§ House in Committee (according to order).
§ [The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1: —
Lord MONK BRETTON
moved an Amendment which, while enabling women to be elected aldermen, would prevent them from being elected as councillors. He reminded their Lordships that the Lord President of the Council in introducing the Bill described it as a modest measure, whereas the Leader of the Opposition had pointed out that all the arguments which had been urged in its favour might equally apply in regard to the Parliamentary suffrage. Whether or not the noble Earl considered the Bill was an instalment of woman suffrage, he thought it would be agreed that the woman suffrage party in the country regarded it as an important measure, a conclusion which was borne out by the position it had been given in the Press. It was a curious thing that a Bill which actually did so little should attract so much attention, particularly when they had the example of the urban district councils before them, and found that on the urban district councils, which were the bodies most nearly resembling the county and borough councils, only two ladies in the whole of England and Wales sat as members. Whatever its object, the Bill would give a considerable impetus to the woman suffrage movement, and because he thought his Amendment an important one from that point of view, he desired to say a word on the broader question. The effect of woman suffrage in Australia had been to create a great disproportion in the representation of the different classes. It had been found there that the women's votes practically doubled the vote of the 4 Independent Labour Party, while it added only a comparatively small fraction to the vote of the upper classes, and a very small fraction to the vote of the middle classes. That tendency would be still more marked in this country, where the middle classes were far more numerous than in Australia. He did not wish in any way to suggest that they should strike a blow at the Independent Labour Party; he merely drew attention to the injustice of the disproportionate representation. He regretted that Lord Belper's suggestion for a Select Committee to inquire into the use of ladies on borough and county councils had not been accepted, as there was the greatest diversity in the various local bodies. In the recent debate Lord Londonderry had said that he knew a case in which a lady member of a board of guardians had been of great assistance, inasmuch as she had discovered that a child had no socks on inside its boots. That doubtless was a very useful function as a guardian, but it was no qualification for a member of a town council. Lord Belper had gone very fully into the functions of the various committees of county and borough councils, and had clearly shown that with regard to county councils only the education committee, the asylums committee, and the sanitary committee were those on which ladies could be of service. They were already on the education committee by co-optation; they might be of use on the asylums committees in regard to female lunatics; while on the sanitary committee there was the one small branch of midwifery in connection with which they might be of service. On the finance and the standing joint committees ladies would be of no special service. In regard to borough councils, there were three functions concerning which ladies would be useful, namely: Infant Life Protection, the Housing of the Working Classes, and the Shop Acts. The arguments in favour of putting ladies on any other committees would equally apply to the Parliamentary franchise. He regretted that the proposed Select Committee had not been appointed inasmuch as it would have shown what use women could be on the various councils, and the desire or otherwise of those local bodies to have their assistance. Unfortunately, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack declared that the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee 5 would mean its loss for the session; consequently the proposal was not persisted in. It was in these circumstances he had decided to move his Amendment, under which county and borough councils would be enabled to obtain the advice of women on any of their committees. It would enable ladies who were members of the education committee to be co-opted on to the council, and thereby would meet the argument that ladies who had been allowed to state their views in committee should be enabled to reinforce them on the council. Further, county councils would be enabled to decide whether they wanted those ladies at all. One objection to the Amendment was that under the law as it stood, to be eligible for appointment as aldermen on county councils persons must be county electors. Therefore, the number of ladies who could be elected aldermen was very restricted. If, however, that was the only objection to the proposal, it would be very easy to surmount it, inasmuch as while the present clause was before the House it could be so amended as to enable county councils to elect as aldermen any ladies, whether electors or not. He believed that if the principle of the Amendment were agreed to, it would result in more ladies being elected to county and borough councils than would be the case under the Bill as it stood, as the number of ladies qualified to be councillors was very few, and consequently there would not be many aldermen elected. If the only way in which ladies could be elected to a county council was by being appointed aldermen, he thought the county councils would be much more likely to co-opt ladies who were now working on the education committees and to make use of them on other branches of their work. Therefore, the Amendment, reinforced by the further suggestion which he had made, would lead to far greater efficiency in the working of the Bill from the point of view of the Government itself. There was, however, one thing which such an Amendment would not do—it would in no way pander to the agitation in favour of universal suffrage. If their Lordships desired to amend the Bill for the purpose of improving the working of local authorities, it could be done in the way he suggested; but if they desired to pass the Bill in order to open the door a little more widely to the lady suffragists who were 6 coming along, his Amendment would not help them.
In page 1, line 6, to leave out the words 'a councillor or,' and to insert the word 'an.'" '—Lord Monk Bretton.)
*The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (The Earl of Crewe)
I hope the House will forgive me if I do not enter into the somewhat wider discussion to which the noble Lord devoted a part of his speech—a discussion which I think would have been more appropriate in some ways to a Motion for the rejection of the Bill on Second Reading. In particular I do not propose to follow the noble Lord in his remarks on the question of women and the Parliamentary suffrage. Several noble Lords, of whom I was one, explained on the Second Reading of the Bill we did not admit that there was any real analogy or connection between the two matters, and 1 have no desire to repeat what was said on that occasion. As regards the Amendment before the House, I trust your Lordships will not accept it. In the first place, the form of the Amendment would not, I think, carry out the noble Lord's object. His proposition is to leave out the words "a councillor or," the intention being that the only office upon either a county council or a borough council which could be filled by a woman should be that of an alderman. But at present nobody can be an alderman unless he can be a councillor. Therefore, by striking out the words which enable ladies to become councillors, the noble Lord would also prevent them being aldermen. That applies both to county councils and to metropolitan borough councils. This, however, deals only with the form, and no doubt the noble Lord could devise words which would achieve his object in a different way.
As regards the substance of the Amendment, I equally trust your Lordships will not accept it. The principal object for which I understand it is desired that women should be limited to the position of aldermen, is to avoid their being subjected to the turmoil of election. That argument was freely used on the last occasion when the question was before us. One would almost suppose that it was the custom in this 7 country when municipal and county council elections were going on for barricades to be erected and cavalry charges to take place. In ninety-nine cases out of 100 these elections are of the most quiet and harmless character, and have very little rowdyism connected with them. So far as the feelings of women are concerned, you must leave it to them to say whether or not they are too nervous or too frightened to take part in such contests. The noble Lord alluded to the analogy of the urban district councils, and gave that as a reason for supposing that very few women would be elected to county or borough councils. If that is so, the noble Lord will, no doubt, be perfectly satisfied. He objects, apparently, to ladies getting on to these councils at all by election, and if they do not stand, or if they are not elected, the noble Lord's view will be largely carried out. But as regards the curiously small number of women who have been elected to urban district councils, there is this reason for supposing that this small number does not represent what might happen after this Bill passes, as I trust it may. An urban district always hopes to become a borough, and it tries to be as like a borough as possible. Women cannot sit on borough councils; therefore, there is a distinct indisposition on the part of urban district councils and those who elect them to stamp themselves as being in some way different from a borough council by electing woman members. I can well believe that this fact has had a considerable effect in limiting the possibility of women sitting on those particular bodies.
The noble Lord would limit the election of women to the position of aldermen—that is to say, only one-fourth of an ordinary council and only one-sixth of a London county or borough council being aldermen, the effect would be to reduce by three-fourths or five-sixths the possibility of women getting on to these councils. You have further to consider that you would limit it even more, because it is not proposed to increase the total number of aldermen, and the indisposition to stand for election so far as it exists at all applies also to a considerable number of men. There are always a certain number of men put on these councils as aldermen because they do not want to go through an election. 8 Either those men would have to stand out because of women being put on or the women would not get on at all. Therefore the limitation is really greater than appears at first sight.
Another argument used was that the method proposed in the Amendment is the way to get the right kind of women on to these councils. There is nothing in the Bill as it stands to prevent women of the right kind being put on as aldermen, and I do not know what reason there is to suppose that the women who would stand for election would not be of the right kind, The women who went through the School Board elections, which were sometimes of a fairly animated character, were by common consent very much of the right kind. It is a very old argument—as old as the Reform Bill of 1832. It was always said that if you did away with the nomination boroughs you would do away with the chance of getting the right kind of men into the House of Commons. Whatever that argument may be worth, we now in all forms of government in this country rely to a very great extent upon the method of popular election. The noble Lord suggests that something might be done to enable women to be elected aldermen whether qualified to be councillors or not. That is a compromise we could not accept. It would be a very serious interference with the whole system of the franchise, and one which I do not think this House would be willing to make. It opens up a very wide question indeed. We simply stand on the ground if you once admit—and the House has undoubtedly admitted—that it is desirable that women should sit on these bodies, the burden of proof rests with those who decline to allow them to go through the ordinary methods of election. I do not believe that a very great number of women will stand or be elected to any of these councils, but if they desire to do so, I cannot conceive what sound reasons there are why they should not be permitted so to do.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
When this Bill was under discussion on a previous occasion I indicated to your Lordships—I hope with sufficient clearness—the reasons which led me to prefer, to the plan embodied in the Government Bill, the plan suggested by my noble 9 friend Lord Belper—a plan under which women should be co-opted to a greater extent to committees connected with these municipal bodies. We deferred the further consideration of the measure for a considerable time partly in hopes of obtaining from the Local Government Board information which might serve to enlighten us upon the subject. That information has not been of a very satisfying kind, but in the meanwhile we have lost three weeks of the Session, and the position of the Bill would certainly become much more precarious if we were to insist on referring it to a Select Committee: the course recommended by Lord Belper. But quite irrespective of that, I am bound to say that, having paid some attention to the arguments which I have heard, both in and out of this House, I have come to the conclusion that the case in favour of the Government proposal is stronger than I had supposed it to be. If I may summarise what I conceive to be the argument in favour of the employment of women on these councils, I would say in the first place that women feel that the councils are constantly in the habit of varying and reviewing the decisions of their committees, and that therefore it does not follow that because they have been fully consulted in the committees they have any opportunity of following up in the council the advice they have given and of obtaining adequate consideration of their views. There is also this to be said, that the subjects in which women are so largely interested are discussed, not in one committee alone, but in a number of committees, and it is only when the matter comes before the whole council that it is possible to take a general and comprehensive view of them. In these circumstances women desire, and I think naturally, to be in closer contact at one end with the councils and at the other with those by whom the councils are elected. They also plead, and I think with force, that so long as they are merely co-opted to these committees, they are serving, as it were, on sufferance, and that their tenure of office is necessarily precarious. Therefore, I am not ashamed to confess that I am to a great extent a convert to the view embodied in the Government measure. I have said these few words because they seem to be a natural preface to what I have to say in regard to the Amendment of my noble friend. I feel 10 that if this Bill is to be accepted, and if women are to be given a place upon the councils themselves, it would be an unwise and unfortunate restriction to say that they should serve only as aldermen. There is, of course, the technical difficulty which the Lord President has pointed out; but quite irrespective of that it is obvious that to say that women shall be able to serve as aldermen, but not as members of the councils, would be a very great curtailment of the rights to which they attach so much importance, and which this House, I believe, is ready to give them. For that reason if my noble friend presses his Amendment I shall with regret vote against him.
* THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said he would not have intervened but for the fact that that was the only opportunity which the thirty-three Members of their Lordships' House who voted against the Second Reading of the Bill had of endeavouring to make the situation as favourable as possible from their point of view. The number voting against the Second Reading would probably have been considerably larger had it not been for the expectation of the appointment of a Select Committee. He believed that the Amendment, if inserted, would go a long way to meet the views of many who were opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill. If the number of ladies now serving on county councils was not greatly increased, it was extremely probable that all those who were now co-opted members of committees would be elected as aldermen, and so have an opportunity of expressing their views at meetings of the whole council. A cogent reason why the Amendment should be accepted was the fact that a limitation was imposed upon what a lady might or might not do. Under the Bill she was to be allowed to be a councillor, but although she might have all the necessary qualifications she could not be a justice of the peace. As far as he could make out, there was no real mandate for the Bill; he believed the number of ladies who wished to serve on county and borough councils was exceedingly small, and that those who had that wish had raised a very loud cry. He was asked the other day by a lady who was strongly opposed to the principles embodied in the Bill why the House of Lords had taken such a 11 favourable view of the measure; and this lady answered herself by saying that she supposed they were afraid that the gentle sex would repeat those persuasive measures which they had adopted in another place. He hoped their Lordships would not be deterred from voting for the Amendment even though they took the risk of having their proceedings disturbed as had been the case elsewhere.
§ LORD JAMES of HEREFORD
said he was unwilling to come into conflict with both Front Benches, and perhaps it was rather a hopeless thing to do, but he wished particularly to express his view that those who opposed the Bill ought not to take up a non possumus attitude, but should accept the decision of the House in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill. He thought, however, that the discussion afforded justification for those who wished the Bill to be remitted to a Select Committee. Several matters had been raised which might, with advantage, have been thrashed out before a Select Committee. Those who opposed the extension of the Parliamentary suffrage to women did not in the least wish to hinder or restrict the good and efficient work of women in municipal affairs. So long as the majority of the children in the schools were girls, women ought to be allowed to assist in the educational arrangements. So long as under the Poor Law there were more female paupers than male, it was an advantage that boards of guardians should have the assistance of women. He only desired to see the utility of women's work extended, and the opposition to the Bill was not an opposition to the due extension of that work. He believed that if it were properly considered, the Amendment before the House would assist that work. The Lord President of the Council had himself admitted that if the Bill were passed, very few women would get on to those councils by popular election. What then was the object of the Bill? It was not to satisfy a sentiment, or to serve any political tactics, or any Party object. He assumed that the object of every Member of the House was to utilise, as far as they could for the general benefit, female efficiency and female control, and if the Lord President of the Council was right that they would not obtain any substantial number of women on these councils 12 because they would not go through an election.
§ LORD JAMES of HEREFORD
said that the noble Earl's statement was that they would not get any large number on the councils by election. He had also said that municipal contests were of the mildest character and did not represent party strife. If the noble Earl would attend some evening about ten o'clock upon the 1st of November in certain localities in Lancashire or Yorkshire, he would find party spirit running in the highest degree and feeling excited to almost as great an extent as in a Parliamentary election. Further, if he would read the newspapers on the 2nd of November he would find the result of the elections claimed as a proof of the extension of party power on one side or the other, and as showing that there was a wave of popular opinion going against a particular Party. What was wanted upon these local authorities were good administrators, and if women were placed upon them they should be persons of good judgment and tact, and persons whose influence would be beneficial. Was it thought that the electors who entered into these political contests and followed the "caucus" would be good selectors of women of the type required? He would have thought that the councils themselves, who knew the duties to be discharged, and the object with which the assistance of women was required, would be far better selectors of the persons whom they should elect. The electors would simply select a woman because she wore a red or a blue colour, and not because she was a good administrator. If the method of election were insisted upon, they could only elect persons who were ratepayers. That would involve shutting out a great number of women whom they would wish to see on the councils. At present in most cases the husband was the ratepayer, and so married women would be practically shut out. Surely that was exactly the opposite of what they who desired to obtain the benefit of women's work on administrative bodies wished to see. The proposition of the Amendment was that the councils themselves should choose their aldermen, and he 13 understood that they would go further than selecting people who were eligible as councillors, and would appoint any whom they thought fit. That would enable to be appointed those married women who at present devoted themselves to educational and social work. These considerations caused him to think that the Amendment was well worthy of consideration. It would meet the objection of those who desired to keep women out of the sphere of political contest and controversy; it would enable county councils who knew the class of women required to select suitable persons. The opposition to the Bill did not arise in the slightest degree from any antipathy to the good work which women might do; in his belief they would do much to further that good work if they accepted the Amendment.
*THE EARL OF JERSEY
said that the attitude of supporters of the Amendment was rather curious. They were opposed to the Bill and would like to see it thrown out altogether, and yet they supported the Amendment because they said it would ensure the presence of more women upon the councils. They freely admitted the good service which women could perform upon the various local authorities, but they seemed to forget or to leave out of account the great strength which people had on a representative body when they were freely elected. That was why he was in favour of the Bill as it stood. He believed the object of the measure was to ensure that women should not be debarred from asking their neighbours whether they would support them upon these councils, and it surely could not be a good thing to leave it entirely to the councils to co-opt women as they chose or not. He himself was an alderman and not an elected councillor, and he was sure his position would be much stronger if be were elected. It seemed to him that there was only one course open to the House. They had passed the Second Reading of the Bill and rejected the idea of a Select Committee mainly because the appointment of such a Committee would have meant the postponement of the Bill for this year. Therefore he held that they ought now to pass the Bill through Committee as it stood and not try to minimise its effect.
disagreed with Lord James of Hereford as to there being no demand of sentiment for this Bill. The measure was demanded by the sentiment of ordinary justice for women, and it was that sentiment which led many Members of their Lordships' House to support the Bill on grounds quite apart from the question of whether or not women would do useful work on these bodies. The point of view from which women regarded the question was that they were cut out from a certain portion of public life. They were rated and taxed, but they were not allowed to sit on the bodies which had the spending of the money and the administration of affairs. Women did not wish to sit upon these bodies by the favour of the men already there. They wished to sit as ordinary members with exactly the same mandate and authority as the directly elected representatives of the electors. That was a matter of mere abstract justice, and women were entitled to that concession.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
agreed with the noble Earl that there was a great principle lying at the bottom of the Bill. But it was a principle which would lead to conferring the Parliamentary suffrage upon women. There was not one word which the noble Earl had said but would be equally valid in support of the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to women. He understood that His Majesty's Government had repudiated that view. Consequently they had two sections in the House supporting the Bill upon totally different grounds. He was amazed to hear Lord Jersey say that since he had been an alderman he had not had the authority and the confidence which he would have had if he had been elected.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
was astonished to hear it. He could only say that that was not his experience. He had been a councillor of a county council for several years before he became an alderman; he had since had the honour of being chairman of that council for a number of years, and had uniformly received the utmost support and confidence. 15 He was certain that his being an alderman had not given him less power or authority than he had as a councillor. A very curious picture of municipal elections had been drawn by the Lord President of the Council. It was true that no barricades were erected or soldiers called out, but he had not known that that was the usual experience in Parliamentary elections. If the noble Earl had ever sat in the Lower House he would have found that a contested election was a very rough-and-tumble affair. The object of the Amendment was to save women from these rough-and-tumble contests, which did no good to them, or their characters, or their influence. He did not believe that the women of the country were increasing their proper influence by the modern fashion of engaging in work which had hitherto been confined to men. He did not mean to say that every lady who took part in public affairs necessarily lost that influence. It was a matter largely dependent upon personal character; but looking at the question as a whole, he believed that women were losing their influence through the modern fashion of engaging in public affairs. It was rather unfair to charge the opponents of this Bill with inconsistency because they supported the Amendment. What they objected to mainly was not the presence of certain ladies upon these councils; they all admitted that there were instances— he believed they were exceptional—where the advice, knowledge, and experience of women were useful. But what they wished to avoid was the friction and the hardening and roughening effect involved in passing through contested elections for seats on the councils. They were asked why, if a lady was sufficiently "un-nervous" to stand at an election, she should not be allowed to do so. His answer was that he would like her to be sufficiently nervous not to do it. His opinion was that if women shrank from public struggles and contests they would be the better and not the worse for it. All this legislation had a bad tendency from beginning to end. The Lord President of the Council appeared to have the very curious view that all urban districts aspired to be boroughs. If that were so, they must be the most sanguine of public bodies. A large number of urban districts with which he was acquainted were very difficult so far as area 16 and population went to differentiate from rural districts. They were somewhat more populous, and there were certain reasons which made it desirable that they should have urban rather than rural district council powers. But it was an extraordinary statement to say that they all aspired to be borough councils, and that that was why they had not elected women. The adoption of the Amendment would be an advantage as an experiment. He would have thought that those who were anxious to see women taking part in public affairs would have gladly gone step by step and proved their ground, and for that purpose the Amendment would have been valuable. If they were to embark on this new extension of female operations he supposed they must do it, but he hoped the noble Lord would divide on the Question in order that those who objected to the proposals of the Government might record their protest.
§ *THE EARL OFCREWE
I do not desire to make anything in the nature of a general reply, but merely to touch upon two points which were mentioned by Lord James of Hereford. The first was in regard to my observation that I did not think the number of women elected under the Bill would be very large. That was in reply to a statement made on a former occasion that there was a risk in some cases of these bodies being swamped by women. As a matter of fact, while I hope there are some councils where a very fair proportion of women would gain seats, I quite admit that there are others where that is not likely to happen. I do not expect, for instance, that many women, although I should hope that here and there there would be a few, will be elected to' the councils of our great cities. Nobody would expect that there would be a large proportion there, but I was anxious to make that statement in view of what the noble Lord said. The second observation is with regard to the proposition that all women, irrespective of qualifications, should be allowed to become aldermen. If you are talking of revolutionary changes, I should have supposed that to place on a public body to spend the ratepayers' money people who are not ratepayers was an infinitely more revolutionary proceeding than anything we proposed to do.
§ On Question, whether the words "a councillor or" should stand part of the clause,
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Halifax, V.||Elgin, L (E. Elgin and|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Knutsford, V.||Eversley, L.|
|Milner, V.||Fitzmaurice, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||St. Aldwyn, V.||Glantawe, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Ailesbury, M.||Bangor, L. Bp.||[Teller]|
|Lansdowne, M.||Birmingham, L. Bp.||Grey de Ruthyn, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Allendale, L.||Hindlip, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Armitstead, L.||Joicey, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Balinhard, L. (E. Southesk.)||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Carrington, E.||Borthwick, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Boston, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and||Macnaghten, L.|
|Craven, E.||Kinghorn.)||Muskerry, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Newlands, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Burghelere, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Onslow, E.||Clinton, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Russell, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Sandhurst, L.|
|Denman, L. [Teller.]||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Churchill, V.||Dingy, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Esher, V.||Dunning, L (L. Rollo.)||Weardale, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Northbrook, E.||James, L.|
|Romney, E.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and|
|Northumberland, D.||Waldegrave, E.||Mount-Earl.)|
|Somerset, D.||Westmeath, E.||Kensington, L.|
|Camden, M.||Cross, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Falkland, V.||Monk Bretton, L. [Teller.]|
|Goschen, V.||Newton, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Hardinge, V.||Ponson by, L. (E. Bessborough)|
|Cathcart, E.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Abinger, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Atkinson, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Avebury, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Balfour, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Barnard, L.||(E. Galloway.)|
|Malmesbury, E. [Teller.]||Barrymore, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Calthorpe, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)|
THE EARL OFCAMPERDOWN
moved an Amendment to provide that a woman shall not be elected chairman of a county council or mayor of a borough. It seemed to him that though a woman might perfectly well be a councillor or alderman, it was not desirable that she should be put in a position where questions of order arose, and where it would be necessary for her to exercise authority. One or two ladies who had written him in regard to the Bill had declared that they would be content with a limitation of the
§ Their Lordships divided: —Contents, 73; Not-Con tents, 46.
§ kind proposed, and that they would not consider it as in any way derogating from the position they would obtain as members of the council.
In page 1, line 8, to leave out the word 'if,' and to insert the words 'shall not be.'" (The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ *THE EARL OFCREWE
This is not a very large matter—not nearly so large as that on which the House has just 19 expressed its opinion. The noble Lord proposes that so far as the chairmanship of a county council or borough council is concerned, a woman should not be eligible. We have simply gone on the analogy of the district councils. By Section 22 of the Act of 1894 it is provided that the chairman of a district council should be a justice of the peace, unless a woman or personally disqualified, and that is the same limitation and restriction that we have adopted in this Bill. My own view of the matter is that it is a pity to place any grudging limitations of this kind in such an Act. I do not think the cases in which a council, either county or borough, would elect a woman as chairman would be otherwise than rare; they would be so few, in my opinion, that the effect of the limitation would not be great. It is really a matter for the House to decide; I have no very strong feeling either way, except on the ground that as we are doing this it seems a pity to place any limitations upon it. But I am quite content to abide by the decision of the House in the matter.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
hoped the Government would accept the Amendment. The noble Earl had admitted that it was not probable at all that a woman would be elected chairman of a county council; and it was even less probable that she would be elected mayor of a borough, and there was no doubt whatever that there were some public functions which a woman could not perform. That was admitted by the Bill itself: she could not be a justice of the peace, and it was proposed to exclude her from that office. There was no real reason, as far as he could see from the arguments which had been advanced, why it should be possible for her to be elected mayor of a borough. She could not be knighted, as all proper mayors desired to be; therefore, by the very nature of things, she was excluded from that which was the object of everybody in attempting to arrive at the position of mayor. He hoped the Amendment would be accepted.
said there were two material and substantial reasons why the Amendment should not be accepted. By the division just taken the House had decided that in the matter of being elected councillors or aldermen women 20 should be on an equality with men. It was now proposed that quite unnecessarily they should go out of their way to stamp such women councillors with a special little mark of inferiority. It was admitted that the contingency was very remote, but the stigma was quite unnecessary. The second consideration, which ought to weigh very much with the House, was from the point of view of the local authorities themselves. The effect of the Amendment was really this: A council of thirty persons might be unanimously of opinion—it was unlikely, but it might happen—that a particular woman was most fitted to be chairman of the council, but Parliament interposed and said they should not have the right to manage their own affairs and elect their own chairman. He could not see why the local authorities should not be trusted to do what they thought best, and he hoped the Amendment would not be accepted.
§ LORD COURTNEY of PENWITH
said that while he did not regard the Amendment as one of practical importance, agreeing with the Lord President that it would come into operation only in the rarest possible instances, he thought there was some weight to be attached to the argument that it in effect declared that if a particular member of a county or borough council had shown herself so capable of managing business that the council desired to place her in the chair they should be incapable of doing so. He might give, as an illustration, an analogous case. As their Lordships were aware, many women were members of school boards. In one distinguished school board—a body not inferior to any in Great Britain—a lady who had served as a member of the Board since its inception, a period of more than twenty years, so proved her capacity as a woman of business and sense, and so acquired the respect of her colleagues, that, on a vacancy occurring in the chairmanship, she was elected to the position, which she retained down to her death. In such a case as that of Miss Flora Stevenson, were the School Board of Edinburgh to be disqualified from electing to be their chairman a woman who had proved her capacity for the position by her services on the board? Surely it was not worth while to make these little niggling Amendments! The 21 larger and better policy was to allow freedom of action to the councils themselves.
THE EARL OFCAMPERDOWN
said the Amendment was not of much practical importance either way. Personally he was rather in favour of it, and he would be guided in the course he took very much by the relative volumes of sound when the Chairman put the Question.
§ *THE EARL OFCREWE
I am very much in the same position. After what I have said I do not think I should record my vote either way, but, under the belief that the noble Viscount
§ opposite represents the majority of the House, I am disposed to ask my noble friends not to divide. Of course, if they are of a different opinion, it is within their competence to take a division. As regards the noble Viscount's statement that ladies were incapable of being knighted, I am not sure that he is historically correct. At any rate, there was one case in history—I am not sure whether it was in the reign of King Charles—in which a lady was made a Baronet.
§ On Question, whether the word "if" should stand part of the clause,
§ Their Lordships divided: —Contents. 49; Not-Contents, 61.23
§ On Question, the proposed words "shall not be elected" were there inserted.
THE EARL OFCAMPERDOWN
moved to omit the words declaring that a woman shall not by virtue of holding or having held the office of chairman of a county council or mayor of a borough be a justice of the peace. He pointed out that this Amendment was consequential on the decision just taken.
In page 1, line 8, to leave out from the word 'borough' to the end of the sub section"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Bill reported to the House.
§ Standing Committee negatived. The Report of Amendments to be received on Tuesday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 109.)