HC Deb 01 August 1833 vol 20 cc261-4
Mr. James Kennedy

hoped, that, in consequence of the Motion he was now about to bring forward, he should obtain from the Ministers a satisfactory explanation of the course they intended to pursue. Though there were many evils in this country, some of which were more burthensome perhaps than those of Corporation abuses, there were none which more required remedy. The existence of these evils, and their nature had already been shown by the Committee which had sat on this subject. In his opinion they could only be remedied by a reform similar in spirit to that which had taken place with regard to the election of Members of Parliament. His plan, therefore, was, to give to every 10l. householder who had a right to vote for representatives the right of voting for the Magistrates who were to administer the laws of the particular district in which he resided. At present, the local Magistrates were generally appointed in consequence of a system of nomination; and being perfectly irresponsible, were able to abuse the powers with which they were intrusted. In whatever was proposed for the public advantage, especially in the way of improvement of what was old, they did not meet the people with a becoming spirit. The effect of his plan would be to remedy this evil. He was aware, that this was a late period of the Session at which to introduce such a proposition, but he thought that it was not too late for them to express their opinion on the subject. This was not a Resolution pledging the House to any particular course, but he had a Bill which he hoped the House would allow to be introduced and read a first time, that the country might have sufficient reason to believe that some measure of the same kind would be introduced in the early part of next Session. He hoped, that the Ministers would then take up the subject, and promise a measure of at least as much efficiency as that which he wished to introduce to their notice. He was quite sure that the Motion he was bringing forward was in accordance with the wishes of the people generally, and of his own constituents in particular; and if in pressing it for their consideration he was going further than was consistent with his own individual interest, he hoped his constituents would consider it as an instance of his readiness to sacrifice that interest to their advantage. The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to bring in a bill to give to those having a right to vote for Members of Parliament the right of electing the Magistrates of their Corporation.

Colonel Seale

seconded the Motion, and observed, that this Corporation Reform would carry into full effect the object of the Parliamentary Reform Bill. Corporations would then be more likely than they were now to second the views of a popular Minister.

Mr. Vernon Smith

submitted to the hon. Member opposite to consider whether it was worth while to press this Bill upon the House. To some of the propositions of the Bill he should decidedly object; and he confessed at once, that he had no wish to give a political bias to Corporations. There were especially two grounds of objection to the Bill—first, that it was proposed to be confined to boroughs having the right of returning Members of Parliament; and secondly, that it was not meant to extend it to Ireland. He thought, that before any measure on this subject was agreed to, they should wait for the Report of the Commissioners to inquire into Corporations. But for these general reasons, he should not wish to delay the Bill, for it was one that would completely suit the opinions of the constituency he had the honour to represent. But he thought they should not legislate without information, when they had the means of obtaining it. The Commissioners would give them a valuable fund of information, by the aid of which they might be able advantageously to legislate next Session. From the specimen they had before the Corporation Committee, he believed there would be plenty of evidence; but if persons belonging to Corporations attempted to withhold their evidence, he trusted the Commissioners would strongly notice the fact. For himself, he should consider their wilful silence to be evidence against, and should so report it, of course not intending the House to be finally bound by the Report. Another objection to this Bill was, that it would not be applicable even to all the represented boroughs. Berwick was an instance of this—it was as republican a borough as could be wished—yet that Corporation required Reform. The Corporation of Berwick paid all the taxes out of borrowed money, and kept all the revenues to themselves. Again, he urged the necessity of delay, till full information was obtained.

Mr. Parrott

said, that a great deal of interest was felt throughout the country on the subject of this Motion. He trusted that his Majesty's Ministers would take effectual measures between this and the next Session of Parliament, to prepare a remedy for the abuses of Corporations; for these abuses were, in many cases, very great. No individual would be more grateful to Ministers than himself, nor any constituency be more pleased with such a measure than that which he had the honour to represent.

Lord Althorp

said, that his object in moving for a Committee this year was to lay the foundation for such a measure. A Commission was now appointed to inquire into the existing nature of Corporations, and he hoped that their inquiries would be made and concluded before the next Session of Parliament. No man could be more convinced than he was of the necessity of making a Reform in Corporations, and he should be sorry to remain a member of any Government who would not attempt it.

The Solicitor General

thought, that the state of the new constituencies should be placed within the scope of the inquiries of this Commission. The borough which he had the honour to represent did not labour under the evils of the old Corporations, but it stood in need of a new constitution. There were Magistrates connected with that borough against whom he would say nothing, for they were not present to defend themselves. It appeared to him, however, that a new constitution was ne- cessary for that borough. There was no returning officer for it save the nominee of the Sheriff. Now, several evils arose from that circumstance; at the last election, between the day fixed for the election and that fixed for the poll, the person nominated by the Sheriff met with a serious accident, and from his being unable to act, there was great danger that the election would be voided. Expresses were instantly sent to the Sheriff; but even then there was a doubt as to the validity of a return made by other persons than the first nominee. Now, he thought that there should be a mayor of Dudley, to prevent the recurrence of such accidents, and he hoped before long that a good constitution would be given to such places as were not incorporated.

Mr. Kennedy

, after what had fallen from the noble Lord, would withdraw his Motion.

Motion withdrawn.