Motion made and Question put—
That clause 22, stand part of the Bill.
Motion agreed to.
Page 19, line 5, leave out 'one councillor,' and insert 'two councillors.'"—(Lord Counbrock.)
My Lords, the Motions which I have put down for Amendments are in a somewhat confused state, owing to the fact that I first put down an Amendment which concerned this clause alone, and then I was furnished by a Friend who was better versed than I am in the language of Acts of Parliament with a series of consequential Amendments. I put those down afterwards, and the consequence is that there is a certain amount of repetition, and that they overlap one another. But I think if the House will accept the principle of my Amendment there will be no difficulty in putting them into shape. My present Amendment is to the effect that in all electoral divisions, where at present one elected guardian is returned, there shall be two district councillors, and that in the cases of divisions in which there are now two elected guardians, three elected district councillors shall be re- 1001 turned. A hope has been universally expressed that the present class of ex-officio guardians will come forward for election, and will take part in the future government of the county under the new system. Well, my Lords, as stated by myself on the day of the Second Heading, and by many noble Lords who preceded me, we have all over Ireland a large number of the county gentlemen who are fully prepared to come forward. But it does not only depend upon their coming forward. The issue depends upon the electors. The country gentlemen are ready to do their duty if they get a chance, and the object of this Amendment is to give them that chance. In every electoral division there is at the present moment a sitting member—the elected guardian for that division. He must naturally possess the confidence of his constituents, or he would not be there, and it is not to be expected that his constituents will set him aside for the purpose of electing another man, even though he may be better qualified for the post. It is not reasonable to suppose that they would do so, and I do not think it would be fair if they did. But they may return another man who will be thoroughly qualified if you make the number two. I will take a case which is not so unusual in Ireland as might be supposed from the statements of those who are generally occupied in vilifying the class from which ex-officio guardians and grand jurors are drawn. Take the case of an ex-officio guardian in the habit of attending a board of guardians. The people all know him; they go to him on any matter connected with the Poor Law. He has been, although not elected, practically representing that division for a great number of years. People have evidently accorded him a fair amount of confidence, but if it comes to a question of electing one man, it is not to be supposed that they will set aside their present elected guardian, who has discharged his duties to their satisfaction, for the sake of appointing an ex-officio guardian; whereas, if they could return two they might be content to leave things as they are, and have the ex-officio guardian, sitting with his elected colleague, as heretofore. I know of a case, not in my own part of Ireland, but in another, where a man is very much in the position that I have described, with 1002 the exception that in his case there are two elected guardians in his division, as there is a small town in one part of the division. Of these two, one presented himself for election at his request. Neither of the two would give up his post without a contest, and his feeling is that he would not stand against either of them, whereas if there were three councillors to be elected, it is pretty sure that he would be returned. But if the Bill is left as it is, and this district is only given two members, it will be deprived of the services of one of the ablest men in Ireland. I will take another case, that of a man who, perhaps, is not so well known a the poor law guardian, but who may be better known as a grand juror. The electors might think that it would be an advantage to them, owing to the large measure of public work that will come before a district council, to have a man experienced in county work. But they would not set aside their elected guardian to do so. If they had two members they probably would elect the grand juror as one. I do not say they would do anything of the kind, because some great wave of public excitement might come over the country, or some command may be issued from some mysterious association, and the electors might go like a flock of sheep and elect nobody of the class I have mentioned, but they may do so, and this Amendment gives them a, chance to do it without showing any ingratitude to their sitting member. This proposition has been widely considered in Ireland. A large conference representing the whole of the grand juries in Ireland, with the exception of two, met in the spring, and this proposal was adopted with so few dissentient voices that it may be practically said to be unanimous feeling of the conference. At the same time, objections have been raised to it by some men of great ability. I will now proceed to consider the objections that I have heard. The first is that it will make the district council unwieldy. Now, with reference to that, the boards at present consist of an equal number of ex-officio guardians and elected guardians, so that doubling the number of elected guardians would make no difference. In answer to this, it is pointed out that the ex-officio guardians attend 1003 very irregularly. I regret to say that is the case, and it is really not so much to be wondered at when one considers what they have gone through. Some 10 or 15 years ago they were made the mark for every sort of insult and contumely if they attended, and the proceedings of boards such as those mentioned by my noble Friend the other evening were not such as to encourage anyone to attend. That is not my own experience, my Lords. I was certainly put out of the chair because I did not see my way to put political motions; but I went on attending, and I never had a rough word said to me by anybody present. But my experience in this respect is, I know, very different from that of others. As to unwieldiness, I remember the time before these troublous times, when ex-officio guardians did attend very regularly, and I never remember to have heard of any inconvenience arising from the great size of the boards. My experience is that the error ran rather in the other direction. There is no such urgent wish and desire among people to attend boards of this kind regularly where the proceedings must be of a somewhat monotonous, humdrum character. It is a great tax upon a man to have to drive eight or ten miles to attend a board regularly on business of this kind. I will venture to go so far as to say that if the boards are confined to one member to each division, there will very often be a considerable difficulty in finding a sufficient number. If it be large at first it will very soon slacken off. Moreover, owing to the unfortunate introduction of union rating by the Government, the stimulus to attendance which now exists will disappear. At present every guardian is disposed to attend for fear of some undue charge being put upon his division. I believe if there were to be only one guardian to each division that the attendance would be small, and confined to a few people residing immediately around the workhouse, and that I consider would be an extremely undesirable state of things. Another objection I have heard is that the present ex-officio guardians are so few in number in sparsely inhabited districts that they would be utterly swamped by the increased number of elected guardians. My answer to that is that if the election is confined to one member they would not be elected at all, and that would be considerably worse. 1004 It would be far better to have a large board with a few guardians of the present ex-officio class on it than a small board with none at all. It is also said that we had better wait and let the electors find out their mistake, and that then they will come round and elect a more competent class of men. Experience of that kind may be very dearly bought, and a great deal of mischief may be done in three years. Apart from that, bad habits in a public body are very much like bad habits in individuals—very easily acquired and very difficult to eradicate. I am further of opinion that if the ex-officio class guardians are not elected now it is very doubtful whether they will ever be elected afterwards; The affairs of the district would have to be indeed very badly conducted before the electors would make such a change as to reject their old guardian merely on account of supposed inefficiency. The feeling in Ireland is very strongly in favour of keeping a man on in his own place. I am convinced that this House is anxious that men of experience and education should be elected to these councils. The district councils are the most important body under this new system, as they initiate the greater part of the expenditure, and the county council will think twice before they disapprove of any step that has been taken by an elected body. As I said the other day, it is not only extravagance that I am afraid of; I am just as much afraid of niggardliness under many heads of expenditure. I really do not like to contemplate the position of the sick and suffering poor if their destinies are to be entirely controlled by men of the class of the present elected guardians—men who, not so much from want of feeling as from want of knowledge, are not sensible of the proper requirements of a hospital, and who, while very properly anxious not to raise the standard of living in a workhouse so as to make it too attractive to people outside, cannot be brought to see that the sick inmates of the workhouse come under quite a different category. I very much fear there will be a disposition to stint them of the care and attention which their position so thoroughly demands. I therefore hope that the House will agree with, the Amendment which I move. I beg to move—Page 19, line 5, leave out 'one councillor' and insert 'two councillors,'1005 so that the clause will then run—Two councillors shall be elected for each district electoral division.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I most cordially endorse the words which have fallen from the noble Lord. I laid great stress upon this point when I had the honour of addressing your Lordships on the Second Reading of this Bill, because I felt that it was utterly impossible to differentiate between the members that are to represent constituencies on the county councils and on the district councils, and for this reason: the county council at the present moment is not in existence in Ireland, consequently there is no question of any members of an ex-officio character; whereas the district councils which will, to a very great extent, take the place of the boards of guardians, have been represented by ex-officio as well as by elected guardians, and I was very glad indeed to hear the stress that my noble Friend laid on the fact that the ex-officio guardians, unless this Amendment is carried, are placed in a very awkward and invidious position. I think there are very few who will contradict me when I say that, taking Ireland right through, it has been found that the ex-officio guardians have discharged their duties in the most admirable manner, and in a great number of cases they have held the most important offices on the boards to which they belong, such as occupying the post of chairman or vice-chairman. Under these circumstances it seems to me that it will be running a very great risk to the good working of county government where men who have shown such ability and such energy in the discharge of their duties are not to have an opportunity of continuing their good work in the county. I laid great stress myself on the importance of the duties which will attach in the future to the district councils in Ireland. I say that their duties will be of a most responsible character, more responsible even than those of the county council, and consequently I am extremely anxious to see returned to these district councils men who have devoted their time and energy to carrying out the work which, in the minds of all impartial men, has been carried out so successfully in the past. 1006 My noble Friend has said that it is quite possible that unless this Amendment is carried the ex-officio guardian may find himself in antagonism—I hope only friendly—with one of the ordinary members of the board in the election which is to take place with regard to the representation on the board, to which, only one member is to be returned. There are cases in Ireland in which the landowner stands as ex-officio guardian, and at his own request his tenant has stood for, and been returned as, representative. My Lords, what will be the position of that landowner and the tenant if only one member is permitted to sit on the district council? He will find himself in the invidious position either of opposing his own tenant, who for years past he has asked to be elected representative of that area, or else he will have to stand on one side and not be permitted to take any part in the work of the district; and in order to maintain that kindly feeling which I am glad to think has existed on these boards of guardians where landowner and tenant have worked so long together, it is the duty of the Government to accept the Amendment of my noble Friend. I do not think, my Lords, as my noble Friend has put the case so very clearly before you, that it is necessary for me to trespass at any great length upon your time. In the interests of the good work of the district councils, in the interests of maintaining good feeling between the land-owing class who have hitherto acted as ex-officio guardians, and the tenant farmers who have acted as the elected representatives, it is the bounden duty of the Government to accept this Amendment, and I sincerely trust that they will do so.
§ *THE EARL OF ERNE
I wish to add my voice to those of my two noble Friends in asking the Government to accept this Amendment. We—I mean the country gentry in Ireland—have been invited and pressed by the Government to offer our services for carrying out the provisions of this Bill, and I believe I am only expressing the sentiments of my friends when I say that we are determined to do so. But if we are to do so we must have facilities. Now, my Lords, I will give my own experience, not 1007 because it is my own experience, but because it is typical of a number of cases, certainly in Ulster. I have for some time been chairman of my board of guardians. I attend very regularly, and take a great deal of interest in poor law administration, and I am very anxious to continue my services if the electors choose to avail themselves of them. But by this Bill you can only stand for the district in which you have a vote; you cannot stand for an outside district. The poor law guardian of my electoral division is a tenant of mine, and he is a man with whom I have always been on good terms. How can I go to this man, and say to him, "Stand aside; give up the position you have held for the purpose of allowing me to step into your place?" I could not do it, and if I were to do so, I do not believe that he would accede to my request, and under those circumstances I could not enter into a contest with him. It is said that the machinery that will be brought into play to effect the election of one man will equally apply to the second. That may be so, or it may not be so; at any rate, what we say to the Government is, "Give us a chance." You wish us to serve, and we are anxious to respond to your wishes, but give us a chance of seeing whether the electors will avail themselves of our services or not.
§ EARL SPENCER
I only wish, my Lords, to say a very few words upon a matter which I consider to be of very considerable importance. I do not wish to base my argument in any sense on a party basis. My impression is that my noble Friend who introduced this Amendment, and others who have spoken in favour of it, are not correct in the view which they take in this matter. I confess myself I should be extremely sorry if all those who have been engaged in public business hitherto in Ireland should be excluded from taking part in the new administration under this Act, and therefore I am not speaking in any sense against what they desire. But my impression strongly is that they would find themselves wrong in their anticipations of the result if you have two councillors for each electoral division. The noble Earl who just spoke, of course, does not agree with this view, because he has 1008 stated it as one of the arguments used in favour of the Government proposal. My belief is that if there is a strong feeling in any district the same machinery which is used to elect one member will be used for the purpose of electing two. Now, my Lords, I venture to say this: the general object the noble Lords have in view is to see that there is some minority representation. I, at different times of my life, have been strongly in favour of that. But I can recollect what took place in 1885, when the last Parliamentary Bill was introduced. As your Lordships know, at the last part of the negotiations for carrying that Measure, there was considerable communication with noble Lords who now are members of the Government. I believe I am correct in saying that the noble Marquess, at the head of the Government was strongly in favour of having single constituencies in most places in order to secure the representation of the minority—the old minority. The old Minority Clause was accepted, and was found not to be practical, and single constituencies in different districts were introduced with view to representing the minority.
THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of) SALISBURY
Is the noble Earl speaking of this country?
§ EARL SPENCER
Yes, I am speaking of this country. I do not, of course, attempt to compare Ireland in exactly the same manner with England. At the same time, I think there are analogies which can be brought forward, an I in this case I cannot help thinking myself that the soundest principle would be, except in a very few cases, to elect single members rather than to elect two—that ought to give a representation of the minorities better than any other system. Now, I would like to revert to what my noble Friend who introduced this Amendment said, with regard to a difficulty which district councillors and others will have in attending board meetings which are held at long distances from their homes. Whenever I have considered the question of Local Government in Ireland I have always felt what an immense difficulty this would create in working a Local Government Bill in that country. There may not be as 1009 much difficulty as regards district councils as there will be as regards county councils. We have difficulty in England with regard to this. It is a most extraordinary thing, considering those difficulties, how excellent the attendances have been on the county council, but the difficulty has shown itself, and a great many of those who first joined in the working of county government have had to give it up, owing to the great difficulty of going long distances to the meetings of the council. My belief is that in Ireland, where the great bulk of the people are poorer than they are in this country, where their means of communication are not so good as in this country, that this will be a very serious difficulty indeed. How will it work? It will work, no doubt, in favour of the old grand juries, because I can hardly agree with the statement which has been made that if they are not at first put on these new bodies they will not be put on them hereafter. My opinion is that, in the long run, it will be found that the difficulties of attendance among the elected of the poorer sort will be so great that those difficulties themselves will indirectly tend to this very class that my noble Friend wishes to be elected, being elected to these boards. I am not deprecating that in any way; I am only protesting against an alteration in this Bill of this character, because I am really afraid that the noble Lords opposite, who are now arguing in favour of two members for each division in their own interests, will find that the electors who can now send one man who will be in Opposition perhaps to the county gentry, will probably be able to send two, and therefore it is in their own interests that I say that I think it would be wiser to leave the number of members as it now is in the Bill.
THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The noble Earl has alluded to matters in which we were engaged some 13 years ago, and therefore I wish to interpose a word. I entirely take the noble Earl's view in favour of the single member system—not entirely, perhaps, for the reasons that he has advanced. My impression 13 years ago was that it was the most conservative plan that could be adopted, 1010 and was that partly arrived at from having watched the effects of the systems known as the scrutin de liste and the scrutin d'arrondissément in a neighbouring country, and I do not think, if we look back at what the state of politics was then and what it is now, that the Conservative Party have any ground for regretting that they supported the single member system. On the contrary, I believe it has had the effect of bringing into prominence the local influence of important men more than any other system would have done, and that, of course, must mainly be a conservative operation. The state of society in Ireland is very different, and I do not wish to dogmatise on a subject of which I know nothing, but speaking without reference to any peculiar circumstances, I should always say that the single member system is more likely to be stable and conservative than any double member system could possibly be.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
May I venture to make one remark, and that is that what has worked so exceedingly well for the Conservative Party in England may not work so well for the Unionist Party in Ireland. There is one thing to remember, that this is not a question of two people going into a constituency opposed to each other, but it is a question of one man opposing a sitting member. There is not the least chance of the present elected guardian being turned out. He will sit there. As the Government have made such appeals to us, the gentlemen of Ireland, to stand for these district councilsi—mind you, not the county council—surely they will give us the chance of standing, and all we ask them is that we shall have that chance, and that those who have been ex-officio guardians should have, so to speak, a run under this Bill for the constituency. The appeals made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland at the end of his speech in introducing this Bill were very strong; I suppose no stronger appeal could be made to any body of men, and by making that appeal it looks as if he thought that if the Unionists were not elected to these district councils that the Bill would not work. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland also made an appeal on the same subject, and therefore I trust that Her 1011 Majesty's Government will consider our position; we only ask to have a chance of being elected, and we ask that, although we know perfectly well that in a great many places in Ireland our chance is a very remote one.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
I think we should in no way consider any matter connected with this Bill in relation to Party politics. As so many of us from Ireland have stated before, noble Lords in this House are most anxious to support this Bill when it becomes law and to make it work effectively. If the Bill stands as it is, and there is to be only one member for each division, it will be very hard indeed to turn out the present sitting guardian. There is also a feeling in Ireland which voices itself in this remark, "We like the old man," and they will stick to the old man. What we ask for by this Amendment is that we may be allowed to have another man who will, if possible, help the sitting member in the work of the district council, and we consider that if two are to be elected, the more is the probability of the superior class of man—superior from a social point of view—being enabled to take his share in the regulation of county affairs. The noble Lord opposite has stated that he very much doubts whether the attendance will be good. I rather agree with him; but surely if the attendance is bad where there is only one member it may be a little better where there are two. One guardian may be ill and unable to attend, but it is not probable that two guardians representing the same place would be ill at the same time. Therefore, I think, taking all things into consideration, it will be very desirable if this Amendment is accepted by Her Majesty's Government.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I should just like to say one word in support of my noble Friend. I should like to point out to the noble Earl opposite that there is no question of minority representation in this matter; we can never hope to get a majority on the boards. But this Amendment is for the purpose of enabling those who are best qualified and best acquainted with county business to offer their services for the public good.
Let me put it in two sentences; I will give my personal opinion afterwards. What harm can it do to have two members? If there in a desire on the part of the gentry of Ireland to take an active share in this work, why not give them a chance? You have made this ad miseri cordiam appeal both in this House and the other one to the gentlemen of Ireland not to run away from their duties, although you have practically turned them out from the possibility of doing their duty. I cannot imagine what your objection to this Amendment is. My personal opinion is that most of the guardians elected or ex-officio will never be elected again. I believe you are going to a lower stratum—you are going to the scum of the country. That is my firm belief, and we shall soon see whether I am right or not. What are you asked to do now is to, if possible, guard against that in someway, but I am afraid that the noble and learned Lord is going to turn his back upon us altogether.
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND
This matter was discussed several times in the House of Commons, and the Chief Secretary, although he stated his own views, which were in favour of the proposals in the Bill, said that the matter was one on which he could quite understand there were substantial differences of opinion, and therefore he-allowed the matter to stand over for further consideration. At a later stage my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury intimated that he would allow the matter to stand over in the House of Commons, and that he would be very much guided by the intimations of the opinions that were held by your Lordships. Up to this, noble Lords who have come from Ireland, have expressed an opinion in favour of two members as against one member for district councils, leaving county councils as they were; but there are many other noble Lords from Ireland, and it may be that they would like to express their views.
*VISCOUNT DE VESCI
My Lords, I entirely agree that this is not a question of politics. I wish to say how far my experience corroborates that of noble Lords who have spoken. Speaking from 1013 my experience of guardians, I believe they are excellent men of business, whom I should like to see elected to the new councils. I hope the Government will give way on this question.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has asked our opinion on this matter. I do not agree with my noble Friends around me in supporting the Amendment, and I think I am perfectly at liberty to express my reasons for not agreeing with them. One of my reasons—and I think it is a strong one—is this: that you are not legislating for the immediate future; you are legislating for all time. The boards will be unwieldy with double-member constituencies, and in the end the Government proposal will be more satisfactory. I am not speaking without experience, for I have been chairman of a board for 13 years, constantly attending, and I have always found that when I had a small attendance a great deal more business was got through. Just think what is going to happen if these two members are put in. Take a board like mine. I think there are 24 ex-officio and 24 elected guardians. You have got this large board, and I think it is exceedingly doubtful whether we shall be able to get any men in. We may succeed in getting in a few. Suppose we get six in, it will be six against 40, or thereabouts. It seems more satisfactory to have six against 20 than six against 40. Whatever the disproportion is, it will be enormous from the beginning, and we must face this great difficulty with this Bill. I am in favour of the Government proposal. I think in the end it will be more satisfactory. In the beginning, of course, there will be difficulties. I had considerable hesitation in getting up at all, because I do not like to feel that I am going counter to my Friends around me; but as the noble and learned Lord has challenged some of us to express our opinions I am bound to say what I feel on this point. In the event of a Division, however, I shall not vote.
My Lords, before we knew the intentions of the Government some of us had great hopes that there would be a sort of classification of the electors—that the larger cess 1014 payers would elect one man and the smaller cesspayers the other. I have spoken to farmers of very moderate valuation on this subject, and I have always had the same answer, that that would be fair enough. I do not believe there is a general feeling throughout the country against the election of any man because he is a large ratepayer. My point is, the electors cannot elect a man of that class without putting out their own sitting members. There would be a natural disposition on the part of the electors to keep their present member, but with double members there would be a possibility of some ex-officio members being elected, whose presence would give a higher tone to the proceedings of the boards and tend to check irregularities that might otherwise arise. Without the Amendment I do not think any of this class would be returned.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOTV WAR
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord who has charge of the Bill has told your Lordships that upon this point Her Majesty's Government are fully prepared to leave the decision to the judgment of this House; therefore, in the few words that I am about to address to your Lordships, I am not endeavouring to influence any section of the House, but I would rather justify, as briefly as I can, the vote which I am about to give. My Lords, I think we must all have felt the force of the observation that fell from, the noble Duke behind me, when he said that the object of all Members of this House was the same—namely, to secure for these district boards the services of the best and most experienced councillors. If there is a difference between us it is not as to the end in view, but as to the means by which that end can best be accomplished. Now, my Lords, it does strike me that there is some slight inconsistency in the attitude of noble Lords who support this Amendment. A great many of them have indulged in the most gloomy anticipations as to the manner in which the electors in these newly-constituted districts will exercise their franchise. The anticipation of many noble Lords is that the result of the elections will be to oust altogether the class of person who has hitherto served as an ex-officio guardian on the poor law 1015 boards. Now, my Lords, it strikes me as rather an extreme assumption that if that is the mental attitude of these electors they are likely to abandon it altogether so far as one-half of the members of the new district councils will be concerned. Is it likely that they will vote in the first place for a person of extreme views of a Radical character, and then transfer 50 per cent, of their affections to a candidate of a wholly different political complexion? This was put rather well the other day, when the question was asked whether it was likely that these voters would exhaust their patriotic and political proclivities in voting for one member, and then vote for another member on grounds of common sense and reason? Will it not occur to them that if they adopt that course they will disfranchise their constituency? Will it not occur to them that in so acting they will neutralise the effect of electing a representative of their own opinions? I hope the effect of the Measure will not be that which has been anticipated for it, and that as time goes on we shall find the electors ready to give a place to men who have had experience of local business as ex-officio guardians or in other similar capacities. I believe men elected in that way to single-member constituencies will go to those councils with much greater weight and authority than if, under the Amendment, they were returned ear-marked, so to speak, as representing unpopular opinions. I must also say one word in agreement with what fell from Lord Inchiquin as to the possible effect of increasing the size of these councils. I will not go the length of saying that the business aptitude of public bodies is in inverse proportion to their size, but I do think there is some danger that these district councils may become somewhat of the nature of debating clubs, with much irrelevant discussion. I think that tendency is likely to be diminished if we can succeed in keeping the size of the bodies within reasonable limits. For these reasons, although I have some hesitation in placing myself in opposition to the views of the noble Lords, who have so much practical acquaintance with local affairs in Ireland, I shall, so far as I am concerned, give my vote for the Bill as it stands, and not for the Amendment.
§ LORD RATHMORE
My Lords, as it appears probable that this will go to a Division, might I be allowed to say a few words? What appears to be the state of the case is this: the Government have intimated their willingness to follow the views entertained by noble Lords in this House, who may be supposed to represent the opinions of the grand jurors in Ireland. Even before that declaration was made by the Government my noble Friends, who come from Ireland, and sit on this side of the House, had done their best to ascertain what was the opinion of their friends in Ireland. The grand jurors and others were most deeply interested in this question, and noble Lords have declared to your Lordships that, so far as they have been able to gather, the opinion of that class, it is in favour of the Amendment which is now before your Lordships' House. I should have thought that, after the almost unanimous declaration of the noble Lords from Ireland, who represent the grand jury element, the Government would have accepted the Amendment without going to a Division. What are the arguments which have been advanced in opposition to the Amendment? The argument of the noble Marquess who has just spoken against the Amendment presupposes that in every case the voter has determined to vote, in the first place, for the kind of candidate who is not of the class wham the majority of your Lordships would wish to see chosen. Then, by giving a second member, you will be affording the voter the opportunity of changing his mind. I do not say that he will change his mind. I do not think anyone could predict what an Irish voter would do in any given circumstances; but there is a certain love of variety and change in the national heart, after all, which may come in the aid of that which may seem to the Saxon intelligence an improbability. It was most extraordinary that on this point all parties in the House of Commons vied with one another, as far as I can judge by the Debates, in declaring their strong desire that representatives of the old ex-officio guardians, the grand juries, and that class of experienced country gentlemen should, if possible, be returned. Then why exclude the chance of this happening? It is a strange thing that your Lordships should be asked to take 1017 away the only prospect of giving effect to that which has been declared to be the unanimous desire of all parties in the House of Commons when this matter was debated there.
THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
My Lords, I should have said that the most simple and satisfactory way of ascertaining what a deliberative assembly think is to divide, but I gather that that is not satisfactory to my noble Friends from Ireland. As far as I can find out, the spirit of the pledge which was given in the other House was that what is called the grand jury element in this House should practically have the decision of the question. If that is the case, I am bound, further, to admit that, as far as we can see, there is a large majority of the grand jury element who take a view in favour of double representation. I think that they are short-sighted, and are thinking more of the near than of the distant future. Nevertheless, I should be sorry that anything in the nature of a pledge should not be acted up to, and I therefore shall not vote against the Amendment.
THE EAEL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, we are not, I think, quite so divided in opinion as appears to be the case, and certainly we should be very glad to gee the sense of the House taken on this question. It is one on which, there are undoubtedly arguments on both sides, but I have a very strong opinion indeed that in the long run it will be found to work much better to have single members for constituencies. I do not know Ireland sufficiently well to appreciate the difference that appears to exist between England and Ireland. It appears that even present member of a board of guardians is so enamoured of his position that he would not retire on any account. There is not that same eagerness to serve on these boards in England, and I do not think it is likely to continue for a long time in Ireland. What is really in the hearts of everyone who has spoken on this subject is a real desire that what is here called the grand jury element—the richer part of society—should have fair representation upon these boards, not from any political motive one way or the other, but because undoubtedly the 1018 presence of men of great experience of affairs on a large scale, and of a higher education, will tend to give a better tone to those bodies. At the same time I cannot help expressing my own opinion that the presence of any considerable element of that kind; will not depend upon the machinery of the Act. It would depend upon the amount, of good feeling which would exist among the different classes of the locality. If that good feeling does exist, there will be the representation that we desire. If, unfortunately, it does not exist, I am perfectly convinced that no machinery that you can devise in an Act of Parliament will ensure the representation of that element on the board. I should like to give one illustration of what takes place where there are two-member constituencies. There are, I think, alone in all England, two-member constituencies for the London County Council, and as far as I know—and I have inquired into the matter—in the majority of cases men of the same way of thinking are elected to both seats; and that I believe to be not from any fault on the part of the constituents, but from the natural tendency that men have, when they vote for one man who represents their opinions, to vote for the other man also. Therefore I honestly believe, although I admit the authority of Irish Peers, on this point, that in the long run it will be found much better if the plan of the Government is adhered to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I should like to say one word before your Lordships go to a Division. I had hoped that this Amendment would have been carried unanimously. I think the difficulty has arisen because we are not quite sure whether the Minister for War spoke for the Government or only for himself as an Irish landowner. He stated very fairly his own views, and he entered at length into the point that an elector would not be likely to neutralise the effect of electing a representative of his own opinions by also electing a candidate of a wholly different political complexion. But I could allude to cases where political feeling does not run altogether one way. To avoid friction we are very anxious that there should be double-member constituencies. My right honour- 1019 able Friend the Leader of the House of Commons showed his astuteness in leaving this to your Lordships' House to decide. Directly my noble Friend who leads the Unionist Party in Ireland heard that this was the intention he took every means to find out what were the views of the noble Lords in this House. He found that we are almost unanimous on this point in favour of double-member constituencies. I am not sanguine that the ex-officio guardians will be returned in many parts of Ireland, but I think there are some places where ex-officio guardians would be returned if the opportunity were given to the electors. I think it is hard on the ex-officio guardians, who are prepared to give their services, if, after having been asked by the Government to come forward, they are deserted by the Government and refused a chance of giving those services.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
My Lords, I venture to ask the noble Marquess the Prime Minister whether the Government will support the Amendment or not.
THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
My Lords, the Government do not propose to treat this as a Party question. I am bound by a pledge that was given in the other House, and therefore, I shall go behind the bar.
§ The House divided:—Contents 15; Non-Contents 78.1020
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed—
§ "Page 19, line 6, after 'division,' insert 'which now returns one elected poor law guardian and three councillors for each such division which now returns two elected poor law guardians.'"—(Lord Clonbrock.)
§ Question put.
§ Agreed to.
Page 19, line 7, leave out 'one councillor,' and insert 'two councillors.'"—(Lord Clonbrock.)
§ Question put.
§ Agreed to.
Page 19, line 12, leave out from beginning-of line to the second 'one' in line 14."—(Lord Clonbrock.)
§ Question put.
§ Agreed to.
Page 19, line 23, leave out from 'district' to the end of the clause."—(The Earl of Mayo.)
*THE EARL OF MAYO
I have put down this Amendment because it is not quite clear to me what this clause means, and I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord whether these people who have been in a place 12 months can be elected if they have not paid their rates?
*THE EARL OF MAYO
Therefore a person who is elected, who is called upon to spend money is to be allowed to do so without even having contributed any money of his own. Is that the case?
*THE EARL OF MAYO
I do not understand that, and that is why I move the Amendment, because it seems to me that unless a person has contributed to the rates, surely he ought not to be allowed to spend the money of other people.
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRE LAND
This is the very same qualification as is contained in the English Bill. It is the only way by which a lady, or an eldest son, would have a chance of being elected, and it gives an opportunity to a person who has resided in a neighbourhood for the substantial period of 12 months to be a candidate. He may not be elected, but if the people know all about it, and the electors desire that such a person should be returned, it is reasonable that he should have a chance.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
There is another point with regard to this. A person who occupies a Land League hut may become eligible for election. In a great many localities the evicted tenants' question often assumes an acute phase, and it is very possible that a proposal may be made to elect the whole of these persons evicted from their holdings, and living in Land League huts as district councillors. 1022 Surely a difficulty would arise in that case?
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND
I think if the clause worked in that way it would not work at all. This clause was put in the English Act for the; reasons I have stated, and it was not thought unreasonable that the classes of persons I have referred to—ladies and eldest sons—should have their claims considered.
§ *THE EARL OF ERNE
No doubt it is proper that elder sons and women should have an opportunity, but I do not think it is a fair thing to violate the principle-of representation going with taxation. I think there is a great deal in what has been said about the occupants of Land League huts.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
I want clearly to understand whether a person lining in a Land League hut, or whether a whole-number of evicted tenants living amongst their friends and neighbours, are eligible for election on the district councils. I should like that to be made perfectly clear.
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND
It is perfectly clear in the words; which have been in the English Act for nearly 10 years, and which are perfectly clear here—A person shall not be qualified to be elected or to be a councillor of the council of a county district unless he is a local government elector for the district, or has, during the whole of the 12 months preceding the election, resided, and continues to reside, in the district.The object for which that was put in was to give women a chance of being elected should the electors think it reasonable. It also would enable others, such as elder sons, who do not happen to be on the register, to be elected; but it is all in the hands of the electors.
*THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
This is much more important than the noble Lord seems to think. This question of residence, while it is allowed in the case of England, in the Scotch Act it was purposely kept out, and the reason is that it formerly happened that a person who is a local government elector, and whose whole interests would lie in his 1023 own district, will, for purposes of his own, go and live in an adjoining district, and be a source of very great trouble. Now, my Lords, I will put a case which I daresay may happen in Ireland. What is to prevent these evicted tenants from being elected? These cases have occurred before, and when the noble Earl spoke it occurred to me at once that there were characters of the same sort as these evicted tenants in Scotland, and it was to guard against them that this residential qualification was left out, and the necessity for a man being a local government elector was insisted upon.
§ Question put.
§ Amendment negatived.
Motion made and question put—
That clause 23, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Agreed to.