HC Deb 29 June 1835 vol 29 cc66-70

The House went into Committee on the Municipal Corporation Reform Bill.

Clause 10th was postponed.

On Clause 11th,

Colonel Sibthorp moved, as an Amendment, that after the words, "that every person in any borough may keep any shop for the sale of all lawful wares, &c, in any borough," be added—"provided he shall be rated to, or be made liable to the payment of, all borough rates, parochial or otherwise, for the period of six months from the period at which any shop shall have been opened by him for the purpose of sale, show, or trade, in the said borough."

Mr. Trevor

supported the Amendment, which was necessary, he said, to prevent any tag-rag-and-bob-tail establishing in business to the prejudice of the hardworking and honest tradesman.

The Amendment negatived, and the Clause agreed to.

Clause 12th was also agreed to, with Amendments.

On Clause 13th being read,

Sir James Graham

moved the insertion of words directing the town-clerk to examine the validity of all claims to be inserted on the burgess roll, to make objections where he shall see just cause, and to sustain such objections on the revision of the lists before the mayor; the cost of making and sustaining those objections by the town-clerk to be paid out of the borough funds. He thought it right that that some paid officers should be appointed to perform the various duties specified in his Amendment; because, if the business was left to unpaid overseers, it would be found, as in the case of the registration of voters for Members of Parliament, their carelessness would be productive of very great evil.

Lord Howick

thought the proposed Amendment was open to considerable objection, because it would give to the ruling party in the town council, whose paid servant the town-clerk would be, the power of opposing the registration of their opponents.

Sir James Graham

said, that he had not proposed the Amendment inconsiderately, and he thought, that as objections had been taken to the selection of the town-clerk, some other paid officer might be chosen to investigate the claims made for the borough franchise. Unless this were done, he felt confident that the suffrage in boroughs would become unrestricted household suffrage. The Registration Committee, of which he had the honour to be a member, was so impressed with the necessity of appointing a paid officer to make out the lists of voters, that they intended to recommend that in counties the high constable should be associated with the overseers for that purpose.

Mr. Miles

said, that in boroughs the lists of Parliamentary voters were very accurately made out.

Mr. Charles Buller

was of opinion that the adoption of the right hon. Baronet's Amendment would induce even interested parties not to attend to the registration, because they would think their presence unnecessary, in consequence of a paid officer being appointed to investigate all claims to be enrolled. The right hon. Baronet had alluded to the Resolution adopted by the Registration Committee, that the high constable in counties should be directed to make out the lists of Parliamentary voters; but the House would see that that business was very different from the duty the right hon. Baronet proposed to impose on the town-clerks of investigating and opposing the claims made for the enjoyment of the municipal franchise.

Amendment withdrawn.

On the Question that Clause 13th stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, that before the Clause was passed, he wished to state a difficulty he felt with respect to it and to the succeeding one, in neither of which was to be found any provision for enforcing the production of the Poor-rate books to any person seeking to establish an objection to the right of another to have his name retained on the burgess roll, or having to maintain his own right against an objector. The difficulties in either case were much greater under this than the Reform Act, because residence, rating, and the payment of rates for three years were ingredients in the qualification. Now it appeared that as the Bill was framed the vestry clerk of a parish who alone would have the custody of the rate books for three successive years, was the only person who would be in a condition to substantiate either an objection or a claim to a right, and might produce or refuse to produce the books as he pleases there being no power in the Bill to compel him.

Lord John Russell

said, that if the hon. Member for Oxford would refer to a subsequent Clause in the Bill, he would find his objection guarded against.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, he was quite aware that Clause 15th gave power to the mayor to require any overseer of any parish wholly or in part within the borough, having the custody of any Poor-rate-book produce the same, and allow it to be inspected at any court to be held for revision of burgess roll, but that, in his opinion, did not obviate the difficulty. It was not only to the court of revision, ut previously to the holding of such court to parties desirous to raise or to defend an objection, that he wished the right of enforcing the production of the rate books to be extended, and the vestry clerk should be included in both Clauses, inasmuch as an overseer, on the termination of his period of office, usually delivered up his books to that officer.

The Clause, amended, was ordered to stand part of the Bill.

On Clause 14th,

Lord John Russell

said, it was his intention to propose that two auditors out of the three appointed by the Bill should sit with the mayor, and form the court of revision.

Mr. Borthwick

said, that the Amendment he had intended to propose would be more likely to obviate the inconvenience likely to arise from the Clause as it stood than that proposed by the noble Lord, and he would leave it to his consideration whether the word "mayor" throughout, the whole of the Clause might not be altered for "recorder."

The Attorney - General

said, that in many boroughs there was no recorder.

Mr. Borthwick

was afraid that this objection would be fatal to his Amendment; but he still wished that the mayor should not also act as revising barrister, and he should propose that one be appointed.

Mr. Charles Buller

observed, that the mayor, as well as the auditors, would be elected by the strongest party in each town, and one of the weaker party would have three of his opponents sitting in judgment upon his claims. Those persons were likely to be extremely incompetent, and he should support a proposition for the appointment of a revising barrister, so that the lists might be made out at the same time as the lists for electors for Members of Parliament.

Lord John Russell

said, that upon the suggestion of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, he should have no objection to the postponement of the further consideration of this Clause.

The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.