HC Deb 17 June 1835 vol 28 cc852-5

Mr. Elphinstone moved that this Bill be committed.

Lord John Russell

was favourable to the principle of the Bill, but he would suggest to the hon. Member who had introduced it, whether it would not be better to refer this Bill to the Committee which was now sitting to inquire into the present mode of registration.

Sir Robert Peel

thought that it was desirable, if it could be so arranged, to diminish the period for taking the poll. If this were done he had no doubt it would lessen the expense of elections, tend to put a stop to intimidation, and also to lessen bribery. The subject, however, involved so many small points of detail that he did not think it could well be considered in a Committee of the whole House. He, therefore, agreed in the suggestion of the noble Lord, that it perhaps would be advantageous to refer it to the consideration of the Registration Committee. He felt very much disposed to adopt the principle of the measure, but looking into the details, he did not think that they were by any means as perfect as they might be rendered. If a measure like the present were adopted, it would become a matter of imperative necessity to have a greater number of polling places than were now allowed. He was sure that the hon. Member would attain his object much better by going before a Committee up stairs, than by persisting in having a Committee of the whole House.

Mr. Hume

had prepard a Bill on this subject, but had abstained from introducing it until he had seen what the Registration Committee intended to do. He would also recommend his hon. Friend either to wait till that Committee had made its report, or at once to refer the Bill to that Committee, or any other. It ought not to escape recollection, that a Committee last year recommended that the chief provision of this Bill should receive the sanction of the Legislature. The Registration Committee had met that day, and had made great progress with their labours, and he thought that very shortly after Friday next they ought to see the Report laid on the Table. He, for one, was most anxious to promote the success of the principle of the measure, although he did not think that the details were sufficiently explicit.

Mr. Charles Buller

recommended the hon. Member for Hastings not to adopt the suggestions made to him without due deliberation. If the hon. Gentleman sent the Bill to a Committee up stairs, it was not likely that he would get it passed this Session. It had been suggested to his hon. Friend to refer the Bill to the Registration Committee, as if that Committee had not now sufficient work to perform. He was sure if that Committee went through the matters referred to them in a satisfactory manner, that they could not bring the labours to a close before the end of the Session. His hon. Friend had no chance of carrying his Bill at present, if be did not get it committed at once.

Mr. Ewart

recommended that this subject should not be mixed up with others, but that it should be referred to a Committee up stairs, with directions to report on it with as little delay as possible.

Mr. Aglionby

did not oppose the second reading of the Bill, but he suggested that it should be postponed, as he knew that the hon. Member for Middlesex had prepared a Bill on the subject. It appeared to be the wish of all parties that a Bill on the principle of this measure should be passed into a law, as it would tend to lessen the expenses of elections and put down corruption. From what had come out before the Election Committees, it appeared that nearly all the acts of bribery were committed on the second day of the election, and he had no doubt that by increasing the number of polling places, any election might be got through in one day. The Bill was certainly short and simple, but he did not think that the machinery was sufficient. He happened to know that the Bill the hon. Member for Middlesex had prepared on the subject, was much better in that respect.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

recommended the hon. Member for Hastings to refer the Bill to a Committee up stairs. He was favourable to the principle of the Bill, and felt satisfied that the House would not do its duty if it did not alter the election-law on the subject.

Colonel Wood

felt convinced that if the polling was to be completed in one day, that it would be necessary greatly to increase the number of polling places in all counties. In the county he represented, there were 2,000 voters, and only one polling place, and it would be impossible that they could all record their votes in one day.

Colonel Sibthorp

thought that it would be equally necessary to increase the number of polling places in towns. He was favourable to the principle of the measure, but he trusted that the hon. Gentleman would consent to refer it to a Committee. It was not a party question, but a matter of great importance both to Whigs and Tories.

Mr. Warburton

recommended the hon. Member to withdraw the Bill for the present, and bring it forward in an amended form. He very much doubted whether they could not in this Bill get rid of one of the three questions put to the voter on his tendering his vote. The question he alluded to was whether he possessed the same qualification which he did at the time of registration.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

reminded the House that there were several Bills on the Table for altering many important parts of the Reform Bill. There was one for altering the mode of registration; another for preventing intimidation; a third for the better prevention of bribery, and this for taking the poll in one day. If they went on in that way, they would repeal step by step the whole of the Reform Bill. He would suggest that all the Bills should be referred to a Committee up stairs, for the purpose of consolidating them. They ought to be extremely cautious in their proceedings respecting this matter, lest in their anxiety to produce good they did great mischief. He doubted whether this Bill, if passed into a law, would diminish the expense to candidates; on the contrary, he believed that it would greatly increase it.

Mr. William Duncombe

wished to know from the noble Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, whether he intended to propose to increase the number of polling places in that Riding.

Lord Morpeth

replied, that if that Bill passed it would be highly desirable to increase the number of polling places.

Mr. Ord

felt satisfied that the hon. Member for Newcastle was in error in supposing that this Bill would increase the expense of elections. The chief expense of elections in counties was carrying the voters to the polling places. If the distance between them was diminished, the charge of conveyance would be greatly lessened. He thought that it was also desirable to keep the measures for amending certain points in the Reform Bill perfectly distinct from each other. The course pursued by the hon. Member for Hastings appeared to him to be most judicious; but the Bill as it now stood would not carry the intentions of his hon. Friend into effect.

The House went into a Committee. The clauses of the Bill were agreed to, and the House resolved itself into Committee on the Colonial Passengers' Bill.