HC Deb 01 April 1830 vol 23 cc1125-7
Lord J. Russell

brought up the Report of the Committee on this Bill.

On the Question that the Report be agreed to,

Mr. Hume moved as an Amendment, that every rate-payer assessed at 15l. should have a vote. The Bill, as it then stood, made 30l. the minimum, and contrary to the principles of Mr. Sturges Bourne's Bill, by that regulation more than one half of the inhabitants of the populous Parishes of St. Giles and St. George were actually disfranchised, though they paid a rental of 30,000l. per annum; and he saw no reason why they should be so. He should like to hear on what principles the noble Lord who brought up the report, and who was an advocate of reform so far as the elective franchise was concerned, could justify the regulation by which so large a number of rate-payers should be deprived of their vote at Parish Vestries?

Mr. Hobhouse

begged leave to second This is Mr. Littleton's Hill, and it WAS suffered to be brought in without the Debate on the subject, which stood adjorned to this day, having been resumed. The Motion for leave to bring it in was assented to without any division. —See ante p. 461 the Amendment, on the ground advanced by his hon. friend, and because he knew that the Parish would never be pacified till the right of voting at Vestry was extended to the majority of the ratepayers. He had presented a petition from those assessed under 30l. who would be disfranchised by the present Bill, which was signed by 2,000 inhabitants, and he conceived that they would be very hardly treated unless the Amendment were adopted; the rather, as it was more than probable that the Committee, of which he had the honour of being chairman, would propose a general measure of reform of Select-Vestries.

Sir T. Fremantle

could not agree with the hon. Members, as the measure in all its bearings had been thoroughly discussed in the committee above stairs. He trusted that the House would refuse to alter the rate fixed upon by that committee. In another part of the Bill it was arranged, that where houses were rated under 30l. the landlord, and not the tenant, should be rated; and he, therefore, thought it objectionable that, in favour of these persons, the rate, as now fixed, should be lowered.

Sir R. Wilson

objected to the principle of the rate fixed by the Bill, as it was an undue attempt to do away with the franchise of a large body of inhabitants. The Select Vestry Committee was to make a Report that night, and he therefore looked upon the present attempt to pass this peculiar Bill, before the general Report was brought up, as an attempt to take an unfair advantage of the ignorance of the House. He was so opposed to the Bill, that he should propose, in the event of his hon. friend's Amendment not being successful, that the Bill should be read that day six months. The Bill was one of so aristocratic and unjust a nature to the poorer rate-payers, that he trusted the House would not sanction it.

Mr. Ward

would vote for the Bill as it stood, confident that its principles were the most advantageous to the parishes at large. The Bill, at present, was absolutely necessary, because, as the affairs of the parish stood, no rates could be raised to pay the poor, and he believed it to be well calculated also to meet the differences that had so long existed in the parish.

Lord J. Russell

said, that there had never been an Elective Vestry in these parishes, and therefore the present Bill was a great improvement on what existed before. He could not adopt the recommendation of the hon. member for Mont-rose, because the question of disfranchisement was, even according to his Amendment, merely one of degree. It was true, that by making 30l. the minimum rate of voting, many rate-payers would be deprived of the right of voting; but it was equally true that the same objection would exist if 15l. were made the minimum. If his own feeling had been consulted, he should perhaps have fixed upon a lower rate than 30l., though not so low as that proposed by the hon. member for Montrose; but the question had undergone great debate in the Committee, and 30l. was the rate fixed upon by that body; and as Chairman of the Committee, he looked upon himself as bound by that decision.

The House then divided on the Amendment. For it 23; Against it 57;—Majority in favour of the original Bill 34;

Mr. Hume moved that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.

Mr. Hobhouse

begged leave to suggest to his hon. friend, that as the House would appear to be against the Bill, it might be as well to withdraw his Amendment, and propose another, by which every ratepayer should have but one vote. By the Bill, as it. stood, the payer of 30/. had one vote, he of 60l. two votes, and so on, to four votes; while, according to Mr. S. Bourne's Bill, no elector should have more than one vote when there was a minimum rate. Such a regulation would in some degree compensate for depriving 1,856 individuals—the number under 30l. assessed—of their vote.

Mr. Hume

would adopt the suggestion of his hon. friend, and would propose that no voter, be his rate what it might, should have more than one vote under the present Bill.

The Gallery was cleared for a division.

During the absence of strangers from the gallery three divisions took place, the first on the question that 30l. be the sum which gave a vote, carried in the affirmative, Ayes 63; Noes 21; the second, on an Amendment that no Voter should have more than three votes, which passed in the negative; and a third, that, the Bill be re-committed, for which there appeared —38 Ayes, and 86 Noes—Majorityagainst the re-committal 48.

The Bill ordered to be engrossed and read a third time to-morrow.

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