HC Deb 07 September 1831 vol 6 cc1223-9
Lord Althorp

moved the Order of the Day for the House resolving itself into a Committee on the Reform of Parliament (England) Bill.

The Speaker having left the Chair,

Lord Althorp

moved a clause to the effect that the Barristers employed in deciding on the claims of voters be paid at the rate of 5l. per day, over and above their travelling expenses, for every day during which they should be so employed, and that before the last day of their sitting, they should make out an account of the time they had been employed and the expenses incurred.

Mr. John Campbell

said, that pounds were wholly unknown in Westminster Hall. He thought the alteration from guineas to pounds would excite an insurrection amongst all the members of the Bar; he therefore begged to substitute the word "guineas."

Lord Althorp

said, that he had proposed pounds because the present gold coin was a sovereign, but, as the prejudice was so very strong in favour of guineas, he had no objection to the alteration.

An Hon. Member

said, that if guineas, had not been already abolished in Westminster Hall, it was high time that they now were, he knew no more appropriate time at which to commence that alteration than with the Reform Bill.

Clause agreed to, "five guineas" having been inserted instead of "pounds."

Lord Granville Somerset

then rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice, that a new district of boroughs be formed in the county of Monmouth, for the purpose of sending one Representative to Parliament. He considered that the county of Monmouth had a fair claim to an addition to the number of Members representing it, on various grounds. The district of towns, of which Monmouth was the centre, contained a large population, and was extensively engaged in the coal and iron trade. New port, except Sunderland and Newcastle exported more coal than any port of the Empire. The county of Monmouth was not sufficiently represented by this Bill. Taking the population of three northern counties, with which Members of the Cabinet were connected—the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Durham—he found that there was one Member to every 19,400 persons; but taking the population of the three counties of Monmouth, Glamorganshire, and Brecknockshire, the proportion was only one Member to every 24,000 inhabitants. He found, too, that in Durham there was one Member, for every 3,074l. paid of assessed taxes, whereas in Monmouth there was only one for every 4,971l.; similar proportions held good as to the other counties he had contrasted. The three counties, the cause of which he advocated therefore, were under-represented. Taking the whole number of Members, both for the boroughs and the counties, he found that Durham would have one Member for every 12,000 persons; Northumberland one for every 10,430; and Cumberland one for every 10,134; while in Monmouth the proportion was nothing like so favourable. He proposed, to remedy this glaring partiality, that two new districts of boroughs should be created in Monmouthshire, one to consist of Newport, Abergavenny, and Pontypool, and the other of the towns of Monmouth, Chepstow, and Usk. The latter would have a constituency of 600 10l. householders, which was considerably more than some of the new boroughs which were to send one Member. Taking into consideration the other principle referred to in the course of the discussions on the Bill—namely, the amount of contribution to the assessed taxes, he found that the district of boroughs which he proposed should send one Member contributed 3,303l. per annum to the assessed taxes, whilst many of the new boroughs which were to send one Member, contributed under 2,000l. per annum. With regard to population, to constituency, and to the amount of contribution to assessed taxes, Monmouthshire was under represented. He thought it is duty to bring this case under the consideration of his Majesty's Ministers; and as it was the last application of this kind that would probably be brought forward, he hoped his Majesty's Ministers would not feel it necessary to give it that stern opposition which they had given to similar propositions in the earlier stages of the Reform Bill. He would on that occasion propose to form one district, and if he succeeded he would then move to constitute a second district of boroughs. The noble Lord concluded by moving, that the towns of Monmouth, Chepstow, and Usk, should be considered as one borough, and return one Member, and that the Mayor of Monmouth should be the returning officer.

Lord John Russell

rose to oppose the Motion. In arranging this system of Representation, his Majesty's Ministers did not affect to have settled the just proportion between the population and the number of Members in every case, though the population altogether was more fairly and equally represented than before. If an addition was made to the Representation, he could assure the noble Lord that greater irregularities might be pointed out than that of Monmouth. Monmouth had a proportion of one Member to 23,000 or 24,000 persons, whilst Derbyshire had only one Member to 35,000 souls, and Lancashire only one Member to every 47,000 or 48,000 persons. Again, Carnarvon and Denbigh had only two Members, whilst Monmouth had three. If his Majesty's Government were inclined to increase the total number of Members, therefore, he could not admit that Monmouth would be entitled to an addition. Under all the circumstances, he felt himself bound to vote against the Motion.

Lord Granville Somerset

said, when he looked into the Bill, and at the proportion he had already established, as to the relative Members and population of the different counties, he thought it was impossible to deny that an advantage was given to those counties in which the Cabinet Ministers had influence.

Lord John Russell

said, that charge certainly could not be made out, Lancashire and Yorkshire were very ill treated and yet members of the Cabinet were connected with these counties. Bedford had the largest population of any English county left with only two Members, which he thought a fortunate circumstance, but it was said, why leave Aberdeen and Perth with one Member while Bedford had two? so that Ministers were taunted with the ancient anomalies of the system of Representation, which their measure went partly to correct. Their opponents condemned them both for going too far, and for not going far enough.

Motion negatived without a division.

Lord Granville Somerset

in order to put his opinions upon record would also pro- pose that Abergavenny, Newport and, Pontypool should be formed into a borough and return one Member.

Motion negatived without a division.

Lord Granville Somerset

then moved that the two districts, included in the preceding motions, comprehending the towns of Abergavenny, Monmouth, Chepstow, Newport, Usk, and Pontypool, should be formed into one borough, and return two Members.

Motion negatived without observation.

Mr. Hunt

moved, that "The Sessional Order relating to the interference of Peers in elections" should be read. The hon. Member then said, there could be no hon. Member ignorant that the Order was constantly violated, and that it was a mere nullity; Peers constantly interfered in elections of all sorts throughout the country. There was the recent case of the Marquis of Salisbury turning his tenants out because they had not voted to please him. The Duke of Newcastle and Marquis of Exeter had done the same; indeed, the Resolution appeared to be thought so little of in practice, that in the late case of the Marquis of Anglesey it was carried by a large majority of the House, that it was in effect justifiable. He desired to confine the Crown within its prerogatives, and the peerage within their privileges, which were quite large enough, and if they knew their own interest they would be content without interfering with the privileges of the Commons. He therefore begged leave to move, "that from and after the 31st day of December, 1831, if any Lord of Parliament, or other Peer or Prelate, shall be guilty of the crime of interfering, either directly or indirectly, in the election of any Member to sit and serve in the Commons' House of Parliament, such Peer shall, for such unlawful interference, be adjudged, upon conviction, to pay a fine to the State of 10,000l., and be imprisoned in the Tower for the space of one year; and if any Peer be convicted a second time of a similar crime, he shall be adjudged to pay a fine to the State of 20,000l., and be imprisoned in his Majesty's gaol of Newgate for the space of two years; and if any Peer shall be convicted a third time of a similar crime, such Peer shall be degraded from the peerage, his title shall become extinct, and the culprit shall be transported beyond the seas for his natural life." Hon. Members might think that the word "culprit," which he had employed, was too harsh, but he considered that he was justified in fastening it upon the man who had been convicted of an offence three times. He recommended hon. Gentlemen to look at the penalties attached to poaching, and he thought there was no comparison in the nature of the offence.

On the question that the clause be brought up,

Lord John Russell

said, there was no law or resolution of the House which could prevent the indirect interference of Peers at contested elections—that the clause proposed was more monstrous and unjust than any resolution that had ever before been submitted to the consideration of the House; and was, besides, totally different from the resolution which had been read by Mr. Speaker at the beginning of the Session. He should, therefore, have no hesitation in negativing the hon. Member's Motion that it be brought up.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, he should take the present opportunity to complain of a contemptuous report of a speech of his in the Committee yesterday, which had appeared in one of the morning newspapers of that day. The report to which he alluded was interspersed with laughter, and other expressions of derision, which he flatly denied had been used. He considered he had the more reason to complain, as this report had been inserted in a journal of the highest respectability—he meant The Times—and it was, therefore, only an act of duty to the House and to himself to contradict so gross and unwarrantable a statement.

Mr. Hudson Gurney

must say, that the dignity of the House would necessarily be lowered by the truckling spirit which they had latterly exhibited towards the daily press, which for some time past had habitually been publishing lists of the Members who were absent, as well as of those who were present, specifying who voted one way, and who voted another; and, in short, now exercised a degree of despotism incompatible with the independence of Members and the privileges of Parliament.

Mr. Cresset Pelham,

in reference to the question immediately before the House, thought, that if a case of interference should be clearly proved, the resolution already on the Journals would be quite sufficient to meet it. The hon. member for Preston had made statements with regard to the interference of Peers which, if proved at the bar of the House, would vitiate the return. He had been a member of a Committee, of which the late Mr. Fox had been Chairman, before which it was admitted, that Lord Mulgrave had written a letter in favour of one of the candidates, and he was held justified in doing so, because that gentleman was his relative.

Sir Edward Sugden

complained of the jealous and hostile disposition which had been latterly manifested towards the peerage, and of the desire to subvert the just privileges to which they were entitled by the letter and spirit of the Constitution. This feeling assumed different forms, sometimes appearing in the shape of threats, and sometimes under the guise of "friendly advice," but exhibited the self-same enmity take what colour it might.

Lord John Russell

disclaimed having perceived any such symptoms as the hon. and learned Gentleman professed to have discovered.

Mr. Hume

insisted, that bad as the proceedings of that House had unquestionably been for a long series of years, they would have proved much worse but for the salutary control and unwearied vigilance of the public press, to which, in his opinion, they could never be sufficiently thankful. It was most desirable that the mode in which Members voted should be accurately made known to their constituents, and the system by which that was so well accomplished he trusted would never be departed from.

Mr. Hunt

briefly replied. He had always considered the influence of Peers at elections one of the greatest evils in the system of Representation, and it would not be effectually eradicated by the Reform Bill. He had not brought on his Motion with any intention to give offence, but to support a just and recognized principle.

Motion negatived without a division.

The preamble read by the Chairman.

Mr. Cressett Pelham

said, the preamble ought to have alluded to the overthrow of vested rights which had hitherto been held sacred.

Preamble agreed to.

Lord John Russell

moved, that the Chairman do report the Bill, with its Amendments, to the House.—Motion carried with loud cheers. The House resumed.

Mr. Bernal

brought up the report, which was received, ordered to be printed, and to be taken into further consideration on the ensuing Tuesday.

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