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nor any other consideration, would be sufficiently potent to extract from him a single particle of information.
Leave was given to bring in the Bill. Upon the motion for the second reading, which did not take place till the Ministerial measure of Reform had been for some time before the House, a full and rather important debate took place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then declared himself opposed to the scheme, as impracticable; Mr. Göschen and the Attorney-General also spoke against it. On the other hand it was supported by several leading members of the Opposition—Visct. Cranborne, Mr. Adderley, Sir J. Pakington, Mr. Whiteside, and others. The debate was adjourned but never resumed, and at a late period of the Session the Bill was withdrawn by Mr. Clay.
On the 12th of March the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward the Bill of the Government. The House of Commons was much crowded both with members and strangers, and great curiosity was manifested to hear what was the nature of the scheme which the Ministers had to propose. The portion of the Queen's Speech which referred to the subject of the improved representation of the people having been read by the Clerk at the table, the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose, and after referring to the difficulties attending his present task, said that the paragraphs now read were not the only paragraphs in which, under the most solemn forms known to the Constitution, the subject of the representation of the people had been brought before Parliament. By no less than five Administrations, in no less than six Queen's speeches before that of the present year, the Sovereign, advised by her Ministers, had informed the Commons that in their judgment the time had come when the representation of the people ought to undergo revision. The right hon. gentleman referred to the length of time occupied in preparing the statistical returns as to the present state of the constituencies. He said that no time had been lost in preparing these returns. At the very first Cabinet meeting after the funeral of the late Lord Palmerston the Ministers framed the heads upon which they required information; and if members on each side of the House would examine the volume of information now laid on the table, they would admit that no time had been mis-spent, and they would admit the advantage of approaching the consideration of this important question with such a knowledge and such a mass of facts as were never before collected. There had been a disposition to murmur at the delay in producing these papers, and to ascribe it to vacillation on the part of the Government; but that had not been the case. The question of time was a matter of importance. It was now the 12th of March, and it would not be possible, considering the approach of the Easter recess, to ask the House to read the Bill a second time until the second week in April. Therefore the Government felt that as prudent and practical men they had to measure what their powers might be in regard to legislating during the present Session; and hence arose the question whether they were to have a complete measure or an incomplete measure. Now, what would be a complete revision of our representative system? He must omit from the definition thereof many matters, such as the questions of secret voting or the shortening of Parliaments, which did not strictly belong to the revising of the elective franchise. The revision of our representative system was the matter now to be dealt with. It would be of immense advantage if they could deal with the whole range of that question at one stroke. But for that purpose they must consider the franchise of England and Wales, and also the franchise in Scotland and in Ireland ; also the whole group of questions included in the common phrase of the redistribution of seats. The question between the three kingdoms—the question between town and country—the question between total extinction by the capital punishment such as was inflicted in Schedule A, between the milder method of amputation administered in Schedule B, or that mildest method of all, which was that adopted by Earl Russell in 1852—the method of grouping towns together—all these were matters that must undergo careful consideration. Then there came another question that could never be avoided when you review the electoral system, namely, the consideration of whether in all cases the present boundaries of boroughs are such as the exigencies of those boroughs naturally require. Another matter connected with the subject would be the consideration of the state of the law as to corrupt practices—a subject as difficult as it was important. But all these subjects, great in themselves and complex in themselves, could not come under the review or criticism of this House without careful searching and jealous examination ; and it was impossible to expect that Parliament could give itself to that complete view of the electoral system during the present Session. It was conformable to our habits to entertain a high idea of what was called the omnipotence of Parliament, but time and space could not be annihilated, even to make lovers happy, or for any other purpose whatever. If this Bill were now read a first time, the second reading would be proposed on the 12th of April, or between that and the middle of July, the latest period at which such a Bill could be sent to the House of Lords. The Government nights would only amount to twenty-four, one half of which at least must be occupied by finance and supply, and beyond these twenty-four nights they would have nothing to depend upon but the charity of private members. Now what had they found in former years ? In 1860 they spent months in trying to do nothing ; and on the occasion of the great Reform Act one single Bill of the three forming the great Reform occupied in one of its three forms fifty-three nights in the House of Commons, and at least one hundred nights were occupied in the complete review of the electoral system which was then achieved; but in order to do so the members turned day into night, summer into winter, and sacrificed, unjustly sacrificed, for two years all other legislation which re
quired debate or serious discussion. The Government, having fully considered all these matters, had resolved to confine themselves to a Bill for the alteration of the elective franchise. In 1860 it was proposed to reduce the county franchise from 501. to 101., but in the present case the Government proposed to modify that plan, and to reduce the county franchise to 141. of value. This, however, would not apply to a house alone, but would apply equally to a house and land, provided the rental of either or both was not less than 141. per annum. This would correspond with a 121. rating franchise, and it was estimated that it would add 171,000 persons to the electoral lists. It was also proposed to recognize the possession of copyhold or leasehold property within the limits of boroughs, and to give them the same privileges as if they were freeholds within the limits of a borough. It was next proposed that all adult males who had deposited 501. in a savings' bank for two years should be entitled to be registered for the place in which they resided. This privilege would add from 10,000 to 15,000 electors to the constituencies of England and Wales. An annual claim to be registered would be essentially necessary in the case of savings' banks voters. With regard to towns, there were at present four classes of occupiers, viz., rate-paying householders, compound householders, those who occupied portions of houses without being rated, and those who were the inmates of other people's families. The growth of the constituencies in towns had barely kept pace with the growth of the population generally ;. but he was glad to find that the infusion of the working classes in the present constituencies was larger than he expected, being in boroughs 21 per cent. It was intended to abolish the ratepaying clauses of the Reform Act, which it was hoped would admit 25,000 voters above the line of 101. Persons who were now in the position of compound householders would in future be treated like ratepayers, and it was believed that votes would thereby be given to 35,000 persons. In showing the evil consequences resulting from the ratepaying clauses, the right hon. gentleman said: "In some places it has been supposed that the local officers, under the influence of particular bias, did not apply for the payment of the rate until the date had passed when the payment of it would avail with a view to the exercise of the franchise. The rates of the two parties of voters are paid by the political agents in the interest of the respective candidates; and one local gentleman who very kindly sent up this information, as far as his own place was concerned, hoped that the communication would be considered confidential. There are certain boroughs where, by common consent, the law is overlooked on both sides. In Liverpool I do not overstate the case when I say that there are not less than between 6,000 and 7,000 persons, probably more, whose rates are habitually and ordinarily collected from the landlord by arrangement with the parish officers, and are therefore disfranchised without any neglect of their own. They are not compound householders, but their rates are collected from the landlord. We expect that the victims of this class are almost all of them persons who belong to the designation of working men. We shall admit not less than 25,000 above the line of 101. by the abolition of this clause. Then we come to the question of compound householders.
The principle upon which we go is that they should be treated exactly as ratepaying householders, if the rent of their house is of such a scale that in the judgment of the Legislature they are suitable persons to be enfranchised. It is perfectly certain as an economic truth, that the rates of that house, though paid in the first instance by the landlord, are ultimately paid by the householder; and it can make no difference to us, and does not justify any line of distinction being drawn between the two. At present the law is defective in this respect, that the name of the compound householder does not commonly appear on the rate book for the purpose of rating. In the amendment of the law of rating, which we shall have to propose, we shall provide that the name of the holder of the house, as well as any rating held in the house, shall appear upon the rate book; from whence, just like the rate of the householder, it will pass to the list of voters without imposing the burden or trouble upon the householder himself. Being upon the list of voters, it will be subject to the scrutiny of the revising barrister just as if it were the name of the ratepaying voter, and it will remain and stand upon the register as such. Therefore an effective enfranchisement will be given to the compound householders, whereas, up to the present time this enfranchisement has been almost purely speculative, and there was a want of executive means to remedy it. In the metropolis, we may say without fear of contradiction, that it is not done in one case in fifty, and when it is done it is for some particular purpose: the election agent finds out the names and puts them on the list. Now that is a way in which it ought not to be done. Let it be understood that if our proposal be adopted, the householder of a compound house will be put upon the list without any claim; he will get there by a spontaneous process. Then comes the third of the classes to which I formerly alluded—that class which is also very numerous in the metropolis-the occupiers of flats or portions of houses not under separate landlords, and not the subject of separate rating. As to these we can do nothing but leave them as they are. If they can show that the portion of the tenement inhabited by them is of the clear annual value of 101., and if they get themselves rated, as I believe they are entitled to ask, though legal difficulties of this kind form an almost insuperable obstacle, they may by a circuitous process get themselves placed on the list of voters. Of course, if there were no trouble and uncertainty as to the rating, that would get rid of the difficulty; but the public officer does not know, and cannot know, who these people are. He knows the value of the annual rating of compound householders, because that is necessary for public purposes; but he does not and cannot know the rent paid to the householder by the man who is the occupier of part of the tenement. Consequently we must leave these persons as they are now, subject to the burden of yearly claims. If the party can show that the tenement he rents is of the clear annual value of 101., though relieved from the necessity of being rated, he may have his name placed on the register, but with the necessity of renewing his claim from year to year. As to lodgers, we propose to place them exactly on the footing of those holding tenements of the clear yearly value of 101., without taking into consideration rates and taxes. These will be entitled, through a claim made from year to year, to be placed on the register. In 1859, the late Government proposed that any person paying 201. by the year, or 8s. per week, for any rooms, whether furnished or unfurnished, should be entitled through yearly claims, subject to certain formalities, to be placed on the register. We think that there are insuperable difficulties to any franchise resting upon rent paid for furnished apartments. In the first place, the clear annual value of rooms is difficult to ascertain when the price continually fluctuates from day to day in town and country. Still it is a thing capable of being brought to some definite standard ; but the value of the furniture, the rent paid on movable commodities, would be a totally novel, and, I must say, inconvenient basis for the franchise. If the case is defective when you have to estimate the value of furnitnre alone, much more is it so when you come to consider the rent paid for furnished lodgings, because not only does it include the furniture but many other particulars-personal service, firing, cooking, very commonly the use of the kitchen fire-in point of fact, creating a basis of a kind so peculiar that it would be quite impossible to make use of it for the purpose. I wish the House to understand, because great interest has been exhibited on the subject of the lodger franchise, that we propose
to deal with it in a manner that will include every case, and more than every bona fide case, which could have been included in the Bill of 1859. If a man pays 201. a year for his furnished lodging, then that lodging ought to be worth, allowing for the use of the furniture, more than 10l. clear annual value. We propose that any person paying rent of 101. clear annual value, subject to the usual conditions of occupation and residence, shall be entitled to come on the register. I can give no information-and I believe the right hon. gentleman in 1859 could give no information-as to the number of persons who will be entitled to be registered as lodgers. My firm belief is that it will be a small
The operation of claiming from year to year is one which must be very burdensome to the working man; but educated men, young men-such as clerks in business, versed in the use of
pen and ink, possessing intelligence and the inclination to obtain the franchise, and willing to take the trouble necessary, as I hope they will be, will constitute a middle class of extended franchise, though it would be to delude the House if I were to point to any large number of the working classes as likely to come on the register