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ments by which it was his duty to recommend the Ballot Bill of last year, he said that the opinion of the House of Commons upon a question of electoral machinery was entitled to especial consideration from their lordships, and he trusted they would not reject a Bill sent up a second time after full and careful consideration by the other House.
Lord Grey, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said they had been warned by the Prime Minister that the Ballot was only one of three important changes that were required, the two others being a further extension of the franchise and a redistribution of seats. If a revision of our electoral system were imminent, it would be most imprudent to make one partial change. His main objection to the Bill was that it would give us a worse instead of a better House of Commons, and would be a powerful obstacle to such a reform in that House as was most urgently required. Accusing the Government of a lack of foresight and statesmanship, he said that useful legislation was at a standstill, that important measures like the Contagious Diseases Act were decided by clamour and passion, and that the interests of the country were sacrificed to those of a political party. Denying that the passing of this Bill in two successive years by the other House formed
sufficient justification for the present motion, he asserted that if their lordships were not to exercise an independent judgment in such a matter that House had better be abolished. He deprecated any such trickery as giving this Bill a second reading, with the view of introducing amendments inconsistent with its spirit, and said that the only material amendment he should support would be the clause of the former Bill, giving facilities for ascertaining on a scrutiny how each elector had voted.
The Duke of Richmond regretted that the Government had thought it necessary to deal with this question, and contended that their lordships were last year perfectly justified in postponing legislation for another session. He adverted to the mode in which the subject had been dealt with at various periods; the evils complained of; and lastly, the probability that they would be cured by the Bill. After being snubbed and summarily rejected by Liberal Ministers for a series of years the Ballot Bill had now been brought forward to meet the demands of the advanced section of the Liberal party. Replying to the arguments of Lord Ripon founded on colonial experience, he said that the Bill contained many anomalies. Seeing, however, that it had come up a second time supported by large majorities of the other House, and by all the power of the Government, and that if it were rejected the present apathy might be succeeded by a great and dangerous agitation, he had come to the conclusion that, although he disliked the Bill, it would be unadvisable to oppose the second reading. He should be prepared, however, in committee, to propose several amendments,-e. g. that secret voting should be optional, and not compulsory, and that there should be the power of tracing votes if given wrongfully and corruptly.
Lord Shaftesbury, although agreeing in opinion with Lord Grey, and sharing his apprehensions, thought that the Duke of Richmond had spoken the words of wisdom in advising their lordships to give the Bill a second reading. At the same time, by a proposition for secret voting the country inflicted upon itself a direct dishonour. It was an open avowal of cowardice and corruption. The Bill, would, moreover, be altogether ineffective to put down intimidation, and it would make bribery ten times worse. Quoting a warning given to him by the late Daniel Webster, that the Ballot could never co-exist in England with monarchical institutions, he opposed the Bill from a variety of political, social, and moral considerations. He was prepared to witness the dissolution of the Established Church and a vital attack upon the House of Lords. He was prepared to tremble even for the Monarchy, but he was not prepared for an immoral people, fearing to come to the light because their deeds were evil.
Lord Cowper and Lord Rosebery supported, and Lord Ravensworth and the Duke of Rutland opposed the second reading.
Lord Lyveden thought he had never heard more inconsequential speeches than those in which the Duke of Richmond and Lord Shaftesbury had declared the Bill to be fraught with evil and mischief while recommending their lordships to read it a second time. The duke intended to substitute a permissive for a compulsory ballot, but it was certain that such an amendment would be rejected by the House of Commons, and the month of August would find both Houses still discussing the Ballot. He agreed that against public opinion when deliberately expressed there was no power of resistance in their lordships' House, but they ought never to yield to the House of Commons upon this question until after a dissolution. This was the constitutional rule in all great reforms. The Bill had been brought forward to unite the Liberal party, and to bring together in the same lobby Sir G. Grey and Sir Č. Dilke, and for this
purpose their lordships were asked to pass a measure which they all disliked and some of them abominated. He would tell them frankly they had no means of getting rid of the Bill except by voting against the second reading, and this he called upon their lordships manfully to do.
Lord Carnarvon twitted the Treasury bench with its silence during the debate. He pointed out that the social circumstances of the Australian colonies were so peculiar that no analogy could be drawn as to the operation of the ballot in this country. He warmly opposed the principle of the Bill.
Lord Belmore (who spoke from an Opposition bench) gave his colonial experience as an ex-Governor of New South Wales as to the working of the Ballot in the Australian colonies, and especially in regard to personation and scrutiny. He looked forward to its adoption in this country without alarm, and believing that if the Bill were thrown out a dangerous agitatiou would arise, and that it would come back again for adoption, he should vote for the second reading
Lord Kimberley denied that the Government rested the case for this Bíll upon the papers relating to the Australian colonies, and especially npon the opinions of the governors. He attached much more weight to the opinions of the responsible Ministers of those colonies, some of which he cited. Replying to some of the objections urged by previous speakers he thought the Bill would be especially beneficial in Ireland. It would not work a political revolution, and while its effect would be salutary, he did not believe it would realize the predictions either of its friends or of its enemies.
Lord Salisbury regarded the argument as to the Australian colonies as worthless. The Ballot had been established in many Continental countries, and they were all familiar with discussions as to how and by whom the urns had been violated. The thesis now before them was, why the House of Lords should not vote according to its opinion. Last year it did, and why should it not do so again? If it were said that the House of Commons had declared twice in favour of this Bill, and that it was consequently the duty of their lordships to pass it, that House became a mere copying machine, and the sooner its duties were remitted to that useful instrument the better. He, however, drew the widest distinction between the nation and the House of Commons, which only theoretically represented the opinion of the country on this question. The Ballot had never been before the constituencies at all, the present Government having gone to the bustings as non-ballot politicians. The difference between the Duke of Richmond and himself was that the duke hoped to obtain the objects he had in view in committee, while his difficulty was the uncertainty whether, if these amendments were carried, they would ultimately be incorporated in the Bill. Nevertheless, if the Bill went into committee, he should unreservedly support the amendments of which the duke had given notice. There was no one in whose judgment he had more absolute confidence, but his noble friend's mind was a little disturbed by the fear of that autumn agitation against the House of Lords which was always coming and never came. The duke would either fail to pass his amendments or he would succeed ; in the latter case, he would incur that very danger of irritating the House of Commons which he now deprecated. In England the Ballot might not make much change; it was the case of Ireland that alarmed him, because, if this Bill passed, the legislature would have to meet a demand for separation from the majority of Irish representatives. Believing that a fearful constitutional danger now threatened their lordships, he should give his hearty support to the amendment.
The Lord Chancellor deprecated the unconditional rejection of the Bill, and, as a proof that it was demanded by the country, asserted that every candidate who had gone to an election since the discussion on the Bill had been compelled to declare himself in favour of the Ballot. Lord Cairns contended that the Bill, by its complicated and
unintelligible directions would disfranchise half the constituency. He would be no party to giving a vote in its favour.
Their lordships divided, when there appeared a majority of 30 in favour of the second reading-viz. Contents, 86; Non-Contents, 56.
The Duke of Richmond was as good as his promise, and after accepting the principle of compulsory secret voting by allowing the Bill to pass its second reading, proposed amendments which changed the measure into a Bill for compelling all dependent persons to vote openly. Many politicians believed that his threat was only a device to enable the Bill to slip through, but he actually proposed to allow any voter who chose to show his vote to the agents in the booth, or indeed to decline secrecy altogether; and although Lord Ripon stated that Government could not accept the amendment, and the Liberal Peers showed conclusively that optional secrecy meant publicity for all but those to whom secrecy is surplusage, the Peers carried the alteration by 83 to 67, and thus rendered a conflict with the Commons absolutely inevitable.
Lord Shaftesbury proposed two amendments, which he said had found great favour with the élite of the working men, and which together would be eminently favourable to the peace and good order of elections. The first, enabling the poll at borough elections to be prolonged until 8 p.m., was carried on a division by 87 votes against 72. Before the second (closing all the public-houses on the polling day) could be put
Lord Cairns moved that the chairman report progress, in order to call attention to conduct on the part of the Government which was entirely unprecedented within his experience. Having by their organ, Lord Ripon, refused to accede to the amendment, they suddenly turned round, and all of them went into the lobby with Lord Shaftesbury. This was speaking one way and voting another.
Lord Ripon said he had regretted that the other House had struck out the clause lengthening the hours of the polling, but thought the hour of eight in the evening too late throughout the year. Не. had voted for the clause with the view of modifying it on the report.
A lively and even noisy discussion now sprang up, in which “ words of heat” were exchanged between the leading occupants of the benches on both sides. Lord Salisbury extenuated the conduct of the Government on the ground that, having had an "unfortunate evening,” they saw an opportunity of being in a majority for once. Lord Bath made a personal attack on the Lord Chancellor. Lord Granville warmly defended the Lord Chancellor, and said that noble Lords opposite were so accustomed to exercise a despotism over the House that they could not conceive any course for the Government except to be beaten. The imputation of “despotism” was resented by the Duke of Richmond as a personal reflection, and, as such, was indignantly repudiated. Lord Clanricarde called upon the clerk to read the standing order against "sharp and taxing speeches."
Ultimately the motion for reporting progress was withdrawn, and Lord Kimberley having announced that the Government would certainly go into the lobby against Lord Shaftesbury's second amendment, it was rejected by 133 votes against 90. The result of the two divisions is that the poil will be kept open until eight o'clock p.m., while the public-houses will be allowed to remain open during the day of election as usual.
Lord Beauchamp moved to add words to clause 33, limiting the operation of the Act to December 31, 1880, unless Parliament should otherwise determine. The amendment was strongly opposed by the Government, but it was carried on a division by 106 votes against 69.
A larger majority (162 to 91) supported the introduction of securities against personation. When the amended Bill was sent back to the House of Commons, Mr. Forster moved to disagree with the clause making the Ballot optional, which he characterized as making the Bill useless or worse than useless. Mr. Disraeli sustained the Lords' amendments in a skilful little speech, in which he maintained that Mr. Forster's language was extravagant and indefensible from a Government that had already agreed to give an optional Ballot to the “illiterate class of her Majesty's subjects,” seeing that according to the Registrar-General one-fifth of all those who marry cannot sign their names to the Register, so that one-fifth of the electors may be taken to be illiterate voters, and the very class who need protection most, without having it accorded to them by this Bill. He argued that it was absurd to give the option to the dependent fifth and refuse it to the independent four-fifths, and he therefore regarded the Lords' amendments making the option universal as “comprehensive and consistent." For himself, he denied entirely the demand of the country for the Ballot; had he been in the Lords, he would have accepted the Bill without alteration, on one condition, that it applied only as a sort of “penal statute” to constituencies where bribery and intimidation had been proved to be widely diffused. He would regard compulsory secrecy as a degrading punishment for “the excesses of electoral society," much as the Riot Act for rioting.
Mr. Gladstone at once took up this last point, and remarked that as Mr. Disraeli seemed to think the Ballot stood in the same relation to corruption and intimidation as the Riot Act does to rioting, he evidently regarded it as an efficient remedy. As to the denial of the general demand for the Ballot, he appealed not to Liberals, but to the newly elected Conservative members for Oldham, the Isle of Wight, Tamworth, and the North-West Riding, and also to the Conservative candidate for Aberdeen, who had apparently found it necessary even in order to get a mover and a seconder, -Mr. Gladstone would not comment on his slender hopes for fear of giving pain,—to declare for the Ballot. Aberdeen had been declared by a great Conservative Scotch Judge to contain the very cream of Scotch politicians, indeed to be so enlightened that “there .