§ Clause 2 (Boroughs named in First Schedule to become parts of counties or boroughs) agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Disfranchisement of certain boroughs for corruption).
§ LORD BRABOURNE
said, he wished to call attention to the disfranchised boroughs, as he thought that scant justice had been done them. As a rule they were more sinned against than sinning; and he especially desired to enter his protest against the great act of injustice about to be done to Sandwich, a borough which he represented for 23 years, and which was now to be deprived of separate representation. The Royal Commissioners reported that Sandwich was the centre of great corruption at the election of 1880. He attended a sitting of the Commissioners, upon their summons, and was prepared to go into the previous elections. Had he been able to do so he should have been able to show that the expenditure upon those elections had by no means been unreasonable; and he himself had, during six contested elections, spent an aggregate sum very much smaller than that expended by the successful candidate in 1880. But the Commissioners held that they had no power to inquire into any election behind the uncontested and pure election of March, 1880. No doubt they were correct; but mark the extraordinary course of their subsequent action. In forbidding inquiry behind a pure election, the Legislature doubtless intended that such election should be held to have condoned any previous offences. But in this case the Commissioners, holding themselves precluded from taking evidence which, as his (Lord 1375 Brabourne's) would have been favourable to the borough, actually assumed that there had been bribery at previous elections, which was precisely contrary to the intentions of the Legislature. They grounded this assumption partly upon the fact of the organization of the bribery in 1880; but the truth was that this was not attributable to the people of the borough, but to the very able organizer employed by the successful candidate—an agent who, having "made a clean breast of it" before the Commission, went scot free and was now a candidate for another borough, whilst his victims were to be disfranchised. This was a hard measure, and the harder because, whilst many boroughs which had not been punished had often been convicted of bribery in former years, as a matter of fact there had never before been an Election Petition at Sandwich. If the facts were really known, the record of Sandwich would be far less bad than other places that had escaped; and, although he knew that it would be ineffectual, he entered his protest against the disfranchisement.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Boroughs to have number of Members reduced); Clause 5 (Boroughs to have additional Members); Clause 6 (New boroughs); Clause 7 (Boroughs with their boundaries altered); and Clause 8 (Division of Parliamentary boroughs), severally agreed to.
§ Clause 9 (Division of counties).
§ LORD NORTON,
in moving an Amendment with the object of providing that no divisions of a county should be described by the name of a town except when it could not be avoided from the number of divisions, as in those of the counties of Lancaster and York, said, the claims of rival towns had excited much discussion in the House of Commons. This Amendment was more far-reaching. It raised the question whether the names of towns should be given to counties at all, and that was no mere matter of nomenclature, for in it was involved the principle of representation of interests as against a representation of numbers. No two interests are more distinct than of town and country; and anything tending to obliterate the distinction, and to merge the 1376 knight of the shire in the burgess, was alike destructive of the representative principle, and degrading to Members of Parliament, treating them as mere nominal counters of population, instead of spokesmen for local constituencies. The feelings of the Boundary Commissioners, he believed, were against the county nomenclature adopted in the Bill. Their Instructions put it out of their discretion, and made clear the reason of its adoption—namely, that it was the wish of the Government to propitiate certain boroughs which were merged by the Bill, by giving their names to counties. That was just the sort of ease in which their Lordships might wisely interfere. It was for their Lordships to maintain what was really a vital principle of representation—namely, the constitution of the National Council of representation of every interest and locality, as distinguished from a collection of Members at a rate of one for so many thousands of population. The question was between representation of interest and mere representation of numbers. He would conclude by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
In page 3, line 19, leave out from ("division") to end of clause and insert ("and no division of a county shall be described by the name of a town excepting those of the counties of Lancaster and York.")—(The Lord Norton.)
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, that, though he had heard a good deal on this subject, he had not the slightest conception that it was possible for anybody, however ingenious he might be, to imagine that some great Constitutional principle remained at the bottom of the controversy about these names. Agreeing entirely in what the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had said as to the admirable manner in which the Commissioners had discharged their duties, he ventured to suggest that it would be very unwise to go directly contrary to their recommendations. There was a very strong feeling in different localities in favour of the points of the compass, and in deference to that feeling the alternative method of designation was adopted. He thought it would be very undesirable, as well as being unwise, for their Lordships' House to go now into the very laborious task of re-naming all the 1377 divisions of counties. He therefore hoped the House would not agree to the Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he could not see that it was possible to agree to the proposal of the noble Lord behind him (Lord Norton), and he wished to express his entire dissent from the Constitutional view he had laid down. The matter was of little consequence, and he could not believe that the future distinction between counties and boroughs would depend on the name which was given to any constituency. His own impression was that it would be truer philosophy to say that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The difficulty of adopting such a rule as was suggested, of finding a systematic style of designation, was not confined alone to Lancashire and Yorkshire, and would be enormous. If any noble Lord would take the cases of Cheshire, Devonshire, and Staffordshire, in addition to those which he had named, he would see that, even with all the resources of boxing the compass at his disposal, he could not do it in a way which would be at all clear to Revising Barristers and other officials. Though he did not in the least wish to commit himself to the view that there might not be cases as they went on in smaller counties where it might be desirable to make alterations, he was quite sure that such a general rule as that proposed was impracticable.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.