Orders of the Day — Proportional Representation Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 5th April 1921.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Sir Thomas Bramsdon Sir Thomas Bramsdon , Portsmouth Central

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

There is a very old saying that it is better to be born lucky than rich. I certainly was not born rich but on one or two occasions I have been lucky. For instance, lately I have succeeded in winning a place in two ballots, one of which enables me to bring in this Bill. Many years ago I took part in a raffle and I won four pictures. I did not look at the name on the pictures until I got home and then I found they were described as the "Road to Ruin." I am glad to say that the ruin did not follow me, because very shortly afterwards I won my first Parliamentary election. I anticipate that hon. Members who are opposed to my views on this subject may say that I am on the road to ruin now. I feel assured that before I sit down they will be convinced that that is not the case, but rather the opposite. I move the Second Reading of this Bill because I think there is a general consensus of opinion that the present method of election is not satisfactory. Many attempts have been made to alter the system, some with and some without success, but I suggest that that which I am enunciating to-day is a measure that is likely to meet the difficulty. It is an undoubted fact that there are many towns and districts in this country in which many citizens have never had any representation at all according to their idea. I live near a constituency which, as long as I can recollect, has never returned any representative of a class representing more than one set of views. I ask you to look at the representation generally in the south of England and in the north, and I think you will agree that, as to one class or set of views in each place, those who happen to be in a minority have really never had any representation at all. That is a very unfortunate thing for them, because if they want their views expressed they have to go to a representative with views contrary to their own, and they do so with a certain amount of discontent, whereas if they had Members who truly represented their views it would be much more satisfactory.

Let me illustrate what I am proposing. I ask the House to assume that there is an area consisting of 70,000 electors, and I will represent those electors by colours. In the area there are 40,000 reds, 20,000 whites, and 10,000 blues. According to our present method that area would be represented by seven reds, which would be wrong. The proper representation would be four reds, two whites, and one blue. That can be brought about only by a system of proportional representation. This is a non-party Bill, and I would ask hon. Members to eliminate from their minds the idea that there is any question of party in it. On the back of the Bill it will be seen that I am supported equally by the two great parties. It would be a pity if in a matter of this kind, in which we are all anxious to bring about a proper representation, there should be anything other than an impartial and just view of the whole question. You may ask, What is proportional representation? It is the representation of citizens on elected bodies in proportion to their voting strength. How can that be obtained? It can be obtained by the method of election known as the single transferable vote. What is the single transferable vote? It requires that the constituencies shall be large enough to return several Members each, and that although there may be several Members to elect, each elector shall have only one vote, which he will give to the candidate he likes best, and that this single vote shall in certain contingencies be transferable from one candidate to another, the transfer being controlled by the elector. This system was recommended by the conference over which Mr. Speaker presided in the year 1917. It would have applied to a large number of important and crowded areas in this country. In due course it came up for consideration in this House, and, to use a colloquialism, it was turned down. Why was it not accepted? Because there were those who felt it went too far and those who thought it did not go far enough. Between the two stools the proposal came to the ground. We have introduced this Bill to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, so that if it is thought by the House to be necessary any alteration may be made in the Bill. Substantially, however, it is a Bill applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom.

The areas would require to elect three, five or seven, and therefore they would require to be larger than at the present time. As a matter of fact it would probably work out that three, five or seven of the present divisions would require to be amalgamated into one, and that would then form a constituency. The question of the allocation of these districts would have to be the subject of a Commission. My own opinion is that with the exception of one or two cases, each area would consist of a district that would return either three or five Members. I do not see that the working of the system will present any difficulty at all in this respect. I represent Portsmouth which, at the present time, returns three Members to Parliament. I used to represent it when it returned two Members, and I have fought the constituency on several occasions. I say with confidence that there would be no difficulty whatever. If that is so in regard to Portsmouth, it will be the same with other parts of the Kingdom which are at present returning three Members. I do not anticipate there will be any difficulty either, in returning five or even seven, though I think probably five would be sufficient. Any large places like Birmingham, Liverpool, or Glasgow would have to be divided up into such areas as I have indicated.

The Bill which I put before the House deals with the matter in this way. The first Clause introduces proportional representation with the single transferable vote. The second Clause deals with the scheme of redistribution to be prepared; the third Clause provides Regulations for the method of voting, and classifying and counting the votes. The fourth Clause deals with the scale of election expenses, about which I shall have something to say later on, and the fifth deals with the commencement of the Act, which means that it shall not come into operation until a General Election takes place. These are simple Clauses, and I am asking you to consider the Bill in the light of the objections made to it. I hear a great deal about the difficulties in connection with the voting, the counting, and other things. The voting is simplicity itself. You have placed upon your voting paper the names of the various candidates, and all the voter is required to do is to place the figure 1 against the name of his first favourite, the figure 2 against that of his next favourite, the figure 3 against the next, and so on down the list. He may, if he likes, only vote for one or for two or for three, or he may vote for the whole lot. There is no restriction upon him. As long as he keeps to the figures no trouble arises, but if he places a cross instead of a figure opposite the name, then the paper is rendered a bad one. There can be no complication about a simple matter of this kind. I should think that if any man or woman is unable to do that we should question whether they are able to exercise the franchise at all, but I do not believe there is any person of ordinary intelligence who will not find it a perfectly simple thing. May I remind the House that in guardians elections at the present time you get a list of candidates and the voters go down that list—although they vote by means of a cross and not by means of a figure—and no difficulty whatever arises. I hear someone say that it will create a lot of spoiled votes. Is there an election under the present system where there are not spoiled votes? Whatever system you have, there will always be spoiled votes. Some time ago I had a friend who was very intellectual but a little forgetful, and quite innocently, during an election in which there were two candidates, he managed to promise his vote to both. He did not know what to do, but ultimately he voted for both and salved his conscience in that way I think I have said enough to dispose of the bogey raised as to the complexity of the vote.

The next question is in regard to the counting. Someone who wanted to use strong language said it was a jig-saw puzzle; I do not think there is any jigsaw puzzle in it, and, as I will show, any sixth form boy in a public school could work it. We have to arrive first of all at what is known as the quota. That is the number of votes which a candidate must get in order to be elected. If there are 100 votes, and one member to be elected, half of that number plus 1 is sufficient to return a candidate. I am using small figures advisedly. If, for argument's sake, there are two members to be elected, then one-third of the-number plus 1 will elect a candidate. If there are three, a quarter plus 1 is the quota, and if there are four, one-fifth plus 1, and so on. As long as a person obtains that quota, no difficulty arises in regard to him. His election is assured. Suppose that as the result of the election a candidate obtains the quota and is duly elected. If he is a popular man he will get a great deal more than he requires. Our theory is that it is a pity to waste those votes. So those votes are taken into consideration and are used for the purpose of electing the next favourite of those who voted for the popular man. If the quota for an election is 2,000, and a man gets 3,000—or 1,000 more than is wanted—that 1,000 is used for the next choice on the ballot papers. Let me explain further what I mean. On each voting paper there are names marked 1, 2, 3, and so on. The number 1's count up to 3,000, and the quota being 2,000 the 1,000 in excess is distributed amongst the candidates marked as second choice.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but may I ask him whether the 2,000 voting papers which give the candidate the quota are subsequently dead and all preferences that have been marked on them count no further in the election?

Photo of Sir Thomas Bramsdon Sir Thomas Bramsdon , Portsmouth Central

I hope I shall not be interrupted more than is necessary, and I will try to make it clear. I was coming to the very point about which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken. If there are 3,000 voting papers, and 2,000 Is the number required to elect, then all 3,000 voting papers are searched again for the second choices, and a proportion is allotted among the second choices, the proportion being one-third; for the elected member can spare 1,000 out of 3,000. Then if a candidate receives a sufficient number he is immediately elected. I think I can illustrate it best in this way. The voter says to the returning officer, "I want you to look at my voting paper. Will you please gather together all those that have the figure 1 for my favourite, and after you have done so, if he has too many, or if he has not enough to be of any use, will you please give my superfluous or useless vote to my second choice on my paper, and if he does not need it will you give it to the third on my paper until my vote becomes effectual. I have only one vote. I cannot therefore do any harm by asking you to allocate that vote to advantage." By these means the vote is used, and if anyone succeeds in getting the quota, either with first choices or with the assistance of transferred votes, he is elected. It is suggested there may be great difficulty in counting the votes, but I should like to point out that in Ireland, consequent upon the municipal elections, there were 120 contests and not one of the districts experienced any difficulty in connection with the counting of the votes. The returns were duly made to the Irish Local Government Board which congratulated the returning officers on the way in which the work had been done. I do not know that the Irish are a particularly brilliant body of men compared even with the Scots or perhaps with the English or the Welsh. Surely the wily little Welshman will be quite able to understand the counting of the votes? May I say in connection with the Universities which, at the present time, have proportional representation that no difficulty whatever was experienced in connection with the counting of the votes. That gets rid of another bogey.

We have just had an illustration of the system in the House in which some hon. Members took part, and I do not think that anyone found any difficulty in understanding the method of counting. It is often suggested that you will not get people to vote under this system—that there will be a lessening of the number of voters. Again let me take Ireland as an example. In the local elections there recently 70 per cent, of the electorate voted in Dublin, Cork, and other large towns, and my hon. Friends opposite will be glad to know that in Londonderry no fewer than 92 per cent, voted. That is not bad when you consider what usually takes place in connection with municipal elections. My own experience is that nothing like the proportion that took part in the elections in Ireland under the system tried there take part in the contests under ordinary conditions. Therefore, if we extend the system, I think the results will be found to be satisfactory. Again, it has been suggested that the areas are so large and wide that the Member will lose his personality. I may be pardoned for again referring to my own experience. I have represented Portsmouth off and on for the last 21 years. It is a borough containing 227,000 inhabitants. Although I now represent only a portion. of the borough, and not the borough as a whole, I hope I have not lost my personality there. I feel, at any rate, that I continue to represent the borough as a whole. What I think the introduction of this new system will do will be to induce the electors to seek out those local men who are best known and trusted. They will be chosen to represent the constituencies and they will become the Members. I think it is better that Members should be in contact with the whole constituency rather than assuming that they represent merely one portion of the area. I Consider Portsmouth as my constituency, although I only represent a portion of it, and I do not think I have lost my personality merely because I do represent but part of the area.

I should like to refer to some of the places that have adopted this system. When I deal with those on the Continent I do so with some trepidation, and I hope the House will forgive me if I mention names which are not altogether acceptable. Before the War, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland were using the system. Since the War, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Austria, Jugo-Slavia, and all the countries established by the Peace have now adopted this principle of representation. The Peace Treaty contains Clauses providing for its application in Smyrna. In English-speaking countries proportional representation has made similar progress, and in some of the States of Australia, in New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States it is now in operation—in some places for municipal elections only and in others for Parliamentary elections as well. The British Parliament has embodied proportional representation in several Acts because this method of voting was found to be the most satisfactory method to ensure the representation of minorities. In 1918 it was applied to the Universities. In 1919 it was applied to the elections for county education authorities throughout Scotland; in 1920 it was applied to local elections in Ireland; and in 1921 it will be applied, under the provisions of the Act passed last Session, to the forthcoming Parliamentary elections in Ireland. The system has also been recently confirmed in New South Wales, and it is proposed to introduce it in Malta. The system is gradually extending, and I think that is the best proof of its popularity and usefulness.

I want to correct one or two misapprehensions which are contained in a circular recently issued by those who do not quite see eye to eye with us in this matter. First, I will refer to the case of New South Wales. There, there was a somewhat smaller vote than might have been expected, but I think it was due to two conditions. One was that the voter was required to sign a declaration of identity before he voted, and the other was that he was called upon to vote for every candidate on the voting paper, otherwise his vote would be lost. What could one expect when conditions like that are insisted upon. It must minimise the number of persons who vote. There have been some statements made by distinguished public men to the effect that the system has not been successful, but what can you expect from opponents? Let me give the view of the Prime Minister of New South Wales, the Hon. J. Storey. He said: I was prejudiced against proportional representation, but I am bound to admit, looking at it impartially and in the interests of the country as a whole, that I believe it to be the better of the two systems. I think that should effectively dispose of any difficulty in connection with New South Wales. Another statement I see in the papers is that proportional representation was adopted in England from 1867 to 1885. That is a mistake. It was not proportional representation. There were 13 constituencies in the country that were enabled to return three candidates, and the elector could vote for two persons out of three. That is not proportional representation, or anything like it. I am not surprised that that was discontinued in 1885, and a good thing, too. I think if I had had any voting on it, I should have voted for its extinction. What we are voting for now is of an entirely different character.

I want to deal with a few figures showing the results under single-Member constituencies, and what would have been the case under proportional representation. This is quoted from the Manchester Statistical Society, and was accepted as evidence at Mr. Speaker's Conference. In 1885 the Liberal majority of 158 under the present system, should have been 92 under proportional representation. In 1886 there was a Conservative majority of 104 under the present system. Under proportional representation there should have been a Liberal majority of 18. So that actually in 1886 the country was governed by a minority. In 1906 there was a Liberal majority of 356 under the present system. Under proportional representation there should have been 114, thus showing the great increase which the Liberals got in 1906 compared with what they ought to have got. In 1918, the last election, there was a Coalition majority of 414 under the present system, whereas there should have been 114 under proportional representation. Those are not my figures, nor the figures of any society with which I am connected. They are the statistical figures of the Manchester Statistical Society, and I think will be accepted as good evidence. Let us go a little further. In the 1918 election the 414 Members represented 13,000 votes each. In that year the Opposition represented 50,000 votes each. I say that is very unfair, and though it happens to fall in with the views which I hold at the present time, the boot may be on the other leg the next time, and an act of injustice may be done to the party now in power. In am for justice all round. I can imagine, when I used those figures, that what was in the mind of hon. Members was that there was a reduced majority throughout all those cases. A good job, too. I venture to think, under the present system, huge majorities do not work well. Members are slack in their attendance, and independent; they do not take that interest in the work they otherwise would do, and sufficient evidence could be produced to show that the best work this country has ever done has been done during the time of a small majority.

The next point which I am sure is in the mind of the House is the question of expense. I can imagine hon. Members saying, "Oh, but this system of large areas is going to cost a lot of money." Not at all. Let me point out what is in the Bill about that— In any constituency formed under the scheme referred to in Clause 2 of this Act, and whether at a general election or a by-election the permissible expenses of a candidate (other than personal expenses and the fee of £75 or £50 paid to the election agent) shall not exceed a sum equal to the amount which would be permissible under the principal Act divided by the number of members assigned to that constituency by the said scheme. That means that there will be no greater expense incurred in fighting this larger constituency than there is under the present circumstances. I think the Labour party teach us a good lesson in regard to the question of expense. I am sure we have all been struck by the smallness of expense which they have incurred in connection with elections. Possibly it may be that they have not got any more money. I expect that will be the retort, but, still, as it is, they are not unsuccessful in their fighting and in their results, and in many instances, I should think, their expenses would be a third or perhaps a fourth of those which are incurred by other Members. Is it really necessary to waste all this money in elections? I have spent a good deal of money in my time in fighting elections, and I have often thought that a great deal.of it might have been avoided. If I show that my friends of the Labour party can fight successfully on a third or a quarter of the money which others spend, there, again, there need be no trouble whatever as regards expense. I have fought Portsmouth as a whole on four occasions, and I did not spend any more money on those occasions than I did on the last occasion, when I stood for a part of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "More electors! "]

I believe a good deal is going to be made against this Bill on the ground that six smart men might engineer the whole election; in other words, that the Act can be gerrymandered. Nothing of the kind! There is some statement in this pamphlet to which I have referred about six smart men and three candidates— A, B, and C. If it is looked at seriously, it will be seen that it is unworkable. Though the scheme of proportional representation has been discussed and criticised by the finest mathematical minds, I will make the bold statement that it is impossible for you to gerrymander it. It is easy enough to make statements that it can be done, but it is a very difficult thing to prove it, and I defy anyone to prove it by demonstration that this system can be gerrymandered. I think hon. Members will have seen in the papers quite recently a list of men and women who are enthusiastic supporters of this measure. It is not too much to say that a very large proportion of the great thinkers of the country are in favour of this measure. I do not like to keep on reading extracts, but I cannot help reading a few from Unionist papers in Ireland following on the last election which took place there. Take the "Daily Express" in Dublin: A great success has been gained for the system of proportionate representation. It has in difficult and critical circumstances demonstrated its power to do all that was claimed of it. Take the "Belfast News Letter": Under the proportional representation system there is no margin for slackness. Every vote passed has its weight in the enumeration. Take the "Cork Constitution": The test of popular feeling and favour could not well he applied under more unfavourable circumstances. Yet the results achieved go very far to justify it as an improvement on the system it has displaced. Finally take the "Irish Times": The system of proportional representation has come to stay. We believe that the early future will see its adoption for municipal and Parliamentary elections throughout the United Kingdom. Let me refer again to those pamphlets circulated by the opponents to the Bill in which, after referring to the difficulties attending the counting of the vote, they say: " What a contrast is all this to the simple and reliable system of one straightforward vote for one candidate and no more on the principle that the first past the post wins."

My hon. Friends need not be afraid that the sporting element will be eliminated, because there will still be other events to follow beyond the first win of the favourite. I am afraid I do not understand horseracing but if I do the analogy will be this, that there are other places to be obtained, and their friends may or may not get a place.

I understand that there is to be a determined opposition to my Bill. I am very glad to hear it, because it shows there is something very good in it. Let us go back a little into history. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no! "] I will not take long. Note the opposition which took place in 1832 to the Reform Act. Take the Household Suffrage Act of 1867. History tells us how Disraeli dished the Whigs. There was considerable opposition to the extension of the franchise in 1884, and goodness knows there has been opposition enough to the Home Rule Bill, but it has been passed and has come to stay. I do not say that there will not be some opposition to this measure. There was even opposition to the Daylight Saving Bill which was supposed to be a ridiculous measure. It has become law. What I want to do to-day is to throw a little more daylight into this Bill. I cannot help feeling that though, as to-day, we have had a partial eclipse of the sun, which has passed, and the brightness come again, so brightness will come to this measure and it will ultimately be placed on the Statute Book.


I beg to move, to leave out the word " now," and at the end of the Question to add the words " upon this day six months."

My hon. Friend who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill has referred to a great many points. I, myself, do not propose to refer to all these points. For instance, I do not propose to refer to the history of proportional representation, nor do I propose to refer to its workings either in the Colonies, in Ireland, or abroad. That can be done by others rather than by myself—others like my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) are far better qualified to do it than I am. I would like to refer to two points in this Bill itself. The hon. Member has said nothing at all about bye-elections. I myself do not think that any system is a good system which is not capable of universal application. Yet the House will observe that under this Bill not only will some constituencies which-are sparsely populated be cut off from the working of proportional representation, but where you get a bye-election it will not be worked under proportional representation at all, and the two systems, therefore, will be side by side. You will get a number of Members elected at the General Election by proportional representation and at the bye-elections by the direct vote. That is likely to cause nothing but friction and confusion.

The House will also observe that the constituencies which are to be formed under this Bill are to be three, five, or seven-membered constituencies. I presume they will not have four or six, because anybody who has any knowledge of proportional representation knows you cannot work it adequately with an equal number of members in a constituency; that very largely results in a tie. Suppose, then, there are to be either three Members or five, or seven Members. The adoption of a three-membered constituency under proportional representation is to a very large extent a return to the old system which was in force in this country in certain districts between 1867 and 1885, when it was abolished under the Redistribution of Seats Act. That system did not prove successful. It resulted in absolute apathy in most parts of the country, because the majority found they could never get more than two seats, and the minority never more then one; the result was that neither side ever wanted an election. In one or two districts, like the city I represent, Glasgow, where the majority was so strong that they could carry the whole of the seats, they could only do it by the most extraordinary discipline on the part of the electors themselves. Where you got three Members elected they were elected by dividing up the electorate into three different bodies, one body voting for A and B, another body voting for B and C, and another voting for A and C. If that is freedom of election I am afraid I do not see it.

There are equal difficulties with regard to Members in five or seven-member constituencies into which I do not propose to enter, but I want to remind the House of two points. One is that if you have a big constituency with five Members and you proceed with your party to elect your five candidates—or, much more likely, four, because you probably would not be able to carry the five—there are bound to be certain anomalies. Some of the men might be well known, men like Cabinet Ministers, say, the older men, and the others would not be so well known. Yet these younger men have to bear the same expense, knowing perfectly well that under this system they stand much less chance of election. There is, therefore, bound to be a much greater chance of friction amongst Members belonging to the same party than under the present system, where every Member gets his own constituency to fight without regard to anybody else. What I say, has actually happened in the working of proportional representation in Australia. It has led to personal bitterness amongst the candidates of the same party.

There is also another point. I quite acknowledge that under this system the expenses will not be great, but there will be this very remarkable difference: where you have Members running in a team they will be able to do much more with their money than where you have an independent Member running by himself. That, however, will result in Members like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wrekin Division (Sir C. Townshend) being wiped out of existence altogether. That has actually happened in New South Wales, where all Independent Members have ceased to hold their seats in the House. If this House thinks it a good thing for the Independents to be wiped out, well and good; but one of the claims of proportional representation is that the Independent Member will have a much greater chance than ever before. Apart from the system of minority representation from 1867 to 1885 we had also the system of cumulative voting in this country at the school board elections. I do not propose to refer to them except to remind the House of this, that when the school boards in Scotland were abolished the voting was replaced by proportional representation, so that we have proportional representation in operation in Scotland now so far as the election of the educational authorities is concerned. I voted at the last proportional representation election in Glasgow, and so know something of what the election is like. I have given considerable study to the result of that election since, and if the House will bear with me I want to make some reference to it because it is an example by which we can judge proportional representation on its merits.

In the first place, I would like to say that the percentage of electors voting in Glasgow at that election was 27, which is the smallest percentage of electors who have ever voted at a school board election in that city. I do not say that was entirely due to proportional representation, but I say certainly that it was to some extent due to proportional representation, because the elector did not take the same interest in a system which was complicated in its machinery. My hon. Friend opposite (Sir T. Bramsdon), who moved this Bill, tried to explain to the House the system of transferring the surplus votes. I cannot congratulate him on his explanation. To begin with, it was not accurate, and secondly, it was not complete. There are two systems by which votes are transferred. There is the system by which surplus votes are transferred from the candidates who are at the top of the poll, and there is the system by which votes are transferred from the candidates who are at the bottom of the poll who have no possible chance of being elected. There are considerable possibilities in the transference of the votes. Let me explain. The Eegu-lations issued by the Scottish Office for this proportional representation election do not explain the thing, but try to explain it. It says here: If the total number of transferable papers is greater than the surplus, the Returning Officer shall transfer from each sub-parcel the number of papers which bears the same proportion to the number of papers in the sub-parcel as the surplus bears to the total number of transferable papers. What it means is, that where a successful Member has gained his quota he has a certain surplus of votes. They take the whole of those votes, including the ones which carried him in, and divide them into sub-parcels, but they only allow each of those sub-parcels to get a proportion of those votes, and that proportion is the same as the surplus bears to the total number of tranferred votes. This means that each of those candidates dependent for election on getting these preferences does not get his full number, but only a proportion of his votes. I am not arguing whether that is fair or not, because it is obvious you only take a certain proportion, and you do not take the number required to put the first man in. What happens to the candidate at the bottom? The rule is: If at any time no candidate has a surplus and one or more vacancies remain unfilled, the returning officer shall exclude from the poll the candidate credited with the lowest number of votes, and shall examine all the papers of that candidate, and shall arrange the transferable papers in sub-parcels according to the next preferences recorded thereon for continuing candidates, and shall transfer each sub-parcel to the candidate for whom that preference is recorded. From that it will be seen that candidates still waiting election and dependent upon other votes get the whole of their votes from the candidate at the bottom, although they may be third or fourth preference votes, because higher preferences were given to successful candidates, whilst the man who is higher up only gets a proportion, so that the votes transferred from the bottom are of greater value than the votes transferred from the top. We have been told that this scheme can be carried out by a schoolboy. But let me read to the House another rule: The number of papers to be tiansferred from each,sub-parcel shall be ascertained by multiplying the number of papers in the sub-parcel by the surplus and dividing the resuit by the total number of transferable papers. A note shall be made of the fractional parts, if any, of each number so ascertained.If, owing to the existence of such fractional parts, the number of papers to be transferred is less than the surplus, so many of these fractional parts taken in the order of their magnitude, beginning with tli3 largest, as are necessary to make the total number of papers to be transferred equal ta the surplus, shall be reckoned as of the value of unity, and the remaining fractional parts, shall be ignored. 1.0 P.M.

Then it goes on making further referenceto these fractional parts. I have only dealt with this point in order to tryand make the House appreciate that although to some people the idea may be simple in the case of a toy election, when it comes to carrying out an election in a great city like Glasgow, it is not so-simple, and it is absolutely unfair, because the votes have an unequal value, and certain candidates do not get their proper share of votes as compared with other candidates. It may be said that the machinery can be improved, but the more complicated you make your machinery under proportional representation, the more liable you will be to make errors of this kind. Under this system, in one ward in the Glasgow election to which I have referred, one candidate had 1,150 votes on the first preference, but he was not elected, whilst another who polled only 229 votes on the first poll was elected. That is an example of giving a later preference, which has almost as great a value as the first preference.

I have so far only dealt with what I might describe as the machinery, but apart from the machinery there are many more forcible objections. At the proportional representation election in Glasgow there were six Labour candidates who were successful, and not a single one of those candidates was elected on a first preference and they were all dependent for their election on the transfer of certain votes from another party. In that election there were three parties, the Moderate party, the Roman Catholic party, and the Labour party, and the surplus votes by which the Labour party got in were transferred from the Roman Catholic party. I am not making any allegations of unfairness, but I think the House will appreciate that under proportional representation it is possible for two minorities to come to an agreement by which each will transfer its surplus votes to the other on the understanding that they will thereby each achieve their own object. I am convinced, although I have not been in politics very long, that any system of election by which you will encourage bargaining is bound to degrade the whole political life of the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about coupons?"]. That was not a bargain, but an union.

Let me give an example of what I mean. Hon. Members will recollect that the present condition of Ireland may be due to certain causes, but it is largely the result of the fact that the Home Rule Bill was the result of a bargain between two parties in this House. If the Home Rule question had never been treated as a great political bargain between Mr. Gladstone and the Nationalist party, I do not believe that Ireland would have been in her present condition, and I do not think there is any sane man in this House who wishes to see a repetition of bargaining of that kind. The tendency to make bargains under proportional representation will increase, because even the advocates of this system assert that you will get much smaller majorities behind the Government, and the consequences will be that the Government will have to look round to try and get support from every quarter to maintain itself in power. This has happened in other countries under proportional representation. It has happened in Tasmania.

I am absolutely convinced that at the present time, when we get these grave risks of great industrial disturbances, it is essential that the Government of the day, to whatever party it may belong, should have behind it a strong working majority in the House of Commons. I am also sure that unless you have a Government with a strong majority behind it you will have continual uncertainty in trade and consequent unemployment, because people will never know whether the Government is going out of office, with a consequent change of policy. If every minority in this country were to have representation, I would like to know what the result would be. According to Whitaker's Almanack, there are some 700 different societies in this country. If you carry Proportional Representation to its logical conclusion, it means that you will have to bring 700 different people, representing 700 different societies, into this House. There would be just enough seats. Does any Member really think that the business of this House is likely to be accelerated by having people of that kind representing their different interests? We all know perfectly well that experts are notoriously bad legislators, and bad administrators. They have a narrow, single point of view, and they do not look at the world from the wider outlook which is essential to the business of this House. Yet, if you carry proportional representation to its logical conclusion, that is what will happen. That was the intention of the originator of proportional representation. His idea was that the whole of the country should form one constituency, and that all the Members should be elected for that one constituency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, in moving this Bill, said that under the working of proportional representation personality would count for more than anything else. What is to become of the young man? What chance would he have of working a constituency on his merits? He would have to take his chance alongside older men who had already proved their merits. The probability is that the younger man would' go down. You would cease to get the younger men, and would thereby lose one of the greatest assets that this House has, because all Governments must look to the young men from whom to find their future administrators, and not to men who come into this House when they are old. Let me give two examples of what would have happened under proportional Representation at two General Elections, in Glasgow. In 1900 there were seven Members for Glasgow, and the seats were carried by 7 Unionists. If we had had proportional representation at that time, according to the votes cast, the Unionists would have won five seats and the Liberals two. There were no Labour-candidates at that election. The seven Unionist Members were Lord Scott-Dickson, as he is now, who although he had never been a Member had twice contested a constituency in Glasgow; Sir Alexander Cross, who had sat for his constituency several years; Mr. J. Baird, who had sat for his constituency 14 years; Mr. Cameron Corbett, who had sat for his constituency 15 years; Sir John Stirling Maxwell, one of the best known men in Glasgow; Mr. Wilson, and the late Leader of this House (Mr. Bonar Law). Neither the late Leader of this House nor Mr. Wilson had ever fought a constituency in Glasgow, or, as far, as I know, anywhere else before. They were entirely unknown in politics, and the probability, almost the certainty, is that, if that election had been fought under proportional representation, the first five gentlemen would have been elected,-and the late Leader of this House and Mr. Wilson would never have secured election. In 1906 we lost all our Unionist seats in Glasgow, and we only gained one or two of them back in 1910. The probability therefore is that the late Leader of this House would never have come to this House at all.

Let me give another example. At the last General Election, in 1918, Glasgow returned 15 Members. The probability is that the seats in Glasgow under proportional representation would be so distributed that we should have three constituencies, each returning five Members—five in the west, five in the east, and five on the south side of the river. If the election had been held under proportional representation, there would have been on the south side of the river four Coalition Members and one Labour Member. That happened under the direct system, and there would have been no change; but there would have been a great change so far as the Labour party are concerned. At that time, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorhals (Mr. G. Barnes) was opposed by Mr. John Maclean, the Bolshevik Consul for Glasgow, and leader of one of the Extremist parties in the West of Scotland. He is a Bolshevik out and out, and he had been just released from prison to fight his election He was a popular hero, and was pulled through the streets on a lorry by thousands of young men who never went to the War, but who ought to have done so. I have not the slightest doubt that if we had had proportional representation on the south side of Glasgow at that election, the Labour Member elected would not have been the hon. Member for Govan, but Mr. John Maclean. I hope that the House will observe that under this magnificent system we should have lost the services of one of the best leaders this House has ever had, and that a few years later we should have obtained the services of a man who is not only one of the most extreme men in this country, but who does not believe in representative government at all.

I would like to refer to one other point which my hon. Friend opposite has mentioned, but which I do not think he appreciates, because he does not represent a city of the size of Glasgow. He only represents a constituency which, so far as Glasgow is concerned, I might describe as a mere village. We have heard a great deal about Proportional Representation being the representation of parties in proportion to their strength, but there is another side to representation about which we do not hear so much in the House, but which to my mind is very much more important. When Edward I first called together members from England, he called so many burgesses from so many towns, and so many knights from every shire. When His Majesty the other day summoned this House by Proclamation he called so many burgesses from every town, and so many knights from every shire. The original intention in calling together those gentlemen was, not that they should form political parties, but that they should represent the views and interests of the constituencies from which they came. I maintain, and will always maintain, that under the present system a Member returned to this House for a definite area, representing a definite number of people, is far better qualified to represent them and to air their views than any Member who runs in a team and represents an enormous constituency which he cannot possibly know. If under Proportional Representation I had been elected on the south side of Glasgow, I should have been one of five Members representing 171,000 electors. I am a Glasgow man and I have been connected with Glasgow through my father and grandfather, and the constituency which I represent is one which I have known for a great many years. I know all the works in the constituency, I know the men, and I know the employers. I know most of the shops, and I know the people. I know all the workpeople and I know the dockers. I know those men and women, not because I want to canvass them and get them to vote for me, but because I believe it is my duty, as representing the Tradeston Division of Glasgow, to find out what are those people's ideas, so that if they have any difficulties and troubles, I can represent and help them.

A Member of Parliament of a big constituency is in many ways almost the father and mother of his constituents. People have got to remember that. We who sit in this House know perfectly well that there have been in the past two years hundreds of cases of pensions, civil liability claims, demobilisation claims, and things of that sort which are nothing to do with parties. They are personal questions. You get very often a man or a woman appealing to you about domestic troubles, and what has that got to do with party politics? It has absolutely nothing whatever to do with it. Under proportional representation the personal side of politics goes absolutely by the board. How am I to get into touch with 171,000 electors under proportional representation, and what can they know of me? The whole basis of the early representation of this House, away back to the days of Edward I., would be absolutely destroyed. The idea of parties is quite a modern idea. There were no parties in the old days, but there was representation, and there would be no representation under proportional representation, and cannot be. Again, how can they apportion a division between five Members? Can they say, "You will represent the old division for which you formerly sat?" Suppose a man outside the division writes to me and says, "I voted for you at the last Election." I have to look after him. What would happen would be that one or two industrious Members out of the five would do all the work, and the other three would do none of it, but when the election came the industrious Members would not necessarily be reelected. They would probably be young Members, and they would go by the board and the older men would stay where they were before. I do not think there is any encouragement under proportional representation for any young man to enter this House, and under it unquestionably you will not get young men coming forward. I hope the House will vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, and I ask them to remember that the future of this country depends, not upon machinery, but upon men, and that the future of this House depends, not on paper Parliaments, but upon personalities.

Photo of Sir Gerald Hurst Sir Gerald Hurst , Manchester Moss Side

I beg to second the Amendment.

It seems amazing to me in these times that my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon), who is normally so temperate and judicious, should come to this House to tilt against what has been one of the most cherished and familiar features of the English Constitution. Surely in days like this it is more our duty to settle down and to work the Constitution which we have than to import into our public life a purely artificial arrangement, devised by cranks and doctrinaires, which has never been considered by the constituents who sent us here, and for which there is no evidence whatever of any public demand in the country. There is something inherently vicious in the political philosophy which lies at the basis of my hon. Friend's proposals. He talked of the complications of proportional representation as if they would appeal to our sense of humour, but his case really rested on the logical plea that the Members of Parliament should be in proportion to the voting strength of their areas. That is a purely abstract proposition, and this country has always shown an inflexible resistance to applying so-called philosophic and abstract generalisations of this sort to its political machinery. The test of any political institution is not logic but expediency, and the way in which it works in actual practice, and there is no evidence whatever to show that proportional representation is intrinsically good, even if it does appeal to those who are now framing constitutions for the Balkan States and Czecho-Slovakia.

Let us, however, apply to the carrying on of Government here the assumption that Proportional Representation has been adopted. First of all, it is absolutely clear that no Government can ever enjoy a large or even adequate majority under Proportional Representation. My hon. Friend said that in 1886, after Home Rule had been decisively rejected at the elections, the Liberals ought to have had a majority of 18. I understand that in 1895, instead of a Unionist majority of 152, according to his scheme there would have been a Unionist majority of 12. It is elementary—and every Member of the House must recognise it—that Governments cannot be carried on under those conditions at the present time. First of all, there is the intolerable strain on the private Member, who would not under those circumstances be able to have any rest at all from attendance at the House and who would have to take part in all Divisions, but quite apart from the question of the physique and the interests of the private Member, look at it from the point of view of the Government. The King's Government must be carried on; and even at the present time,' with the huge majority which this Government enjoys, it is a very difficult and a very cumbrous process indeed to get any measure put on the Statute Book. There are very many difficulties in the way of Bills becoming the law of the land even where the large majority of the House are heart and soul in favour of them. There is the difficulty of the procedure of the House, which safeguards the rights of minorities to debate everything at great length; there is the large number of Members who wish to speak on every question, and there is the incorrigible prolixity of many Members -of Parliament. It is so difficult under the present condition of affairs for a Government enjoying a large majority to get a Bill passed into law, and it would be infinitely more difficult for a Government whose majority was 6 or 12. It seems to me to be absolutely impossible for any Government, even a Government which would appeal more than the present one to my hon. Friend, to pass any controversial measure at all with a majority so slender.

My hon. Friend has said that under Proportional Representation there would be more independence than now, but that seems to me to be most unlikely. One reason why the present House of Commons is so independent is that the Government's majority is so big that the back bench Members on the Government side can afford to be independent, whereas if the Government majority were only 6 or 10, those back bench Members could not afford to be independent to the same degree, and if you look at Continental analogies, in Belgium all independence is eliminated. There all the various Conservative parties have amalgamated into a Conservative Clerical party, and all the Liberal and so-called Progressive parties have amalgamated also into another party. Independence has been squeezed out. It is a most important point in the question of carrying on a Government, that a Ministry relying on a very small majority cannot carry on the business of a Government efficiently. It follows, therefore, that there must be very many more General Elections than there are at the present time. The life of a Government which relies on a majority of 10 cannot possibly be so long as the life of a Government which enjoys a majority running into three figures, and if you are going to have continual elections, you cannot get that continuity in policy which is so healthy to the country over a span of years. Even if it is a Radical Cabinet in power, one does not want to see it go out of power every three weeks; one wants to see the Cabinet settle down and show its best or its worst, as the case may be. I have been arguing from the point of view of the Government, but look at it now from the point of view of the private Member again, and it will be seen that Proportional Representation is even more detrimental. The more General Elections you have in the country, the more onerous it is for a private Member of moderate means to remain in public life. At the present time it is hard enough for a poor man to fight elections and to carry on his political work if he has to earn his livelihood at the same time, and I think it very desirable that we should have as large a number of men of moderate means as possible in the House of Commons, simply because they reflect most clearly what the great majority of the people in the country are.

At the present time the population of England can be roughly divided into two classes, the new poor and the old poor. The man of moderate means represents both much more accurately than the rich man or the Labour Member, who has the overflowing coffers of trade unions and co-operative societies to draw upon. Looking at proportional representation from the point of view of the poor man, how, if he wishes to preserve independence of the caucus, can he stand the strain of constantly recurring elections? How can he stand a bye-election when he has to fight a constituency of 200,000 electors? Moreover, if the calls of a division of moderate size are very heavy at the present time, how much more heavy will be the calls of the large area which my hon. Friend wishes to introduce as a parliamentary unit, i should like those hon. Members who are going to speak in support of this measure later, to deal with some of the great difficulties which are inevitably -associated with this principle of huge electoral areas. There is the question alluded to by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, of remaining in touch with your constituents. At the present time the electors of all parties are glad to put confidence in and to seek help and advice from their Member, because they regard him as " Our Member." They know who he is. Under the new system it will be absolutely impossible for a candidate at an election to visit every polling district in a huge area, and it will be very difficult, indeed, for him to remain in touch with the whole of the wide and scattered constituency after he has become elected. There is no analogy or comparison at all between the case of a Member of Parliament and that of a guardian elected for a little town in Ireland. I am not a bit impressed by those arguments from Ireland. We are told with great pride by advocates of proportional representation how wonderfully the scheme has worked on the Dublin City Council; out of 80, members, no less than one Unionist has been returned. That seems to me to be not a very forcible argument.

Again, it must lessen the political interest in a division if that division is amalgamated in a great county area. Political interest at the present time is very much correlated with local interest and local keenness. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) is going to speak later, and other hon. and right hon. Members will no doubt allude to the desirability of keeping alive these historic seats which they have the satisfaction to represent in the House of Commons. I should like to make a plea also for the new seats which came into existence in 1918, and which would be absolutely wiped out if this scheme were adopted. It seems to me to be most eminently desirable to preserve and value that very keen and vivid interest in public life which has been aroused in these new districts by giving them for the first time in their history a conscious political identity. Perhaps I may follow my hon. and, gallant Friend who spoke just now by alluding to my own constituency. The Division of Moss Side, which I represent, was, I am sure, absolutely unknown to every Member of the House until the redistribution in 1918. It is one of the many districts which have grown up during the development of industrial life. Fifty years ago it was simply' a district of green fields and country lanes, which are described Jin one of the novels of Mrs. Gaskell. Gradually the population of the great City of Manchester came and covered those fields with suburban life, and you now have drab and monotonous streets running right over what was once simply countryside. If a division like that becomes simply a part of the huge area of Southern Lancashire, returning one-seventh of the representatives of that area, it cannot have that lively local interest in its affairs which it now has. As I have said it is utterly unknown to the ordinary person who lives outside the district. I do not suppose that to this day the Prime Minister knows that he was born in that division. So far as the people are concerned, however, it gives them an interest in politics when they know that they have their own local Member, and that interest will be absolutely destroyed if proportional representation is adopted.

As a last point I should like to emphasise what is, after all, the main objection, and one of even more importance than those which I have brought forward already. Any system of this sort must inevitably lead to bargaining and bartering between two of the three great political parties. Only the other day we all read, incorporated in one of those pamphlets which have been passed round to Members of the House, a propoaal brought forward by a party agent in the North of England suggesting that the bringing forward of the measure was a golden opportunity for a compact between his party and one of the other parties, whereby each would transfer its transferable votes to the nominees of the other party, and they would all go together for proportional representation with a view to making a compact to get into power I am not going to give his name or district, because there is no point in conferring upon him in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT an immortality of disrepute. It is simply what many hon. Members in the. House and many newspapers in the country have been suggesting for many months past; it is an absolutely immoral principle. The idea that, in order to "do in " another party, you are to sacrifice your principles by making a bargain with another party in whose ideas you do not believe seems to me to strike at the root of all honesty. In seconding the rejection of this Bill I feel that I am doing what I can, and I hope the House will do what it can, to sustain purity in politics and to uphold the relatively high tradition of honour which still governs our public life.

Photo of Sir Henry Craik Sir Henry Craik , Combined Scottish Universities

I have listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, and I give him credit for the best intentions possible in proposing this Bill, as I do to those who have put their names on the back of it. After the telling speeches made by the Mover and Seconder of the rejection, there seems to be very little argument left, but I rise because my position personally in the matter is a somewhat peculiar one. I have no doubt that the motives of those who are proposing this Bill are chivalrous motives—motives of chivalry in favour of small minorities, which they seek to protect in all parts of the country and to foster into an unnecessary importance. We have all at times had the misfortune of being in the minority, and I suppose that, in the view of the promoters of this Bill, there is a certain moral excellence or intellectual prestige gained by being in the minority. I myself, in the course of a long life, have often found myself in a minority, but I was careful to do all that I could to strip myself of that prestige of intellectual or moral superiority which it gave me. The main political parties in this country are formed upon broad lines, and not upon the minute and infinitesimal streams which flow on in obscurity. As I have said, my own position in this matter is peculiar. I represent the only three-cornered constituency in the country, the only constituency, that is to say, in which proportional representation may be said to a certain extent to be actually in existence. I observe that the hon. Member (Sir T. Bramsdon) said the simple limitation of votes given by the Act of 1867 was not in his mind proportional representation at all, and that therefore we have never really tried pro portional representation under the Act of 1867. But with singular inconsistency the hon. Member instanced the case of the Scottish Universities as the one to which proportional representation had been applied—exactly the same system as was adopted in the three-cornered constituencies.

When the question of applying proportional representation to the Universities came forward Sir John Simon, who was promoting it very strongly, assumed as a probability, knowing my views, that I should oppose it and use every effort against it. I disabused him at once. I said that, strongly as I was opposed to proportional representation, the complexion of Scottish University representation had been for a long period of years of one mind and I thought it would be unfair on my part to have tried to oppose it. But what happened in my constituency? My colleague who shared with me the representation of the Universities and I jointly wrote to our committee saying we were prepared, if unanimously invited, to stand again as the two Unionist candidates, but that we would not under any circumstances consent to stand with a third Unionist candidate. The committee entirely agreed, the correspondence was published, and that was a plain intimation to the minority that if they could select their candidate they would have a walk over. But what might have been an uncontested election was made impossible by the fact that two minute sections thought they might have a chance of securing a seat. My hon. Friend whom I am now proud to call my colleague had to fight for it, and we all had to undergo the cost of an election simply in order that these two minute sections should have their chance. It may be useful to the House to see how proportional representation operated in that case. I was inundated with pamphlets before the election from proportional representation societies. The returning officer told me he was nearly buried under the mass of advice that reached him. The whole resources of the mathematical department of the Universities were to be prepared in order to carry out this very difficult operation which had been so lucidly explained in the circular of the Scottish Education Department. We were told it would take 7 or 8 days at least to count the votes. I had my own views about that, and within 10 minutes of the return of the votes the results were given out. Proportional representation missed fire altogether. The charge did not explode, and we were returned perfectly simply, and have lived together, two Unionists and a Liberal, in a perfectly happy family ever since, without that elaborate transfer of votes which might have been the case had half a dozen given people started in the vain hope that proportional representation might have secured them by some means a place on the poll.

It would take a very short time to enumerate once again the practical inconveniences. First of all, in these large and unwieldy constituencies, how are we to get hold of our constituents? How are we to grope about amongst the mass? It is all very well in a select constituency like my own of 30,000 or 35,000 constituents, but take a constituency with 200,000. How is a candidate to grope about to find his fourth or fifth preferences, which will perhaps help to bring him in? How is he to ascertain those who are in sympathy with his views and whom he ought to try a, nd represent in return for their having given him the fourth or fifth preferences? I plainly tell the promoters of this Bill that, I thank those who give me their first votes, which have returned me for 16 years to this House; I give very little thanks to those who give me their second votes, and I do not want to be dependent upon third or fourth votes. In these big constituencies how are we to understand the sections who think we ought to represent them specially because they give us that low-down preference? How are we to come in personal contact? We are all human beings. Will not rivalry arise between different Members in a huge constituency of that sort? We all understand each other in this special constituency of my own, the only three-cornered constituency. We are not disposed to be rivals of one another. None of us is in position to flood the constituency with large monetary gifts. We are not in the least jealous of the operations of our colleagues in the constituency. Do not hon. Members think that in large and populous constituencies there will be a comparison of subscrip- tions, a comparison of attendances at meetings, a comparison of the number of letters answered which will inevitably bring about ill-feeling, jealousy, and friction between the different Members representing the constituency? What about the weakening of this House by having representatives not of great sweeping currents of opinion, but merely diluted small streams representing different cliques? That will be the result. The House will become kaleidoscopic in its character, and the Government even more than the House will suffer from this weakness. No Government will know upon what combination of the different small cliques represented by this artificial system it will have to rely at a particular time. There are two other points which call for attention. You will never hereafter be able to hope for an uncontested election if this system comes into operation. I, in common with others, have shared occasionally in the happy self-complacency of an uncontested election. I do not want to see that made an absolute impossibility in the future. Hon. Members might just as well recognise that in a constituency where there are three, five, or seven Members it is almost impossible that there will not be in some corner a number of small cliques who may think that they may by their third or fourth preference slip in, and in that way give you the trouble of a contested election. Then there is the insoluble difficulty, which has never been answered by the advocates of proportional representation, as to by-elections.

I turn now from these detailed difficult ties to the broad question on which my fundamental objection to this Bill is based. We cannot rely on the Government of this country to express the views, of the country if we divest ourselves of all local distinction and try to give as little influence as possible to the localities, and if we try to make the great inquest of the nation representative of cliques rather than of large bodies of public opinion. We have never in this country been fond of abstract constitutions that look well on paper. Our greatest political teacher, Edmund Burke, taught this, nation to beware of abstract and paper constitutions. That doctrine has been, embedded in the heart of the nation. Burke spoke to the conscience of the nation when he uttered those words. What we want in our constitution is what we have had, that great virtue of simplicity which is, as Swift says, the greatest ornament of all human things. Abstract paper constitutions, cunningly devised, dexterously contrived in order to bring about purely problematical ends, are not consistent with the genius of this nation. We have never had them, and we are not likely to have them. I am reminded of a still greater genius than Burke, of an older age, Dean Swift. Dean Swift wrote a satire, one of the most bitter that has ever been written, in which he described, amongst other things, a certain kingdom of Laputa. In that kingdom they were divided into an infinite number of sects and cliques, and the pundit statesmen who ruled it regulated their constitution as they did their feeding by a system of rhomboids, cycloids, parallelograms and other mathematical figures. It was a most elaborate scheme for carrying on the constitution by mathematical devices. That system was not altogether one that would suit our Constitution.

We have in this new-fangled scheme of proportional representation, artificial in its essence, two motives at work. One is the motive, which I think is a very dominant motive, the fox-like motive of the caucus. Under no other system could you have such absolutely well-contrived machinery for the caucus. Undoubtedly the caucus would issue its lists. It would give the order of sequence for the candidate, and it would, no doubt, tell the voters from "A" up to a certain letter in the alphabet that they must vote for so and so, and the rest of the letters in the alphabet must vote for another person. In that way they would work in a clever way the election. That is the motive of the fox represented by the caucus. There is also the motive of what I may call the coneys, the small minorities who think that this system would give certain protection for them and would hide them perhaps in the day of storm when big majorities are against them. Looking at the names at the back of the Bill, I wonder if hon. Members have been struck by the fact that a prominent supporter is my right hon. Friend, the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). Is it not possible that the right hon. Baronet may feel that in this system there is a refuge for decadent opinions, and that such as he would perhaps feel that when they had lost their grip on the nation they would slip in to occasional seats by a dexterous use of this elaborate device for representing infinitesimal minorities. It may be said that I belong to a small and dwindling phalanx of Conservatives. I am not ashamed to own it, but I do not want to depend for protection upon these devices and contrivances. No real political faith ever existed or ever grew or ever had real conscious vitality that did not depend upon a struggle in the open, and upon faith, hope and courage. I am much more desirous of preserving the views which I hold, which I hold conscientiously, by conviction, and which have been inherited, and I am much more desirous of defending them and much more hopeful of defending them by appealing to the simple, straightforward and common-sense views that have guided us in our constitution in the past. I do not want to have recourse to the device of the fox or the timidity of the coney which seeks refuge against the growth of public opinion which may affect it adversely. Do not let us break the continuity of our constitution. Let us learn from our own experience of the past.

Over and over again this House by enormous majorities has rejected this device from the pundits and the pedants of politics. Undoubtedly it was accepted in a Bill of 1867, but it was rejected by the enormous majority of 140 in the House of Commons. It was forced upon this House by a small majority of another place. That was objected to strongly by Lord Beaconsfield. He surrendered only in order to get his Bill through, and because he was rejecting all the other Amendments. When the matter came to be discussed, those who opposed proportional representation were men whose names have lived as among the greatest in political history—Beaconsfield, Gladstone, Bright, and Goschen. One of those supporting it was Mr. John Stuart Mill, more, I think, of a philosopher than a practical politician, and one whose philosophy even is now rather decaying; and another was Mr. Robert Lowe. I have heard many speeches of Mr. Robert Lowe. They were always amusing and edifying, but he was a box compacted of political paradoxes who has left nothing but the memory of a paradoxical and cranky politician gifted with wonderful gifts of epigram. We tried it from 1867 to 1885. Then the common sense of the nation reasserted itself. It reverted to the old, plain ways, and it resolved that the great political issues should be decided not by the devices of the pundit, but by the bold, simple methods which our constitution has always followed and upon which it has always flourished.

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

I do not think that I can be called a pundit. I am an ordinary working man anxious to see my country safeguarded along constitutional lines. Therefore I recognise that if we are to follow constitutional practices it is necessary that this House can claim to be the correct reflex of the opinion of the country as a whole. I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend (Sir T. Bramsdon). I think that his representation of the system of proportional representation was lucid enough for me to make me realise that, whatever difficulties may be suggested as in its way, could easily be removed. My hon. Friend the Member for the Tradeston Division (Major Henderson), in referring to those difficulties, seemed to be trying not merely to disprove the value of proportional representation in its relation to securing correct representation in this House, but I think that he also succeeded in showing very clearly that the present system was not the one which gave us accurate representation of the people outside. If he has made a case against proportional representation at all he certainly did not make a case for continuing the present system. If I understand democracy aright it is, I think, to count heads in the country rather than to crack them. It is far better that we should pursue that policy to the most accurate extent possible. We have been endeavouring to do so for many years by making various suggestions. It has been recognised that our present system was not the reflex of the people as a whole. Suggestions for second ballots have been put forward and suggestions for shorter Parliaments have also been put forward for the purpose of making this House more representative than it has hitherto proved to be, but our endeavours so far have been demonstrated clearly by previous elections not to have succeeded, and we are now in the position of finding ourselves called upon to say whether we believe in democracy and its proper representation or not. The test of our belief in democracy is whether we are prepared to make this House thoroughly representative of the people as a whole, and it will be admitted from the particulars given to-day that this House has in past times been and is to-day largely not representative of the people as a whole.

2.0 P.M.

We have heard statements made that at one time a Government was in power in this House with a large majority, while the votes recorded in the country were in a majority against it. We know the position of the present Parliament, and we know that the proportion of parties in this House, even in 1918, did not in any way reflect the political opinions of the people outside, and to that fact a great deal of the present discontent is due. If we continue the present system it may very well be that in a short time the pendulum will swing violently in another direction, and you may have in the House of Commons a Labour party with a very large majority who may be in the country in the same proportion as the present Government is at the present moment. I want to be perfectly fair to all parties in the State, and I want to secure such representation that whatever is done in this House can be done knowing that we do represent the people, and I want to obviate the Labour party, should it ever come into power, being placed in a false position such as that in which the Coalition Government is in to-day.

We have heard in the present Parliament a great deal about the need of constitutionalism. The majority, if not all, the Members of my party are always trying to do their best to continue constitutional practices in this country. I know that we have been told repeatedly by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side that we ought to endeavour on every occasion to secure that whatever reform is desired in politics or industry shall be attained by constitutional means, but the present system is not an encouragement to constitutional action outside. Taking into consideration the attention paid by the working classes as a whole to industrial and economic problems, if you have in this House a Government and a party with a majority who cannot say that they have got a majority in the country in relation to the elections that may have taken place, the very fact that such a majority does exist, and is contrary to the votes cast in the country, is a direct incentive to direct action by those outside. Consequently, my hon. Friends on the other side should realise that if they are anxious to see constitutionalism maintained, and to see that direct action does not become a potent influence in this country for forwarding political purposes, it is necessary to ensure that it can be no longer said that this House is not representative of the people as a whole.

In the course of this discussion it was pointed out by some hon. Members that it was necessary that the Government should have a large majority behind it. It is necessary that a Government should have a large majority behind it provided it can claim to have that majority in the country also. It has no right to have a large majority behind it and to carry its measures when it knows that outside those measures are severely condemned by practically one-half of the electorate. How are you to determine when a Government has a mandate? People outside the House, when they find a Government returned to power, naturally say, "Has this Government a mandate to do this, that, and the other thing?" and of course they analyse the votes cast. The Government may claim to have a mandate, but the people may say that they have not, and they can very well substantiate their statement. Again, you give an impetus to unconstitutional action.

I am anxious that something should be done to make this House a truer reflex of the opinion of people outside. One of the difficulties suggested in connection with this proposal was that in the case of a by-election there would be someone returned who probably ought not to be returned. We know that sometimes we have to fit in or use different methods in one machine so as to carry out a definite purpose. I hold that when it comes to a single election in a large constituency, this House should certainly determine that the person who comes in at the by-election represents at least a majority of the people in that constituency, and not, as has been too often the case in by-elections, a representative who represents only a minority. That might easily be accomplished even under proportional representation by the process of the second ballot, if necessary. While it may be a good thing that young men should be in this House and take an active part in politics, I am convinced that the correst representation of the people is far more important than that I or any other right hon. or hon. Member should be in this House. Young men probably are necessary. They have just as good a chance in a large constituency, and perhaps even a better chance than they have now. They would have a better chance of competing with the so-called popular man. I do not think that popularity enters into it to such a large extent as is sometimes supposed. Democracy is rather guided by words and phrases, and possibly the person who can spout those words and phrases the best in certain circumstances is the person returned to this House. That is the deduction I draw from the last General Election. We know that it was an election determined very largely, not so much by the popularity of individual candiates as by certain phrases that went through the country appealing to passion, sentiment, and prejudice. I support whole-heartedly a proposal that will make this House what it is not now, a House representative of the people as a whole.

Photo of Mr George Roberts Mr George Roberts , Norwich

I have been identified with the movement for the promotion of proportional representation for a number of years. During my advocacy of the system, I have encountered many objections to it. I listened with interest and admiration to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. I am aware that many objections can be advanced against the system. Those objections ought to be considered. On the other hand are there not even stronger objections to be advanced against the existing system? We have to recognise that it is impossible to devise any electoral system which is not open to very keen criticism. My hon. Friend (Mr. R. Young) has directed our attention to what ought really to be the aim of any electoral system, and that is the securing in this House of a true reflex of the opinion of the people in the country. My right hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik) said that cranks and others would secure entry into this House under proportional representation, and he went on to urge the utter impossibility of any independent person securing election because of the power of the caucuses that would be created under this system. Those two arguments are mutually contradictory. I am in favour of proportional representation, despite the many objections that can be advanced against it, because of the fact that more than ever in the future there is the imperative necessity of Parliament really representing the people and phases of thought in the country. I believe I may claim to have been the first convert in the Parliamentary Labour party to the principle of proportional representation. For a number of years I was the only Member of that party advocating the system. I am not claiming a broader vision than that then possessed by the average of my colleagues. I could see growing up within and about the movement sections who were constantly contesting the authority of Parliament because of the anomalies under which Parliament was elected.

Whether this Bill represents the ideal system or not, I am convinced that it takes us a long step forward towards a system under which representation in Parliament is a truer reflex of opinion in the country, thereby improving the authority and sanction of Parliament and checkmating those elements in our midst which are concerned to undermine authority and the Constitution of the country. Because I feel that a Parliament elected under proportional representation will carry greater authority and sanction, I hold that, despite all the criticism which can be showered upon the proposal, it is deserving of support. Many criticisms have been advanced to-day. I recollect that in the course of the advocacy of proportional representation in which I engaged I was constantly met with this objection about the by-election. I have recognised that to be perhaps the most vulnerable point in proportional representation, but we have to face it, and, for my own part, I think we have to tell the elector that when he has an opportunity of electing a Member at a General Election he has to do so with the consciousness that that Member may be his representative during the lifetime of a Parliament. Then if a by-election occurs there are various alternatives for filling up the vacancy. I think myself the importance of by-elections is very much exaggerated. If you wish to ascertain currents of opinion as between General Elections other methods can be devised. I am a supporter of the principle of the referendum. That does not arise here to-day; nevertheless it constitutes a principle whereby Parliament may be kept in close contact with the current of opinion in the country. I want to see a Parliament elected by people conscious of the fact that they are electing persons to represent them during the lifetime of that Parliament. We are told that it will lead to the creation of groups and the development of log-rolling. I have yet to learn that the present system is immune from log-rolling.

Our whole conception of politics has been wrong. We seem to have acted on the theory in the past that a caucus or body may sit in some centralised position and devise a number of items to be embraced in a party programme, and that opinion in the country is so clearly defined—or is non-existent—that the voter can vote for that programme, and those who secure election upon it regard the vote as an authority to carry out the whole of that programme. Opinion is not to be placed in watertight compartments of that kind. I want to see the representatives in Parliament possessing greater freedom than is possible on a strict party system. I may be in agreement with points in the programmes of all parties, and I want to be free to give support to principles and measures, not merely to parties. Why am I not in the official Labour party to-day? Because of the fact that on some points I am out of harmony with them. I should be possessed of perfect freedom whereby I could support that party which I deem to be right on a particular matter and at the same time give support to other parties bringing forward measures in which I concur. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I think I am accurately expressing the real opinion in the country, or at least that opinion that really counts. We want to develop a real sense of responsibility in the minds of the electorate. If the elector knows that the person for whom he casts his vote is not going to blindly follow his party but is going to vote for principles and measures, it tends to create in the mind of that elector a greater power of discrimination and a sounder judgment. I remember what occurred in recent elections, and it seemed to me paradoxical that a party should be able to identify itself with other parties for purposes which are not really in harmony. That happens to-day, and I am sure owing to the—


I do not wish to interrupt, but under the present system it cannot happen, because you cannot have two candidates running and working together. They have to fight each other; they cannot each take their votes and say, "We do not require these votes, you can have them."

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

It is a question of the adoption of the candidate.

Photo of Mr George Roberts Mr George Roberts , Norwich

I desire to keep within the limits of time which I have promised to observe, and the point I want to get at is this. With the advent of a new third party in politics and its rapid growth, you have to recognise that it is almost impossible for any single party to secure that majority which has previously been regarded as necessary to constitute stability of government. Therefore, I believe you will have to contemplate a system of coalition for as long, at any rate, as I am able to foresee. You will not get rid of these bargainings with groups and parties, and I respectfully submit that at least the present system is open to as much criticism on that point as can be levelled against proportional representation. I am amazed to hear it advanced as a point of criticism that under proportional representation there will be such rivalry between candidates as to who shall secure first, second, or third preference as will embitter the relationships of men engaged in a common battle at a General Election. Persons really fit to be representatives in this House are too big to be moved by petty considerations of that character. We are not here in order that we may be personal representatives, or for personal gratification or for personal aggrandisement. We are here to represent principles and certain points of view. What matters it to me if I am being run by a party whether I am the first or the fifth selection of that party? After all, the party is competent to judge which of its candidates is the man fit to represent it and lead it in this House. All parties have suffered on occasions from the fact that men universally acknowledged to be pre-eminently fitted for leadership have failed to secure election under the present system. Hon. Members have already pointed out, on the other hand, that persons may come here, although they have secured only the minority vote in a constituency. In my opinion personality is desirable, and I feel that under propor- tional representation personality will count even more than it does under the present system. If the test to be imposed on the elector is a higher one, necessarily it should be even higher in respect of the candidate. We are told the system is so confusing that the average elector would not be able to understand it. We must admit, however, that the intelligence of the average elector is improving. We may recall how many years ago it is since we imposed upon agricultural labourers the task of discriminating in a long list of candidates for rural district elections, and experience also of school board elections in urban areas.

For my own part, I feel we have got to regard the British elector as a person capable of making a judgment. At any rate, he ought to be educated up to making that judgment, and because I want him to regard in larger measure the responsibility of his selection when occasions come round to him, I want him to face this fact, that if he desires to have, representation which will really reflect opinion in the country, he has got to adopt a little more complex system than we have at the present time. To-day, in order to secure simplicity, we are at any rate losing what, after all, is the great necessity nowadays, and that is the sanction of Parliament. As I go about the country, I am told that this Parliament does not really represent the thought of the people in the country. I remember that when Mr. Ramsay Macdonald was in this House he was a strong, opponent of proportional representation and in favour of the retention of the status quo. He now goes about the country with others declaring that this Parliament is not representative of the people, and it is difficult to meet an argument of that sort. I am concerned to defend the Government, because I am a Coalitionist in the abnormal circumstances under which we are living, but I recognise the difficulty of meeting the-contention of Members of the Labour party, personal friends of mine, who point out that at the last election they secured 66 seats and that under proportional representation they would be entitled to 120. Parliament ought to> carry full sanction in the minds of our people, and the direct action movement will lose any strength it may presently have if we are able to satisfy the people that they secure representation accord- ing to their real strength in the country. I recognise the impossibility of comprehensively covering this subject with a single speech, but I am still a supporter of proportional representation, and I urge its acceptance as a means whereby we may make this House a truer reflex of opinion in the country than it has ever been before.

Photo of Mr George Lane-Fox Mr George Lane-Fox , Barkston Ash

The House had the advantage of having this Debate begun by a very moderate, a very lucid, and a very useful speech, and of having the opposite case put by a singularly able speech also. I have heard this case debated in this House often, and I have never heard the two sides put more ably than has been the case to-day. It is very easy to find fault with the proposed scheme of proportional representation, and it is also obvious that there can be found similar or parallel objections to our present scheme, but when the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division (Major Henderson) waved the Regulations under which Glasgow was expected to carry out an election on these lines and read to us the horrible farago of legal language, I would remind him of the constant legal documents which come to us all on other subjects. If I were to take any of those documents haphazard and read them off quickly to this House, I am sure the House would have the same headache as it got listening to the reading of the hon. Member. Anybody can read a legal document in that way and make it seem ridiculous, and a stupid person like myself, even if I had the document before me, would find it difficult to understand doubtless, but after all, these are the documents on which the legal system of this country is founded, and I think that what Ireland has succeeded in doing Glasgow should be entirely able to do. I do not think anyone can doubt that in Ireland proportional representation has been a very useful system, although, of course, we do not expect unanimity on any Irish question. When an hon. Gentleman says that the vital thing for this country is that there shall be a strong majority behind the Government, surely it is far more important for you to consider whether the House of Commons really has the respect which can only be obtained by being a thoroughly representative body, and I maintain that the real, grave risk which I and the Conservatives who wish to see stable government in this country, most deplore is the constant fluctuation, the violent reaction from one general election to another, instead of the stable element of continuous opinion which we should be able to secure under proportional representation.

The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) horrified the House by depicting an appalling system of mathematical calculations by means of parallelogram rhomboids. I have always had a horror of mathematics in any form, and I do not know what a parallelogram rhomboid may mean in this connection, but the right hon. Member depicted this mathematical basis with a horror which was felt by all present. At the same time he argued that there was absolute uncertainty as to what would happen, but surely he cannot use conflicting arguments like that. I wish to address the few words that I have to say particularly to the Unionist Coalitionists, because, as good constitutionalists and as being desirous of no violent changes, they are prepared to oppose this change. I remember in 1906 we were in a very small minority. We occupied those Benches opposite only, and with the same freedom and amount of space as hon. Members now have on it, and in those days there were a great many on our side who had a good deal to say in favour of some change by which the House would be more representative of the people than it then was. The same zeal which we then felt is communicated to those who now form the small minority. In 1906 I was practically the only Unionist representative for the whole West Riding of Yorkshire. I think there were two Unionists in Sheffield, and I am not certain of the representation of Wake-field for a part of the time, but with those exceptions I was the only Unionist representative in the whole length and breadth of the West Riding, for there were none in Leeds, Bradford, Hudders-field, or Halifax or in any of the great urban districts which stretch all through the country between those great towns. It was no satisfaction to a large Unionist minority to know that Unionist gentlemen from other parts of the country were able to sit comfortably at Westminster, or that any Birmingham or London Radicals had to be represented by exponents of advanced views in some other part of the country. We in Yorkshire may hold a mistaken view, but we think we are quite as intelligent as Birmingham, and are convinced we are more intelligent than London. Everybody who has tried to govern Yorkshire from London has found that out.

I maintain that, so long as there is this want of real representation, there must be a feeling in the country of not trusting the House of Commons, and that is the greatest inducement to make a change. Whatever the position in 1906, everybody knows that this Parliament is distinctly unrepresentative of the ejectors. It may be very convenient at the present moment to have a larg majority, but we know that nothing is so bad for the House of Commons as having a minority so small that they cannot effectively carry anything through or control or influence the House. These violent swings of the pendulum must be bad for the country. They represent a gross exaggeration of the view of the majority at the time, and they are followed by equally gross exaggerations of the opposite view on some future occasion. Although what is happening at this moment is not likely to bring the Labour party into power in the very immediate future, public memory is short, and the extravagances of the present time may be forgotten. I would ask my Unionist Friends, what is going to happen if, by some sudden sweep of public favour or fancy we have, as we easily may have, a Labour majority of the size we have at the present time? Everybody must see there is a grave risk to stability and that, to me at any rate, is the most cogent argument.

Photo of Mr George Lane-Fox Mr George Lane-Fox , Barkston Ash

The hon. Member, like myself, is a great admirer of Disraeli, but he cannot suggest that the conditions in Disraeli's time were in any way comparable with the present conditions. With regard to the arguments against proportional representation, I am not going to deal with the personal touch argument, but I should like to say it is not always of a beneficent character. The fact that a rich man can come down to a constituency and 'succeed in wooing the electors to his side is a risk which would not be so great if the area were larger. As regards by-elections, I would ask, Are you satisfied with the present system? Everyone knows what a by-election is. Every party sends all its trained propagandists—I will not use any stronger worcl—to some devoted constituency, which, at the end of a whirlwind three weeks or a fortnight, is so confused in its mind, and has had so much oratory poured on its devoted head, that it is prepared to vote for anybody to get the whole thing over. In pulling the motes out of the eyes of proportional representation do not let us forget the forest trees blocking the eyes of the electorate under the present system. Do let us remember that the object of constitutional government is that the governing bodies should be thoroughly representative. Do let us remember that the one safeguard of stability in this country is that the country should have confidence in its House of Commons. Do let us remember that any argument we present to the electorate to make them feel that they have not confidence in this House, and that the House cannot be trusted to represent their views, is an argument in favour of something outside constitutional government, something which all Members of this House would deplore, and which would certainly not be to the advantage of the country. I hope there will be no idea of party politics in any Division over this Bill. I am perfectly certain that the true Conservative is the man who desires stability, and I do hope he will not be frightened by a change so obviously in the interests of that which he so much desires.

Photo of Mr James Gilbert Mr James Gilbert , Southwark Central

Those who were Members of the last House of Commons will know the numerous fights that were put up on the Representation of the People Bill on this question of proportional representation. I took some interest in that fight, and as during my life I have taken a great deal of personal interest in all kinds of elections, I would like to repeat to day what I said in the Debate in the last Parliament on the Representation of the People Bill, that one of the things I have always advocated has been simplicity of elections. I think you want to have the elections on the simplest plan possible, and get all your elections on the same basis in order that the public outside may understand the method of election. My objection to this Bill is on Clause 2, because if this Bill passes with Clause 2 in its present form, you are still going to have in the country two kinds of elections under this Bill You are going to leave single-Member constituencies, I presume, voting on the same plan as we are voting on now. But you are going to have the larger constituencies bunched together either in three, or five, or seven-Membered bodies in order to vote under the system known as that of proportional representation. I think that is going to be a very bad system for the country as a whole. In conjunction with this Bill there is also the question of local elections. It would be a disaster if this House was going to pass the Bill in order to set up one system of election for Parliamentary representatives, and for local elections, which, I think, in a great number of cases, are exactly for the same areas, give them another system of election altogether. If the system of election in this country is to be altered—I do not agree with proportional representation—I do suggest, if you are going to adopt it as the best method of election, you ought to adopt it for all constituencies in the country, and for all elections, local as well as Parliamentary.

I speak as a London Member. The Redistribution Bill was before the last Parliament. We London Members had very strong objections to the system of proportional representation proposed in that Bill. It was proposed that certain constituencies in London should be experimented upon by the system of proportional representation. London Members on both sides of politics opposed it, and eventually the proposal was deleted from the Bill. We opposed it for the reasons I have just stated, that we strongly objected to having one system of election in one constituency and another system in an adjoining constituency. Some of us have notices on the Paper of objection to another Proportional Representation Bill applying to local elections, and this is our strong objection to that Bill.

A great deal has been made of the elections in New South Wales. Let me give the House one or two facts about those elections. The total electorate in New South Wales at the last election was only 1,182,409. Thirty constituencies in London would have an electorate as large as the whole of New South Wales. Whilst proportional representation may be a very good thing in the small newspaper election just held upstairs, I do respectfully suggest to the House that when you get large elections as in London constituencies the thing fails altogether. May I give the House one or two examples? You propose to bunch London constituencies into three- or five-membered constituencies. Take the old Borough of Wandsworth, which has now five single member constituencies. It was the old complaint, before the Redistribution Bill, that Wandsworth was not properly represented. If you bunch the whole of the five constituencies of Wandsworth together you will have an electorate of 161,000. Take Deptford. If you join Deptford with Lewisham you will get an electorate of 133,000. I suggest to the House that in that case it is going to be impossible for the individual candidate to work on any reasonable amount of money. It is perfectly true that in Clause 4 of the Bill there is a proposal that the election expenses shall be regulated. In effect that means that the individual candidates shall not spend more money than probably in a single constituency to-day. Still, take the question of Deptford and Lewis-ham. The candidate for Lewisham has an electorate of something under 40,000. If he has the same expenditure allowed for 133,000, then you are going to make the position of that candidate simply impossible from the election point of view, because he cannot work with the money allowed.

A good deal has been said about by-elections. Those of us who object to proportional representation have never had an answer to-day as to what is to be done in the matter of by-elections. The same problem arose in New South Wales. I have a letter from the Secretary of the Australian National Federation who has taken a great interest in this question of proportional representation (Mr. Park-hill). This is what he wrote to me last year about the question of by-elections in New South Wales: It may interest you to know that this matter proved so troublesome to decide that it was not included in the Regulations governing the recent elections. After several fruitless discussions by the National Parliamentary party it was held over for final decision and inclusion in a separate Bill. He goes on to say: I might add that the suggestion most favoured for the conduct of by-elections under proportional representation was the method of recommendation from the party organisation of the same political faith as the deceased or retired member. I make my proportional representation Friends a present of that. If they are going to propose that method of dealing with by-elections in this country, that a Member of the same colour as the retiring Member is to be returned without any election at all, then I am quite certain, in view of recent by-elections, that that will not give satisfaction to the electorate of this country.

A great many points have been dealt with which I do not propose to repeat; but I have some recollection of elections in London in the old days. I remember the cumulative vote of the schoolboard elections. We were able in various parts of London—we who took an interest in politics in those times—quite successfully in four-member schoolboard constituencies, by an arrangement with the electors as a party, to return three Members out of the four. It was done in quite a simple way. Three or four constituencies were lumped together in the old schoolboard divisions, and you instructed all your supporters in one division to split their votes between two candidates, and in another division to plump for one candidate. The Progressive party of those days was able to secure a majority of the seats on the London School Board by an arrangement of that kind. I am quite certain with my knowledge of politics in London that if you had proportional representation with three, five, or seven-member constituencies that you would be forced to have some arrangement of that kind by the party running the candidates. I am convinced that, provided you had a sufficiently rich party, and a sufficiently large organisation, and were able to organise the constituency on the lines which we used to organise the constituencies of the' old days of the London School Board, then the richest organisation with the most efficient list of candidates could instruct the people to vote according to their arrangements, and they would be in many cases more successful than individual candidates themselves.

Recently we have had what is called a test election by the advocates of proportional representation. In this election for seven Members there were 15 candidates. Pamphlets were circulated by the proportional representation people, giving the demonstration and working of the single transferable vote. If hon. Members consider the result of that election they will find that on the first count all the members in the first section were at the head of the poll. There were. 13 counts, and six of the first members were still returned. The result of the final count was that the candidate who was, I think, fifth from the bottom, and who only polled 624 first preference votes as against three other people who had higher preference votes than he—that candidate on the final result was elected as against the person who received the larger number of preference votes on the first election. If that is all the result you are going to get from proportional representation, I ask the House, is it really worth it? The system is awfully complicated, and you cannot make the ordinary elector understand it. The pamphlet which has been issued on this subject gives a wonderful system of calculation as to how to transfer the surplus vote, and they include a number of four-figure fractions. I claim to represent a fairly intelligent constituency, but I should not like to have to explain to them all these fractions What you have to do in order to make the representation of this House efficient is to have simplicity of election, and the electors will never understand this system of transferring votes. I hope hon. Members will reject this Bill.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Williams Mr Aneurin Williams , Consett

The hon. Member who spoke last has asked us to fix our attention on simplicity of election, and he says that is the ideal and the great test. How would that work if applied to other departments of life? How would it work as applied to our means of transportation? The old stage wagon is simplicity compared with the complexity of the locomotive engine and the internal combustion engine, but let any hon. Member try to explain without a blackboard or drawing the working of these engines, and it would be perfectly easy to argue that we must abandon all these newfangled ideas of travelling, and go back to the simplicity of walking on foot. Anyone who advocates the old-fashioned election because of its simplicity should remember that the old system was not what we have to-day. The old system provided for two-member constituencies, and was a rudimentary form of proportional representation; for one candidate was nearly always chosen from one wing of the party and the other from the other wing. Are we going back to the system of the hustings at Eatans-will and open voting? I know that our system involves a certain amount of complexity, but we cannot possibly avoid it. The increased complexity of the system now proposed is very small indeed, and if hon. Members will only take the trouble to read the instructions instead of laughing at them, I am sure they will be able to understand them. In no country that I know has it been found that this system has broken down because the people do not understand it. In almost every country the people have understood it, and it is useless for hon. Members to try to raise a laugh on the ground that it would not be simple enough to be understood.

3.0 P.M.

The hon. Member who spoke last said that in certain elections to which he referred, the only difference made was that after 13 counts, one man not elected on the first count was finally elected. In certain cases there might be very little difference, but you must not judge this system by individual instances. Taking the whole country, the proportional system would make a great difference in the representation of the Country. It would give us something that really does represent the country, not every small clique, the main bodies of opinion in proportion to their strength.

May I draw the attention of the House to the broad fact that it is three years since our last discussion of proportional representation in this House, and since then the system has made its way at an enormous rate in nearly all the representative institutions of the world. When this system was first proposed here it was a theory and a project which had hardly been tried anywhere. When we brought the subject up in 1917 and 1918 it had been tried in very important countries and even in our own country. In the three years to which I refer, the application of proportional representation throughout the world has more than doubled. It has been applied in Austria, Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Luxembourg, and Poland; and it has been extended in Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland. Not only that, but in the British Empire it has been applied on a very large scale. Take New South Wales, where it has been applied to the Legislative Assembly. It has been applied, also, in New Zealand to local elections, and has now been passed for the Senate. In South Africa it has also been adopted for the Senate. It has been adopted in Canada, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and we had a telegram the day before yesterday stating that the Dominion House of Representatives in Canada has decided to appoint a Committee to inquire into the application of this principle to the elections for the Dominion Parliament.

During the past three years in this country it has been applied to University constituencies, Scottish Education Committees, and local authorities in Ireland. It has also been applied to the two Irish Parliaments and to several constituencies in the new Indian legislature. It has been adopted in the Constitution of Malta, and outside this House to the House of Laity in the Church Parliament. Hon. Members must really keep their minds fixed upon the broad fact that this system is spreading, and is proving itself worthy in all parts of the world. There is no country that has tried it which has rejected it. Tasmania is the only nearest example, and there it was applied to the towns and not to the country districts. This was thought to be unfair, and it was abolished for a year or two, but it was then re-enacted for the whole country, and it has since been applied in Tasmania for a period of 12 or 13 years at some four or five General Elections. It has been carefully examined, and they have decided to continue it.

We are told that this system produces unsettled government and small majorities. I believe that in the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia the Government at the present time has a majority of one. That has not been produced by proportional representation, because it has not yet been applied to that particular Parliament. We are told the system was rejected by the last Parliament. Everything, I suppose, is usually rejected once or twice, and, great as is my belief in proportional representation, I hardly expect it to be accepted everywhere the very first time that it is proposed, but I would point out that it is not being rejected, taking the world as a whole; it is increasing and spreading and giving satisfaction in almost all the countries of the world. We are told that this House rejected it again and again in 1917–1918. It is true that it only gave a very limited application to proportional representation to this Parliament, but this House has again and again applied proportional representation in legislation since then. Are we to say that we will apply proportional representation to Ireland and not to this country? Is it just in Ireland and unjust in this country, or is it only a question of trying it on the dog? Is it that hon. Gentleman think that in Ireland it will give an advantage to Conservative ideas and that they are afraid that in this country it will not? Is that why they are prepared to apply it in one country and not in the other? The fact that we have applied it in so many bodies is very strong presumptive evidence that we ought to apply it also to this House.

I should like to touch upon one or two of the objections. We are told that the Member will not be in touch with the electors, because it will be such a large constituency. On the other hand, I believe that he will be in touch with a larger number of electors and in a much more satisfactory way. At the present time many a Member goes down to his constituency knowing that nearly two out of every three people have voted against him and that he has got in merely by the split vote. Under proportional representation a man will go into his constituency knowing that there is a large body of opinion justly entitled to representation which has voted for him and he will be in touch with those electors throughout his constituency because he is in agreement with them. The supposed touch between a man and those who did their best to keep him out and are going to do their very best to turn him out on the next possible occasion is not a very close or friendly touch. It is not my idea of what an electoral touch ought to be. Under proportional representation, the man living in the neighbourhood will have a very great advantage over the stranger who comes from a distance and that is as it should be. It is desirable that as far as possible neighbourhoods should be represented by people living in them. The man living in the neighbourhood will be more likely to be returned and he will be in much closer touch with the inhabitants and especially those supporting him than can possibly be the case with a stranger.

We are told, again, that no independent can be returned under proportional representation. Has the independent man a better chance of getting half the votes of a constituency, as he must do now if there are only two candidates, than of getting a quota in a three, five, or seven-member constituency? It is perfectly clear that the independent men who have sat in this House and who have been rejected for their independence would have gone on getting a quota of the votes and have continued to sit in this House. We have been told also that in New South Wales the effect was to prevent any independent being returned. That is quite incorrect, and I am surprised that hon. Members should have given that information to the House. At the last election three independent Labour members and two absolutely independent members were returned, so that in a small House of 90 you had five independent members returned. Yet we are told that the election excluded independent members.

Of course, a great deal has been made of the by-election difficulty. There are various ways of providing under proportional representation for by-elections. These various ways have been tried in various countries, and those countries have found their provisions for by-elections satisfactory. They have in some cases tried one way and then another. Some poll the whole area; some appoint the next man on the list of candidates at the next General Election; some revert to some form of co-option; some leave the vacancies open in almost all cases. There are 10 members for the City of Winnipeg. If one vacancy occurs it is left open, and there are still nine members for the City of Winnipeg. If a second vacancy occurs, then an election takes place under proportional representation. The value of the by-election under the present system is very largely fictitious. It depends upon the swing of the pendulum. As soon as a party gets in with an exaggerated majority, or it may be a majority of seats with a minority of votes, the swing of the pendulum begins, and the other party commences to get victories at by-elections. By-elections therefore seem to have an enormous importance in the eyes of the country. If you had proportional representation, the change would not be so very marked, and by-elections would have comparatively little value.

There is some objection taken on the score of expense. The expense of an election is that which the law allows. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head. I hope that does not mean that he spends more than the law allows. If the law says that no candidate is to spend more than £500, no candidate can spend more than £500, and I venture to say that for the very moderate sum which is fixed in this Bill it would be perfectly possible to do anything that is really necessary in spreading information all over a constituency. If you are not able to send every man an illuminated portrait of yourself, a poll card, a well-printed address, and all that sort of thing, if you can only post your address on the wall, all the intelligent electors will inform themselves what is going on and will come to vote, and if there are any who are so unintelligent as not to inform themselves, we can do without them. We have been told there would be bargaining. I think the bargaining will in future be on an entirely different footing. I do not believe we should have as many groups as now. We have many groups now, because when you have only one seat to fill you cannot give proper consideration to the different shades of opinion in a constituency. There may be in a party many different shades, and the only way in which one shade can get any chance of representation is by differing with the party and starting a party or group of its own.

We are rapidly coming to the group system in this country as they have done in France and Germany under the single-Member constituency. But in Belgium, under proportional representation, they have had three parties from the first and they have three parties now. As to bargaining they have now a Coalition Government and it is a Coalition Government on absolutely fair and honest principles, such as you can get under proportional representation, but which is very difficult to get under single-Member constituencies. In Belgium each party went to the country with its own programme and its own list of candidates. The country returned so many from one and so many from the other. When they got to the House of Representatives they formed a Coalition, and the three parties have carried on the government of the country with more success in this time of reconstruction than any other country in Europe. I do not think there is the least doubt about that. I will conclude by saying this. If we set ourselves against this system we are setting ourselves against the only system so far before the world which would ensure real representative government in this country. I believe in a really representative House of Commons. I believe if you have that you do not need any other check upon democracy. Democracy, if it is complete, contains its own check, and it is the only safe basis of government which will be accepted by the great mass of the people. I commend this Bill on sound political theory. It embodies the application of a principle which has spread throughout the British Empire and proved itself satisfactory, and which is spreading rapidly through all the great civilised countries of the world.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

Looking back at the record of this House in relation to this proposal and at our experience of it during the last Parliament, I cannot but admit I am surprised at its being brought forward again so soon. I am not impressed by the long list of cases in which proportional representation has been adopted. The long list recited by my hon. Friend (Mr. A. Williams) seems to be impressive, and it mentions some places which no doubt have their own importance, but I wonder if the House has examined it, because if it has, it will have found that it deals with extremely contracted electorates, in many cases minute ones, in which the election is carried on under conditions which have no possible similarity to those involving a great Parliamentary institution. To my mind, we can well put them all on one side with one exception, and that is the one case in which in the British Empire proportional representation has been applied to a popular assembly under the Constitution. I will not deal with the case of Tasmania, which is the greatest mystery to both our side of this question and to my hon. Friend. We know nothing about the progress of the scheme there. All that can be said in the ninth circular issued by proportional representation supporters in the course of last month is, that Sir John McCall said, at some time or other, that proportional representation had "come to stay." Sir John McCall is the gentleman who, years ago, applied proportional representation to Tasmania. We are not told the date at which he made this statement. I am under the impression that he is no longer in existence, but at some time or other he said "proportional representation has come to stay." It has stayed, because the party which got in by proportional representation is extremely likely to try and preserve it. There is no evidence at all that proportional representation is acceptable to the people of Tasmania. Indeed—although one does not like to mention evidence from private sources—I have a good deal of information to exactly the contrary effect. Therefore I think we can put Tasmania on one side and come at once to the crucial instance quoted, and that is the case of New South Wales. I look upon that as the only fair test of the application of proportional representation to a great popular assembly. What has been the result there? In the first place, the hon. John Storey and his party are in power in New South Wales. How? By the majority, the magnificent majority by quotas, which you say you are going to get by proportional representation in this country? Not at all. He is in power on the strength of a minority of one in four of the whole electorate of New South Wales. Is that a system which you want introduced into this country? Moreover there are incidental peculiarities which have shown themselves clearly in New South Wales. The election in New South Wales is carried on upon lines which absolutely deprive the elector of all freedom and of all voluntary momentum in the matter. Can anything be imagined which is so destructive of the basis upon which we want to put elections—of the freedom and spontaneity, so to speak, of the electors? Can anything be more destructive to that than the system which pervades both parties in New South Wales, and which is rendered necessary by this complicated system of preferences—that is to say, the domination of the caucus of each party, who get the whole thing into their hands. They are the "half-dozen clever men" who, Mr. Massey said, could carry any election they liked under the preference system. These half-dozen clever men sit down to work, and the calculation of the number of these preferences, in order that they may get as many men as possible of their own party in, is a most elaborate and scientific process which no elector could possibly undertake for himself. When they have done this, they make out what is called their "How to Vote" Card, and that is given out to different batches of electors; and so necessary is this, so minute is the control of the caucus, and so essential is its operation to the exercise of what should be the free right of the electors, that no elector who wants his party to succeed dare go into the polling booth in New South Wales without one of these cards. That is the one specimen—

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

Of the application of proportional representation. The Noble Lord will have plenty of opportunity—

Photo of Lord Hugh Cecil Lord Hugh Cecil , Oxford University

I am entitled to contradict a misstatement.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

I am aware that the House of Commons likes a conversational style of speaking, but I am not sure that it likes Debate carried on by conversation. That is the one specimen, applied to English-speaking people within the ambit of British parliamentary institutions, which we can call into evidence on this occasion. I began to speak on the record of this House in relation to this subject, and I should like to remind the House of one feature in the case, which has been referred to by previous speakers, namely, the rejection of what was called minority representation in 1885. As has been mentioned, and as, I daresay, most hon. Members know, minority representation was introduced in Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill of 1867. It created the Birmingham Caucus under Mr. Schnadhorst. It held Birmingham for 17 years like a vice on the side of one party. It became detested by the electors, and, when it came before this House 17 years afterwards, in 1885, it had scarcely a voice in its favour. I think it only got 31 votes, and the House decided against it.

There was one feature in that episode which I think it is worth while to recall. That House turned down minority representation—and minority representation, whatever the difference in technique between that plan and this, is the whole principle and the main object of proportional representation—because it was in touch with the practical experiment that thad been made in this country. It had been able to watch what had been going on in these great cities where minority representation was in practice during that period of 17 years, and the results were such, and the effect upon the electors was such, that the House of Commons decided to abolish it altogether. And in so doing that House of Commons had in its memory, and could recall and vindicate, the advice of giant statesmen in this country, who, when it was first introduced in 1867, had denounced it in unmeasured terms, and had pointed out the results that would ensue from it. I wonder if I might recall to hon. Members a quotation which, although, perhaps, familiar to many of them, may not be within the knowledge of all: He had always been of opinion that this and other schemes, having for their object to represent minorities, were admirable schemes for bringing crochety men into the House. They were the schemes of coteries and not the politics of nations, and, if adopted, would end in discomfiture and confusion. There was another—these statesmen were on both sides. That was Mr. Disraeli.


A friend of Germany.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

Now we will come to the other side—to Mr. John Bright. Was he a friend of Germany?


A friend of every country.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

Mr. John Bright said: Every Englishman ought to know that anything which enfeebles the representative powers and lessens the vitality of the electoral system, which puts in the nominees of little cliques, here representing a majority and there a minority, but having no real influence among the people—every system like that weakens and must ultimately destroy the power and the force of your Executive Government.… A principle could hardly be devised more calculated to destroy the vitality of the elective system, and to produce stagnation, not only of the most complete, but of the most fatal character, affecting public affairs. Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Goschen, and others were not less emphatic.

With regard to the last House, I need not remind hon. Members that the last House of Commons had many opportunities of exhaustively discussing this question—not merely the opportunity of a Friday afternoon. It was debated over and over again, and it was defeated in the House by majorities always increasing until they became overwhelming. As this present House may not like to be compared to the former House, or any other House, may I ask whether it remembers that that House cannot be said to have been opposed to change? It carried the greatest extension of the franchise known in this country for nearly 100 years, and it carried the greatest revolution in the franchise conceivable—female suffrage. When, however, it came to this proposal, after exhaustive debate, after its being tried and placed before the House in every possible form, the House turned it down decisively on every occasion. I shall have something to say about this Bill and what it contains, and one of the points to which I desire to call attention is that the Bill is compulsory. That was not the case in 1918. After the final defeat of that measure in the House of Commons, the Upper Chamber insisted upon proportional representation being introduced into the Bill, but it took the form of a commission of inquiry to go round the country and to inquire into the opinion of the electors. We who were in that House remember that the result of the inquiry held in 149 constituencies for the purpose of selecting 100 constituencies for proportional representation was a great preponderance of opinion on the part of the electorate against the scheme. Then it came back to this House, and this House gave it the coup de grâce.

Before dealing with the Bill we are now discussing, I should like to say a word as to the spirit in which I approach this subject, vis-à-vis of hon. Members who support the Bill. I ought to have said it at the opening of my remarks, because I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am the last person to question the sincerity of their feelings, and the strength of their convictions that the change they propose will improve our Parliamentary representation, and will do away with apparent anomalies which press heavily on minds like that of my Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil), which are animated and directed by what are called counsels of perfection. Indeed, in that respect I admire them. I even envy them. They live far above this earth, in an atmosphere filled with ideals, theories, postulates, and promises of electoral millenniums, which every now and then they hand down to us ordinary mortals on the earth like a sort of manna which, much to their amazement, for 50 years we carnal people have found peculiarly indigestible, and which only minorities can be induced to accept and to swallow without knowing what it will do to them, and I fancy with a very uneasy suspicion that if they ever become majorities it will do them no good. I hope I am not impolite to my hon. Friends in the figure of speech I have used. If I were to go for guidance in such a matter to the greatest model of oratory that ever addressed this House, I should find that Mr. John Bright spoke of the minority representation Clause in the Bill he was discussing as "an odious and infamous Clause, which ought to have come from Bedlam, or some region like that." I would not say a thing of that sort. I have spoken only of the higher and not the nether atmosphere in which the academics live, generally presided over, I believe, by the Minister of Education, and now and then indulging in the innocent amusement of toy model elections and the even more harmless one of throwing down to the House of Commons—I mean from above—some manifesto saying, with needless verbiage, that some statement of mine "has no foundation in fact."

But as I myself have to live on hard ground, and cannot find any amusement in a subject like proportional representation, except possibly its name, I should like to go at once to the Bill and offer a few remarks upon it. The hon. Member who moved it said he wanted to let the light of day in upon the Bill. I will endeavour to do so by taking, in the first place, what the Bill does, and then what it does not do. The first thing it does is to commit this House for the first time, and, I suppose, once and for all, to proportional representation, with the single transferable vote and its system of first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh preferences—a system so strange and complicated that I hope the House will forgive me if I say I do not believe there is one in 20 Members who understands its working, and so far removed from commonsense and practical utility that the remaining 19 have turned away from the task of trying to understand it. And also a system, the, results of which in any particular election are rendered uncertain and almost staggering to the electors by reason of the very large part played in them by the element of chance. The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection gave one or two very strik ing cases of the amazing results derived from it.

Secondly, and I make more of this, this is a compulsory Bill. The promoters hitherto, I recognise, have always been on the horns of dilemma. They must either make the Bill optional, which would represent a partial proportional representation and turn the country into a patchwork of different systems, or they must make it compulsory. They have done the latter. They have made it compulsory, as I understand it, with very few exceptions over the whole country. I want to ask the House to consider what it is we are dealing with. We are dealing with the most highly valued function that citizenship in a self-governing country possesses. The method of performing that function is intimately connected with the elector himself. It is something that is the property of the electorate, and we are dealing with that in a way which, whether it be good or whether it be bad, is a way on which we have never in any form consulted the electors of this country, except on one occasion. For this House radically to change the method of the electors exercising that great function, and to change it ex-cathedrâ without in any way or form consulting the great electorate of the country, is straining the representative character of the House of Commons. The electors have never given any opinion upon this subject, except on a single occasion, and that is an occasion which strengthens my argument. It was the occasion to which I have referred when a Royal Commission, insisted upon by the House of Lords, went round the country and tried to gather the local opinion of the electors. I pay this tribute to the House of Lords that whereas they did not go beyond their constitutional right but, in my opinion, went beyond their moral claim as a non-elective Chamber in insisting upon proportional representation being placed in a Bill dealing with a matter which is really the function of the elective branch of the Constitution, yet they did it in a form which consulted the people. It is a tribute to the fairness of that House that they did it in the form of a Commission of Inquiry all over the country, and the result of that Commission was to turn the whole proposal down.

Now we are asked to take another course. We are asked to take a course which I consider arbitrary and illegitimate—that is, to force upon the electors of this country, without their being consulted, without their being in the least familiar with this process of proportional representation, or knowing anything about it, a new system which will throw them into confusion and which, if we look at its results in New South Wales, will turn them away from and make them dislike and distrust the polling booth as an instrument of representative government. I do not think I am exaggerating when I put it so high as this, with regard to the electorate, that there are few Members in this House who could go down to their constituencies and really explain the working of the system which is to be forced upon them. Have we any right in this House to pass such a Bill without putting the question to the usual test? Other questions involving great principles and revolutionary changes are always put to the country by being explained election after election on the platform, and even if you do not get a direct vote you get an indication of popular opinion in regard to them. I have no desire to limit the constitutional powers of Parliament with regard to its legislative or administrative functions; but I respectfully submit that, in the absence of any such normal process of consultation with the people, for this House to force this revolution in the use of the vote upon them is an abuse of its moral right.

There is a third thing that the Bill does. It fixes arbitrarily the size of the constituencies to which proportional representation is to be applied. There are three-, four-, five-, six-, and seven-Member constituencies. I should like to comment as briefly as I can on the two ends of this structure. It has been shown in various pamphlets and documents, that in the three-Member constituency proportional representation will have exactly the same result as the minority representation of 1867. Therefore, it is a bad thing, because the results of that were so bad that it was turned down by the House of Commons after 17 years' experience. With regard to a seven-Member constituency, why do the supporters of this Bill stop at that size? Have they forgotten that Lord Courtney, the great protagonist of proportional representation, was always of opinion, and stated it over and over again, that the larger the constituency the more effective and just would be the application of proportional representation. He defined a 15-Member constituency as the right size. Why have my hon. Friends forgotten the teachings of their great leader on this question? Simply because a 15-Member constituency would be rather too startling for the House. Therefore, they have sacrificed what is the fundamental principle of proportional representation for the sake of appearances.

In this connection I must turn to what may be a novel point, but one that will be clear to those who look into this question. You cannot have true proportional representation without eliminating the constituencies altogether, and turning the whole country into one constituency. All the figures that have been given for years after a General Election about such and such a number of votes in the country which have been given in support of Labour, or in support of Independent Liberals, or in support of the Coalition not being proportionately represented by the seats they have gained in Parliament rest on a rotten basis, so far as any remedy promised by this scheme is concerned. It is an utterly fallacious argument. May I make the thing clear to the House by a concrete example? Supposing you take what we may call a sectional issue. We will say that it is local option or anti-vivisection. Things of that sort come up at elections and influence the electors. There are people who feel very strongly about them, and who consider them as the first subject to which Parliament ought to attend. Take the question of local option. There might be sufficient local optionists in one or two constituencies to return their candidate to Parliament, but what about the local optionists all over the country, living in other constituencies, and having votes in those constituencies, but not in sufficient numbers to enable them to get a local option representative for their constituency? How can you gather those together and give them seats in this House in proportion to their numbers without sweeping away constituencies altogether? I hope I have made the thing clear. That is why Lord Courtney said that a 15-Member constituency was the best, because he saw that he would get somewhat nearer to the ideal and a little nearer to the actual function of proportional representation by means of the 15-Member constituency. The postulate with which I started this explanation, that you cannot have true satisfactory logical proportional representation unless you turn the whole of England into one constituency, connects itself with a curious personal experience which I will venture to mention. I studied the whole subject of proportional representation carefully after my attention was first drawn to it and I came to this conclusion. But it was so surprising that I did not bring it forward. Then, one day, I came across a very remarkable vindication of it. It was this, that Thomas Hare, who invented proportional representation and the single transferable vote in the early fifties of last century, invented it with the express purpose of turning the whole of England into one constituency.

I have no time to enumerate the many things that this Bill does not do. Nor is that necessary, because it trots out the old device of a Royal Commission. It takes out of the hands of Parliament innumerable subjects that it is qualified to deal with and is responsible for dealing with, and places them in the hands of a body of which we know nothing. It is true that the Commission has to report to this House. After that everything is to be done by Orders in Council. I speak with a long memory of this House, and I submit that this kind of legislation by a combination of Royal Commissions and Orders in Council is the very worst sort of legislation we could have.

4.0. P. M.

There is one question which I would ask my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). I have spoken over and over again of government by groups. I feel strongly on that point. Under proportional representation we shall simply have a repetition of what we see abroad—a change of ministry every six months and no stability of policy. This is a subject on which we want clear thinking. What is to be the position of groups or sections of opinion which it is hoped to get into this House? Is it party or non-party on which they base themselves? In other words, is it the argument or expectation that under their system adherents of sectional opinion, whether in groups or as individuals, should stand for Parliament under the aegis or protection of a politi- cal party or should stand on their own? That is an important question to which I should like to have an answer. We had it definitely from Mr. Holman, who was so long Premier of New South Wales, that sectional representatives have "no hope of getting in where one of the machines did not offer some sheltering niche as a refuge." There is nothing to tell us definitely whether the supporters of proportional representation are of the same opinion. They say in one case that the candidates are "as free as air" and in another that representation of all shades of opinion and of different classes is to be got within each of the two parties. Then there is a subordinate question of some importance, whether these sectional candidates, representing sectional opinions, pledge themselves to their supporters to put their special policy forward and to give it the first position in their parliamentary career? If they get into a Parliament under the ægis of a party do they pledge themselves to force that on the party? That is an important question, but I do not think that it really affects the alternatives. The two alternatives are those which I have put.

If these sectional groups go in under the ægis of a, political party, which will mean going in by the aid of its machine, they will have to put party first and become members of that party. But that is exactly the position in Parliament now, and there is no reason to change our whole electoral system to secure it. Every party is formed of groups, and these groups pursue the reasonable, legitimate, practical course of trying to infuse their opinions into the mass of the party and impress their policy on their leaders. But they do not, when it comes to a critical Division, threaten the leaders of their own party to go on the other side if they do not get their own way for their sectional policy. Prom all the pronouncements that I have read, which have been issued by the Proportional Representation Society, I gather that the vision that is held out to the political life of the country is that proportional representation will return representatives of minorities, independent; that it will return individuals, independent; and that anyone can get into Parliament, on his own, if he has sufficient support. If that is the case, the result undoubtedly would be government by groups, because you will have these groups of opinion not bound to either party, and Members can go to one party or another on the eve of a critical Division and say: "Give us our policy and we will vote for you, but if you do not give it to us we will throw you out." That position would be most dangerous to the dignity and stability of Parliament. I earnestly urge the House, for reasons of the welfare of the State and the freedom of the elector, to throw out the Bill.

Photo of Sir James Macpherson Sir James Macpherson , Ross and Cromarty

I know there are many Members who are anxious to speak and I do not propose, therefore, to occupy more than a moment in explaining the attitude of the Government. The Government as a whole are divided in regard to this Bill. We do not propose to utilise the services of the Whips, but we regard this measure as of such great importance and as effecting so great a constitutional change that we feel bound to say that we cannot pledge ourselves, after a Friday afternoon's Debate, to bring in a Bill dealing with this important subject or to grant facilities for its passage.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

In one respect I welcome the announcement made on behalf of the Government, because it makes the decision to which the House will come in a few minutes purely a question of whether or not they are in favour of the principle of proportional representation, rather than whether or not the particular details of this proposal are those which recommend themselves to the judgment of the House. I can well understand that if we were about to settle, this afternoon, a change of this importance as a practical definite piece of legislation, the House would have to be satisfied not only that the general principle was sound but that the actual details of the Bill were such as they thought workable. The Government have told us that they are not able to facilitate the passage of the Bill into law and it becomes, therefore, something in the nature of a revolution rather than of a Bill. Therefore I hope to shorten to some extent the observations which I shall have to make, and I shall not think it necessary to trouble the House with any elaborate details. There was one observation in the speech made by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett- Coutts)—I am afraid it was the only one—with which I found myself in hearty agreement. He said proportional representation was not amusing, and that is evidently the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the Members of this House who have taken the very necessary precaution of absenting themselves from the Debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I was not speaking so much of this particular moment in the discussion as of the discussion in general. I agree with my right hon. Friend as to that, but then he went on to throw one of the usual controversial half-bricks when he said the advocates of this measure were academic. That is quite legitimate Parliamentary controversy, but I think if the House will look at the names of the Members on the back of this Bill they will hesitate to describe them as academic. For example, my right hon. Friend, the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury)—though his opinions are not always accepted by the majority of the House—would not, I think, be described as, strictly speaking, academic. I do not know in the whole House a man who is more rigidly practical or more determined to guide himself by what the Germans call, "Wahr politik." I do not think you could select anyone who would fulfil those characteristics better than my right hon. Friend. Then I may include the name of my right hon. Friend who moved the Bill as that of a man of a very practical character, and I do not know whether I am to be regarded as unpractical? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]

Let me come to some of the objections which have been raised. There were one or two which I did not intend to go into at any length. There is our old objection that the machinery is so complicated. My right hon. Friend who has just spoken said that not one Member in twenty understood it, and he went on to say that the other nineteen did not try to understand it. The answer to the whole of that criticism is this. There is a certain complication in the counting of the votes, but there is no complication in giving the votes. Anyone can give a vote in a Proportional Representation Election. He has merely got to write down the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the order of his preference. Nor is there the slightest complication in the idea of proportional representation. It is an exceedingly simple one, namely, that a man shall not be bound to waste his vote in giving it to people who do not want it because they have got enough, or to people who have no chance of success. No one with the slightest intelligence should have the slightest difficulty in making up his mind as to the order of his preferences in a list of candidates. It is quite true that when you come to apply the principle so as to produce the result you desire, there is a certain complication of machinery, and that requires a certain amount of skill on the part of the returning officer and the people who do the counting. It does require rather elaborate directions to them, but there is no difficulty whatever in carrying it out, and wherever it has been tried there has been no excessive proportion of spoilt votes, except in one case, with which I will deal in a moment. The answer is not only that this system has been adopted now—and a great number of cases have been recited here—but wherever it has been adopted it has never been abandoned, and there is no answer to that. If this scheme is really unworkable or impracticable, and if it really produces deplorable results, as its opponents say, it would be abandoned. It has been imposed as an alteration to an existing system, and having been imposed it could be withdrawn if found to be unworkable, but the fact is that it has never been abandoned. We have heard a good deal about New South Wales, and that it has been a failure there because only about 24 per cent. of the voters voted for the majority candidates. As a matter of fact, in the by-elections in this country since the last General Election, I think it will be found that the number of voters who voted for the successful candidates were about 28 per cent., so there is not so very great a difference even in that, but everybody knows that the reason why there was a bad poll in New South Wales was due to the fantastic regulations that were adopted, and particularly to the regulation that everyone had to make a declaration as to his identity before he was allowed to vote.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

Yes, to make and sign. That was exceedingly distasteful, I believe, to many persons and induced female electors especially to refrain in large numbers. Therefore there is nothing in that. My right hon. Friend is not quite doing justice to it when he says this is the one case which is worth examining in all those which have been cited. The truth is that this is the only one in which even a plausible objection can be made to its operation. No objection has been made to its operation in any other case of a substantial character.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

What I said was that it was the only case of proportional representation applied to a popular assembly.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

Even that I do not think is quite accurate, for surely there are a number of other cases in which it has been applied, and Manitoba is one. It is, however, good enough for our purposes to know that it has been adopted and that it has worked, and that is, to my mind, a complete answer to any suggestion that it is so complicated a system that it cannot be properly worked. I do not now propose to go into the question of by-elections, as I do not think that is a very important matter one way or the other. I never did. The main purpose of a system is to secure a satisfactory result at a General Election, and if there are difficulties about by-elections, that is a minor matter for the details of the Bill. To my mind, if by-elections were continued to be held under the old system that would be a satisfactory solution, although I do not know that I would say it was the only solution or the most satisfactory solution.

I come to the more serious objections to the proposal. There is one to which I attach a good deal of importance, which was put very well by the hon. Member for Moss Side (Lieut.-Colonel Hurst). He said that we were going to alter the system that had come down to us from Edward I., and that this was a great change in our system about which the country had not been consulted. That has been repeated by many speakers, and it has been described as a most revolutionary change. It is noticeable that this terrible revolution is one which finds favour with the House of Lords. I do not say that this House should take its politics from the House of Lords for a moment, but I do say it is rather difficult for me to believe that a proposal which is warmly accepted in that House is a revolutionary proposal, which no good Conservative in this House ought to consider. I enjoyed very much that part of the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Burdett-Coutts), in which he spoke of this terrible change, about which the country had not been consulted, and the revolutionary action of those who tried to force an alteration of this magnitude upon the country. The whole of that speech might have been lifted bodily out of a previous utterance. My right hon. Friend said all those things about women's suffrage, and I do not think anybody in this House now, whatever his opinion on the subject, regards that measure as having brought about a near approach to revolution. May I say a word about the other argument, so constantly used, that this measure, by increasing the size of the constituency, would destroy the personal relations between the Members and their constituents. Surely that is a most exaggerated view. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) warmly cheers that. Has he near personal relation with his constituents?

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

I should be very much interested to learn how many he knows by sight.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

I happen to sit for a constituency where I have a great deal of personal relationship with my constituents for various reasons. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do they call you Bob?"] They always speak of me with a mixture of affection and respect.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

The question is not how many people the Member knows, but how many constituents know the Member. The great bulk of the constituents of South Kensington know me personally.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

Speaking seriously, everyone who is honest to himself knows that with the present size of the constituencies the personal relationship has very largely disappeared. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do not say altogether, but, of course, it has very largely done. In a constituency consisting of two or three hundred members the personal relations are totally different to those existing in a constituency consisting of 20,000 or 30,000. Look at the result of any General Election! Look at a group of constituencies and you will find that they follow a general current, and are very little deflected by the personality of the candidates one way or another. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Very little! As a matter of fact the change would not be material in that respect. A man who is well known in one division of a great town would be well known in the whole of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] A man who was well known in one division of a county would be well known in the whole of that county. [An HON MEMBER: "What about Yorkshire?"] I am sure I am right. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] But after all, this question of the personal relations, important as it is—and it is important—I do not myself think that it is, but I know a good many Members who do not agree with me—is not as important as it used to be. I should have thought that was only self-evident. But if it is as important, when the constituencies have grown from a few hundreds to tens of thousands, then the fact that the constituency is going to grow from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands will not make any more difference than the previous growth of a few hundreds to tens of thousands. That surely must be obvious.

A much more serious objection than that his been raised. It has been said that if we have that system we shall have a system of groups in this House, and if you have a system of groups instead of parties, you will have the danger of logrolling beween the groups and a modification of our whole system. Take the pre-War period. This House has been remarkably free from groups. For good or ill, it has been organised very strictly. That has not been the experience in all legislatures. In other countries, in France, and under the old German constitution, there were always a number of groups. Yet they were elected in just the same way as we were by the ordinary majority vote. The question of groups does not depend nearly so much on the method of election as on the much broader national characteristics. I do not believe that whatever change you make in the method of election to this House, you will ever make a great change in the broad characteristic of this House—namely, that it shall, in the main, represent certain broad currents of the nation. A good many hon. Members take that view because coincidently with saying that this House will become a House of groups they say that it will be gerrymandered by powerful organisations who will return much more completely than ever purely party men and independence will be crushed. I do not believe that that proposition is true, and you will find in the main that this House will have large parties and there will always be a few who do not belong strictly to those parties. I think that is and will continue to be the broad characteristic of this House however you arrange it, and the reason is because that is what the country desires, and no system will ever he able to prevent that general tendency. The real truth is that we are in a very grave constitutional crisis. I do not think hon. Members realise or have really ever faced the proposition that this House no longer has the authority that it used to have or commands the authority that it used to command. You have to realise the immense importance of that consideration. Everybody here naturally looks upon this question very largely from the point of view of how it would affect their own constituencies. The very able speech of the hon. Member who moved the rejection of this measure was largely based upon his own experience. I quite recognise that in certain cases this system is going to diminish the amenities of hon. Members of this House, but I do not think that is going to be a serious matter. Nevertheless, I beseech hon. Members to look at it from a broader point of view. It is very natural for those who think they are in an unassailable position to say, "Do not change the system; it suits us very wall," but they should look to the future and consider what is the real tendency of the times. That is the test which I apply to proportional representation. If I thought the real position of the House of Commons and of constitutional government in this country was thoroughly sound and in no danger of losing its authority, I should say with hon. Members opposite, "Perhaps it is not worth while to make any change," but I am satisfied that the chief danger at this moment is that the people may lose faith in the established constitutional authority. I can conceive nothing more fatal to the position of the House than a really widespread impression that its method of election was such that it did not secure and could not secure adequate representation of the feeling of the country. Self-government may be a vain thing and a vain idea, but it does mean that the people of the country are re-presented in the authority of the country in something like the proportion of opinion which prevails. That is really an important matter and not a matter of academics. We have to face a real danger. Then I am told: "Well, but your remedy is dangerous." Putting aside what seem to me to be small grounds of objection, the broad ground of objection is that the present system of voting secures large majorities in this House and therefore makes for stability of government. I am not sure that that is sound. My own opinion is exactly the opposite. I am going to say something which I am afraid will not be altogether approved by some hon. Members. When I first entered this House, in 1906, I was a member of a very small minority. There was an immense Radical majority with a small Labour wing. I do not think that anyone who sat in the first Session of that Parliament will be of the opinion that it was a very satisfactory situation. The majority was out of hand, as the saying is, and no one knew what was going to happen next. During that Session it was really quite a chance what legislation would have to be ultimately enacted to meet the views of the majority. I am satisfied that for the purposes of stability a very large majority may be a very dangerous thing. It meant throwing into the hands of the extreme section of the majority a very undue amount of power. Hon. Members opposite are Members of an immense majority in this House. They are naturally inclined to think that that state of things will endure for a long time. They are inclined to say, "After me, the Deluge." The Deluge sometimes comes much more rapidly than is anticipated. Let them try and imagine what another House of Commons may be like. Let them try and consider—I put it to them perfectly frankly—a great Labour victory. Personally, I am not so much afraid as some of my hon. Friends of a Labour majority and a Labour Government. I have often said so. Though I do not desire it, I am not so much afraid of it as some of my hon. Friends. I should be extremely reluctant, however—I say so with perfect frankness—to see a very large Labour majority, or, indeed, for that matter, a very large majority of any kind in this House. I do not believe that such a composition of the House of Commons tends to stability or to good government or good legislation. I heard some hon. Gentleman opposite make an interjection which indicates that he regards the whole thing as illusory and impossible.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

That is undoubtedly the feeling of a large number of people. It is because they think that there is no chance of any such thing happening that they do not think it worth while to take any precautions against it. It appears to me a most reckless and unfortunate attitude to take. I am confident that this change will produce, broadly speaking, two great beneficial results. It will not produce a House of Commons consisting solely of groups or mainly of groups. I should not desire and I do not anticipate it. It will produce a House of Commons less absolutely nominated by the party organisation than some of the Houses which existed before the War. It will give a greater flexibility, a greater opportunity for people whose opinions do not happen to be those exactly of any party to find a position in this House. There will be few of them come in, not a very large number. The majority will come in belonging to the great parties, and the great organisations, because without organisation it will always be difficult to deal with a democratically constituted electorate. You will get, in my judgment, a House of the same type but with a larger amount of independence. That will be the result, perhaps the smallest result. You will also get a House which more directly represents the general current of feeling in the country. You will get a House of which it cannot be said with any plausibility, "This is a House out of touch with the feeling of the country." You will get a House which will command more and more the full confidence of the country. I believe you will get a House which will not have what I regard as a great danger, an overwhelming, unyielding, unmanageable majority. I believe this change, revolutionary as it is regarded by some people, is really the true conservativism. It restores the theory of the constitution of this House as a real representation of the electorate which sends it here, and it will conduce, not to revolution, not to violence or to change, but to orderly progress and stability, which is the desire, not only of this House, but of the great mass of the people of this country.

Photo of Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke , Plymouth, Devonport

Perhaps I should be wise if I limited my observations to a very small portion of what I intended to say. I should like, if I may, to put the Noble Lord who has just spoken right on the subject of New South Wales, by quoting from a speech of the present Prime Minister of that Colony given last night on the question of proportional representation. He said that as a whole he now favoured it. He stated that proportional representation worked out perhaps in a satisfactory way. As a case in point, he gave this instance of what happened in his own electorate in New South Wales, and what is likely to happen elsewhere. He said, "In my own electorate there were only two National candidates, and five Labour men. We thought it was a certainty for one National candidate and two Labour men. As a matter of fact there should have been two but the stronger man (Dr. Stockford) we thought was so much a certainty that in order to weaken his chances as much as we could, we voted for his friend, who had only been put up in order to give him a run. Dr. Stockford had said to him, 'I will put you up and pay your expenses.' He did so. I met the doctor on the evening of the first day and this is what he said: 'Well, Story, you and I are elected, anyway. You are thousands above your quota, and I am within a little of it. You and I, therefore, will be sure to be elected.' I said, 'Of course, but under this tricky system no one knows what may happen; but I suppose you will be elected.' Mr. Story went on: Believe me, this gentleman was not elected; and yet so certain was he of election that he entertained his friends at a banquet. He came over and told Mr. Holman, who was the then Premier and likely to be defeated, that he would offer him his seat, as he was certain that he was going to get in. Mr. Story winds up by saying: Dr. Stockford was 90 behind at the beginning, and at the end he was 90 behind, and his friend whom he put up is now a Member of Parliament in New South Wales. That is what happened in New South Wales.

Photo of Mr James Lowther Mr James Lowther , Penrith and Cockermouth

If the hon. Member desires to make a personal explanation, he is entitled to interrupt, but if it is a correction, I think he must wait.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Williams Mr Aneurin Williams , Consett

I only want to ask—

Photo of Mr James Lowther Mr James Lowther , Penrith and Cockermouth

The hon. Member for Devonport is in possession of the House, and is not bound to give way.

Photo of Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke , Plymouth, Devonport

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) gave us a very interesting statement with regard to the historical position of proportional representation, but he missed out one point, which I will give to the House because I think it emphasises what the right hon. Gentleman said. In 1909 this Proportional Representation Society, of which we have heard so much to-day, got a Royal Commission appointed by this House, and that Royal Commission reported thus: Reviewing the whole of the evidence and duly considering the gravity of the change involved, they were unable to report that a case had been made out for the adoption of the transferable vote for election to the House of Commons. That was in 1909, and I do not think that anything has since happened to alter the position. We have, as hon. Members know, had many Debates on this subject in the House of Commons during the last Parliament. Seven times proportional representation was brought up in one way or another, and seven times it was defeated. Then, in order to satisfy in some way and meet this peculiar society for proportional representation, the Government selected certain constituencies and appointed a Commission to go down and see what the electors of those constituencies thought of the proceedings. What was the result? In the great majority of cases the electors of those constituencies were against it, and when the Report was brought up in the House of Commons the great majority was against proportional representation. That majority would have been very much larger had it not been for the Nationalist vote, because the Nationalists, for some reason or other, thought that when the Irish Parliament came along they would get a better chance if they had proportional representation.

I do not think it is really worth while to discuss the question again this afternoon. No evidence has been brought forward to-day which, if adopted, would produce a more stable Government, a more economic Government, a stronger executive or a better administration. On the contrary, all the speeches, at any rate on this side of the House, go to show that proportional representation would produce a less stable Government, a less economic Government, a weaker executive and no better administration. In fact the objections are so numerous that I really do not think it is worth while to go over them again. We have heard a great deal about caucuses, but I do not think it is necessary to repeat what has already been said, but many of us have done a great deal of work in our constituencies. All that work will be thrown away with proportional representation. The existing organisations will all be dissolved. Individual effort will disappear at once. The candidates will be herded together in multiples, each multiple run by its own machine. The elections will be run by a caucus, as Mr. Massie says, by half a dozen smart men who can elect any candidate they like. These half dozen gentlemen are called by the Labour party the intellectuals. They no doubt will be able to spot the particular Labour man they to elect. Then we shall have a caucus on the Unionist side who will spot their men and there will be a caucus on some other side. I do not know what it is. Then there will be the National party and half-a-dozen caucuses spending enormous sums of money and we shall have a Parliament here which will represent nobody and will certainly not represent the electorate. In fact there will be no freedom of voting. The caucuses will tell the electors how to vote and each elector must follow the course, because if he fails to follow what the caucus has told him to do his candidate's chances at the election are gone. It does not matter how popular you are. It does not matter what work you may have done in your constituency. It does not matter what work you may have done in Parliament. All will be swept away. The late Premier of New Zealand says: Proportional representation lends itself to intrigues and wire-pulling and improper practices a thousand times worse than the old second ballot. I know something about the old second ballot. I once went in for a position under the old second ballot, and I won the position. I was first of a large number of candidates, but I had not taken the precaution to tell the electors that if they had not voted for me in the first ballot they were to vote for men in the second. After being first by a very large majority, I found myself second, and I lost £2,000 a year to come here to get £400. I know something about the second ballot, and I should be sorry to see proportional representation take its place.

We were told by the Mover of the rejection how difficult were the Regulations put forward by Scotland. I have here a Parliamentary Paper issued in 1917. There are twenty foolscap sheets showing you how you ought to vote, and must vote, in a proportional representation election. I should like to continue this speech, but we have come to the end of the day, and the time has come to vote. I ask all Members to go into one Lobby only, against proportional representation.

Photo of Mr William Burdett-Coutts Mr William Burdett-Coutts , Westminster Abbey

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his consent, and declined then to put that Question.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Glasgow Springburn

This proposal will make this House, in my opinion, less representative. What is a far more important matter than the vote is the selection of the candidates, and I find no provision in the Bill for that. I remember an election in Glasgow when a number of men from a Clyde works took the trouble to have a half-holiday in order to go to the polling-booth. They were so dissatisfied that they did not vote, but each wrote across the ballot paper, and

signed his name, "I decline to vote for either man." If you have the huge constituencies proposed under this Bill the electors will know less and less who the candidates are. I know of one case at the last election where the Selection Committee selected a particular candidate, but a certain man had the temerity to disregard the Selection Committee. He said, "I will fight because the issues are too great to be decided by any Selection Committee," and he beat his man by two or three to one; in fact, the other man had to forfeit his deposit. If you widen the area and operate in the way proposed, we shall become mere automata; we shall not be living representatives of the people. It is impossible for anybody to cover the ground in the time at his disposal. It is always said by the minority in the House, those who are against the Government, that the Government is not representative of the people, that the people were deceived in a moment of madness, but it is a totally different position when they come into power. It is for the good of the country that there should be considerable emotional changes from time to time, and that the position of affairs should not be made static. The result of this Bill would be to crystallise the country, and the House would become far less representative than at present.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 87; Noes, 186.

Division No. 63.]AYES.[4.59 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.Inskip, Thomas Walker H.Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)
Bagley, Captain E. AshtonIrving, DanPerkins, Walter Frank
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.John, William (Rhondda, West)Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Johnstone, JosephRaffan, Peter Wilson
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Rendall, Athelstan
Bentinck, Lord Henry CavendishKelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Birchall, Major J. DearmanKennedy, ThomasRobinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)Kiley, James D.Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)Lambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeShaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.Larmor, Sir JosephSitch, Charles H.
Conway, Sir W. MartinLewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)Spencer, George A.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Spoor, B. G.
Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)Lyle-Samuel, AlexanderStanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.Stevens, Marshall
Du Pre, Colonel William BaringMackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Farquharson, Major A. C.MacVeagh, JeremiahWatson, Captain John Bertrand
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.
Galbraith, SamuelMontagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.Weston, Colonel John W.
Glanville, Harold JamesMorrison-Bell, Major A. C.White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Glyn, Major RalphMosley, OswaldWignall, James
Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)Munro, Rt. Hon. RobertWilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)Murray, Lieut.-Colonel A. (Aberdeen)Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Grant, James A.Newbould, Alfred ErnestYoung, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gritten, W. G. HowardNewman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)
Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)O'Connor, Thomas P.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hayward, Major EvanOrmsby-Gore, Hon. W.Sir Thomas Bramsdon and Mr. A. Williams.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.Frece, Sir Walter deNield, Sir Herbert
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteGanzonl, Captain Sir F. J. C.Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel MartinGardiner, JamesNorton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John
Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.Gee, Captain RobertPalmer, Major Godfrey Mark
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Gilbert, James DanielPearce, Sir William
Barnett, Major R. W.Goff, Sir R. ParkPease, Rt. Hon Herbert Pike
Barrie, Charles CouparGreen, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Beauchamp, Sir EdwardGreene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)Perring, William George
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Greenwood, William (Stockport)Pilditch, Sir Philip
Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)Greer, HarryPinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles
Bennett, Sir Thomas JewellGreig, Colonel James WilliamPollock, Sir Ernest M.
Betterton, Henry B.Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)Hallwood, AugustinePurchase, H. G.
Blades, Capt. Sir George RowlandHall, Captain Sir Douglas BernardRaeburn, Sir William H.
Blair, Sir ReginaldHall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Ramsden, G. T.
Borwick, Major G. O.Hallas, EldredRankin, Captain James S.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.Hamilton, Major C. G. C.Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Bruton, Sir JamesHerbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Higham, Charles FrederickRees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesHoare, Lieut-Colonel Sir S. J. G.Reid, D. D.
Burdett-Coutts, Rt. Hon. WilliamHodge, Rt. Hon. JohnRemnant, Sir James
Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)Hohler, Gerald FitzroyRichardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Butcher, Sir John GeorgeHolmes, J. StanleyRose, Frank H.
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.Hood, JosephRoundell, Colonel R. F.
Carr, W. TheodoreHorne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)Hurd, Percy A.Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)
Cautley, Henry S.Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. CuthbertScott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)Jameson, J. GordonShaw, William T. (Forfar)
Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.Jephcott, A. R.Simm, M. T.
Churchman, Sir ArthurJesson, C.Smithers, Sir Alfred W.
Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. SpenderJones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Coates, Major Sir Edward F.Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)Steel, Major S. Strang
Cobb, Sir CyrilJones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)Stewart, Gershom
Cohen, Major J. BrunelKerr-Smiley, Major Peter KerrSturrock, J. Leng
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.Kinloch-Cooke, Sir ClementSugden, W. H.
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryLindsay, William ArthurTalbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)
Curzon, Captain ViscountLloyd, George ButlerTaylor, J.
Dalzlel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)
Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Lonsdale, James RolstonThomas-Stanford, Charles
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)Lorden, John WilliamThorpe, Captain John Henry
Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)Loseby, Captain C. E.Tickler, Thomas George
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Lowe, Sir Francis WilliamTownley, Maximilian G.
Denison-Pender, John C.Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.
Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend)Lynn, R. J.Tryon, Major George Clement
Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John MurrayWallace, J.
Dixon, Captain HerbertM'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Dockrell, Sir MauriceMacquisten, F. A.Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.
Doyle, N. GrattanMagnus, Sir PhilipWhite, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Edgar, Clifford B.Manville, EdwardWhitla, Sir William
Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)Marks, Sir George CroydonWilliams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)
Elveden, ViscountMitchell, William LaneWilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.Molson, Major John EisdaleWise, Frederick
Falcon, Captain MichaelMoreing, Captain Algernon H.Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.Morris, RichardYeo, Sir Alfred William
Fell, Sir ArthurMorrison, HughYounger, Sir George
Flannery, Sir James FortescueMurray, John (Leeds, West)
Ford, Patrick JohnstonNall, Major JosephTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Foreman, Sir HenryNewman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Major Henderson and Lieut.
Fraser, Major Sir KeithNicholson, William G. (Petersfield)Colonel Hurst.

Question put, and agreed to.

Words added.

Second Reading put off for six months.