tried under the regulations of the Local Government Board in relation 1239 to the guardians elections. The time had been extended to ten o'clock, and with very good results. In Bethnal Green it was found that 36 per cent. of the voters voted after eight o'clock at night, and he held that the same thing would happen with regard to Parliamentary elections, so that by extending the hours they would bring a great many more people to the poll. It was not merely that voters preferred to go late. Londoners were very late people. They only had their leisure at night. London was really a city of the night, and he asked that the circumstances of London should be borne in mind in deciding this question. He would add that the opinion of Londoners generally was in favour of the change. When the views of the Metropolitan borough councils were asked for upon this subject, nineteen of them approved, six disapproved, and six took no action. Therefore he considered that he was justified in saying that there was a general desire to have this extension granted in regard to polling hours. His last point was with regard to registration. He thought that a very large pro-portion of the discrepancy between London and the rest of the country to which he had already alluded was due to the inefficient system of registration. In view of the peculiar circumstances of municipal government in London, if it could be proved that a rather different system of registration in London would bring about the result they all desired, viz., a fuller representation of qualified electors, he contended that the House was entitled to differentiate London from the rest of the country. This part of the subject was so complex that he appealed to the House to allow it to be discussed in Committee. Time did not permit him to attempt to make it clear to-day, and he felt sure that all hon. Members would understand that a subject involving the consideration of many Statutes ought to be discussed in Commitee upstairs. He might say, however, that the main principle underlying the registration clauses was so to improve the system of registration that the officers concerned might be able to bring about better results. The present system in London brought about very bad results indeed. In his own 1240 constituency last year on a register containing 9,000 names no less than 3,000 corrections had to be made. He did not think that state of things held good in other parts of the country. The present system was that the town clerk issued a notice to the landlord and asked him to make a return as to the people living in his house. The landlord often confused it with the Census and consequently sent a list of all kinds of people, and they were put right on to the register. The register in his own constituency contained the names of children of fourteen years of age, of domestic servants, and even of working men employed by the owner of the house, and this kind of thing occurred because the owner of the house did not understand registration law, and was not in a position to make proper returns. If they wanted to get a correct register they could only do it by a house to house canvass. The Leader of the Opposition in the year 1899 tried to remedy this state of affairs, and he did so to a certain extent. Instead of making the overseers responsible, as elsewhere, for the lists he put the town clerks in that position, and this created a better system than that which existed previously. But the town clerk was not really given the power he ought to have, and the object of this clause was to give town clerks in Metropolitan boroughs much greater powers and place upon them a much more serious responsibility. He trusted the House would pass the Second Reading of this Bill, and so allow the subject to be discussed in Committee. It might be said that England wanted this measure as well as London, and that, therefore, London ought to wait until the subject was dealt with for the entire country. He would, however, ask hon. Members to allow London Members to set their own house in order. This was only one of the items of reform required in connection with London government. The London Members might have brought forward a larger scheme, but they had recognised fully the limitations upon Bills promoted by private Members. That was the reason they submitted this small measure. It was a small thing, but it was their own, and he hoped the House would enable those who represented 1241 London constituencies to show that they were both willing and able to do something for the great city which they served.
§ Lord R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said that by Clause 5 it was proposed to provide: "That the revising barrister should be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice of England." The same clause also gave power to His Majesty's Government in Council to make provision with regard to the number of revising barristers. At the present time there were no revising barristers for the Parliamentary Borough of London because there was no such Parliamentary borough, so these would all have to be new officials. The actual number of revising barristers might be increased indefinitely, and from the other provisions of the Bill it was plain that the number would have to be increased considerably to carry out this measure. What were the revising barristers going to be? He submitted that they were to be officials with existing statutory rights and powers, privileges and duties, because, otherwise they would have no means of carrying out the duties thrown on them by this Bill. All the existing statutes must apply to these barristers; otherwise they could not possibly revise the list. Provision with respect to the payment of these barristers would have to be made. Under Section 9 of the County Electors Act of 1888 it was provided that each revising barrister should receive £250 a year, half of which was to come from the Treasury, and that would be a charge upon the taxpayers of the country. He submitted that the effect of Clause 5 must be to throw a new charge upon the taxpayers of the country, and the rule in regard to such a financial proposal was well known. That rule was that a new charge could not be proposed without the recommendation of the Crown, and it had to originate in a Committee of this House. Therefore if this was a money Bill it could not be proceeded with at all. If there was a clause in a Bill which increased the charge on the taxpayers, the common practice was to leave out that clause and have it presented to the House later on upon the recommendation of the Crown, in order that the usual constitutional safeguards might be carried out. In 1242 this particular case this clause was part of the Bill before the House, and the ordinary procedure had not been followed. He submitted that if the Question before the House was: "That this Bill be now read a second time," that would involve putting the Question: "That this clause be read a second time," and that could not be done without a recommendation of the Crown or the usual step taken in Committee of the whole House. He submitted that Clause 5 did create a new charge upon the taxpayers of the country, and as that clause was an integral part of this Bill no Question which involved the adoption of that clause could be put.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the main purpose of this Bill was to throw a charge upon the ratepayers it is quite clear that the Motion for the Second Reading could not be made. I do not, however, think the character of this Bill can be described as being a money Bill. The charge, if there is any charge at all, is merely an incidental one, and it very often happens that the Second Reading is put when there is one particular clause which creates a charge which is really only incidental to the main purpose of the Bill. In a case of that sort in Committee when the clause is reached the Chairman will not put the Question until a Resolution is before him, which has to be adopted by this House, accepting the charge. The noble Lord suggests that Clause 5 imposes a charge, but I do not think it does and I do not read the words of Clause 5 as imposing any charge. It says—The revising barristers for the parliamentary borough of London shall be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice of England.His Majesty, by Order in Council, may make regulations with respect to the number of revising barristers to be appointed and the divisions of the borough for which they shall be appointed.There is no charge imposed there, but the noble Lord, I suppose, argues that incidentally there must be a charge, because no barrister would act without receiving remuneration. If there is no charge imposed, this clause cannot impose any charge, and if there is no means by any other process—by any former Acts—to provide remuneration for the barristers, then this clause would be inoperative. If there is any other means 1243 for providing the amount of remuneration which they will deserve, and which they will earn, it is not necessary to insert it in this Bill. I would not like to say whether there is or is not outside this Bill any means by which the revising barristers appointed under the Bill can receive remuneration, but under the circumstances I see no objection to the Bill proceeding.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Dickinson.)
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London) moved an Amendment asking the House to decline to proceed with a Bill which turned a county into a borough, altered the franchise, the electoral boundaries, and the hours of polling in one part of the country without regard to the rest of the United Kingdom, and which did not deal with the question of redistribution. So far as he could gather from Mr. Speaker's ruling Clause 5 would be inoperative. He thought he would be able to show to the House that in all probability a great part of the Bill would be inoperative. [An HON. MEMBER: Why are you afraid of it?] The hon. Member was mistaken; the hon. Gentlemen who were introducing the Bill were afraid. They had seen the writing on the wall. They had noticed the results of the elections at Mid Devon and Hereford, and now they were going to gerrymander London, so as to ensure the greater probability of the return of Members to their own side of the House. The Second Reading had been moved in an extremely moderate speech. Anyone, listening to that speech would have thought that this was a small Bill to give a little advantage to registration agents, town clerks, or borough council clerks, in that they would not have so much trouble in putting electors on the register, and that generally nothing serious would happen, as all desired that those who had a right to vote should be on the register. In opening his speech, it was true, the hon. Member gave an explanation as to the shortness of the 1244 time which hon. Members had had to examine the Bill; he attributed that to the fortunes of the ballot box. If the system of registration proposed by the Bill was good for London, it was good for the whole of the country. If that was so, there could be no object in introducing a piecemeal system for part of the United Kingdom. As to the explanation that it was owing to the fortunes of the ballot box that the hon. Member was placed to-day in the position of having to move the Second Reading, he would point out that the Bill was No. 13. How was it that the hon. Member had taken the first place on the first Friday available for private Members' Bills? The hon. Member, no doubt, was an extremely far-seeing man, but he was not gifted with the power of prophecy. When the Bill was put down for this Friday, how did he know that the debate on the Address would be closured by the Government last night? He would like to ask the hon. Member what took place when a deputation of London Liberal Members waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Was it arranged between the London Liberal Members and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the right hon. Gentleman should move the closure at half-past eleven last night? That was a most unusual thing to do when the Address had only been discussed seven days. That seemed to him to be one of the reasons why the hon. Member was so fortunate. He would suggest that his right hon. friend the Member for Wimbledon, if he took part in the debate should ask the Government whether they intended to take up this Bill and make it their own. It would not be the first time that such a thing had been done, and after what happened last night he was not at all sure that it was not going to be done again.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (MR. JOHN BURNS, Battersea)
I did the same thing with hon. Members' Bills last year and the year before.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
said that that was his point. The Government had taken advantage of the forms of the House which enabled private Members to bring forward Bills on Fridays in order to take 1245 over the Bills and so avoid the difficulties of procedure which might other wise have occurred. [An HON. MEMBER: Why not?] It was evident why not. A Government Bill would not be brought in on Friday when a great many Members were out of town or absent for other reasons; it would have been brought in on a Government day when the House was full. It was evident to anybody who had been any length of time in the House that this method of procedure was of great ad vantage to the Government, but whether it was of equal advantage to the country was quite another matter. They were told that this Bill would only make a slight alteration, but as a matter of fact it was a disfranchising Bill. [A LIBERAL MEMBER: Hear, hear!] That was cheered by the hon. Member opposite. The sole object of the Liberal Party for years in dealing with the franchise had been to extend it, but it appeared from that cheer there was one Member of the Party who wished to take away the franchise from people who now had it. The number of electors entitled to exercise the Parliamentary franchise in London was 686,000. The hon. Member opposite said that there were 60,000 voters in London who had plural qualifications. If that was so, why should they be disfranchised? If these electors did not vote against the hon. Members and his friends, the House would not have heard of this Bill to-day. The hon. Member said it was quite wrong that voters should have plural qualifications. Why was a man able to vote twice? It was because he was a hard-working, thrifty, and industrious person. Having a place of business in one place, he was able to live in another part of London. These men were the very èlite of London or of the country; they were the people one ought to encourage. If they happened to be Tories, it only showed that they regarded Tory principles as right. There was no question of redistribution in this Bill. Unless he was very much mistaken, the number of electors in St. George's-in-the-East was 3,800 and in Wandsworth 38,000. Did the President of the Local Government Board say that there was no inequality in giving a Member to 3,800 in the one case and 1246 only one to 38,000 in the other? Talk about plural voting! When they came to consider the difference between 3,800 and 38,000 there was plural voting with a vengeance. A curious side-light was thrown on this question by the debate on the Franchise Act of 1885. In November, 1884, the late Sir Stafford Northcote quoted a statement by Mr. Labouchere—and nobody would deny that Mr. Labouchere was an ardent Liberal—he thought that was the proper way to describe him—as saying that irrespective of Party tactics it was unquestionable that the reduction of the franchise and redistribution should go together. Party tactics, and Party tactics only, were at the bottom of this Bill. The Bill had been brought in at forty-eight hours notice—far too short notice for a Bill affecting 686,000 electors. Moreover, it was brought in by a private Member. The President of the Local Government Board was a London Member and had had great experience in all these questions, and he asked the hon. Gentleman if a Bill dealing with the franchise had not always been introduced by the Government of the day after mature consideration and deliberation? Besides, everybody should be allowed time to form their own opinion on the provisions of the Bill. But here they were confronted, on forty-eight hours notice, with a Bill brought in by a private Member—very distinguished, no doubt—and he contended that such a procedure was absolutely wrong. The number of voters affected by the Bill ought also to be remembered. These were not all rich men and property owners who were regarded as the very worst description of voters by hon. Members opposite. A tradesman who did not live over his shop would be disfranchised by the Bill. He was informed that it was not uncommon for three or four skilled artisans to combine and take a workshop in the City of London. Each of the partners now had a vote for the warehouse and also one for the house if he lived, say, in Wandsworth or Peckham; but if he lived at Hendon he would not be disfranchised. Was it possible that a Bill containing such a ridiculous proposition as that could be passed even by this House of Commons? Fortunately the Bill dealing with another place 1247 was still in the minds of the Government and he thought it would be in the minds of the Government for a considerable length of time. There was still another House of Parliament which would have to be considered by the promoters of this Bill, and they would have something to say upon it. It was asked why should London be treated differently from other towns. First of all, because London was a county and not a borough; and why should a county be converted into a borough merely to suit the hon. Member? With regard to other towns, he would point out that in 1885 the Radical Government settled all that question. They picked out—he was only dealing with England—certain towns and made them into boroughs and divided them into divisions. All these questions about moving and registration were only applicable to boroughs which were divided into Parliamentary divisions. The distinction did not apply to the counties. Thirteen of these provincial towns were constituted by the Radical Government of the day into Parliamentary boroughs. Taking them all together they had a population of 4,273,624 and they returned fifty-five members. Their population varied from 128,000 to upwards of 500,000. Birmingham had a population of 522,204 and returned seven Members. Liverpool had a population of 626,634 and returned nine Members. Did anybody mean to tell him that there was any resemblance between places like Salford with a population of 220,957 and London with its population of 4,543,436? Islington alone had a population of 335,000. Really he was ashamed that an hon. Member who said he was a London man and was a member of the London County Council, should compare such towns with London and say I that London ought to be treated in the same way! Manchester had a population of 475,356 and returned six Members; Salford had three Members with a population of 220,957, but there was nothing to prevent a man from voting in Salford and also in Manchester. He thought he had demolished the contention of the hon. Gentleman in his comparison between London and various provincial towns and cities. Moreover, London was not one city. It 1248 was an aggregation of a variety of boroughs and cities. These, owing to certain circumstances, had grown in size until they had become this enormous London. But the interests in them were not identical. Hackney had not the same interests as Wandsworth; certainly the interests were not identical; and that was why this Bill was a wrong Bill. These different boroughs and cities were not animated with the same political feeling and their local circumstances were in no way alike. He did not intend to deal with the Bill clause by clause; but it was a very extraordinary thing that all the machinery of the Bill was to be settled by an Order in Council, which would be the work of the Executive Government. Why was that? When they were dealing with extremely important questions affecting 680,000 electors, who should know what was going to be done? The hon. Gentleman said that that matter could be discussed in the quiet of the Committee upstairs, but he would remind the hon. Gentleman that there were no reporters present upstairs, which reminded him of a passage in the election address of the Prime Minister, to the effect that the late Government had curtailed the freedom of discussion in the House of Commons, by closuring the Address at half-past eleven o'clock on a very early day to allow a Bill to be brought in, thus impairing its authority and reducing the Legislature as far as they could to a machine for registering the decrees of the Executive. He wondered whether the President of the Board of Education read that and founded his action upon it in view of the second order on the Paper; he would think that that had very likely taken place. Now, the Government were going to crown that achievement by providing in this Bill, that by an Order in Council they were to register a decree as to how all the machinery of the measure was to be framed. They had last night a speech by an hon. Gentleman opposite who wanted to create a new Department; why not create another new Department—a Star Chamber—and make the President of the Board of Education the President of that and refer everything to it. It would save a great deal of time and nobody would know anything about it until the decree was published, and then they would have to submit 1249 This was called Radical freedom. What was it that was to be referred to an Order in Council? Supposing one of the misguided people dealt with by the Bill had a vote in the City of London and another in Wandsworth, was the Order in Council to settle which vote that person was to be allowed to exercise? When the First Commissioner of Works brought in his Plural Voting Bill—and here he might say that that was a Bill brought in by a Member of the Government—he wished to enact that any plural voter who voted in more than one place should be punished by two years hard labour. The force of opinion in the House and in the country was so great that the hon. Member had to withdraw that provision. Did the hon. Member who brought in this Bill intend that the Order in Council should provide that a man who had votes in the City of London and in Wandsworth, and knowing nothing of the Order in Council voted in both places, was to have two years hard labour? If not, why not, and how did they know what was going to be provided under the Order in Council? Unless he was very much mistaken it was generally the habit to put in a Bill that an Order in Council should lie upon the Table of the House for fourteen days, but even that provision was not put into this Bill. For himself, he did not attach very great importance to that provision, because, owing to the rules of the House, it was exceedingly difficult to find an opportunity of discussing these Orders, or to know when these Orders in Council had been brought in and laid on the Table. All he wished to point out, however, was that the hon. Member had not provided that safeguard. Everything was to be left to the Order in Council or to the Clerk of the London County Council. It appeared that the Clerk to the County Council was to be the person who was to prepare for the different parts of London a list of the different people, and he believed that there were some 3,000 lists and some 60,000 people with plural votes. It was very hard on the Clerk to the London County Council to have to examine all these papers. When he saw "William Smith, Peckham Rye," and "William Smith, Acacia Avenue, Wandsworth," how was he to know whether those two names 1250 represented more than one person? All Radical measures involved the spending of money, as this would do and yet they were the Party who came in pledged to economy. Every Bill they brought in added to the cost of the nation, increased the burden on the ratepayers. The Clerk to the County Council was to provide the money to do this work out of the rates, and that was very nice for the ratepayers. In order that a ratepayer in different boroughs, if he had a vote in each of them, should not exercise it detrimentally to the county council, it was to be taken away from him in all save one. How could a man's name be "starred" under these circumstances? It seemed to him impossible that such a thing could be done, and if it was possible how was notice to be given to a man that he was "starred?" [An HON. MEMBER: It is done already.] That was so to a certain extent, but it was done in a very different case, and only in one borough. He had had the honour of sitting for the Peckham Division of Camberwell for thirteen and a half years, and Camberwell was a case in point. Camberwell was one borough divided into three Parliamentary divisions, and a person who had a qualification in Dulwich and Peckham could only vote in one place, and was generally "starred" by the revising barrister if the voter did not attend and say he wished to vote in one particular place. What was the result of that, and what might occur under this Bill? Very seldom did people who had two qualifications attend at the court and say in which place they wished to vote, and many of them did not find it out, until the day of election. Then they came to him and said: "I am 'starred' in Dulwich, I wish I had known before, and I would have been 'starred' in Peckham." Dulwich was a safe Conservative seat, whereas Peckham was a doubtful one. But all this was to be settled by the Clerk to the London County Council, who was to say whether a voter was to vote in the City of London, where his vote was not wanted, or in Peckham, where his vote was wanted. What about gerrymandering? This was what caused him to state that this Bill was to gerrymander the voting of London in the interest of one Party. Under 1251 the Bill the hours of polling, in London of all places, were to be altered. Why did he say in London of all places? Because there was not a, single voter who had not a polling booth within a mile of where he resided, and in the country a voter often resided six or seven miles from one. If the extension of the hours was necessary in London, it was ten times more necessary in the country. There were, moreover, no electric trams in the country, and the voter had often to walk an hour or an hour and a half to the poll. In these circumstances it was idle to say that there was a demand in London for an extension of hours which did not exist in the country as well. Of course some voters would vote after eight o'clock, but as the House knew, there were always a number of people who were late for everything. If the promoters carried this Bill there would be a certain number of people who would arrive at five minutes past ten o'clock, and if they were going to alter the hours of polling so that nobody ever could be late, they would have to extend the period for a fortnight or three weeks, and then they would not succeed. He believed he was right in saying that the election of guardians was conducted on this principle, and the hours of polling were lengthened, but between eight and ten in the evening the persons in the polling booth for most of the time consisted of two policemen, the presiding officer, and the clerk. The principle was ridiculous, and he did not see why they should change the hours in London if they did not change them in the country. He did not say that the extension of the hours would lead to unpleasant tumults, but it was calculated to do that if it was calculated to do anything. Then there was the question of the alteration of the date of the registers coming into force. If this Bill became law and a general election took place in November or December, in London the voters on the new register would vote, but in the country the voters on the old register would do so. Was it conceivable that it was proposed to deal in this kind of way with so important a matter as the franchise? Why in the country should a person be only able to vote on the new register when an election took place in January whereas in London a voter 1252 could vote on the new register if an election took place in November? The whole thing was absolutely absurd and would not stand argument for one moment. Again, there was the question of boundaries: under this Bill the Executive by an Order in Council and the President of the Star Chamber could enlarge the Parliamentary boroughs of London. His hon. friend who sat for Wandsworth had already 38,000 electors to represent, but the Bill provided that the Parliamentary area might be made coterminous with the administrative county of London. The administrative county of London was larger than the Parliamentary area of London, but there was not power to increase the number of Members of Parliament although a number of voters were to be added to constituencies. Thus his hon. friend who represented most worthily 38,000 people would probably represent 50,000, and it was evident that it was thought that one Tory Member was quite good enough for 50,000 electors, in fact if one could make it 60,000 it would be a great deal better. The result would be that the numbers of people returning Members of Parliament would be largely increased at the will of the Executive by an Order in Council. It seemed to him that that was an extremely large order, instead of being as the hon. Member said a slight alteration in a place like London. All he could say was that the hon. Member's view of the word "slight" was not his interpretation, and he ventured to say it would not be that of the majority of the electors of the country. The hon. Member a short time ago was a distinguished member of the London County Council, but he believed, unfortunately for that body, he was no longer a member. Was he sure that that body approved of this Bill? Unless he was very much mistaken, the London County Council viewed its scope with great apprehension. Owing to the short time the Bill had been before the country it had been impossible for the County Council to take a vote upon it, but in a very short time he believed they would see when the County Council discussed the Bill and divided upon it, that they very much disapproved of the Bill. He earnestly entreated the House, if they 1253 were desirous of altering the franchise, to let it be done by a well considered and digested measure brought in by the Government of the day, and dealing with the whole of the country, and not to do it by such a Bill as this brought in on a Friday.
§ MR. RAPHAEL (Derbyshire, S.)
said it was not very often that he found himself in agreement with the hon. Baronet who moved this Amendment, and on this occasion he must dissociate himself from many of the arguments and statements of the hon. Gentleman. He could not accept the criticism of the hon. Gentleman on his colleagues, or admit that there was the shadow of foundation for the suggestion that there was any attempt in this Bill at gerrymandering for political purposes. He took a broader view of the Bill. He quite recognised the many absurdities and anomalies that existed in our franchise laws at the present time, but one of the arguments of the hon. Gentleman had no terrors with him. The hon. Baronet said that people would be disfranchised by this Bill. He would not object to see people who had no right to vote disfranchised, but he would not like to see them disfranchised in London alone whereas under this Bill they would retain their votes in every other part of the country. The great objection he saw to the Bill was that it attempted to alter the law of the land, and apply that alteration to only one-eighth of the constituencies of the country. He did not see why, if there was to be successive occupation from borough to borough, they should not have successive occupation from one portion of a county to another or from county to county. His constituency was surrounded by portions of another county, and there was just as much freedom of movement between the two counties as between the boroughs of London, and he was of opinion that if there was to be successive occupation the principle should apply to the whole country, and not to a part. He did not like to go counter to his Party in this matter, but he believed the hon. Member who brought in the Bill would have been well advised to have brought in a Bill to apply to the whole of the country. 1254 It would have been just as easy, and he thought the hon. Member would have had a better prospect of passing it into law, because there would have been the chance of the Government taking up the Bill. It was on the ground of general principle that he opposed the Bill. He hoped his hon. friend would not proceed with it, but would withdraw it, and bring in one applying the principle to the whole country.
To leave out from the word 'that,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House declines to proceed with a Bill which turns a county into a borough, alters the franchise, the electoral boundaries, and the hours of polling in one part of the country without regard to the rest of the United Kingdom, and which does not deal with the question of redistribution.'"—(Sir Frederick Banbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WOOD (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
said the reasons of the hon. Member who had just sat down for seconding the rejection of this Bill seemed to be somewhat curious. His first was that he did not think the Bill would pass, and therefore he assisted it to its death, and the second was that he thought the principle of successive occupation should be largely extended throughout the country. Surely that was no reason why the successive occupation which already existed in other large towns should not be extended to London. He would with all respect pass from the speech of his hon. friend and deal with that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, some parts of which he enjoyed immensely. He would never forget the definition of the plural voter. In his experience the plural voter was generally a person who was the "son of his father," and was not a person who attained his position by work and the exercise of that quality of thrift of which the hon. Member spoke. The whole burden of the opposition of the hon. Member seemed to rest on Committee points. For example, take the question of Orders in Council. What were those Orders? What were they to affect? They were to affect the question of small fringes which had 1255 already been dealt with for municipal purposes by the late Government, and were now to be dealt with for political purposes. To talk of the Star Chamber with regard to such powers savoured of exaggeration. Two points were raised by the hon. Baronet. He told the House that no one wanted to vote between eight and ten at night; but in Bethnal Green it was found that one-third of all the votes polled at the guardians' election were polled between those hours. In Glasgow the audience desired the termination of a political meeting at 9.45 p.m., but was willing to come early. In London in working class constituencies an audience could not be got together before 8.30, and there were thousands of working-men in London who could not possibly record their vote between the hours of eight in the morning and eight in the evening. That was true of some other centres of population, but it was not true of any one of them to the extent to which it was true of London. That was one case where it was fair to differentiate in the case of London. But the great objection of the hon. Member was its effect on the plural vote, and, resting upon that, he called this a disfranchising Bill. But the House would see that it was really an enfranchising Bill. It enfranchised about 50,000 people and did not deprive any person of a right to record his vote once, though it would deprive a person of the opportunity of recording a vote several times. To call it a disfranchising Bill was an abuse of terms. The objections taken by the mover and seconder of the Amendment would not stand examination for a moment. This Bill was to assimilate the practice of London with the practice in other large towns with regard to successive occupation. It was an attempt to give to London electors the same rights as were enjoyed by the electors of Manchester. It was desirable that the question of plural voting should be dealt with by a general measure, but that was no sufficient objection to the limited proposal of this Bill. Surely hon. Members would not oppose successive occupation. It was perfectly idle for the House to disguise from itself the fact that the real objection to this Bill by the mover of the rejection was based on the idea that the political party of which he was a member 1256 would lose by the reduction of the plural vote. He was much interested to see the anxiety of the hon. Member to know the opinion of the London County Council on this matter. He had not always shown the same anxiety for their opinion. But what had the London County Council to do with this Bill?' They had been accused of claiming a great deal for the London County Council, but they had never claimed that it had any right to interfere in regard to Parliamentary franchise. The hon. Member asked why it was that the hon. Member for North St. Pancras introduced this Bill at the time he did. It was because the hon. Member had shown remarkable prescience. As a matter of fact he knew very well there was a feeling in the House that the debate on the Speech from the Throne ought not to be protracted too long, and that it was quite possible it might come to an end before Friday. So he took his chance and put down the Bill for that day. That was the whole truth of the matter. He thought that, after the extremely able way in which the provisions of the Bill had been explained to the House by his hon. friend, it would be useless for him to go into details. It was obvious there were matters which would have to be discussed in I Committee, but as to the main principle of the measure he would like to impress upon the House that the object was to give the electors of London some advantages which were already enjoyed by the electors of other great towns in this country.
§ EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
I desire in a very few sentences to state the reasons why I intend to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill In the preamble it is described as one primarily and practically exclusively affecting London, dealing with only a very small part of the questions concerning the exercise of the franchise. As a matter of fact, it is quite obvious to any one who reads the first clause that it embraces a far wider scope, and that it is a Franchise Bill, a Redistribution Bill, and a Registration Bill rolled into one. The practical effects of the Bill are three. In the first place, it is in a sense, at all events, a disfranchising measure. The 1257 hon. Member who last spoke objects to the use of that phrase, but I must point out that the Bill if passed would deprive a certain number of electors of the vote which Parliament gave them in 1885 as the result of a compact between the two great parties of the State. In the second place, the Bill will effect a very considerable alteration in the voting power of a number of constituencies situated on the border of the metropolitan area; and, in the third place, it will affect the system of registration by creating totally different registers for London and for the country, so that it will be possible for a Government which is not popular with the London electors to arrange the general election for a time when the country would be voting on the new register and London would be voting on the old. That is one of the changes the Bill introduces with regard to registration. There is another, perhaps less objectionable, but certainly open to criticism. The Bill throws on the county rate all changes connected with the expense of registration. There is a good deal to be slid no doubt for relieving the candidate, but, in my opinion, if these expenses are to be defrayed out of public funds they should be charged not on the local rates but on the public exchequer. I am not aware of any precedent for a Bill dealing with such important changes in the franchise being submitted to the consideration of the House on the initiative of a private Member. Until the Plural Voting Bill was brought in two years ago, there was no precedent, I believe, for considering a Bill for the alteration of the franchise even when introduced by a responsible Government, except within a reasonable distance of a general election, and for a Bill of this kind to be introduced by a private Member at a time when presumably we are not within sight of a general election—so far as we know—and to be brought in in such a form as to make it absolutely impossible when the Bill goes into Committee for the House to consider the question of either franchise, registration, or redistribution as a whole, is so startling a proceeding that I can hardly imagine that the Government will lend their sanction to such a course. What is the justification for this Bill? Take it from the point of view of 1258 practical expediency. I think everybody will admit that an essential object of any statesmanlike effort to deal with the question of the franchise should be to settle it on a foundation which affords some prospect of permanency. Nothing could be worse than that the basis of our franchise should be perpetually altered from one general election to another. No one can believe that a Bill like this, which treats London as if it differed entirely from the rest of the country, and which does not even provide for the assimilation of the Parliamentary to the municipal boundaries inside the Metropolitan area, affords any prospects of permanence at all. Or again, consider it from the standpoint of political principle. The Government and their supporters strongly object no doubt to the principle of plural voting. But this Bill does not propose to abolish the plural voter on principle. That is merely one of the accidental results of the Bill, and it is to have only a limited operation. And how absurd would be such a method of dealing with the question. A man living in Guildford who has business premises in the City might still vote in both constituencies; but a man residing in South Kensington and having a business place in the City could vote only in one constituency. Therefore the only plural voter that will be disfranchised is the plural voter who has the greater interest in the area affected by the Bill. The same argument applies to the proposed rearrangement of constituencies. Anybody who contemplates a measure of redistribution should seek to bring about, so far as he can, equalisation of voting power between different constituencies, but there is no pretence that the redistribution provided for by this Bill will have that effect. On the contrary, it will increase the electorate of constituencies already too large and thereby make them even less fairly represented than they are now. Then look at the logic of this proposal. The hypothesis is that London is as an area so homogeneous in character that for political purposes it should practically be treated as one. If we are to accept that assumption we are running counter to the principle recognised by both the Franchise Bill of 1885 and the Local Government Act passed by the last 1259 Government, which emphasised the divergence of interest of the different parts of London and made in the direction of further decentralisation. But granting the assumption for the sake of argument, what is the inference which the supporters of this Bill draw from it. That because the whole of London is subject for local purposes to one county council, therefore it should be treated for political purposes as if it were governed by one borough council, surely that is not a logical conclusion. I think there is a good deal to be said in favour of certain changes which this Bill proposes—for increasing the hours of voting, for assimilating the municipal with the Parliamentary boundaries within the metropolitan area, for placing the cost of registration on public funds, the Imperial Exchequer rather than the local rates, and for holding all the elections on one day. But all these reforms ought to be dealt with as parts of a general reform of the whole system of franchise and registration. Without wishing to make any partisan attack on the Government or the Liberal Party, I think they must see that if they insist on treating this question piecemeal, and refuse to deal with it as a whole, they are inevitably laying themselves open to the charge of attempting—at a time when both the municipal and the Parliamentary elections indicate that the feeling of the country is not enthusiastically in their favour—by a measure of disfranchisement and of gerrymandering to anticipate a verdict which they feel would not be in their favour.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Dr. MACNAMARA, Camberwell, N.)
As a London Member I wish to say a word or two on this Bill. I recognise that the Bill is designed to secure co-equal treatment for London to that enjoyed by provincial boroughs. That is the stated object of the promoters, and I must say that having read the Bill through, I fail entirely to recognise it in the horrible picture drawn in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of London. The Bill endeavours to secure the treatment of London as one Parliamentary borough, and by that means it secures through the 1260 medium of successive occupation the enfranchisement of 50,000 persons. It is, therefore, an enfranchising and not a disfranchising measure. In the second place, it deals very largely, and I am bound to say very drastically, with the method of making up the Parliamentary register. We had a moving picture presented to us of the difficulty which would be experienced in making up the register in the case of William Smith, Esq., late of Acacia Villas, Peckham, and: now of the City of London. Well, I daresay that difficulty will be overcome. This Bill would slightly alter certain Parliamentary areas, but I think its operation in that direction has been overstated. It would alter the method of appointing the revising barristers in London south of the Thames. It would also alter the method of selecting the returning officers for Parliamentary London, and would extend the hours of polling. I am pleased to see that that reform is to be taken in hand. I should like to say a few words on the fundamental points of the Bill. First of all, with regard to making London one Parliamentary borough instead of as at present. I think that is a most excellent proposal. As a London Member, I know that it would enfranchise by successive occupation thousands of electors who are now disfranchised, and it would simply go the length, and no further, of applying to London the principle which is already the law and practice in provincial boroughs. On the other hand, it would undoubtedly abolish plural voting within the borough. I must say that this, too, is a most excellent proposition, and it is simply applying the law of the provinces in this case to London. I do not make any apology for supporting the abolition of the principle of plural voting. The principle in its universal application would go very much further than this proposal. The principle of the abolition of plural voting was endorsed by the House of Commons in 1906, and the Second Reading of the Plural Voting Bill was carried by. 403 to ninety-five. There were many divisions in Committee, where the supporters of the proposal rarely scored less than 300 in its favour, and the opponents never more than 100. The Third Reading of the Bill was carried 1261 by 333 to 104. Therefore, there need be no apology for the abolition of plural voting under this Bill. But in this case, as I have said, the application of the principle is much more restricted, and simply applies to London what is the law in the provincial boroughs throughout the country. That is to say, a man may vote in Camberwell but he may not vote in Kennington as well, any more than a man may vote in North and South Bristol, and we propose to apply the law of North and South Bristol to London. With continuous occupation, thereby enfranchising thousands of people, and with the abolition of plural voting within the borough, I must say I should have thought the clause would have been agreed to by common consent. I shall be very much surprised if, when we get into Committee upstairs, the propositions contained in Subsection (1) Clause 1 encounter much resistance. Clause 1, Subsection 2 will slightly alter the Parliamentary constituency areas, and I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite will see that it is a very necessary piece of simplification. By' the Local Government Act of 1899 South Hornsey was brought into the London area, and part of Penge was taken out of London and adjusted to the municipal area; and there are one or two more places which will have to be dealt with. It is not intended, however, to do anything in this direction on so large a scale as was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman for South Dublin in his Local Government Bill of 1902. This proposal, by the way, stood by itself, and was not a general scheme for the whole country. This Bill only proposes to deal with the variations in the outer boundary between the municipal borough and the Parliamentary borough, and to assimilate them. The proposal is merely to adjust the variations in the boundary lines.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
I am only dealing with the question of boundaries. I say that the proposal now made deals merely with the variations of the boundaries as between the municipal and 1262 the Parliamentary boroughs on the outer boundary line. But I say that this is a very necessary and very urgent piece of simplification, which I, for one, should like to see taken in hand. Clauses 2 to 4 inclusive raise the whole question of registration, and they raise it very drastically. I agree with my hon. friend the proposer of the Bill that the state of registration in London is generally pretty bad. I do not think it could be worse in any part of the country; at the same time, I also agree with him that in some parts of London the work is well done. Now it is proposed by Clause 2 that the Secondary of the City of London and the town clerks of the metropolitan boroughs, being the persons whose duty it is to prepare the lists of voters, shall include in the lists the name of every person who is by law entitled to vote, and shall for this purpose make all necessary inquiries and provide and collect forms of claims, and so on. The main object of this proposal no doubt is that the town clerks shall inquire as to the lodgers and get them placed on the register if qualified. At present the town clerk must inquire as to occupiers, but the lodger is left to the political agencies, which I think, personally, is very undesirable, besides being a very pressing exaction upon the pocket of a poor man who wishes to to become a member of this House for a London constituency. I associate myself with the proposal that this duty should be imposed upon a public official, who should not only look after the occupier but also after the lodger, and see that the lodger as well as the occupier is put on the list at the hands of a public official as he is entitled to be, and not at the instance of a private political agent of either party. The Bill would require the town clerk to ascertain if the lodger is qualified, and if he be so, to give him a form of claim and collect it. I admit that when this Bill comes into Committe it will have to be closely looked at. I think that my hon. friend will be very well advised if he meet those who think they have a better, more economical, less involved, and more expeditious scheme. I was very glad to understand from him that he is prepared to meet those who think that they have a better scheme in regard to registration. 1263 I observe that my hon. friend does not endeavour to deal with the curious position of the lodger as left by the decision in Kent v Fittal. I think I rather understand why he does not do so. He does not deal with this very urgent problem because the question raised in Kent v. Fittal applies to the whole country, whereas the Bill deals with the London problem alone. I associate myself entirely with his self-denying ordinance. Clause 4, Sub-section 1, does, no doubt, as has been stated by the hon. Baronet who has moved the rejection, slightly alter the qualification by substituting 25th June for 15th July, and Clause 4, Sub-section 3, would cause the register to come into operation on 1st November, thereby differentiating between London and the provinces. My hon. friend would no doubt deal with these matters fully in Committee, and I myself would like to be informed more fully as to why he desires to alter the date from 15th July to 25th June. All these matters, I am sure, he would be prepared to place fully before the Committee, and I think he ought to be prepared to secure a full examination as to practice and desirability of this Clause 4, and the bringing into operation the register on 1st November instead of 1st January. Clause 5, providing for the appointment of revising barristers by the Lord Chief Justice, Clause 6, for the appointment of the Clerk of the London County Council as the returning officer, and Clause 7 extending the basis of voting—with all these proposals in the Bill I entirely associate myself. As to the suggestion in Clause 6, my hon. friends well know that twenty-two borough councils in London have petitioned the Home Office in favour of the proposal in the Bill, and the other seven, I am glad to know, although they did not seal the petition, are not dissenting from the proposal, that the clerk of the London County Council shall be the relieving officer for the Parliamentary borough of London, and an election of a Member of Parliament within the Parliamentary borough shall be conducted in the same manner as in the case of an election of a county councillor.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
I do not quite understand the reason for that question. I have nothing to do with the last election. I want to get the electoral machinery for London on the best and most democratic basis, and I resent most strongly the suggestion that I or any one associated with this Bill is inspired by motives of gerrymandering the constituencies of London. I think that is a thoroughly unworthy suggestion.
§ MR. GUINNESS
On a point of personal explanation, may I say as the hon. Member seems to take it that we have made a reflection on what he stated—that our point is whether the borough councils signed the petition before or after the elections last March.
I repeat that I do not know whether it was before or after, but it has nothing to do with the matter. I say twenty-two out of twenty-nine have petitioned in favour of the proposal of Clause 6 and the other seven have not dissented. Now I am asked what is the date. So far as I am concerned the date has nothing to do with it. This copy of the petition has no date upon it. I do not know whether hon. Members at all think that is intentional. I can assure them it is not. I do not think the question whether the present or the last borough council signed that petition at all affects the attitude of the borough councils generally towards Clause 6. Now may I make one or two comments upon the Amendment? The Member for the City of London says the Bill proposes to turn a county into a borough. It proposes to do nothing of the kind. London is not a Parliamentary county; therefore in this case you are not turning a county into a borough. London consists of a number of Parliamentary boroughs, respectively included in the counties of Kent, Surrey, and Middlesex. It consists of twenty-eight boroughs and fifty-eight constituencies. It is not a Parliamentary county, and 1265 therefore you are not turning a county into a borough. The Amendment says it will alter the franchise. It does nothing of the sort, except in so far as to assimilate the practice of provincial boroughs to London. The hon Baronet says it alters the electoral boundaries. As a result of the Act of 1899, part of Hornsey was taken into London and part of Penge taken out. It proposes to readjust the boundary. That is all the alteration in the area.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
As I understand it, it gives power to extend the Parliamentary area to the area of the administrative county of London. That being so, the area can be extended to a much greater degree than the hon. Gentleman thinks. I would also point out that, if the desire of certain people is carried out that the administrative county of London should be largely extended, Croydon and West Ham would be included.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
No, you would then, I should think, require another statute altogether. If you are going to extend very largely the Metropolitan area you would require another statute I should say.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
You can do many things by an Order in Council, but I doubt whether you could do that. What is exactly proposed is that Hornsey and Penge should be readjusted on the outer boundary. This proposal is a very much narrower one than that which proceeded from the President of the Local Government Board in 1902. That Bill not only adjusted the outer boundary, but re-adjusted boundaries inside by assimilating Parliamentary and municipal areas. Therefore, I desire to point out that this alteration of electoral boundaries is obviously very much smaller than the Member for the City of London contemplated. With regard to the hours of voting, the proposition of the Amendment is that the extension should be dissented from because it alters the hours of polling in one part of the country without regard to the hours of polling in 1266 the United Kingdom. These are the terms of the Amendment. My hon. friend is evidently under the impression that there is uniformity of hours of polling throughout the country. Under the Hours of Polling Act, London borough council elections must take place between eight a.m. and eight p.m., and in London and the provinces the guardians elections are fixed by the County Council and in London the guardians elections are from eight a.m. to ten p.m. The point is made that there were very few people polling between 8 and 10. My reply is that very few people poll between any hours of the day in London, and it is one of the short comings, as far as I am concerned, in the administration of the guardians that so very few people take the interest they ought to take in the administration of such a great financial and humane concern. In the urban and rural districts my hon. friend is aware the county council by law is compelled to fix the hours, provided that they are at any rate from six in the morning till eight in the evening. Under the Hours of Polling Act all other elections are from eight till eight. There is, therefore, great variety in the hours of polling for all these various kinds of elections. To say you ought to do this because there is an apparent uniformity is, I think, to place your argument upon an entirely illusory foundation. I associate myself with the proposal to extend the hours as being a desirable proposition, and as far as I am concerned I hope it may come to pass. All I have to say with regard to the Bill generally is this, and I speak as a London Member:—I think there are points in the Bill that are urgently needed. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord's statement that he too thought as a London Member there were points in the Bill, that were urgently needed.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
There are some points which are urgently needed. I have no doubt in my mind that the Bill ought to be read a second time, and I am very glad to find that the proposers hold themselves ready particularly 1267 in connection with highly technical and involved points to modify certain of its features. I most cordially hope that this little reform which does what ought to have been done long ago, and in the main merely assimilates the London and provincial law and practice, will have a Second Reading.
§ SIR HENRY KIMBER (Wandsworth)
said that this was a Bill to amend the Reform Act of 1885—nothing-more and nothing less. It was all very well for the proposer and seconder and also for the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, to lay stress upon the minor advantages as he called them, proposed in the Bill and to make little of the main object of the Bill which was plural voting abolition. Let them see for a moment what were the advantages which they said were so great. 50,000 voters were to be enfranchised who could not at present get a vote. It was pure nonsense. The hon. Gentleman said they were to be put on by giving them successive occupation—that was, facilities for transferring their votes when they went from one part of London to another. That was a matter that he supposed very few on that side would disagree about. He would not, at all events. But to call that the main object of the Bill was absurd The cancellation of more than a million votes of the citizens of London by the abolition of the plural vote, the real object, was out of all proportion to that which was pretended to be the real object of the Bill. In 1906 they had the plural voting abolition brought in by the Government, and that proposed to do for the whole Kingdom what this Bill proposed to do for the Metropolis. He did not like to impute bad motives to anybody if he could find a good one, and he asked himself, whenever he saw a Bill which hurt anyone what was its object. Was it a good one or a bad one? He knew that the Gentlemen who moved and supported this Bill were honourable men, as honourable as Brutus, but to ascertain what were the real motive and object of the Bill he looked to its paternity. Let him recall two dates in history. In 1906, they had a great Parliamentary election which reversed 1268 the position of parties and gave the present Government their enormous nominal majority of 350. But within twelve months of that the London County Council elections came on. Previously the majority in the London County Council were of the same complexion politically as the present majority in that House, but the electors reversed the position. The ratepayers of London took anothe view of the position of things. They could not deal with the House so soon after the general election, but they could deal with the county council, and they did deal with it, and they reversed the position there. He looked at names on the back of the Bill and he found that of the late Chairman of the County Council, a gentleman of high and good repute. He did not wish it to be supposed that he made any slur on any of these names, because he knew they were good and true men from their point of view, and he was sure they would only do what they thought right. They also had the late Vice-chairman who had moved the Bill and several other Members sitting opposite, whose party were defeated at the London County Council election. In the absence of any other motive he asked himself whether this might be one. It must be admitted that it might be one, and in the various motives that moved human nature in this world a feeling no doubt of disappointment, and perhaps, in the mind of some, of vindictiveness and desire for revenge, existed. He asked the mover and seconder whether they had not present in their hearts some feeling of resentment at that reverse. The Bill was calculated to have an effect upon future elections that would again reverse, if they could, the policy which was decided by the people of London at the last election. In fact, this was intended to be a retribution upon the ratepayers who were also the electoral voters in the metropolis for their temerity in having turned out the promoters of this Bill from their position on the County Council. He believed Mr. Gladstone said over and over again that no Reform Bill should disfranchise anybody, that any Bill for the reform of the suffrage should be an Enfranchisement Bill. More than that, any Bill for the reform of the representation of the people in that House ought not to be 1269 actuated by any partisan principle or feeling. In all that he had said or written in the last twenty years on this subject, and he had paid a good deal of attention to it, he had studiously avoided bringing into it any Party reasons of any kind. He had not considered whether it would make for the Party to which he belonged or against it. He had only considered what was right and tried to do it because it was right. What was the effect of this Bill? It was admitted by the mover, and it was rather amusing to find that he left this question of plural voting until the very last of all his reasons for the Bill, and he treated it with a sort of nonchalant manner as if it were only incidental. The Secretary to the Local Government Board had also taken that line. It was a very improper thing from their point of view and would not meet with the approval of the people of this country when they knew the whole subject. There was another quality that ought to be an ingredient in any Bill that dealt with the suffrage. It ought not to be directed against any particular class of the community, because that which benefited one class was relatively putting the rest of the community under a disadvantage. A Bill which altered the voting power of one constituency ought to be applied to all similar constituencies in the rest of the country. To give one little illustration. It was known that he represented a quarter of a million of people—the largest metropolitan constituency and the largest in the whole United Kingdom except two. The average population represented by any Member was about 65,000. The average of electors was about 11,000. It would give his constituency four Members. Some Members represented so small a number that the proportion was one to ten of his. The Reform Bill of 1884 ought not to be altered without the whole subject being examined and treated. It happened that under the existing law he had three votes in London. He voted for the City and he hoped nobody would grudge him his vote there. He had a vote for the City of Westminster because he happened to be a very large ratepayer there—he paid over £1,000 a year in rates and he got no municipal vote in respect of that at all, but he got a Parliamentary vote; and he had a vote for his own 1270 constituency. That might be wrong, but in the present state of the law it was a certain amount of compensation to a man living in Wandsworth that that Was so, and it would be grossly unfair to deprive him of two out of the three, as the Bill did, unless the question of the redistribution of seats was taken into consideration at the same time. He did not dispute altogether the principle of one man one vote. They had in fact come to that. There was no living grown respectable man in the country who could not easily get on to the register. The total electorate was about seven and a half millions, and he believed it would be found that that was not far short of the whole manhood of the country. They had therefore practically manhood suffrage, and he thought it was right that every intelligent grown man should have a vote. But why should not a vote be valued? Let them enunciate and define what they meant by "one vote, one value." It was the fault of their side that they had been too long about it. He was not afraid of grappling with the question of one man, one vote, and it was germane to this question that they should discuss it now. They could never get the advantage of the wisdom of the minority unless they were given a superior vote. At present they had that variety given in a variety of ways. They had it in the freehold vote, in University representation, and so on. He did not think they ought, whilst extending the franchise, to destroy any of those species of plural votes until they took into consideration the whole question of one vote one value. There was another thing to be considered, and it was that in all their rating reforms the owner had not been given a vote in the municipal councils in respect to the expenditure of his money. It had always been admitted that was a wrong in our representative system. Changes were taking place in the condition of property upon which the owner now paid the rates. In many cases the landlords paid all the rates and although the occupiers contributed at first by inclusion in their rents, they were not affected by subsequent rises in the rates. He considered that this Bill was an attempt to municipalise Parliament. The constituency he represented consisted of four towns 1271 which never had a separate representative until 1885. The residents in Streatham, Balham, Tooting, Wandsworth, Putney, Roehampton, and Richmond Park could not be said to have the same sort of interests as those which existed in the centre of the City of London from which all the arteries of financial life spread over the globe. It was absurd to say that London under those circumstances should be created one Parliamentary borough. The object of this measure had been described as one to assimilate representation and provide that that should take place in London which took place in the provinces. This Bill would not accomplish that, for in such places as Liverpool and Birkenhead a man could now have a vote for both places. The same applied to Birmingham and Aston Manor, Manchester and Salford, and other places. Under those circumstances how could it be said that they were assimilating London to the provinces? Of London there were fifty-eight representatives in this House excluding the City. They were created by the Act of 1884, and some of them were made single member constituencies, and his constituency was one of them. At that time he represented 65,000 people, now 257,000; but Islington, which was one parish, was divided into four Parliamentary boroughs. The system which obtained in the country of not allowing any citizen in one Parliamentary division of a municipal borough to vote in another division of the same borough, obtained at the present time in composite boroughs such as Islington. Parliament distinguished and particularised those boroughs which were divided from those like Wandsworth which were not. Therefore, there was existing at the present time the same time in regard to divided boroughs in London as there was in the country. The promoters claimed that this Bill would only make London like the provincial boroughs, and to make that claim good they were proposing to make London into one borough first, and then say London is only like a provincial borough, instead of being as it is twenty-nine cities and towns. The hon. Member for the City of London in the last part of his Amendment stated as one reason for opposing this measure that no Bill which altered the exercise of the 1272 franchise, which was a constitutional question, and in the present Bill affected the balance of the electoral power between the 5,000,000 people of London and the 35,000,000 people outside London, ought to be passed unless accompanied by a Redistribution Bill. He would like to show the defects in the present system of distribution, and he would show how much larger they were than those which were mentioned in this Bill. He would also try to show how important it was that those defects should be rectified, because they were real evils, whilst the evils mentioned in the Bill were very small indeed compared with them. In 1885, when he entered Parliament, the proportion of the lowest to the highest constituency in the country was one to eight, and that disparity had since increased by two or three every year. When he raised this question in 1893, the late Sir William Harcourt admitted that these disparities and anomalies were things that ought to be attended to by any Government sooner or later, and, he added, sooner rather than later. Sir William Harcourt requested him to withdraw his Resolution on a promise that the question might be taken into consideration. It had twice been promised in the King's Speech. What was the state of the case now? When he spoke in 1893 the disparity was thirteen to one; next year it was fifteen to one, and now it was thirty to one. The largest constituency in the Kingdom was thirty times as large as the smallest. This was not the case of one constituency alone, because the disparity ran into a large number of constituencies. He would take for example the General Election of 1906, bearing in mind that the total number of electors was 7,500,000. The total of 3,400,000 of Liberal, Labour, and Nationalist votes secured 512 representatives, whilst 2,500,000 Unionist votes secured 150 representatives. Dividing the votes over the number of seats the 512 representatives obtained an average of 6,629 votes whereas the 150 Unionist representatives obtained an average of 16,189 votes. Several times the Prime Minister had used the phrase "The will of the people," and he quite agreed that that should be the basis of representation. The figures he had given were taken from the House of Commons 1273 Poll Book, issued by the Liberal Publication Department. The figures he would presently give were taken from the Parliamentary Return published in 1907, and since then the disparity he had drawn attention to had vastly increased. The present Government by the chapter of accidents had obtained a majority of 354; but supposing every man's vote in the House of Commons were valued by the number of voters in his constituency, the effect would be that the present Government majority would be reduced by 260 which would leave them with a majority of only 94. Therefore he had a right to infer that whenever the Government majority was less than 260 it was really as regarded the will of the people no majority at all. [Cries of "Question."] He had analysed 143 of those majorities, and he found that only in two of them the majority was as high as 260, and in all but forty-nine it was less than 200. If the will of the people was to be expressed equitably and fairly where might the Opposition have been, and where would the supporters of the Government have been? London had a population of 4,500,000; Ireland had a little less, and Scotland rather more. Yet London had fifty-nine representatives for that population, Scotland had seventy-two, while Ireland had 103. Was not that a disparity which ought to be removed? Three hon. Members in this House—two of them sitting opposite and himself-represented 120,000 electors, or an average of 40,000 each. If they took this year's register it would be a great deal more. There were thirty-five other hon. Members of the House who altogether represented less than 120,000 electors. How could it be said that the will of the people was properly represented by such a system? By way of illustration he would divide the House of 670 Members into half. One-half of them represented 5,137,117 or an average of 15,334, whereas the other half represented 2,309,519 or an average of 6,894. Taking it another way, one-half of the total electorate, that is 3,723,318, got 445 representatives and the other half only 225. He could, if he desired, multiply those examples by the dozen. At the last election Wales recorded 56,000 Unionist votes, which obtained no representation at all. He 1274 could show, if necessary, that every Government since he had been in this House had admitted to him that redistribution was a thing which ought to be taken in hand. That was admitted by the last Government, and he thought there were many supporters of the present Government who were in favour of his proposal. There were, he believed, supporters of his proposal on both sides in sufficient number to make up more than half of the House. He wished to impress on the Government and all who were taking an interest in our system of representation that, as a matter of justice, and not as a matter of Party at all, the question of redistribution should be taken in hand. He hoped in a few days to submit his own proposal to the House in the form of a Bill, and urged that the present Bill dealing with the subject in a piecemeal, unjust, disfranchising manner should not be proceeded with. He could see no reason for its introduction but a Party one and an intention to perpetuate by an alteration in the law the majority on the other side of the House.
§ MR. BOWERMAN (Deptford)
said he wished to express from the workman's point of view his impression of the Bill now before the House. He complimented the mover on the lucid manner in which he had expounded its provisions. The last speaker had charged the promoters of the measure with unworthy motives, and with vindictiveness. He could assure the hon. Baronet that so far as he was personally concerned, nothing of the kind had entered into his mind, and he was satisfied also that vindictiveness was the last thing which would enter into the thoughts of the other Members who had placed their names on the back of the Bill. The hon. Baronet had stated as one of his reasons for opposing the Bill that workmen lived in every instance within a mile of a polling booth. Assuming that to be the case—and he was not going to contradict it—he would point out that the hon. Baronet had lost sight of the fact that a London workman had to travel from his home to his work, and that he had to be at his work in ninety-nine cases out of 100 before eight o'clock in the morning. He had probably to travel from seven to ten miles to get to 1275 business, and in returning to his home he had to perform the same journey at night. The result in thousands of cases had been that workmen rushed from their work to the polling booth on election days, and, though reaching the place in time to record their votes, they were not able to vote because of the large crowd assembled there. The hon. Baronet should have considered the distance between, not the home and the polling booth, but between the place of business and the polling booth.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he did not bring that forward as a reason for opposing the Bill, but as a reason to show that, if the hours of polling were altered in London, there was greater reason why they should be altered in the country. The means of communication were not so good in the country as in London, and it was as important that electors in the country should be able to vote easily as in London.
§ MR. BOWERMAN
said the House was at present dealing with the interests of London, and he was one of those who thought that those interests had been too long neglected. So far from the Bill now before the House being a measure of disfranchisement, it was in quite the other direction. It would, to a large extent, enfranchise workmen by enabling them to record their votes. He thought there was not a Member of the House who did not feel that the system of registration should be amended in some way. Reference had been made to the case in which the decision of the revising barrister depended upon the answer to the question, "Whether the wife of the claimant shook the front door mat." That was the position placed before many of his supporters in Deptford, and if this Bill did no more than correct such an anomaly, he felt that the House would be engaged in good work that afternoon. The law as it stood was extremely deficient. Replying to a deputation on this subject a few days ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the law had a tendency to keep men off the register instead of assisting to put them on. He cordially approved of the provision that town clerks should be held responsible for the compilation of the voting list. Two 1276 years ago in the constituency which he had the honour to represent, the town clerk and his assistants were made responsible by the borough council for compiling the voting list, and the work was done in an exceedingly satisfactory manner. Last year, owing to a change which had taken place in the personnel of the borough council, the same system was not carried out, and the result was that a large expenditure of money was imposed on the Party agents and those in whose interest they were acting. Workmen were being disfranchised year after year by the absurd and unnecessary difficulties which were being placed in their way. He appealed to hon. Members on both sides of the House to give this Bill their support. Members of the Opposition had suggested that the Government should appeal to the country. He supposed that if there was such an appeal, the first thing they would say to the workmen was that the Unionist Party were prepared to find them more work. But when it came to a question of finding workmen more votes, it seemed, that they were not so ready with their support as they should be. This measure would enfranchise thousands of workmen, and he hoped that Unionist Members would vote for it as a measure of justice to London.
§ MR. GUINNESS (Bury St. Edmunds)
said that on the only previous occasion on which he had addressed the House, he was told he had no right to speak on the question of Ireland, because he was not an Irishman. That statement was rather wide of the mark. He might this afternoon anticipate a similar criticism by mentioning that although he did not sit for a London Parliamentary constituency, he represented a London electoral division on a body which reflected the present political opinions of the London electorate more truly than hon. Members who sat for London constituencies on the opposite side of the House. An hon. Member who preceded him had stated that the London County Council had not yet had an opportunity of considering this Bill. The Council had, however, considered one or two points. On 17th December last a motion was submitted to the London County Council that steps should be taken to introduce in 1277 the session of 1908 the London Municipal Elections (Hours of Polling) Bill, which proposed to apply to municipal elections the same provisions as were embodied in this Bill to extend the hours of polling. That motion, proposed by a Progressive member, was rejected by a large majority, there being, in the opinion of the Council, no case whatever made out for the change. The poll for the election of boards of guardians was now kept open till 10 o'clock, but it was curious to find that a far smaller proportion of the electorate took the trouble to vote at those elections than at any other elections. In London the percentage voting at the Parliamentary elections in 1906 was 78.3, at the County Council election in March last 55.5, and at the borough councils elections 48.2. At the elections for guardians in spite of the extra two hours only 28.1 voted. That showed conclusively that if people wanted to vote they would do so during the twelve hours allowed at present. Why should they extend the hours of polling to fourteen? What particular virtue was there in that number? Why not a week or a fortnight? In 1902 a Bill was introduced to allow sailors to give their votes at any time after notice had been given of the nomination. That Bill did not pass, but there was a great deal more to be said for it than for this measure. He thought hon. Members looked at the matter from a very selfish point of view. No doubt elections were very important to them, but they were an abominable nuisance to everybody else. If the hours of polling were extended to 10 o'clock, it would be impossible to do the counting the same evening. That would practically mean the loss of two working days. On the day of the election people were kept on tenter hooks, and if the counting were postponed, the following day as a working day would be destroyed. Then the extension of the hours of polling would greatly encourage facilities for bribery. [Cries of "Oh!"] Undoubtedly it would. It was in the evening that there was the greatest danger of treating. [An HON. MEMBER: They will get cheap stout.] They did not want to sell cheap stout for treating. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board made a point about 1278 rectifying the boundaries of the London constituencies. The hon. Member who introduced this Bill had also made a great point of the alteration of the county boundaries. He thought that that was a matter which would not benefit London in the least; certainly it was not a matter of any importance. A great deal was to be said for altering the boundaries within the administrative county, and the London County Council had expressed itself in favour of that being done. On 30th March last a resolution was passed that the attention of the Local Government Board should be drawn to the matter, and that the Parliamentary and Local Government areas should be made coterminous and non-conflicting. If the hon. Member who introduced the Bill had incorporated a clause of that kind a great deal could have been said in its favour. In his own case electors in Kensal Rise voted with those in Chelsea for Parliamentary and county council purposes, although the two districts were separated by four miles; but they voted with Paddington for borough council elections. This was a crying evil at the present time, and if a new delimitation had been suggested there would have been considerable argument to back it up. Dealing with the Bill from the London County Council point of view, he contended that it would impose a large additional expense on the county rates. Under Section 2, the new duty was imposed on the London County Council of looking after and being entirely responsible financially not only for the registration of voters who were automatically on the list, but also of lodgers who, under the existing system, had to apply annually for their votes. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board had stated that this section would give equal treatment to London and provincial towns.
§ MR. GUINNESS
said that what he wished to point out was that it did not put London on an equality with a provincial borough, because the latter was undivided, and there was no difficulty in preventing people from getting two qualifications. The registration books and the rate books were in the hands of 1279 the registration officers in the provincial towns; but at present the rate books and the data of the registration were in the hands of the borough councils which ought to be responsible for the whole of the work. At present, the London County Council had to pay half the cost of registration and half the cost of printing the register, and it was undesirable that a large additional burden should be thrown on the general county rate in connection with the duty of registering lodgers who applied for votes. The cost of canvassing would be enormous, and it would be impossible to foretell what that cost would be, for the officials would have to call on every house over and over again. [An HON. MEMBER: That is done now.] He did not think so. He was told that in the provincial towns it was done by consulting the rate books, and circularising the ratepayers, and also largely by political organisations. If political organisations were now willing to spend money in order to get people on the register, why, then, should the ratepayers' money be squandered in paying for what was being done already at the cost of rival political parties? Then, it was proposed to put everybody on the register who was entitled to a vote, whether they wanted it or not. Many people did not want to have the Parliamentary vote. [Cries of "Name."] He had had experience of that himself. He called on an elector last March and when he opened the door—[Cries of "Oh, oh."]—the gentleman said—Ah! You have come to bother me about this election. I notice that you are a Municipal Reformer. If you were a Progressive I would kick you downstairs in the hope of doing you grievous bodily injury; but as you are a Municipal Reformer I will content myself with banging the door in your face.They knew that there were people who did not at all appreciate being canvassed for their votes. They were sick to death of being asked for political votes and being subjected to that sort of pressure. Clause 4 was very objectionable. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill very wisely made light of this clause, and said that it would be dealt with in Committee. The clause proposed to alter the date for computing the list of those qualified to vote in Parliamentary and county and parochial elections from July 15th to June 25th. That 1280 was a very extraordinary proposal. At the present moment sufficient time was allowed after the beginning of the Michaelmas quarter to enable those who had moved to be clear of the house, and for the incoming tenant to settle down. If the date were to be altered until the day after the end of the midsummer quarter people would only be found turning out of their houses, and the incoming tenant would consequently be likely to be disfranchised for a period of two years and four months. He thought that the hon. Member who introduced the Bill should have given some information as to what grounds he had for this extraordinary proposal. If the change was advisable, it should be made applicable to the whole country. He came now to the question of the returning officer. Under Section 11 of the Reform Act of 1832, the returning officer was appointed by the High Sheriff of the County of London, with the exception of the returning officer of the city and the borough of Southwark, where the high bailiff was the returning officer. In the divisions of St. George's, Hanover Square, the Strand, and the City of Westminster, the high bailiff of Westminster was also the returning officer. The London County Council had considered this matter, but had not reached the same conclusion as the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill. On 31st July last the London County Council passed a resolution setting forth that they were not prepared to advocate legislation on the point apart from the general question of the reform of the law relating to Parliamentary representation, but that they believed the town clerks of the metropolitan boroughs should be the returning officers, and that the Home Office should be informed of this opinion. They also suggested that there should be a central control. They had been told that the object of the Bill was to prevent voters losing their qualifications by removing from one district to another. But why apply this system to London alone? At any rate he thought it was impracticable; and that it was not possible to set up any clearing-house system by which removals could be traced from one constituency to another. It could not be 1281 carried out for the whole of the country; then why should London be selected for differential treatment They ought to avoid making a difference which would prevent some people from having equal rights and equal treatment with others. Moreover, he would point out that it was common knowledge that London was on the eve of very great changes affecting its system of government. It was commonly believed that a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench was turning over in his mind a system which would re-organise the whole principles on which the Poor Law was administered. It was obvious that the right hon. Gentleman was not yet in a position to lay his decision before Parliament, seeing he was waiting the Report of the Poor Law Commission. Surely it would be a great mistake to prejudice this important question by hasty legislation. One point which would arise would be, who was to be the authority to administer the old-age pensions, or the duties of the boards of guardians which were to be swept away? Was the Metropolitan Asylums Board also to disappear? If so, were they going to have a new central authority elected ad hoc, were they going to have a nominative authority, or would they throw this new responsibility on the London County Council? If the latter alternative were to be adopted, the London County would probably have to be increased; and the question would arise whether the additional number of members was to be obtained by enlarging the county or by allowing existing constituencies to return more representatives. All these questions were bound up with the system of election in London, and he thought it would be a great pity to "queer the pitch" by dealing with this question before they were ready for it and rushing into hasty legislation.
§ MR. GUINNESS
said he was in favour of redistribution, although he did not see what that had to do with the point he was dealing with. There was a contrast between giving a Member to St. George's-in-the-East, with an electorate of 3,800, and only one Member to Clapham with an electorate of 22,000 1282 or Wandsworth with an electorate of 38,000. If the question of London government was to be thrown into the melting-pot, it ought not to be done until a Redistribution Bill was brought in. If the franchise was to be altered at all that would necessarily bring up the whole question of the represenation of minorities, which was a question of not only who was going to vote, but how they were going to vote. He thought it was a great pity to interfere with the question at all, until they were ready to deal with it on broad and comprehensive lines. They had heard about Reform Bills which had been brought in by tottering Governments—[Sir F. BANBURY, Hear, hear.] He thought his hon. friend misjudged what he was saying. He did not accuse the present Government of being a tottering. Government, or of bringing in a Reform Bill at the present moment, and they all knew that these Reform Bills had not in the past fulfilled the rosy expectations entertained by those who brought them in. What he was going to say was that we had never in the whole history of the country had a hole and corner Bill of this; kind, which was simply brought in to secure the vested interests of certain Liberal Members who for the time being represented London constituencies. He would again ask the House to look at the names of the hon. Members who backed the Bill. It had been pointed out to him by his hon. friend that among the names on the Bill were those of three late chairmen of the London County Council, who at least attached due weight to the danger signal, that the London County Council had changed its political allegiance. Then again, no less than half of the Members who fathered this Bill were sitting for what used to be considered safe Radical seats, but which seats had in the course of the Municipal elections turned away from their allegiance of eighteen years in many cases and returned municipal reformers. The hon. Members who sat for West St. Pancras, Haggerston, Woolwich, North Islington, and for the Mile End and Limehouse divisions of Tower Hamlets, sat for boroughs which had discarded Radicalism for municipal reform. They all quite appreciated the great temptation which it must be to hon. Members opposite to try and make use of their exceptional Parliamentary majority to 1283 try and disfranchise those who were suspected of being likely to vote against them. He thought, however, in the case of London, they were rather wasting their time, because in the London County Council elections there was no plural voting, and, notwithstanding that, hon. Gentlemen opposite fared very badly at the municipal polls last March. He thought it was a great mistake, from their own point of view, to disfranchise a large number of the small shopkeepers of London; and that was what this Bill would do, because many a man did not live over his shop but lived just over the Metropolitan Borough boundary, and, in future under this Bill he would have only one vote instead of two as he had had in the past. He hoped the House would not consent to increase the anomalies of our electoral system by singling out London for special treatment, but would refuse to grant a Second Reading to this Bill, because it was perfectly obvious that it would prejudice the prospects of bringing about in the near future a broad and uniform settlement of a question which they all admitted offered great anomalies, namely, that of the administration of the County of London and of the division of the electoral areas.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
The hon. Member who has just sat down is to be heartily congratulated on the admirable speech which he has delivered from his point of view. He has made one mistake, how ever, in that excellent presentation, and that is one upon which I will now correct him. This is not a Reform Bill, and we are not a tottering Government.
§ MR. GUINNESS
May I say, I never said that the Government was a tottering one. I said that Reform Bills had been introduced by tottering Governments, and my hon. friend who sits for the City of London imagined that I was speaking of this Government.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
I think it would have been better if the hon. Member had left it as I left it, because his interruption has marred an otherwise excellent speech. As I said, this Bill is not a Reform Bill and it is not the Bill of a tottering Government. This is not a premonitory symptom of electoral despair, but it is rather a symptom of electoral justice for London, which we think has been too long delayed, and we venture to support this Bill for a few reasons, which I will proceed to give. This measure embodies only a few elementary matters dealing with the purely domestic electoral arrangements of London. The Government had intended to introduce a Bill dealing with the five or six essential features of the measure now before the House, but the fortunes of the ballot gave a London Member an opportunity of dealing with pressing London questions, and this Bill, which has been alternately represented as being a Redistribution Bill in disguise, or a gerrymandering measure of great and far-reaching proportions, only gives to London in regard to electoral affairs what provincial cities now enjoy; and it is because it is a simple Bill and deals with elementary points, which have been too long denied to London, that the Government are disposed to support it with certain modifications. What is the nature of the changes? The Bill introduces five or six points. It makes London one Parliamentary borough instead of twenty-eight; it gives successive occupation 1285 within the county the same right that successive occupation would secure if London were Manchester or Birmingham. Successive occupation would not be broken by moving from one Parliamentary division of a borough to another elsewhere. Why should it be broken by moving from street to street in this vast city? Beyond that the Bill extends the hours of polling from eight to ten o'clock, which is a very sensible thing in my judgment to do. It places the appointment of revising barristers, apart from their payment, which is not materially touched by this Bill, on the south side of, the River Thames in the same position as it is on the north side of the river, namely, in the hands of the Lord Chief Justice, and in my view we ought to have the same judicial authority dealing with the north as well as with the south. It makes the register three weeks earlier than now, which is a point for Committee, and it makes the Parliamentary area coextensive and co-terminous with the administrative county. I would like to say, also, that the Bill, apart from these specific proposals, unifies the London electorate, and that in my judgment is a useful thing. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds spoke with regret of the fact that so small a proportion of London electors voted at the guardians election. I am sorry to think that as social conditions change, and as movements of population go on, there is a strong suspicion of the apathy with regard to the guardians elections being extended to borough council, perhaps to county council, and ultimately perhaps to Parliamentary elections, and anything which would arrest that is a thing to be accepted and adopted, because it will be a bad day for Parliament when citizens, both rich and poor, do not take that 1286 interest in all aspects of their political and municipal life which they have always done and which there is a tendency for them not to do. The Government think that a Bill like this, which unifies the London electorate, simplifies access to the roll of citizenship, secures in some directions economy in the preparation of the lists and registration expenses and gives to the Central Authority some power of organising for political purposes the Metropolitan registers, not on a purely local basis, as too often they are now, but with a central co-ordinating power, is a measure which is desirable, simple, and effective. We also think that it gives, and I am glad of it, and I am obliged to the noble Lord the Member for Kensington for blessing it—it also gives to London the benefit of having all its elections on one day. I was glad to notice that the noble Lord was in favour of that change. I venture to support this Bill, apart from the reasons I have given, because the tendency in London is to unify more and more. Practically London is already one area for municipal purposes, for education, water, police, poor law, and metropolitan asylum purposes, and should be—[An HON. MEMBER: Not for police.] I beg pardon, but the fact that the police are not under the London County Council is a matter we need not go into at this moment, as the police of the Metropolis where they are not Imperial are extra Metropolitan and therefore so far as London is concerned centralised. I believe that a similar movement should be applied to our electoral arrangements for Parliamentary representation. It has been said that there is no need to extend the hours of polling, and may I deal with this for a moment. The hon. Baronet alluded to this, and curiously enough pointed to the guardians election 1287 as a reason for not extending the hours of polling. If he will look at page 11 of that book of London statistics, of which I am pleased to see he is a student—and if he continues to study it, I have no doubt he will probably become a Progressive or a Radical—he will find this fact, that in the first ten hours from eight in the morning at a guardians election in a district which is typical of the whole, some 1,500 voters polled, but in the last four hours the number was roughly 2,470; and, if that be true of an election of guardians it must be doubly true of elections for borough and county councils and for Parliamentary elections, where the proportion voting is not twenty-eight per cent. but seventy-eight per cent. of the electors. Now I come to the reason why London should in this matter, instead of being treated in a piecemeal way, be dealt with in such a manner as would bring it into line with what the provinces have enjoyed for the last forty or fifty years. London's exceptional size, its character, the conditions of a Metropolis, differentiate it from nearly every town and from nearly every other city. The enormous distances that men have to work away from the place in which they live differentiate it from even the big cities of Glasgow, Manchester, or Birmingham; thon we know the extraordinary movement of its population and that in some districts the movement of population per annum ranges from 28 to 40 or in some areas 50 per cent. of the voters who are compelled to move from year to year. We ought not to do anything to prevent that mobility of population. It is a good sign that people do move about in London, It indicates that rapid and cheap traction has enlarged their choice in regard to housing and has given them an opportunity of following work, and 1288 getting work, and more continuous work, where they can. We have no right to injure this character of mobility, which makes for better housing, better work, and better conditions of life. We have no right to penalise a man who moves from one part of London to another, after his work or in search of better housing or of health by preventing him from getting his vote as easily as he would get it if he were a citizen of Manchester, Liverpool, or Birmingham. The Government were prepared to introduce a similar Bill to this and we are prepared to support the Second Reading, but, in saying that, we reserve to ourselves the right of improving one or two points referred to by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of modifying one or two of the proposals of the Bill that the mover of it wisely suggested that he is open to be advised upon. Subject to that, I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading, and will place the London electorate in regard to successive occupation, revising barristers, hours of polling and central control of elections, in the position which provincial towns and cities now occupy. It is not a Bill which deals exceptionally with London, but it is is a Bill brought in to remove a longstanding grievance, and to give Londoners the privileges which provincial electors have long enjoyed, and it is on these grounds that the Government supports the Bill.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)
The right hon. Gentleman told my hon. friend behind me that this was not a Reform Bill, but he will not, I am sure, deny that it is a Bill dealing with a very important question of electoral reform, and if that is not a Reform Bill, I really do not know what in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman a Reform Bill can 1289 be. It is idle to tell the House of Commons that in dealing with this question we are not to consider the question of Parliamentary reform, and that this is entirely distinct from a general Reform Bill, as it is limited to one particular part of the country. The right hon. Gentleman said that the fortunes of the ballot gave the hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill, this day, and therefore His Majesty's Government did not themselves introduce a Bill, which they at one time contemplated doing, but supported this one. But, Sir, it was not only the fortunes of the ballot. It was the favour of the Government who closured the debate upon the Address at an unusual early period of the session, which enabled this Bill to come on. We should he glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether this was mearly a coincidence. We have no means of knowing, but I am bound to say the peculiarity of the circumstances and some things that have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman and others lead to the idea that when the Government closured the Address at the time they did, it was no objection to their action in that direction that it would enable this Bill to come on, which it certainly would not have done but for that action. My right hon friend the Member for the City of London made a suggestion in the course of his speech that a question should be put to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether the Government contemplated giving special facilities for the progress of this measure, and an interruption on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board also gave colour to that suggestion when he said that it was only what has been done before, and when he named one or two Bills in regard to 1290 which it had been done in the past. I think under all the circumstances I am entitled to put the question to the right hon. Gentlemen, because if it be the case that the Government have in their mind the intention to make this a Government measure, then I say in a question of Parliamentary reform, one of the most important of all questions that Parliament can deal with, we have a right to ask that there shall be a further opportunity of debating the Bill on its Second Reading. If there is any colour for the suggestion that the Government contemplate giving further facilities in the future, then a Bill of this character ought not to be disposed of at a morning sitting on a Friday. I propose in the few words that I intend to trouble the House with upon this matter to draw attention to the objects and effects of this Bill and the methods by which it is proposed to accomplish those objects. Then I will give one or two reasons which occur to me why the sanction of the House should be withheld from this proposal. As to the first two points, I think the objects are admirably described in the Amendment placed upon the Paper by the hon. Bart, the Member for the City of London, and they were more tersely described by the hon. Member for Wandsworth when he said, "this is a Bill for the abolition of plural voting in London, and nothing else." That is what the Bill is for and it is no use concealing the fact that the main object of this Bill is the abolition of plural voting in London. The abolition of plural voting may or may not be a good thing, and personally I hold the opinion, if I may be allowed to say so, that the total abolition of plural voting in the Metropolis would not be in the interests of popular representation. If that principle 1291 is to be accepted, however, there is no question, no doubt whatever, that it ought to be of universal application. I am surprised that hon. Members should have any doubt or difference of opinion upon that point. This Bill is limited to fifty-eight constituencies of this country, and the remaining 500 or 600 are to remain on a totally different footing. Here I must note what appeared to me to be some inconsistencies in the speech of the hon. Member for North St. Pancras. The hon. Member said that London is placed in a very peculiar position, that the proportion of voters to adults in London is much less than it ought to be, is much less than it is in the country. The number of voters in London who are not but who ought to be on the register in London are many thousands. But what is his remedy? According to the hon. Member the number of persons with votes in London is much less than it ought to be. But under this Bill he is going still further to diminish them. Now may I turn just for a moment to the methods by which the desired objects of this Bill are to be secured? The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board expressed his great surprise that Section 1 of Clause 1 of this Bill should be subjected to hostile criticism, as he thought it ought to be universally accepted. I am bound to say I differ entirely from the hon. Gentleman. I differ because if the question of electoral reform is to be dealt with at all, it should be dealt with by a Bill applying to the whole of the country; so I have always understood during my political career. The views put forward at the present time are in entire and complete contradiction to all those traditions which were accepted by Radical Ministers and 1292 Governments quite as much as by Tory and Unionist Ministers and Governments. This matter ought to be dealt with by a Bill applying to the whole of the country and dealing with all branches of this question. Instead of this we have an Electoral Reform Bill dealing only with one small point in the innumerable anomalies of our electoral law, because it may be to the advantage of the Party now in power. Some of these anomalies were in the mind of the hon. Member himself when he criticised Clauses 3 and 4. With regard to Clause 4 it is the fact that by altering the date from the 1st January to the 1st November when the new list and register of electors comes into operation, you will have this extraordinary state of things, and will introduce this absolutely new anomaly into our electoral system, that if this Bill is passed and a general election takes place between the 1st November and the 1st January in the future, London as against the rest of the country will vote on an entirely different register. Is not that a very remarkable anomaly? One election would be held on an old register and another on a new one. Is not this a new and a strangr anomaly which you are putting into oue system by a Bill which is to get rid of existing anomalies? The Secretary to the Local Government Board associates himself entirely with Clauses 5, 6 and 7. Clause 5 deals with making the regulations for the revising barristers by Orders in Council. Why does he approve of this? The special reason he gives us for thinking that this is a most admirable proposal is that he wants to get the electoral representation of London on the most democratic basis possible.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Can you toll me how that is consistent with carrying 1293 out this arrangement by Orders in Council? What are Orders in Council? They are the orders of the Ministers of the Crown, and I should not be stretching the point or be guilty of undue exaggeration if I said, "The Royal prerogative." That would be the actual effect of it. Yet the hon. Member thinks the best way of establishing the elections of London on an absolutely democratic principle would be by making arrangements for the revising barristers, who are concerned in returning Members to this House, by the exercise of the Royal prerogative. It seems there are still some points in this Bill which hon. Members are now trying to hurry through the House which require rather longer consideration than at all events they are able to get on a Friday afternoon. Let me say one word more with regard to the objections to this Bill. The chief one, of course, is the one that I have stated, when you have to deal with a question of Parliamentary reform in this country, and on which all parties have hitherto been agreed. I am surprised that all parties are not agreed now upon it, but at all events we on this side of the House adhere rigidly to the opinion that in dealing with Parliamentary reform it ought to be dealt with comprehensively as a whole, and the principle applied universally, and not in districts. But there is another objection, which I do not think of less importance. This Bill has been introduced, like the Bill to deal with plural voting two years ago for the purpose of getting rid of anomalies in our electoral system. But the anomalies of the electoral system of this country are innumerable, and can only be dealt with by a universal Bill. What I complain of is this, that as it appears to me, hon. Gentlemen opposite who are supporting this Bill, and who are so anxious on the 1294 subject of getting rid of the anomalies of our electoral system, are absolutely blind and their eyes hermetically sealed to every one of the existing anomalies except that particular one, by getting rid of which they think they will derive some considerable advantage. Why is this course being adopted by the Government this session? They adopted, as I think, a very unusual attitude; they pursued, as I think, a very unusual course, last year, or the the year before, before I had the pleasure of coming back again after the genera] election, with regard to the Plural Voting Bill. It adds to my curiosity to hear what are the views and intentions of the Government with regard to the future progress of this Bill this session I do think after all that has passed upon this subject this afternoon after the suggestion made on this side and the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, after he has reminded us of what frequently has been the case of late, that the Government have taken up the Bills of private Members and given them special facilities for passing during the session when they could not have passed without those facilities—then I do say, and I wish to press this upon the right hon. Gentleman, that we are entitled to hear from him, whether that course is in contemplation by the Government. If it is, I do not think that there will be the slightest doubt on the part of those who sit upon this side of the House as to the course it is their duty to pursue, which is to offer the most unbending opposition and resistance to the proposal which is now before us.
SIR WILLIAM BILL (Hammersmith)
said the deprecating air with which the hon. Member brought in 1295 his Bill reminded him of the old story of the punctiliously polite Greek nobleman who, while performing the funeral of an infant daughter, felt bound to make his excuses to the spectators for "bringing out such a ridiculously small corpse to so large a crowd." He trusted that the Bill had more vitality than the infant, but on the other hand he thought those who had followed the debate would come to the same conclusion as the President of the Local Government Board, viz., that this was not by any means a small measure, but on the contrary a large and far reaching one. He would like, from his own experience as an election agent of many years standing, to speak of some of the blanks left in the Bill, and to point out the enormous changes that go on in the register during the year. The introducer of the Bill stated that 10 per cent. of a constituency changed every year, but in the constituency of Hammersmith the change was much greater, and practically one-fourth of the register was altered every twelve months. In the course of the last twenty years his own Party had actually put on the register 22,000 persons—more than the actual total on it to-day. Let them endeavour to realise what that meant and what would be involved if the proposals of the Bill became law. Let them think what the revising barristers would have to do between the 8th September and the 1st November, when the various registers for London would have to be collated into one grand register for the whole of London. It would require a book as large as the London Directory; the register would have to be practically re-written and he would like to ask the President of the Local Government Board if the Treasury had been consulted in regard to this. He understood that by some mistake they were not so consulted in 1296 regard to the Criminal Appeal Bill of last year. In his opinion the expense involved by this change would be terrific, and he would like to know if an estimate of the cost had been drawn out. They as guardians of the taxpayers' interest ought to have before them some figures. There was not only the question of the salaries of the Revising Barristers to be considered; there would be the question of collating the registers, and making them perfect. It had been said that some of the registers were very badly kept. He would like to know which registers were thus referred to, for having a fairly good knowledge of the London boroughs he was bound to say he considered that the registers were almost uniformly perfect. He noted that in this Bill, as in the case of the Plural Voting Bill, there was an absence of information as to the manner in which the details were to be worked out, and he thought too they should have in the Schedule a list of the Acts of Parliament affected. He believed hon. Members would be surprised to learn the number of Acts interfered with by this Bill, and seeing that they could not properly digest the measure at such short notice, they ought certainly to be afforded another opportunity of discussing it in detail.
§ MR. THORNTON (Clapham)
said that in his opinion this ought to be an avowed Government measure, and he desired to appeal to the President of the Local Government Board to tell them frankly whether the Government were going to take 'up the Bill, and whether they were to have a fair opportunity of fighting out in the House of Commons this proposed great change in the law affecting London, and inferentially the law of the country as a whole. There were many hon. Members who, had they 1297 known the real nature of this Bill, would have been only too glad to attend that afternoon and express their opinion upon it. He wished especially to point out that the Bill would deprive some of the Metropolitan boroughs of ancient privileges, which he would indicate as succinctly as possible. It had not been stated in the debate that the Redistribution Bill of 1885 expressly reserved the right of exercising the franchise wherever a voter possessed it outside any of the composite boroughs at that time, either preserved or created. Thus under the ægis of the great Liberal loader, Mr. Gladstone, it had been deliberately determined that while one man could only vote once within two-member boroughs, such as that which he himself partly represented, viz., Battersea and Clapham, yet a property owner retained else-where the right of plural voting, provided he possessed valid qualifications. That hon. Members opposite objected to this principle was true, and their objections had to be met; but surely in a measure dealing with the United Kingdom of England and Ireland as a whole, and not with the London area only. Otherwise it should be known how in particular the rights of two of the most ancient and historic boroughs in the country were about to be obliterated by this piecemeal legislation and the whole character of the constituencies of the City of London and Southwark altered. The City doubtless would be able to defend its privileges to good purpose, but he must call attention to the great past of Southwark, whose representatives in the 18th and early 19th centuries included Tierney, Sir Francis Burdett and—he hoped he might be forgiven for naming his own kinsman—Mr. Henry Thorton, who was Member there for 35 years 1298 prior to his death in 1815, and would be further remembered as the coadjutor of Wilberforce when striving against the slave trade. Before the Reform Act of 1832 there were only three really working-class boroughs, judged by the test of numbers upon the register, and they were Liverpool, Preston and Southwark, so the great ends and aims connected with the Clapham Sect and Battersea Rise had popular approval. Surely, then, the reversal of the Act of 1885 and the withdrawal of ancient privileges ought not to be accomplished except in a complete scheme of redistribution. At present they had glaring inequalities within the Metropolitan area, as had been shown by the hon. Baron the Member for Wandsworth, so that the Brobdingnag of Wandsworth co-existed with the Lilliput of Whitechapel. Unless anomalies such as these were corrected, any electoral reform must be imperfect and unjust. Moreover it should be remembered that since 1430 and the time of Henry VI. no disfranchising measure had passed through the British Parliament. On that occasion the franchise was limited to forty-shilling freeholders, because Henry IV. in his efforts to gain popularity had too much lowered the vote. But these facts were only adduced to emphasise the necessity for a general reconsideration of the electoral question at issue which should be dealt with as a whole. Hence his request to the Government and especially to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, for a promise to be allowed to fight the matter out on the floor of the House.
§ MR. NIELD (Middlesex, Ealing)
said that when one remembered that the Liberal Party, as late as 1885, deliberately broke up large London boroughs which formerly 1299 existed—boroughs like Chelsea, Finsbury and Hackney—which had enormous populations, and the task o£ fighting which was rendered almost prohibitive by reason of the expense involved—when they remembered that the Liberals deliberately broke up these boroughs into twenty-eight boroughs, it seems to him that everyone who had the constitutional interests of the country at heart should strongly protest against the introduction, in this manner, of a measure of such wide and far-reaching importance as the one they were now discussing—a measure which proposed to destroy the electoral machinery set up in the County of London by the Liberal Government in 1885. They knew how, under the able guidance of the First Commissioner of Works in 1906, the Government by the use of that engine of oppression, the closure, passed a Plural Voters Bill, which they sent up to the other Chamber in such a hectoring and intolerant spirit, and which the House of Lords promiscuously rejected, thereby showing that they would not be a party to gerrymandering the register. They knew also that the attempt of the Government to inflame public passion against that House made no impression whatever on the country. Yet here they had another attempt, due no doubt to the fact that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, as well as the Party managers, know that they had lost the confidence of the country. Hon. Members opposite ought to be aware that by subscribing to measures of this sort they must inevitably destroy the position they had achieved for themselves. He wondered if ever in the history of the House on the first private Members day of the session, there had been such an array of right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench to support such a Bill as this. He congratulated the Member for North St. Pancras on being able, with the aid of the Government, to bring this Bill forward, but he hoped the country would realise that the Radical Government caused the debate on the Address to be closured at an extremely early date in order that they might jockey into position a measure of this nature. What was the anomaly that they proposed to remove? They proposed to make this great change in the law 1300 because they said the County of London was so large that it needed to be treated as one entity. Now that was certainly not the opinion of the right hon. Gentlemen's predecessors, when they deliberately broke up the big London boroughs. They sought to justify this great change, because they said many men lost their right to vote simply by moving from one borough to another. Yet at the same time they were going to create still greater anomalies, and residents in the borough of Hammersmith moving in some instances across the road, or a few score yards into his constituency would find it necessary to re-qualify, while if they moved to the other side of the County of London, say to Stoke Newington or to Woolwich, they would retain their qualification, though the distance they had moved would (with the up-to-date methods of communication and conveyance), take them an hour to traverse.
§ MR. DICKINSON
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ MR. NIELD
, continuing, declared there was absolutely nothing to justify the introduction of this Bill, and submitted that such anomalies as there were in the existing state of things, must remain until they were removed by a general Bill.
And it being Five of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business:—
§ Whereupon Mr. DICKINSON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question, and the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at two minutes after Five o'clock till Monday next.