HC Deb 08 June 1832 vol 13 cc555-60

The House went into Committee on this Bill. Clauses A, B, C, D, E, and F, and Schedules L, M, N, and O were agreed to, with some verbal Amendments.

On the Question concerning the Borough of Arundel,

Lord Dudley Stuart

rose to object to the arrangement which the Commissioners had made with respect to Arundel. It was firmly believed in that borough, and also in the county of Sussex generally, that the whole arrangement had been made for the purpose of placing the borough under the dictation of the Duke of Norfolk. Although he knew nothing of that noble individual beyond his general character, and could not boast the honour of more than the slightest possible acquaintance with him, yet he could not believe that he would have employed any intrigues to obtain one arrangement under this Bill rather than another, with a view to his own political interests; nor, on the other hand, could he suppose that, had such an attempt been made, it would have been suffered by Ministers to influence them in the slightest degree. But though he distinctly disclaimed all participation in this belief, the Committee would not be surprised that such an impression should be made, when he stated the facts that had given rise to it. The Commissioners, instead of adopting the obvious course of taking in the parishes immediately adjoining Arundel, only took in one of the parishes next to the borough, and then went on and took part of the parish beyond that. In this parish the town of Little Hampton was situated. The part of the parish left out did not belong to the Duke of Norfolk, it lay on the opposite side of the river from the bulk of the parish, which was, he supposed, the reason for leaving it out. It only comprehended about 120 acres, and there was only one house upon it, but there might be more houses upon it; and when Tamworth, which had 325 10l. houses, only occupied eighty-three acres, it could not be contended that it was an insignificant portion of land. He objected to the union of Little Hampton to Arundel, on the ground that, so far from being united in interest, the greatest rivalry and jealousy prevailed between them: they had natural causes of rivalry, which had hitherto always produced, and were such as to perpetuate and jealousy; and whatever of advantage accrued to the one was sure to be felt as a detriment to the other. The only reason that he had heard given for joining them was, that Little Hampton was the port of Arundel; that was a mistake, they were two separate ports. The vessels belonging to Arundel sailed up to the town of Arundel, and discharged their cargoes at the wharfs there. Little Hampton was a harbour of the port of Arundel, but that was no reason for uniting it to Arundel for the purpose of electing a Member to Parliament. If it were, Brixham ought to be joined to Dartmouth, from which it was not further than Little Hampton from Arundel. The port of Bridport, which was referred to last night, would, in like manner, be joined to the town of that name, as they were only one mile asunder; while between Little Hampton and Arundel the distance was four miles. The inhabitants of Arundel were extremely averse to the annexation of Little Hampton, and those of Little Hampton were no less reluctant to be so joined. In fact, the interests of Little Hampton were sure to be better looked after if left in the hands of the county Members, in the election of whom it had great weight. Ministers had recognized the principle, that towns entertaining feelings of rivalship and dislike towards each other ought not to be united; upon their authority, therefore, he contended, that Arundel should not have Little Hampton added to it. He contended, too, that it ought to be left without any addition, for it contained 320 10l. tenements; the Commissioners reported only 254: but a very careful investigation had been made by a number of most respectable persons, inhabitants of the borough, and they were ready to prove, that there were 320. He called upon his Majesty's Ministers to afford them an opportunity of proving that; let them appoint persons to investigate the matter—let them hear evidence at the bar of this House—let them grant Select Committee to inquire into the fact—let them, at least, some way or other give to the inhabitants of Arundel the opportunity of proving the truth of their assertions. Supposing that Arundel had only 254 10l. tenements, still no addition ought to be made to it. So far from it being insisted on, in all cases, that every borough should have a constituency a 300 10l. houses, there were no less than nine left with a number interior to that Maldon (with two Members) had only 260; Marlborough (with two Members), 299; Wilton, 299; Petersfield, 298; Rye 294; Northallerton, 294; Reigate, 276 Thetford (with two Members), 203; Wareham, 168. It had not been thought necessary to make such additions to times boroughs as should raise the number o their 10l. tenements to 300; and to Thetford no addition whatever had been made, although its qualifying tenements amount only to 203. Why, then, if Thetford was thought worthy to send two Members to Parliament, with a constituency of 203, and Wareham to send one with only 168, why must Arundel have 300 in order to return one Member? Arundel possessed now a constituency of 463, and it was probable that, long before any considerable number of the scot-and-lot voters should have dropped off, the number of 10l. voters would have increased. The place was flourishing; it had a considerable trade; it possessed a cattle and a corn market; it was a sea-port, situated on the most important river between the Thames and the Tamur; its population and its houses were increasing—and, compared in these particulars with the boroughs allowed to remain, with a constituency less than 300, the comparison would be found highly favourable to Arundel. Taking all these considerations into account, and seeing that Arundel possessed now, and was likely always to have a constituency considerably more than 300, it appeared to him that it ought to be suffered to retain its present limits without alteration. He called, therefore, upon Ministers to abandon their proposed plan a plan likely to be beneficial to no one—not to Arundel, not to Little Hampton, not to the county, which it would deprive of many votes—not to the noble individual possessing property in the neighbourhood since, however unmerited, it threw obloquy upon him—not to Ministers, since it was calculated to affect them in a similar way, and even to throw discredit on the Reform bill itself. Feeling the impropriety and injustice of the plan, he would move that all the words after Arundel be left out.

Lord John Russell

said, that the gentlemen who went to Arundel were as competent to decide upon questions of this kind as any persons in the kingdom; but it was natural enough that persons interested should complain of their recommendation to add Little Hampton to the borough, and should even cast imputation upon their motives. The noble Lord, indeed, had done himself the credit of disavowing his belief of any such imputations being well founded. The boundary having been proposed by the Commissioners, it went through the same sort of examination which all the boundaries had undergone. It did not appear that there was anything unreasonable or unfair in making these boundaries, but, since the noble Lord and the inhabitants of Arundel had remonstrated upon the subject, he had taken the opinions of persons well acquainted with the county of Sussex, and unconnected with the Duke of Norfolk, upon it; and had been told by them, that, if he wished to make a good constituency for Arundel, be could not do better than adopt the Report of the Commissioners. Generally speaking, it was the small scot-and-lot boroughs which had been most liable to those corrupt elections that had been the disgrace of this country. Without making any charge, therefore, against Arundel, it had been thought a general duty to extend the constituency beyond the borough as the means of preventing or curing such an evil. The noble Lord seemed to think that a very peculiar course had been adopted with regard to this borough. It was true that, in general, the parishes surrounding the borough had been taken; but whenever it was easy, by taking in a small town, to obtain at once a good and sufficient constituency, that natural and obvious course had been adopted. In this way Godmanchester had been added to Huntingdon; and, in some instances, additions of towns had been made to boroughs which had been larger than the boroughs themselves. The noble Lord said, that Little Hampton and Arundel were rivals; but they were not the less connected together; and as Little Hamp- ton at once furnished the constituency wanted, it was taken. The noble Lord further stated, that there was a sufficient number of voters in the borough, and that no addition at all ought to be made to it; by which it appeared, that the people of Arundel were not more moved by dislike of being joined to Little Hampton, than by dislike of having the principles of the Boundary and Reform Bills carried into effect in their borough. The noble Lord said, that there were 300 voters in the borough; but there were many cases in which boroughs having more than that number of voters had been enlarged: so that, even if that number really existed in Arundel, it was not a sufficient reason to prevent this addition being made to it. But he could not think that such was the case, when he looked to the Mayor's letter, and the other documents before the House. According to the Commissioners' Report, there were only 245 houses rated at 5l. He thought, therefore, they were more likely to get a pure constituency by adopting the recommendation of the Commissioners than by acting on that of the noble Lord. It certainly would be an inconvenient course to adopt the recommendation of the noble Lord, and to say that Arundel alone, of all the boroughs of this class, should have no addition made to it. As so much complaint had been made of the four parishes adjoining to Arundel not being taken into that borough, he would move that they be added to it; and, as the noble Lord implied a sort of charge, on account of that part of the parish of Little Hampton which was beyond the river not being taken in, he had no objection that it should be combined as the noble Lord wished.

Mr. Goulburn

recommended, as the noble Lord himself (Lord John Russell) seemed not satisfied with the present arrangement, that the question should be postponed.

Lord John Russell

had no objection.

Question accordingly postponed.

The remaining Clauses of the Bill, with some verbal Amendments, agreed to. The House resumed, and the Report was brought up.

On the question that it be received, [Mr. Bucke objected to two villages being added to Exeter, that city having already a sufficient constituency.]

Lord John Russell

maintained that the addition was advisable, inasmuch as there was a community of interest between the city and those parishes, and because the constituency would be rendered more independent by the addition.

Mr. Baillie

objected to the proposal in this Bill to take portions of the counties of Gloucester and Somerset, in the immediate vicinity of the city of Bristol, and to add their inhabitants to the voters for that city. Two evils would be effected by this arrangement; the first was, that the already numerous constituency of the city of Bristol would be increased by between 3,000 and 4,000 voters; and the next was, that the portions of these two counties, adjoining that city, would be rendered almost close boroughs, He supposed, however, that his objection would have as little effect as that of the hon. member for Exeter had produced; but still he felt it his duty to make it.

Report received, and to be further considered.

Lord John Russell

moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Report of the Commissioners upon the limits of the borough of Arundel, and to report their opinions thereon to the House.

The Motion agreed to, and Committee appointed.