HC Deb 15 May 1828 vol 19 cc728-31

—Colonel Davies moved the further consideration of the Report of this Bill.

Mr. Jones

thought the clause was particularly objectionable, which curtailed the period of voting from fifteen days to six, because it affected the rights of the electors. Besides, there would be a great difficulty in identifying the voters at the different booths. The provision, which empowered the returning officer to close the poll on any day when two hundred voters had not polled, intrusted too great a power to such persons. He trusted the hon. gentleman would delay his measure till another session.

Colonel Davies

was persuaded that six days would be sufficient to answer all the purposes of borough elections, and would persist in his motion.

Lord Lowther

was anxious to facilitate the taking of polls at elections, but thought that the present bill would, in most cases, have the effect of limiting the elections to two days, and was, in its general tendency, injurious.

Mr. Baring

thought the bill calculated to produce entire confusion in the proceedings at elections. It gave great power to returning officers, a class of persons who ought not to be intrusted with much power; and the plan of dividing counties into different districts would add greatly to the expense, by obliging the candidate to have confidential agents in every district. He objected to the limitation of the poll to six days, which, he contended was not a sufficient time, and thought that, in many contested elections, it would often be impossible to poll two hundred voters in a day.

Mr. Ross

stated several clauses in the bill which he considered objectionable, and would render it inoperative. He concluded by moving, as an amendment, that the report be taken into further consideration on that day six months.

Mr. Bernal

said, that the bill required pruning with no sparing hand, several of its clauses were too obnoxious to be carried into effect.

Mr. North

considered it desirable that a bill similar in principle to the present should be introduced in Ireland, where it was even more necessary than in this country.

Mr. Bright

objected to the bill, as it contained such exceptionable minutiæ that he believed it was unwise to attempt to amend it. For these reasons, he was for getting rid of the bill for this session.

Mr. R. Gordon

said, that whilst others found fault with the bill for doing too much, he was opposed to it because it did too little. Although he approved of the principle of the bill, he thought it inefficient, and should support the amendment.

Mr. D. W. Harvey

thought this bill was a very fair exemplification of the difficulty so generally experienced in attempting to make a measure palatable to every one. The bill certainly was good in principle, though ill-shaped and defective in its application. It destroyed also the responsibility of the returning officer, who was too often a partisan at elections. If it passed, its effect would be to render it absolutely necessary to bring down all the metropolitan freeholders and voters in the first instance, even from the most distant parts of the kingdom; which would prove enormously and often very needlessly expensive.

Mr. Sykes

hardly knew whether the hon. mover of this bill had been treated worse by his friends or his foes. He admitted that the bill ought to be simplified. With that view he hoped leave would be given by the House to his gallant friend to recommit it.

Mr. Wynn

approved of the provisions of the bill, so far as they related to em- powering the voting officer to remove the poll to more convenient places, if necessary, and limiting the duration of the polls in small boroughs. He did not feel the weight of the objections which had been urged against the measure.

Mr. Robinson

felt the objection as to limiting the polling days to six, so strong, that he would vote for the amendment, although friendly to the general principle of the bill.

Sir J. Newport

believed the evil intended to be redressed by this bill was inherent in the system, and not to be reached by any thing short of a positive enactment to prevent the rights of the actual resident freeholders and persons having property in the county or city from being invaded and rendered valueless by the out-voters at elections. That corrupt influence was generally more easily discernible in that class of voters, no person, who had experienced the consequences of a contested election, would deny. He would confine the right of voting in boroughs to persons either residing or having property within them, for, without some such enactment, it would be impossible to have any security against corruption.

The House divided: For the amendment 20; Against it 23; Majority 3. On the question, that the bill be now recommitted,

The Attorney-general

said, he could not give his consent to a bill which was at once egregious injustice and egregious absurdity. He then entered into a minute investigation of its clauses, for the purpose of showing that it was calculated not only to multiply the expense, but to increase the confusion of elections.

Mr. Wynn

objected to the course taken by the opponents of the bill; which, to say the least of it, was most unusual. After an amendment had been negatived for deferring the consideration of a bill to that day six months, it was not very usual to call upon the House, within ten minutes afterwards, to reconsider its determination. He expressed himself favourable to the principle of the bill.

Lord Lowther

objected to the bill entirely.

Mr. Ross

defended the conduct of the Attorney-general. Surely hon. members were not bound to let this bill go into another committee, if the only object of the gallant officer was to alter the bill in such a manner as to make an entirely new bill of it.

Colonel Davies

entreated the House to let the bill go into a committee. Hon. gentlemen did not so much object to the principle of the bill as to its clauses.

The House resolved itself into a committee. After some discussion, finding it difficult to proceed with so few members in the House, colonel Davies moved that the chairman should report progress, and ask leave to sit again; which was assented to.