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Parliamentary Elections (Mariners' Votes) Bill

Volume 92: debated on Monday 1 April 1901

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Order for Second Reading read.

in moving the Second Reading of this Bill said it had been before the House for several sessions, and he did not therefore think it necessary to occupy the time of the House in explaining it.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read a second time."

said he was sorry his hon. and gallant friend did not explain the Bill the Bill was a franchise Bill and a Bill of very great importance, which ought not to be dismissed with two or three minutes conversation. Of course, every hon. Member sympathised very much with the men who served their country in the Royal Navy, with men in the mercantile marine and with fishermen, and, when it was proposed to give them the right to exercise the franchise, everyone was delighted. But the question arose whether, in bringing forward a measure which might be just and right as far as seamen were concerned, it might not he doing an injustice to other people. It could not he contended that seamen were the only persons who were debarred by their profession or occupation from exercising the franchise at present. His hon. and gallant friend was himself a gallant seaman, and no doubt possessed the gallantry which most seamen had, but on the present occasion he allowed his heart to run away with his judgment. The proper course for his hon. and gallant friend would be not to proceed with the Second Reading of the Bill, but to endeavour to induce the Government to introduce a Bill which would have for its object to give facilities to exercise the franchise to every person who by his occupation was unable to record his vote at present, He appealed also for another class, namely, the soldier. Soldiers did their duty gallantly, and why should they be deprived of exercising the franchise? Did hon. Members object to soldiers exercising the franchise? He did not desire to detain the House, but he wished to point out that piecemeal legislation of this kind was not always right. It was very easy to introduce a Bill and to take credit for it, but what hon. Members should consider was the effect of the measure if it were passed. He should like for a moment to refer to Clause 3, which ran thus—

"The voting paper shall be signed by the voter himself in the presence of a person by law authorised to administer oaths (in this Act called 'the commissioner'), but the commissioner shall have no right to inspect any part of the voting paper, except the part containing the voter's signature. As soon as the voting paper is signed it shall be folded up by the voter and placed in a sealed envelope or otherwise made secure from inspection."
That seemed to him a clumsy way of proceeding. Then who was the voter to mark the paper for? Supposing a seaman was going on a voyage, and that an election was to occur in five or six weeks, how was he to know who the candidates would be, and even if he did know the candidates who were to be nominated, how was he to know for which of them to vote? Again, he did not see anything in the Bill as to how long before an election the Act would have effect. Was it to be six weeks or two months? He regretted his hon. and gallant friend made such an extremely short speech, because there were many points in the Bill which required explanation. There was nothing so far as he could see in the Bill to show when a voter might begin to mark the paper. There were the names of several hon. Members on the hack of the Bill, and he hoped that they would give the explanation that was required. In passing a franchise Bill the House ought really to know what it was doing, and he hoped some explanation of the Bill would be given.

said he should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that it was asked to pass a great deal of ill-considered legislation that evening. The Bills which were now being discussed had been preceded by a large number of Government measures, and an ordinary Member of the House looking at the Orders of the Day would not suppose for a moment that any of the Bills the House had been discussing could come on. He confessed he was unable to understand why the Government should have dropped so much of their business, and allowed those Bills to be discussed.

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been in the House at question time, because the First Lord of the Treasury then announced that the Government did not intend to go beyond Report of Supply.

said he was in the House during a part of question time, but did not hear the statement referred to. At any rate, it was very short notice to give, and the fact remained that the Bills they were now discussing had come forward very unexpectedly. The main argument in favour of the Bill before the House was that it had been introduced by his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth. That fact stood, no doubt, for its respectability, but he would point out to the House that his hon. and gallant friend did not condescend to otter a single word of explanation, having moved the Second Reading in a formal and perfunctory way. The Bill was a fair enough Bill, but some of its clauses required explanation, and before the House was asked to express an opinion on it some hon. Member whose name was on the back of the Bill should explain it. He hoped the House would hear something more about the Bill. He should also like to have an explanation from the Government as to why the Trout Fisheries Bill had been dropped.


said he would obey the ruling of the Chair, and in conclusion expressed the hope that the Bill before the House would be further explained.

said he was surprised that his hon. friend the Member for Rotherhithe, whose name was on the back of the Bill, was not in his place to explain such a long-expected and eagerly-awaited measure. He was also surprised that His Majesty's Government had not given the House their views on the measure. He considered it would be practically impossible to decide such a measure without having a clear and full explanation of the views of His Majesty's Government, dealing as it did with the franchise, of which the House of Commons had always been extremely jealous. Many points contained in the Bill had been mentioned by his hon. friends, but they had not yet been answered. Hon. Members sympathised, no doubt, with the desire of sailors to make their voice heard at the polls, but there were many other classes of His Majesty's subjects who were equally deserving as sailors in the Navy or the Mercantile Marine or fishermen, but who were not in a position to vote. How was the House going to draw a distinction between, for instance, men in the Naval Brigade in South Africa and the soldiers serving beside them? It would be a very serious danger to the discipline of His Majesty's forces if sailors could taunt soldiers with being superior because they had been able to sign voting papers long before they knew what the issues at an election would be, or perhaps the character of the candidates, or had any idea of how the successful candidate would act in Parliament. That might be a sound principle, but, at any rate, it was a principle that had not yet been acknowledged, and if the House were to accept it at all, he thought it should be carried a great deal further. He did not think it should be limited to sailors only. It would he convenient to many others. Many persons were now called upon to travel 500 miles to record their votes, Why should they not be able to record their votes in a manner similar to that provided in the Bill? Supposing a voter in London had also a vote in Scotland—why should he be put to the trouble of travelling 500 miles to vote? Why should he not be allowed to put his voting paper into an envelope and send it down? He did not know whether the principle of the Bill was going to be accepted. He was quite sure it ought not to be accepted without further explanation from the supporters of the Bill, and more especially an explanation from the Government. His hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth introduced the Bill with great brevity, but he did not know whether it was fair to measure his hon. and gallant friend's sense of the gravity of the Bill, as compared with other questions in which he was interested, by the relative length of his speech in introducing the Bill, and the length of the speeches he delivered on other subjects. He did not think it was fair that such an important question should be brought before the House without being adequately explained.

said he agreed with his hon. friend who had just sat down that more light should be thrown on the Bill. The measure was one of


Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)Helme, Norval Watson
Acland-Hood Capt. Sir Alex. FCraig, Robert HunterHenderson, Alexander
Allen, Charles P (Glouc., StroudCullinan, J.Higginbottom, S. W.
Ambrose, RobertDalrymple, Sir CharlesHolland, William Henry
Anstruther, H. T.Dalziel, James HenryHope, J. F. (Sheffield Brights'de
Archdale, Edward MervynDavies, Alfred (Carmarthen)Horniman, F'rederick John
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir EllisDelany, WilliamHoward, Capt. J (Kent Faversh.
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. JohnDewar, T. R (T'rH'mlets, S. Geo.Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)Dimsdale, Sir Joseph CockfieldJoyce, Michael
Boll, RichardDoogan, P. C.Kimber, Henry
Bignold, ArthurDuffy, William J.Knowles, Lees
Bill, CharlesFellowes, Hon. Ailwyn EdwardLambton, Hn. Fredk. William
Boland, JohnFfrench, PeterLawson, John Grant
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-Fisher, William HayesLee, Arthur H. (Hants Fareham
Broadhurst, HenryFitzroy, Hon Edward AlgernonLegge, Col. Hon. Heneage
Bull, William JamesFlavin, Michael JosephLeigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Butcher, John GeorgeFuller, J. M. F.Leveson-Gower, Fredk N. S.
Caldwell, JamesGoddard, Daniel FordLevy, Maurice
Cautley, Henry StrotherGordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)Lowe, Francis William
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)Gordon, Maj Evans- (T'rH'ml'tsLoyd, Archie Kirkman
Cavendish, V. C. W (DerbyshireGraham, Henry RobertLucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)Gray, Ernest (West Ham)Lucas, Reginad J. (Portsmouth)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'ndsLundon, W.
Chapman, EdwardGretton, JohnMacartney, Rt Hn W. G. Ellison
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.Griffith, Ellis J.MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.
Cogan, Denis J.Groves, Janie GrimbleMacnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Condon, Thomas JosephHanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.Maconochie, A. W.
Cook, Sir Frederick LucasHarris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg'wHay, Hon. Claude GeorgeM'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)

very great importance. It made a very great change in the present system of recording votes, and the House had had really no explanation of its provisions from any of its supporters. He himself was very much in favour of anything which would give the persons concerned an opportunity of recording their votes, and he thought that every effort should be made to secure that result. But was there any practical machinery in the Bill to effect that object? That was what the supporters of the Bill should have explained to the House. After the experience the blouse had had with reference to franchise Bills it had a right to demand to know the views of the Government. As there was no sign of any representative of the Government intending to address the House, he would move, "That the debate be now adjourned."


, being of opinion that the motion was an abuse of the rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the House.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

The House divided:—Ayes, 150; Noes, 47. (Division List No. 120.)

Majendie, James A. H.Penn, JohnSoames, Arthur Wellesley
Malcolm, IanPlummer, Walter R.Spear, John Ward
Manners, Lord CecilPretyman, Ernest GeorgeSturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Markham, Arthur BasilRandles, John S.Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.Ratcliffe, R. F.Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)Reddy, M.Thornton, Percy M.
Moon, Edward Robert PacyRedmond, William (Clare)Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Mooney, John J.Remnant, James FarquharsonValentia, Viscount
Morgan, David J. (Waltham'w)Richards, Henry CharlesWarde, Lieut.-Col. C. E.
Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.Rigg, RichardWarner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)Warr, Augustus Frederick
Mount, William ArthurRobertson, Herbert (HackneyWason, John C. (Orkney)
Murphy, J.Roe, Sir ThomasWhite, Patrick (Meath, N.)
Nannetti, Joseph P.Rolleston, Sir John F. L.Willox, Sir John Archibald
Newdigate, Francis AlexanderRoyds, Clement MolyneuxWilson, A. S. (York, E. R.)
Nicholson, William GrahamSackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk, Mid.
Nicol, Donald NinianSeely, Charles Hilton (LincolnWodehouse, Hon. A. (Essex)
Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)Seton-Karr, HenryWyndham, Rt. Hon. George
O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (RenfrewYoung, Commander (Berks, E.
O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.Shipman, Dr. John G.TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
O'Malley, WilliamSkewes-Cox, ThomasSir John Colomb and Mr. Price.
Pemberton, John S. G.Smith, H C (North'mb, Tyneside


Anson, Sir William ReynellGodson, Sir Augustus Fredk.Purvis, Robert
Arkwright, John StanhopeGoschen, Hn. Geo. JoachimRidley, Hn. M. W. Stalybridge)
Ashton, Thomas GairGreene, Henry D. (ShrewsburyRitchie, Rt. Fin. (Chas. Thomson
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzroyGrenfell, William HenryRoberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Balfour, Rt Hon. G. W. (LeedsGreville, Hon. RonaldStanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Bathurst, Hon. Allen BenjaminGuthrie, Walter MurraySullivan, Donal
Blundell, Colonel HenryHouldsworth, Sir Wm. HenryTrevelyan, Charles Philips
Bond, EdwardJefferys, Arthur FrederickVincent, Col. Sir C E H (Sheffield
Bullard, Sir HarryKenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (SalopWelby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts)
Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)Lyttelton, Hon. AlfredWhittaker, Thomas Palmer
Collings, Rt. Hon. JesseMiddlemore, J. ThrogmortonWilliams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Compton, Lord AlwyneMore, Rbt. Jas. (Shropshire)Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Cremer William RandalMurray, Rt Hn A Graham (ButeWodehouse, Rt. Hn. E R. (Bath)
Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Dunn, Sir WilliamO'Neill, Hon. Robert. TorrensTELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Durning-Lawrence, Sir EdwinPlatt Higgins FrederickMr. Banbury and Mr. Parker Smith.
Fletcher, Sir HenryPowell, Sir Francis Sharp

Bill read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, etc."—( Sir John Colomb.)

said he would again protest against a Bill which had conic before the House by accident, and which had not been adequately discussed, being sent to a Grand Committee. The majority of the Members of the House had had no opportunity of examining the provisions of the proposed measure, and he could only say that it was an abuse of the forms of the House to send such a Bill upstairs. The Grand Committees were principally intended for measures that had been thoroughly discussed on their Second Reading. The measure before the House was of great importance and ought to be thoroughly discussed, and he protested against the forms of the House being abused by sending a Bill under such circumstances to the Grand Committee on Law.


I hope the House will not send this Bill to a Grand Committee. It is quite true, as my hon. friend has just said, that this Bill is of very considerable importance. I do not propose to discuss any of its provisions, but I may be allowed to point out that it is a Bill which does undoubtedly belong to the category of Reform Bills, because it practically enfranchises—not so many people as some would imagine—but still a certain number of persons, while it leaves alone a very large number of persons who are equally entitled to the franchise. The Bill has not been adequately discussed on Second Reading, and I think it would be rather a blow at the principle of sending Bills to the Grand Committees, if a Bill of this great importance, after having been spoken to for an exceedingly short time, should be taken out of the hands of the House. I am quite sure the House would do wrong by sending a Bill which has not been at all adequately discussed to a Grand Committee, and I hope therefore it will not consent to the motion.


Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.Gretton, JohnMurphy, J.
Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud)Griffith, Ellis J.Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Ambrose, RobertHarris, F. Leverton (Tynem'uthNicol, Donald Ninian
Anstruther, H. T.Hay, Hon. Claude GeorgeNolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Archdale, Edward MervynHayden, John PatrickO'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ry Mid
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir EllisHelme, Norval WatsonO'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)Higginbottom, S. W.O'Malley, William
Boland, JohnHorniman, Frederick JohnRandles, John S.
Broadhurst, HenryJones, William (Carnarvonsh.Ready, M.
Bull, William JamesJoyce, MichaelRedmond, William (Clare)
Burke, E. Haviland-Lee, Arthur H (Hants., Fareh'mRoe, Sir Thomas
Caldwell, JamesLeveson-Gower, Fred. N. S.Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Cogan, Denis J.Levy, MauriceShaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Condon, Thomas JosephLough, ThomasShipman, Dr. John G.
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)Lucas, Col. Francis (LowestoftSmith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)Lundon, W.Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Craig, Robert HunterMacartney, Rt Hn. W. G. Ellis'nVincent, Col. Sir C E H (Sheffield
Cullinan, JMacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Delany, WilliamMaconochie, A. W.Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney
Doogan, P. C.M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Duffy, William J.M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)Willox, Sir John Archibald
Ffrench, PeterMajendie, James A. H.Wodehouse, Hn. Armine (Essex
Flavin, Michael JosephMarkham, Arthur BasilYoung, Commander (Berks, E.)
Fuller, J. M. F.Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Gordon, Maj. E.- (T'wer H'ml'tsMorgan, Dav. J (WalthamstowSir John Colomb and Mr. Price.
Gray, Ernest (West Ham)Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.


Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & NairnPlatt-Higgins, Frederick
Anson, Sir William ReynellGoschen, Hon. George JoachimPowell, Sir Francis Sharp
Arkwright, John StanhopeGreene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'ndsPretyman, Ernest George
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. JohnGreene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)Purvis, Robert
Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz RoyGrenfell, William HenryRatcliffe, R. F.
Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)Greville, Hon. RonaldRichards, Henry Charles
Banbury, Frederick GeorgeGroves, James GrimbleRidley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.Guthrie Walter MurrayRigg, Richard
Bignold, ArthurHayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Blundell, Colonel HenryHenderson, AlexanderRoberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Bond, EdwardHope, J. F (Sheffield, BrightsideRoberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-Houldsworth, Sir Wm. HenryRobertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Bullard, Sir HarryHoward, Capt J (Kent, Faversh)Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Butcher, John GeorgeKenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (SalopSeely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)
Cautley, Henry StrotherKnowles, LeesSmith, James Parker (Lanarks.
Cavendish, V C W (Derbyshire)Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)Lawson, John GrantSpear, John Ward
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)Legge, Col. Hon. HeneageStanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'rLeigh-Bennett, Henry CurrieSturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Chapman, EdwardLowe, Francis WilliamSullivan, Donal
Collings, Rt. Hon. JesseLoyd, Archie KirkmanTalbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cremer, William RandalLucas, Reginald J. (PortsmouthThornton, Percy M.
Dalrymple, Sir CharlesLyttelton, Hon. AlfredTomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)Malcolm, IanTrevelyan, Charles Philips
Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-Manners, Lord CecilValentia, Viscount
Dimsdale, Sir Joseph CockfieldMolesworth, Sir LewisWarde, Lt.-Col. C. E.
Dunn, Sir WilliamMontagu, G. (Huntingdon)Welby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts.)
Durning-Lawrence, Sir EdwinMoon, Edward Robert PacyWhittaker, Thomas Palmer
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn EdwardMore, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Finlay, Sir Robert BannatyneMorton, Arthur H. A (Deptford)Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.
Fisher, William HayesMurray, Rt Hn A Graham (ButeWodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Fitzroy, Hon. Edwd. AlgernonMurray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Fletcher, Sir HenryNicholson, William Graham
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)O'Neill, Hon. Robert TorrensTELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Goddard, Daniel FordPemberton, John S. G.Mr. Jeffreys and Lord Alwyne Compton.
Godson, Sir Augustus FrederickPenn, John

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Thursday, 18th April.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 75; Noes, 104. (Division List No. 121.)

House adjourned at five minutes after Twelve of the clock.