HC Deb 11 February 1832 vol 10 cc229-32
Lord Althorp

said, as the Committee were now enabled to proceed with the 56th Clause, which provided for the payment of Barristers appointed to revise the list of voters by the Treasury, he had to move, that the Resolution of the Committee of Supply, that they be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, be agreed to.

Mr. Hume

said, he was afraid the clause would lead to unlimited expense. If five guineas a day wire allowed, without any restriction of the Barrister being actu- ally employed, the expense would be immense. He, therefore, begged to suggest as the employment seemed likely to be nearly constant, that three guineas a day was a sufficient remuneration, or they might have regular salaries as was the system in Ireland, in which case 200l. a-year would be sufficient. But a better plan than either of these would be, to require the voters to pay a small fee on registration. Whichever way was taken he was quite satisfied the clause could not remain as it was. The words in the clause were "That every Barrister appointed to revise any lists of voters under this Act shall be paid at the rate of five guineas for every day that he shall be so employed, over and above his travelling and other expenses; and every such Barrister, after the termination of his last sitting, shall lay, or cause to be laid, before the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury for the time being a statement of the number of days daring which he shall have been so employed, and an account of his travelling and other expenses incurred by him in respect of such employment." They had a sufficient example in not naming a limit to expenses of this sort, when they remembered the cases of the Charity Commissioners, whose expenses for their table alone amounted to two or three guineas a day. He objected in toto to the expense being borne by the public, it certainly ought to be defrayed by those individuals who were to receive the benefit of the regulation.

Mr. John Wood

said, the Gentlemen appointed could only actually be employed for a short time during each year, and therefore, it would hardly be fair to say that they should only be paid for the days they really set in their respective Courts. He apprehended no Barrister would accept the situation on such terms.

Colonel Davies

considered that the sum of five guineas a day, as a remuneration, was too much. He would engage to supply 500 Banisters at two guineas per day. If it was decided that they must be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, there should be some document required to prove the number of days they had actually been employed.

Mr. Croker

objected to the payment being made out of the Consolidated Fund. He thought, in justice that those persons who desired to exersise their franchise under the Bill ought to pay the expenses of its working; and he, therefore, approved of the suggestion of the hon. member for Middlesex, that persons should pay a fee on registration. With regard to the amount of the remuneration of Barristers, he was of opinion five guineas a-day was not too much.

Lord Althorp

said, that the argument urged by hon. Members upon a former occasion was the inadequacy of five guineas as a compensation. Now it was said that the sum was too great. He, however, was of opinion that five guineas was a moderate sum, and that it would not be fair to the Gentlemen of the legal profession to grind them down to two guineas. With reference to the other suggestion—of making voters pay a fee for registration, he objected to it on the ground that, in many instances, it would prevent persons from exercising their franchise.

Mr. Hunt

said, if Barristers were selected at the discretion of the Judges, the public might have to pay travelling expenses for these Gentlemen from London to Cornwall or Cumberland, when there were persons of the same profession residing on the spot, fully competent to perform the duties required. He objected to the whole system of payment proposed by the clause. It might be right to tax the new constituency, who were to receive a benefit under the Bill, but it was not just to make those pay who received no advantage.

Mr. Hume

understood that there would be nearly 96,000 voters in the new metropolitan districts. If each of these paid only 1s. on being registered, the sum would amount to 4,800l. which sum would more than pay all the expenses required, if they were properly looked into.

Mr. Benett

thought it unwise to attempt to make the electors pay a tax, and therefore, he approved of the plan proposed by the clause, and the sum of five guineas a-day, he considered, was not too much for the Barrister employed.

Lord Granville Somerset

protested against the employment of any local resident Barrister, and he was sure no Judge ought to appoint one, if he desired to have the duties performed impartially.

Lord Milton

observed that the franchise was conferred upon a certain class, for the benefit of the public generally; therefore, the public purse ought to defray the charges of registration. He approved both of the amount of the remuneration, and the manner of its payment.

Mr. Croker

thought that the noble Lord had drawn a distinction which would not hold good on examination. The object of making each elector pay was, that there should be a direct superintendence exercised over the expenditure, which would not be had if Government paid the charges. It was not wished to make the voters pay for the elective franchise, but they ought to be charged with the expense of the machinery by which it was said they would be saved very considerable trouble. If the charge was local every man would be interested in superintending the expenditure. If the expenses were to be defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund, the outlay for registration would be beyond measure greater than if there was a local superintendence. He begged to tell the noble Lord, from his own experience, that the expenses of registration would be much greater than he seemed to anticipate. On every account, he wished to give the voters a control over the expenditure of the elections, and they would take care that the funds were not lavished. To do this it was obvious that there must be a local rate.

Lord Althorp

said, they had adopted the present method of payment on a full consideration of all the circumstances, and he had no doubt the Treasury would be able to exercise a control over the payments.

Mr. Hume

protested against 1s. being taken from the public-purse for defraying the expenses of travelling Barristers. He was quite sure, from what he knew of Treasury control, that very unnecessary expenses would be incurred.

Sir Edward Sugden

said, all these difficulties arose from the complicated nature of the machinery adopted. He felt confident that the expense of carrying this part of the Bill into effect would be greater than was imagined.

Mr. Hunt

said, the constituent body created by the Bill would not amount to one million, while there were eight times that number of adults who contributed to the taxes. He, therefore, declared it was most unjust to call upon all those unrepresented to contribute their share for a purpose from which they were to derive no benefit.

Resolution agreed to.