§ Lord John Russell then moved the Order of the Day for the Committee on this Bill.
§ Several Motions were postponed to allow it to proceed.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that there was an impression entertained, either real or feigned—not so much, he believed, in that House as out of it, that there existed on the part of himself, and those with whom he acted, a desire to throw some obstruction in the way of the noble Lord's proceedings with reference to the Bill which the House was now about to consider. He begged to say, for himself, that he did not entertain any such feeling; that, on the contrary, he was most anxious to give every aid in his power to the noble Lord, on every occasion. He wished, indeed, that some arrangement could be adopted, by which a steady perseverance with the Bill might be insured. The plan of devoting an hour and a half one night, and two hours another night, was not one which admitted of their paying proper attention to the measure, and it insured the certain result of a succession of amendments being brought forward on the Report, which ought to have been made in the Committee. He knew well the inconvenience attending upon morning sittings, on account of the numerous Committees which were then engaged, and he did not, therefore, propose them; but if any arrangement could be made for going into Committee on this Bill regularly, on certain days, and at certain hours, so far from having any objection to it, he should be happy to see it adopted, and he was sure it would be most acceptable to all with whom he acted.
§ Lord John Russell
had certainly never imputed to the right hon. Baronet a desire to obstruct the progress of the Bill; on the contrary, he felt sure that the right hon. Baronet was desirous of fairly discussing its principles; and like every other Gentleman could not wish to delay its progress, because he could not wish that 87 the Session should be unusually protracted. With respect to the progress hitherto made, he thought that the Motions by which it had been delayed were not such as could have been rightly postponed for an indefinite period; but if the future progress of the measure during the present week should not be sufficiently rapid, it might then be desirable to consider of some arrangement such as the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
§ The House went into Committee.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that the labours of the Committee last night had terminated in the 14th Clause. In reference to some suggestions which had been made then, he said, that he was of opinion that two assessors should be chosen by the town council for the purpose of revision, and he should accordingly move an Amendment to that effect. For the first year it would be desirable that the Revising Barristers should be employed for the purpose of revising the lists; but, beyond that period, he did not think that it would be necessary.
§ Mr. Williams Wynn
said, that it would be much better to have the duties of revision performed by persons not at all connected with any local parties in the borough, such as the assessors would be when appointed by the majority of the counsel. It was extremely important that, in the performance of their duties, every appearance of partiality should be removed, and no ground left for a suspicion of it. He should propose an Amendment, therefore, to the effect, that in all the boroughs to which have been appointed Revising Barristers under the Reform Act, these duties of revision should be performed by them.
§ The Attorney-General
thought, that it would be possible to select two intelligent, independent men, from the borough, to perform the duties with impartiality. The questions on which they would have to decide, would involve chiefly matters of fact, and not any very abstruse points of law. Moreover, no pecuniary charge would be caused by their performance of the task; the local distinction which it would confer on them was a sufficient reward.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that as the Bill provided a paid legal officer to perform all judicial functions for all large boroughs, he did not see why, in them, that functionary should not be required 88 to perform the duties of revision. With reference to the smaller boroughs, the system of Revising Barristers could be tried for one year, and it might then be seen how it worked.
§ Mr. Williams Wynn
observed, that it would be desirable to have a Board of three or five persons constituted, to decide in the last resort upon all disputed points, so as to insure an uniformity of decision.
§ Lord John Russell
still retained his original opinion. Though he admitted that it would be desirable to employ the Revising Barristers for the present year, he thought it desirable that the boroughs, generally, should be allowed to govern themselves in respect to the matter in question. The points which they would have to decide, were points which could be equally well settled by persons of sound common sense, as by legal functionaries. Of course, if it were found that they were unable to govern themselves, it might then be advisable to take some further steps. As to the suggestion of his right hon. Friend, that the recorder should execute the duties of revision, he objected decidedly to the employment of a judge—of a person who ought to appear only in his judicial capacity in the borough, in matters of mere civic regulation. With respect to the suggestion for appointing a tribunal of three or five persons to insure uniformity of decision, that question had been discussed before the Registration Committee; but it was one on which he had not yet made up his mind.
§ Sir Robert Peel
, considering that the performance of the duties which devolved upon the Revising Barristers at present, would be almost simultaneous with those which they would have to execute according to the Amendment of his hon. Friend, he thought that the best course would be, to appoint Revising Barristers to revise also the lists of the burgesses. The expense, compared with the importance of the object accomplished by the regulation, would not be heavy. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had himself consented that the Revising Barristers should perform this duty for the present year. Why not at once give such a regulation the face of a permanent enactment, reserving to themselves the right of making such alterations as might be found necessary at any future time? The noble Lord would be afforded an opportunity, if he should think proper, of proposing a change in the next 89 Session with respect to the persons who should be appointed revisers of the lists.
§ Sir Robert Peel
The proposed system of Revising Barristers would be the best possible protection against unnecessary expense, for the parties who objected would be liable in part to the expense of the proceedings, which would be defrayed out of the Borough-rate.
§ The Attorney-General
said, that the great object which they ought all to have in view was to keep down expense as far as possible. The effect which public opinion would have on the mode of conducting the revision of the lists by the Mayor and auditors, would be the best security against any unfair or partial conduct. The expense caused by the appointment of Revising Barristers would, he felt convinced, be much greater than those who supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire supposed; for every disputed vote would, in itself, be a case which would, in all probability, occupy the attention of the Court for a long time, by which the duration of its sitting would be prolonged, and the expense inevitably increased.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
thought, that if practical men were appointed to adjudicate on disputed votes, they would give much more satisfaction than Revising Barristers. Considering the class, also, from whom they would be selected, they would, in his opinion, form a more competent tribunal than that which would be established if the proposed Amendments were agreed to.
§ Sir Robert Peel
would accede to any arrangement by which the minority of the inhabitants in the towns and boroughs would be saved from the effects of that partiality which must almost necessarily attach to persons appointed by the dominant party.
§ Mr. Aglionby
thought he had heard something slip from the noble Lord (Lord John Russell)—viz., that after having the other officers, if they did not give satisfaction, he would then erect the Revising Barristers into a permanent Court. It was, as it appeared to him, entirely a 90 question of expense; and if there were any adequate advantage, he would vote the sum proposed, or ten times as much, if necessary, to repay the Revising Barristers. But when they had been employed in acquiring information upon any subject, which was not included in the ordinary routine of their professional business, they ought to be paid for so doing. He could not think the expense would be much. In the Parliamentary boroughs, to which they must assign new limits, he thought the Committee would allow not less than five guineas per diem to the Revising Barrister, and he thought less could not be allowed under this Act. To the fifty-six boroughs with Parliamentary limits, they must send down Barristers special, who, of course, must be allowed their travelling expenses, &c, for the number of days they were out. Thus much for the expense. Now, would any advantage be gained tantamount to the expenditure? if so, he would say, expense was of little moment. What would they gain? The advantage of a tribunal in which questions of law might be decided. But there were, in this case, no "matters of law;" it was a mere question of fact, which any practical Gentleman would have as much power of deciding as any Barrister in the Court of King's Bench? Now, it struck him that that advantage was one which could scarcely be considered of consequence, even by the hon. Member for Liskeard. If it were a question of law, they might then the more easily come to their conclusion. But the question was one which any Gentleman could decide; it was the question of three years continuous residence; that was a question of fact, and was the mere fact of continuous residence for three years one on which Barristers would gain any more information, or exercise a sounder judgment than any other gentleman? He felt confident there was nothing in the constitution of the minds of legal gentlemen which would make them peculiarly fit to decide questions of that kind. But there was another point. It was said that the Mayor, or any other officer of the town would be more liable to suspicion of partiality than the tribunal of Revising Barristers. If so, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman below him, that it ought, as was proposed, to be tried only for one year. He should like to see it tried; and if it gave general dissatisfaction it could be discontinued.
§ Dr. Bowring
consented that the Barristers should be employed on the first occasion, on condition that the boroughs should ultimately be provided with the power of conducting their own affairs. The merits of the Bill were its simplicity and adaptation to the new constituency, which he hoped would be preserved.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
said, it was very important they should have a tribunal of revision, without any party violence; and it seemed to him, that the giving to the predominant party in the borough the right of revising the votes, would be very much like giving to the majority in that House, the decision of contested elections. The tribunal should, as the right hon. Baronet had said, be final; and, therefore, it should be one in which all parties would place confidence, and composed of men well versed in the proceedings taken under the Reform Act. He knew no persons so well qualified for that task as the Revising Barristers; for there were many Clauses in the Act which would require men "learned in the law," as well as possessed of common sense, to give judgment upon.
§ Mr. Finch
thought the analogy did not hold good between the Reform Act and the present, for it was much more difficult to decide upon a three years' continuous residence, and rating, than the one year's residence, and rating. He also thought the time allowed for the investigation—viz. one fortnight was too short a period, for twenty persons of one party might, out of spite, object to 1,000 voters on the other, and the investigation closing at the expiration of a fortnight, there might be 500 cases undecided; yet the Mayor would have no power to prolong the inquiry. Some longer period, say five weeks, might be allowed.
§ Mr. Jervis
protested against the boroughs being charged with that expense. He saw no objection to the absence of all that enormous expenditure, which he considered was wholly unnecessary. In the Reform Act there were some cases of a complicated nature which might require the decision of a Barrister. But here, there was nothing but matter of fact—the occupation for three years, and the three years' rating; and he really saw no great difficulty in those matters. With great deference to the opinion of other hon. Members, he was bound to say, the men of the world—men of practical acquaint- 92 ance and experience in the business of the world, were much more fitted for the task of revising the lists than any Gentlemen "learned in the law," however "learned" they might be.
§ Mr. Estcourt
said, that the great difficulty in the appointment of such a tribunal as that proposed was, to find persons to compose it who should be competent, and at the same time impartial. So far as he had an opportunity of forming a judgment on the question, he was ready to accept of any tribunal which would ensure an impartial hearing and decision of the cases brought under its consideration; but the last question which should, in his opinion, be submitted, was that of disputed corporate votes. The expense, too, would be infinitely less if men of respectability and character as lawyers were to give decisions which would not be open to any charge of dishonesty, than if a partial tribunal were appointed, to whose judgments almost endless objections would be taken. His experience led him to believe that the trust reposed in the local authorities by this Clause would be exercised with partiality. He was therefore inclined to think that the adoption of the Amendment which had been proposed would ensure better decisions and at a less expense than the Clause as it originally stood. The noble Lord had consented to make an experiment with respect to revising Barristers for the present year. Why not, if that experiment proved successful, continue their jurisdiction?
§ Lord John Russell
did not intend the appointment of Revising Barristers for the present year as an experiment, but only as the means of meeting a pressing difficulty for that period. The experiment which he in reality made was the present Clause, which if it did not effect the intended object, that of saving expense, he should be ready to consider the question of imposing additional charges on the inhabitants of the towns. He thought, however, that the appointment of such a tribunal as that proposed by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, would in the first instance be an expensive and unjustifiable appointment.
§ Lord Sandon
believed that the expense of the appointment of Revising Barristers for the purpose intended by his hon. Friend would be about 20,000l., which he did not consider a heavy charge if they could suc- 93 ceed in effecting by means of it freedom and security of election.
§ Mr. Robinson
was in favour of the Amendment, for even supposing that the system proposed by it did not work well, it might be easily changed.
§ Mr. George F. Young
thought that their object should be not so much that the Bill should work cheaply as that it should work well. As he did not expect impartiality of decision from any local tribunal appointed in such a way as that intended under the Bill, he should vote for the Amendment.
could not see why the Mayor and auditors, after the expiration of the first year, were not proper persons to revise these lists. Who were they? Persons chosen by the common council, as the best amongst that body to constitute a tribunal by which the lists might be corrected. Such a body would, in his opinion, be the fairest and best which could be appointed for such a purpose.
§ Lord Sandon
said, that the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down must be considered just, if the principle that the majority can do no wrong were acknowledged. As, however, he had not the same implicit reliance on the impartiality or love of justice of the majority in all cases, he should vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Borthwick
thought that the Mayor should not be selected as one of those who were to be appointed for the purpose of revising the lists; indeed he, of all others, should be the last person chosen for such an office; for let him be ever so pure, he must be exposed to suspicion from the fact of his being obliged to take a principal part in making up the Returns originally. He would give his support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Mont-gomeryshire.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 53; Noes 86; Majority 33.
|List of the Ayes.|
|Boiling, W.||Fleming, J.|
|Borthwick, Peter||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Buller, Sir J. B. Y.||Graham, Sir J. R. G.|
|Buller, C.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Canning, Sir S.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Chisholm, Alexander||Hogg, J|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hoy, J.|
|Clive, Hon. R. H.||Hughes, Hughes|
|Egerton, Lord Francis||Inglis, Sir R. H. Bart,|
|Egerton, W. T.||Jackson, J. D.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Kearsley, J. H.|
|Finch,G.||Knatchbull, Sir E.|
|Law, Hon. C.||Sandon, Lord|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Shaw, F.|
|Martin, J.||Stanley, E.|
|Perceval, Col.||Stanley, Lord|
|Pinney, W.||Trench, Sir Frederick|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Plunket, Hon. R.||Twiss, H.|
|Price, S. G.||Vere, Sir C. B. Bart.|
|Price, R.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Reid, Sir J. Rae||Walter, J.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Robinson, G. R.||Wilbraham, Hon. R.|
|Ross, Charles||Wilson, H.|
|Rushbrooke, Col.||Wynn, Rt. Hn. C. W.|
|Ryle, J.||Young, G. F.|
§ The Clause amended, to stand part of the Bill.
§ On Clause 15 being put,
§ Mr. Williams Wynn
rose and said, there were other persons who thought fit to declare their scruples at making oaths, and it would be impossible to confine the restriction to Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists as the Clause stood. Any alteration, giving to a solemn declaration the legal obligation of an oath, should be confined to those persons who declared at the time their religious scruples against oths; if not so confined, it was really opening a door for getting rid of the oath with no restriction whatsoever. They could not doubt that there were particularly among the uneducated, many who would fear to swear falsely, but who would think there was some difference in making a declaration which might shield them from the legal consequences of false testimony. He thought it much better that the oath should be done away by a distinct Act than brought thus incidentally within an Act of that kind.
said, that by the Clause the principle was admitted, and there was a practical step taken towards facilitating the making a solemn declaration have the legal sanction of an oath, and thus getting rid of the oath altogether. He trusted they would soon have that principle universally introduced into the law.
would not enter into the general question at all; what he objected to, and what his right hon. Friend, the Member for Montgomery had objected to, was this,—that by the Clause, thus worded, they stated, that when the Mayor was administering the oath, or the affirmation, to those who did not like to be sworn, they did not get rid of the oath altogether, but left it to be evaded or not. Now, he thought, that was a bad precedent. In the first place, when a man 95 objected to be sworn, though his statement might be perfectly true, yet he was sure that the impression would prevail that he had chosen the affirmation to get rid of the obligation of an oath; and in the second place, they gave no power in the Bill to enforce the taking of the oath, even when religious scruples were not introduced as the ground of objection.
§ Lord J. Russell
My object in framing this Clause, was to exempt persons, legally exempted, from taking oaths. I think it would be much better to have substituted the affirmation altogether. At the same time, I think it is one of those questions which ought to be separately considered. I am, therefore, not disposed to settle it permanently in this Bill, but to reserve the question for a separate measure.
said, he considered the effect of the Clause would be, that in all cases, whether of Moravians, Separatists, and Quakers, or not, the affirmation might be substituted for the oath, and that was, in effect, getting rid of the oath entirely.
The Clause was agreed to, as were the 16th, 17th, and 18th Clauses.
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes
moved as an Amendment the insertion of certain words in the third line, with a view to add to the number of councillors of every borough, the Representatives in Parliament for the time being (if any), and Recorder for the time being (if any) of such borough, and all justices of the peace acting in and for the same. The ground upon which he was induced to move this Amendment was, that he thought the effect of the Bill would otherwise be to reduce the number of Town Councillors to too great an extent. In the city of Oxford, for instance, the number of Town Councillors at present amounted to ninety. Under the operation of the Bill they were then considering, that number would be reduced to thirty-three, and of these eleven would be empowered to do all the acts of the whole body. It was to remedy that defect, and to secure a proper qualification for at least a portion of the Town Council, that he was induced to move his Amendment.
§ Lord John Russell
opposed the Amendment, which was obviously contrary to the principle upon which the Bill proceeded. He saw no advantage that could possibly result from its being adopted.
§ Mr. Warburton
would suggest to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hughes) that the qualification which might fit a man to be a Member of Parliament, or even an Alderman, might not be a proper qualification for a Town Councillor.
§ Mr. Scarlett
thought that the Recorder and Magistrates should, in every instance, be members of the Town Council ex efficio; and if the present Amendment should be negatived he should certainly feel it to be his duty to submit a proposition to that effect on the bringing up of the Report.
§ Sir Edward Knatchbull
was not disposed to make the Recorder and Magistrates members of the Council ex officio, but he wished to know whether, if they should be elected, they would be deemed ineligible.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Mr. Borthwick
Sir, I rise to call the attention of the House to the appointment of the persons who are to be elected members of that body, which will be or may be, a very inexperienced body in the management of funds so large, and the administration of duties so important as those which are to be performed by the Magistrates of the boroughs, and not upon this consideration only but for the sake of preserving peace, unity, and good-will between the new Corporations, and those whose place they fill. I venture to submit to the consideration of the Committee, the Amendment of which I have given notice for the purpose of continuing in their offices for life, all the members of the present Corporation. ["Oh! Oh!"] If Gentlemen who give utterance to those sounds intend them as arguments, I should consider it much the more convenient course, to give up such arguments to those who have not the power of articulate speech. The object of the Motion is two-fold, the first is, to gain the advantage of the experience of the present Corporation. [Laughter.] It is a principle upon which Gentlemen opposite who laugh have acted in this country ere now. There have been instances in which Gentlemen have been very glad to avail themselves of the talents 97 of Gentlemen who have distinguished themselves in very high offices. But it is not necessary to refer to precedents, the question under discussion is not one which will be decided by such examples. The Motion which I am about to submit is not one which can be properly met by any party reprobation for it will not interfere with the principle of the measure. There is not one who may be most opposed to the Amendments which are introduced in this Bill, by Members on this side of the House, who will suppose that this Motion has anything to do with the principle of the Bill; the Motion may tend to promote the efficiency of the Bill, and the good will of the local government, or it may tend to the opposite, I admit. [Cheers.] If Gentlemen who cheer, will prove, I, of course, will give up my Amendment. But no person can insinuate that it can have any other object, or is brought forward with any other view than that I have alluded to. Take the instance of a borough in which there are fifty Councillors, under this Bill, and in which there is now an existing Corporation. I wish to be told what evil there is in making the present Corporators, against whom no charge has been made of misconduct, and who have discharged the duties of their office respectably, and to the satisfaction of the community with whom they have been connected—what evil can there be in such men being again made councillors? Supposing it were said that admitting it to be an immediate benefit; that the transmission of the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of these persons into the new body, is for the time good, yet it would be continuing the old system, to give a number of persons the power of making themselves members for life; if so, I then have no objection to so many of them going out from year to year, say one in ten, one in two years, or some such period as may be thought fit; but I think that in the instance to which I have referred, a hypothetical instance where there will be fifty men, all of them elected from the class of persons who will for a time have no experience in the discharge of their duties; if such a body is to continue in the management of ten, twenty, thirty thousand pounds a-year of public money, and enter upon the discharge of duties so vastly important as those which will be under the superintendence of the Town-Council, I cannot but fear that much mischief will 98 follow, and let it be remembered that I am not speaking against the respectability of the lower orders, that is not the question, the question is not one of respectability but of ability, and capacity for government. Another reason and a more important one, perhaps, arises out of a wish to provide for the good will which should subsist between the present Corporations and those which will take their places. It. has been a most laudable practice in the boroughs for the most respectable part of the citizens to be made members of the Town Council. And whatever Gentlemen opposite may say, I cannot help asserting that there is something not unreasonable in those persons turning round, and saying, "what evil have we done, that that which we have pursued as the fair object of ambition, as the reward of virtuous principles, should be taken from us, and given to those who have nothing to bring forward in their favour?" If that feeling exists, I ask will it not be proper to afford some measure which will soften down that feeling without interfering with the principle of the Bill, or preventing the accomplishment of those objects which its promoters expect? Would my Motion, if carried, prevent justice being impartially and fully administered. [Loud cries of "Yes! Yes!"] Hon. Members say "Yes." I hope the noble Lord will prove it. Why will it be so? Has not justice been impartially administered before? I repeat, has it not? ["No, No!"] hon. Members who assert that, will do me the justice to recollect that I do not wish any Corporation to be continued that can be proved to have perverted justice; but I do say, that those who have never even been charged, are fit members of the new Corporations, to give them the benefit of their knowledge and experience. Having thus stated the Amendment I propose, I hope Gentlemen will endeavour to prove that it will militate against the principle of the Bill, if it do I will certainly abandon it; if not, I will not be deterred, by any fear of party accusations, from pressing it to a division. The hon. Member then moved his Amendment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the Amendment was against the principle of the Bill, which was, that the affairs of a town should be managed by persons elected by those who had property in it, whereas the principle of the Amendment was to bring into the Government of the 99 town, persons not elected by the inhabitants. The proposition, however, involved not a logical, but an arithmetical absurdity in its working. At Oxford, for instance, the numbers of the Town Council were to be thirty-three, and how could ninety, the number of the Corporation, be included in thirty-three? If the hon. Member was so confident of the deserts of the gentlemen whose cause he advocated, he could have no apprehension that they would not be elected.
Mr. Charles Butter
observed, that in Leicester, Liverpool, and some other towns, the Corporation included the freemen, so that the town council would, in such cases, amount to 5,000 or 6,000.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ The Clause was agreed to.
§ On Clause 20,
§ Sir Robert Peel
rose to propose an Amendment which related to the qualification of those who were to be elected members of the town council, and to simplify his statement on the subject, he would divide it into two heads—first, as to whether there ought to be a qualification or not for members of the town council; and next, if there should be, what ought to be the nature of the qualification. He was aware that there were various opinions on the subject. Some persons thought that there ought to be no qualification whatever, but that the electors should be at liberty to elect whom they pleased, without any reference to property, while others were of opinion, that a certain qualification as to property was indispensable. He would not enter into any detail as to either of those opinions, for he had always found that, where disputed points of this kind were discussed, which turned more on theoretical principles than on facts, the discussion generally ended by leaving each party in the same opinion which he entertained when it began. He would, therefore, confine his remarks to what had been the usual practice in local enactments for many of our towns. He was quite aware that, according to ancient practice, no pecuniary qualifications were required for members of Corporations, but the usual words of the charters were that they should elect "fit, discreet, and respectable" persons to fill the corporate offices. No peculiar qualification was named beyond those general terms, but the spirit of the charters was, that persons fit for 100 their respective offices should be appointed, and he apprehended that, even in those self-elected Corporations, whatever might be their defects in other respects, care was taken to elect persons of wealth and respectability. Many towns were regulated in their local arrangements of police, watching, lighting, and so on, by Acts of Parliament, obtained generally with the consent of the whole body, or with that of the great majority of the rate-paying inhabitants; in some of these the officers of the Corporations were included as guardians or trustees; in others they were not. These Acts, he repeated, were in general sought for with the good will of the majority of the rate-payers, and were discussed before Committees of that and the other House, but in almost every case it was found that a small body was appointed for controlling the watching, lighting, or other local arrangements. Sometimes this body was elected by the ratepayers generally, and sometimes by those who possessed certain defined qualifications, but, in all cases, there was a fixed qualification named for those who were to be members of the governing body. In Manchester, it was necessary that the members of the governing body should each be the occupier of a house rated at 28l. a-year, or the owner of a tenement of the value of 150l. In the same town the electors of the governing body were required, as a qualification, to occupy a house rated at 16l. a-year, or, if a publican, he must be rated at 32l. a-year. In Salford, a similar principle was adopted, and he recollected well the hon. Member for Salford calling their attention to the course of modern improvements in that town, and to the excellent system of local government, and yet, in Salford, a qualification was necessary on the part of each member of the governing body. The Act which required the qualification was passed for the good of the whole town, and by the testimony of the hon. Member himself, than whom no one was better qualified to judge of the management of the local interests, the Act had effected its object, and given rise to not the slightest dissatisfaction. All these regulations, let it be borne in mind, were found in recent local Acts, which were called for by the general voice, and which gave general satisfaction. In Birmingham, the qualification for the members of the governing body was, being rated at 15l. a-year; or 101 being possessed of 1,000l. in real or personal property. In Sheffield, the qualification was being rated at 20l., or possessing property to the value of 1,000l. In Sunderland, it was being rated at 20l. a-year, or having 30l. yearly income. In Devonport, it was being rated at 20l. In Wolverhampton, it was being rated at 20l. a-year, or possessing 1,000l. personal property. In Bilston, the qualification was 40l. a-year in land, or being the son of a man worth 100l. a-year, or possessing 1000l. in personal property. In Bolton, it was 100l. in real or personal property. In Brighton, it was 100l. a-year in house or land, and in Oldham, 100l. in land. In Stoke-upon-Trent the qualification for the governing body was 100l. in land. He was taking, as illustrations of his arguments, those towns which were most popular, or which were considered to represent popular opinion.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that, in Manchester and Salford, some individuals were Commissioners under local Acts for watching, lighting, &c., in virtue of their property, without being elected.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that he spoke only of those who were required to be elected. In Stroud the qualification of a Commissioner, under the local Act was 100l. a-year in land, or being the son of a person having 150l. a-year, or having 3,000l. in real or personal property. He would not say, that this was the lowest scale to which a qualification should be reduced, but he had observed, that in places where the qualification was highest, there popular opinion prevailed most, and, as an instance, he might mention the borough of Stroud, which had returned the noble Lord as its Representative. He had mentioned these cases to show that, where powers were given, such as those of Commissioners for watching, paving, and lighting, care was taken, in almost every instance, that the parties exercising those powers should have a certain qualification as to property. In asking the Committee to adhere to this course, he sought to introduce no new principle. They were going to make a new governing body in Corporations, and all he asked was, that they should not do away with the qualification which was usually required of every member of such body. But they were going to do more than confer the mere patronage of watching and paving and lighting. Some of the Corporations under 102 this Bill, would have considerable patronage in other respects. The Town Council were to be, in some cases, commissioners of charities, and these were reasons why they should have some qualification as to property. The Bill would give greater powers to Magistrates in some Corporations, and, he would ask, was it right that they should have less qualifications than were now given to those who had much smaller powers to exercise? Another reason for the necessity of a qualification was, that a party was liable to a fine for refusing to serve as a member of the governing body. A blank was at present left in the Bill for the amount of the fine, so that he could not say what its amount was intended to be; but if a man were to be fined for refusing to accept an office, he ought to be selected from that class which could pay the fine, otherwise it would be gross injustice. But what fine could be imposed on a man who derived no qualification from property? He would not say, that the possession of property necessarily implied respectability, but it was, at least, some guarantee, in the party appointed to office, for his conduct in the discharge of its duties. It was required of a Magistrate that he should have at least 100l. a-year in the county in which he exercised his functions, but the Mayor of any of the Corporations under this Bill would be a Magistrate of the county in which it was situated. Would it not, in that case, be necessary that he should have some qualification? Was it consistent with the principle laid down on the opposite side, that there should be no qualification for the mayor of a borough, who, being the returning-officer for that borough, was liable to a fine of 500l. for any neglect of his duty as such returning-officer. Surely, it was absurd to say, that a man who might be so fined for neglect of duty might have no qualification as to property. Let him add, that a man was by this Bill disqualified by bankruptcy or insolvency, yet both might be consistent with strict integrity; but if property was not to be a qualification, why should bankruptcy or insolvency disqualify? When he spoke of property as a qualification, be felt that it would not be proper to attach a very high qualification to the members of the governing body. In this respect, he thought there ought to be some distinction between towns. The Bill related to towns, some of which were exten- 103 sive and prosperous, and others were small and comparatively poor. Now it would not be fair to have the same test of qualification in these two classes of towns. He had looked to the cases of most of the towns, and he had adopted a lower qualification than that which was usually adopted; and in making it, he had distinguished between the two classes of towns recognised by the Bill, he meant those which were divided into wards, and those which were not so divided; and, as he had mentioned wards, he hoped that the principle of dividing towns into wards would be more general than it was at present in this Bill. He thought that that principle ought to be extended much beyond what it was at present. He trusted also that the Committee would go with him in thinking that it would be right not to adopt a single qualification for all towns, but they would consent to distinguish between the greater and the smaller towns. In the Birmingham Bill, the qualification for the governing body was 1,000l. real or personal property. He thought he could suggest a better mode of fixing the qualification. It would, in his opinion, be better to make it consist of joint qualifications; for many tradesmen might find it difficult to swear that they had realized 1,000l. He would therefore propose, that in towns which were divided into wards, the qualification for the members of the governing body should be, that they were possessed of an estate, real or personal, of the clear value of 1,000l., or that they should be rated to the relief of the poor on a sum of not less than 40l. a-year. In towns not divided into wards, the qualification should be, that the Town-councillor should be possessed of at least 500l. in real or personal estate, or be rated to the poor-rate on a sum of not less than 20l. a-year. Those who thought with him that there ought to be a qualification might differ as to the amount which he had mentioned, but he could not think that he had stated it too low. There were various tests in several local Acts, and he had taken the lowest. What he had stated was lower on the average than the majority of the cases in which Local Acts had been passed. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving as an Amendment, that after the word "council" in the Clause, the following words should be added:—"Provided such members of council who shall be elected in boroughs divided into wards 104 shall, at the time of their election, be seised or possessed of real or personal property of the clear value of 1,000l., or that they shall be rated on a rental of not less than 40l. a-year; and also provided that all such members elected in towns not divided into wards shall, at the time of their election, be seised or possessed of property, real or personal, of the clear value of 500l., or be rated to the relief of the poor on a rental of not less than 20l. a-year."
said, he should object to the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, as it would tend greatly to narrow the rights of electors. Practically he did not think it could have much effect, for he thought there could be little doubt that where electors were called on to act in Corporations they would; they, as having an interest in the place, would select those who were most fit for the office they were to fill. If the people were left to themselves, there could be no doubt that they would elect persons of property to fill the vacant places in Corporations. But let it be borne in mind that it was not property alone that was required to fill those places. Intelligence was also necessary; yet, unless a man was known to be a man of some property, it was not always that an opportunity of finding out his intelligence was given. The right hon. Baronet had referred to what he called the usual practice of Corporations, but the general practice had been the reverse of what the right hon. Baronet seemed to think, for in any corporate charter there was no expression to denote the amount of property necessary as a qualification. It was true that charters said that "fit and discreet" persons should be elected, but it was left to the electors to decide who those persons should be. The right hon. Baronet had laid great stress on the case of Manchester. Now, he happened to be engaged as counsel on a Bill which had been brought in with respect to the local government of Manchester. That Bill passed, but it was thought by some that it did not work well, and another Bill was brought in to alter and amend it. The former Bill was considered to have given too much power to the rate-payers. He was engaged to oppose the second Bill, and it was so much altered in its progress through the Commons, that those who had brought it n abandoned it, and he was under the necessity of carrying it through. When it went to the Lords, those who had in- 105 troduced it in the Commons became its opponents, and he, who had at first opposed it, became its supporter. But seeing the complexion of the Committee before which it went in the other House, he was afraid he should not be able to carry it through; and he therefore entered into a compromise with his learned Friend, who was instructed to oppose the Bill, and who on his part was afraid that it might be carried in the state in which it left the Commons, and the result of that compromise was that the Bill passed.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that by the Bill in question, all who were rated at 30l. a-year were to be Commissioners of police and paying and lighting, by virtue of that rate, and without election.
suspected that his hon. Friend the Member for Salford and himself were not speaking of the same measure.
§ Sir Robert Peel
suspected that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not quite correct as to the place in which this alteration of the qualification had taken place.
also suspected that the hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken. He had himself been a member of the Committee which sat upon this Manchester Bill, and before which this very question of qualification was discussed, and if he was not greatly mistaken, though he was sorry to speak against the hon. and learned Gentleman, it was a question before that Committee whether there should not be an additional qualification for the elected beyond that which was required for the elector, Upon that question a compromise afterwards took place, as he believed, in the House of Commons, and by that compromise a great difference was made in the qualification required both for the elected and for the electors.
said, that though the noble Lord might not recollect his appearance as counsel before the Committee, he well recollected appearing before the noble Lord as a member of the Committee. His impression was, for at this distance of time he would not be bound to say—
§ Sir Robert Peel
You are bound to 106 say that you approved of this Bill as it passed through the House of Commons.
Certainly I did, for, to the best of my recollection, the compromise took place in the House of Lords. If any of us have the Bill as it passed through this House, that will decide the question between us, but I looked for it today among my papers, and was not able to find it. We only see in the Statute-book the Bill as it ultimately passed the Lords, and there a qualification is fixed both for the electors and for the elected. The hon. and learned Gentleman then proceeded to admit, that all the modern Acts, not only those mentioned in the schedule to this Bill, but also many others, which had been examined by some of his learned friends, who had been engaged in drawing up this Bill, did contain Clauses requiring a qualification for the persons to be elected. But how, he would ask, did that arise? In former times, it was quite clear, that for the election into Corporate offices, no qualification was required, for no mention of such a qualification was to be found in any of the Charters of our ancient boroughs. How, then, did it come to be required in our Acts of Parliament. They would find on inspecting these, that where a qualification was required, it was in cases where there was no election, but where a man became a Commissioner of Police or watching by virtue of the property which he held; and in such cases, as there was no elector, it became necessary that there should be a qualification of property. But it was otherwise when the question referred to those who were not self-elected, but who were elected by others to act on their behalf and for their benefit. If this were a matter of mere politics—if it related to the election of Members of Parliament, or of persons to whom were to be confided great trusts, of which they might take advantage either for themselves or others, then a qualification might be necessary, for in such cases the electors might be swayed to elect persons not the most fit for the discharge of the duties imposed upon them, but the most likely to confer benefit upon those who elected them. In this Bill, however, the least possible patronage would be vested in the Members of the Council. All they would have to do would be to consult what was most for the benefit of the town. They would have a public duty, 107 and only a public duty to perform; and, therefore, he could not for his life perceive why a qualification should be imposed on them so as to fetter the right of electors to choose, not the fittest persons for their purpose, but certain persons out of the narrow circle to which they were limited. It had been said, that even among the present self-elected bodies, as they were called, it often happened that the people at large had the power of making a choice. Ay, they had the choice but it was only one, or two, or three persons, appointed by the ruling body whom the people had it in their power to choose. Although this was not exactly the same sort of choice which the right hon. Baronet would give the burgesses, it was still something like it. For they are not to choose the persons the most fit in the borough, but the persons who are the most fit in the small qualified body to which the right hon. Baronet would confine them. He must also contend that the qualification which the right hon. Baronet had fixed in his Amendment, was much too high for the purposes of this Bill. In the smaller boroughs he thought that there would not be a sufficient number of persons qualified to fill the office of Town Council, even if they were to be chosen by virtue of their property, and without any election. He recollected that it appeared from Returns made to the House, when the qualification Clause for the electors under the Reform Bill was under discussion, that in a certain borough, which had a Mayor and Common Council, there was only one 10l. house. Now, he believed that it would be discovered that there were a great many boroughs not in exactly the same predicament, but there were a great many in which there would not be found persons enough to fill the municipal offices if a 20l. qualification were taken. It was upon this ground that he should oppose the Amendment. It would be narrowing the choice of the electors, and taking from them their right to elect the persons who were best qualified to discharge the duties of Town Council, that he resisted this Amendment. He wished to remind the Committee, that for the Members now returned to that House by the people of Scotland, no qualification was required, and yet those Members did not yield to any in that House for sagacity, for intelligence, or for a desire to perform their duties faithfully to their constituents, 108 The same was the case with respect to the Magistrates, who under the new system, exercised jurisdiction in the Scotch burghs. The electors in those burghs were indeed curtailed in one of their privileges, having to provide themselves with a 10l. franchise, but having that franchise, they were free to choose whomsoever they pleased. If then a precedent were wanted to justify them in adopting this Clause without Amendment, they had a precedent for it in the absence of all qualification for the persons elected to represent Scotland in Parliament, and to exercise jurisdiction in its municipal burghs.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that it appeared from a Clause in the noble Lord's Bill, that the rate-payers within the borough were to have the power of electing the Town Council from their own body without any regard to property or other qualification. By the proposition of the right hon. Baronet, the choice of the rate-payers would be limited to persons who possessed a certain pecuniary qualification. He confessed that it appeared to him that the qualification proposed by the right hon. Baronet was remarkably high. For his own part he thought that the election of the Town Council ought to be vested in the rate-payers, without being subject to any further qualification. As the hon. and learned Member who last spoke, said that the Amendment would narrow the sphere from which the rate-payers would have to choose—that the effect of it would be to exclude a valuable class of persons—that it would prevent them from selecting persons of intelligence and capacity, and as he so far agreed with the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he could not support the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Baronet.
Mr. William Williams
(Coventry) said, that no qualification was required for the Corporate Officers of the City of London, and yet they had the management of funds, that amounted in the shape of rates, local taxes, and trusts, to 400,000l. In point of fact, though no qualification was necessary, the electors always chose persons of great wealth, and the consequence was, that great improvement had taken place in that Corporation. He should oppose the Amendment.
§ Lord Sandon
said, that the original Charters provided, that persons elected to Corporate officers, should be fit and discreet persons, When those persons 109 were once chosen, whether by the Crown or otherwise, and that the original choice was a good one, it was but natural to conclude that the persons so chosen, and having a right to make a choice for the future, would follow the example set them, and choose in their turn fit and proper persons. They were told, that it was of no consequence whether the persons chosen to fill Corporate offices, were men of property or not; that they had no important trusts confided to their charge, and no extensive patronage. When the hon. and learned Member made such a statement, he seemed to overlook the fact, that they would have important trusts to manage, and a large amount of property to deal with. Take the case of Liverpool, for instance. The Corporate Officers of that town had to manage 100,000l. a-year, that arose from tolls levied on the docks. The qualification to have the management of such funds was not too high, when it was in some instances to be possessed of 50l. or 100l. a-year, and that the persons who elected such officers were to be the 10l. householders. It was of vast importance that the persons who had to manage the interests of the rate-payers, should be persons of property themselves. There was a great deal of Church patronage in Liverpool in the power of the Corporation, and if that patronage should fall into the hands of persons who possessed but very small property, what security was there that they would not be tempted to sell that patronage? The proposition of the right hon. Baronet was consistent with all local trusts, and with the principles on which all Corporations were based, namely, that those persons who had the management of the property of others should be interested in the good management of it, and possess property themselves. With this view he should support the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, and he thought that the qualification proposed by it was an extremely moderate one. It would meet with the approbation of the country, and the Whig Gentlemen residing in boroughs would be as favourable to it as the Tory Gentlemen.
§ Sir John Hobhouse
contended, that the clause as it stood in the Bill was most congenial to its general principles. In his opinion, all persons who were concerned in borough Government ought to have the free choice of the borough Magistrates, who were to have the control of the borough 110 funds. The noble Lord who had just spoken approved of the qualification proposed by the right hon. Baronet opposite, because it was moderate in amount. Now, he would remind the noble Lord of one or two facts, which would show how the imposition of that qualification would work in practice. In that change of parochial Government which he had had the honour of introducing into that House, a rated qualification was fixed for those who were to conduct the affairs of the parish. That rated qualification was fixed, however, against his opinion, and against the opinion of other Gentlemen with whom he acted. He would tell the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet what had been the effect of fixing a 40l. qualification for the Members of Select Vestries. In the metropolitan parishes, the qualification for the elected was a 40l., for the electors a 10l. house. Now, in two of the largest parishes in London the effect of that Clause had been to nullify the Bill entirely. It had not produced in those parishes, as it had in some others, any salutary consequences. If either the noble Lord or the right hon. Baronet thought that there was a general propensity in the people of England to choose persons for their local Government, who had a tendency to misgovernment, that was an objection to the Bill in toto; and we had no right to be talking of introducing so great, so decided, and so pernicious a change into the Corporations of the country. But if it were a fact, that in the times in which we live there was that degree of intelligence and interest in good Government among the people of England which should induce the House of Commons to trust them with the Administration of their own affairs—if the House was proceeding upon that principle the Ministers were right in the proposition which they had made, and the right hon. Baronet was not right in his limitation of that proposition. He had heard a great many popular arguments urged, both in defence and against the propriety of fixing a pecuniary qualification for those who were elected to offices of trust and dignity. Would any man who had had much Parliamentary experience in those Committees which had sat to decide upon the qualification of some of the first men in that country,—he meant Members of that House,—would any man with such experience venture to say, that pecuniary 111 qualification was a bona fide protection against the intrusion of improper persons into Parliament? It was known not to be so. And if that were true, how was it that the right hon. Baronet ventured to say, that the imposition of a pecuniary qualification would be a protection against the intrusion of improper persons into our Municipal Corporations? It might be true, that in the present state of Corporations in which the Municipal Officers were elected for life, a pecuniary qualification was necessary, inasmuch as they were not removable from their offices. But under the new state of things which this Bill would produce, they would be removed periodically, and therefore, if the electors should happen to find that they had been mistaken in the character of those whom they had elected, they would have an opportunity of correcting their mistake by removing them at the next election. With all respect to the right hon. Baronet, he must say that he had heard nothing during the debate which was calculated to alter his opinion upon the subject. It had always been his opinion, that when you are founding a measure on a great popular basis, you should carry out your principle to the full, if it be defensible. Here your principle was not only defensible, but also most admirable, and hitherto he had heard no reason for departing from it.
thought, that the right hon. Baronet who had last addressed the House had not taken into consideration the trusts, charities, and duties that would be intrusted to the management of those persons for whom a qualification was sought. The duties that would devolve on those persons made it, in his opinion, imperative that they should be individuals possessed of a certain amount of property. Would the right hon. Gentleman contend, that the management of funds might be intrusted to persons without any qualification, and that that would be a sufficient guarantee for their integrity? The right hon. Gentleman would agree with him that it had always been the practice in this country that when persons were intrusted with the management of funds in which they were not personally interested, the only way to have security that those funds should be properly administered was, that the persons should be possessed of property. If they had not property how could they be come 112 upon legally, and be obliged to repay those sums they had improperly applied? The Town Councils of boroughs would have the management of large charities, and of funds left by individuals for particular purposes, and was it not fit that there should be some security that they would apply them according to the will of the original donors? The present Bill presented no such security. The right hon. Gentleman was of course aware that persons had misapplied such funds, and converted them to their own use. The Courts of Law came down upon them, and, being persons of property, compelled them to repay to the proper parties injured the sums they had dishonestly applied. If those persons had had no property what would have happened, and what would have become of the charities, the funds belonging to which had been misapplied? He begged the right hon. Gentleman to consider the infirmities of human nature and the temptations to which all were exposed. He would then ask him, whether some guarantee was not necessary for the proper management of such funds as he alluded to? Under the Bill before the House there would not be sufficient security. The right hon. Gentleman in case of the misapplication of such funds might have recourse to the Courts of Law. He might punish the guilty party personally, but if he possessed no qualification as to property, he could not obtain any pecuniary redress. If what he said was no argument in favour of personal security it certainly was one, and a very strong one, for the necessity of a pecuniary qualification. When persons had the management of funds for the benefit of others they should be made responsible, and the parties that might be injured by misapplication of those funds ought to have the means of redress placed within their reach. Those, if there were no other reasons, would induce him to support the Amendment of his right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Ewart
considered that much more security for the proper management of Corporate Funds was to be obtained from the common interest municipal officers took in the welfare of the community of which they formed a part than from any wealth they might be possessed of. The borough system generally must be remembered as reflecting discredit upon the country at large, and he only wondered that his noble Colleague should not have 113 recollected the state of things at Liverpool. There the Corporate Officers, persons who enjoyed their privileges he might almost say ex officio, had the entire distribution of a sum of 100,000l. a-year, arising from the docks; but then the Common Council of the town, who had no qualification at all, possessed a veto over the proceedings of the Corporate body. In private Bills it might be necessary to adopt the precaution of a qualification; but surely that House, when legislating on a great and general subject, was not to be governed by so small and paltry an example. For his own part he must say that he hoped the time was not far distant when no qualification would be necessary for the election of the Members of the Legislature, much less for the election of the members of Municipal Corporations; and the reason he wished to see all qualifications of the sort got rid of was, because he did not think such security at all necessary to the good government of the country.
§ Mr. Barlow Hoy
considered that a qualification in such cases was absolutely necessary, and in proof of his assertion he referred to the East-India Company, who had attached, and, in his judgment, very properly, a high qualification to the office of Director.
Mr. Francis Baring
wished to call the attention of the House to that which would be the real effect of the proposition of the right hon. Member for Tamworth on the different towns in which this measure was intended to operate, and for that purpose he would call hon. Members' attention to the Borough which he had the honour to represent. He found that in Portsmouth, which was separated by wards from Portsea, the whole number of Common Councilmen furnished by the different wards was forty-eight, although there were only fifty eight houses in the Borough rated to the house duty above 40l. a-year. The house duty was higher in this Borough than the poor-rates, and the result of adopting the right hon. Baronet's Amendment would be, that out of the forty-eight Common-Councilmen now chosen eighteen only would be eligible to be elected.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not mean to allude to the principal part of the Borough?
Mr. Francis Baring
said, that he did, and he thought the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet a blind mode of proceeding.
§ Sir Robert Peel
quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that he had discussed this question in a very blind way. The hon. Gentleman had undertaken to explain his (Sir Robert Peel's) Amendment but how had he accomplished that task? Why, by leaving out of sight altogether the simple fact, that the Amendment gave the alternative of another qualification, namely, that of the possession of 1,000l. or of 500l. real or personal property, or being rated, in the one case, to the extent of 40l., and in the other to the amount of 20l. His Amendment proposed a double qualification; for it provided that to entitle a party to vote for the election of Municipal Officers he should either be rated to a certain extent or possess real or personal property of a given value, or both. Although it appeared, from the hon. Gentleman's statement, that if this Amendment were carried only eighteen houses in Portsmouth ward would confer a qualification by rating, yet it did not follow that there would be any obligation against electing Members of the Council out of the ward. He could not, however, believe that the hon. Gentleman seriously meant his statement to apply to the principal part of the borough.
Mr. Francis Baring
said, that what he had said certainly did apply to the principal part of the town.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Did the hon. Gentleman mean, then, to tell the House that there were only forty-eight persons in Portsmouth who were worth 1,000l.?
§ Mr. Cumming Bruce
thought, that the example of Scotland ought to convince every rational person that dispensing with qualifications in cases like the present was most unwise. It was well known to every one at all acquainted with the present Scotch burgh system that the persons who had been chosen for the purpose had failed to carry on the affairs of those burghs with anything like efficiency; and no one who looked at the returns relating to the distribution of the Corporate Funds of Inverness, and the other boroughs which he had the honour to represent, could for a moment doubt that in those burghs Corporate Property had been seriously deteriorated by mismanagement. If a qualification were necessary for the election of Members to serve in that House, it was equally called for in the election of Municipal officers: and although he should be glad to see the qualification for Municipal 115 Officers lowered, he thought that to dispense with a suitable qualification would be unwise, especially with the evidence which the Scotch burghs furnished before their eyes.
§ Lord John Russell
contended, first, that the proposition of the right hon. Baronet was a restriction on the powers of the burgesses; and secondly, that there ought to be very strong reasons for the adoption of such a restriction by the Committee. He thought that his Clause tended more to produce good Government in these boroughs than the proposition which the right hon. Baronet had moved as an Amendment on it. The right hon. Baronet, he said, had confined his observations to the instances of towns in which these qualifications had been fixed for the Members of the governing body, but had not said one word to prove that those qualifications had produced good Government. He was ready to grant that a great number of those local Acts to which the right hon. Baronet had referred established the fact that Parliament had of late years fixed a pecuniary qualification for the Members of the governing body; but having granted that, he was not ready to grant that they were now bound to follow the course which Parliament had formerly chalked out for them. He should state very shortly his reasons for opposing this Amendment. The first was, that our ancient charters did not contain a syllable about the pecuniary qualification of the Magistrates of the boroughs to which they were granted. There was not at this moment, in the city of London any qualification for Municipal Offices; and for the Common Council, which was elected yearly, no pecuniary qualification was required; so much for the original qualification of charters. Was there any general principle or satisfactory reason on which to establish the proposed qualification? He thought not. In his opinion both reason and principle were in favour of an unrestricted choice, by the burgesses, of persons in whom they think they can most justly confide. If the House did not confide in them, it would be better not to give the privilege; if it did confide in them, it was better not to encumber them with the restriction. There would be great practical inconvenience if the right hon. Baronet's Amendment were adopted. In many places the proposed qualification would be exceedingly high, 116 and in different towns it would be extremely various. In many large towns, as in the case of Portsmouth, the 1,000l. property qualification, and the 40l. rating, would be attended with the inconvenience stated by his hon. Friend, the Member for Portsmouth, and the same objection would also apply in other places. With regard to smaller boroughs, such as Chippenham, for instance, the qualification of 500l., or 20l. rating, would exclude many persons altogether who were extremely well qualified. He knew with respect to the principle of 20l. rating, that when returns came before him on the subject, it appeared that in many towns to which the Amendment would apply there were not above five, ten, or fifteen houses rated at 20l. He therefore thought, that the qualification would be found exceedingly various, and inconvenient in its practical operation, and that the Clause would be in a great degree rendered inoperative if it were adopted. He hoped that the Committee would not agree to the proposed alteration. As to the idea of persons being likely to be guilty of embezzling funds committed to their management, if there were not a pecuniary qualification, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman, (Mr. Goulburn), when making this objection, must have been thinking of the present state of Corporations with which he was acquainted. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman spoke on the supposition of a self-elected body with the entire management of funds, unchecked by the opinion of their fellow-townsmen, and by the due examination and publication of accounts. No doubt that was the idea which occupied the right hon. Gentleman's mind when he spoke of the chance of embezzlement. Supposing the Town Councillors to be persons capable of being guilty of the crime mentioned—a thing which he did not think likely—still there existed the security of certain checks on embezzlement; there were treasurers, auditors, and an inspection of accounts, as securities for the good and just management of Corporate Property. For the reasons stated, he was not disposed to consent to the right hon. Baronet's Amendment. He admitted that it was in conformity with the principle adopted in certain local Acts in which it might, perhaps, be properly enough introduced, but he objected to a qualification in a general measure such as the present, and preferred, leaving the matter to. 117 the electors, who had so strong an interest in choosing proper Councillors, that he did not consider them likely to make an improper choice.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that the noble Lord had reproached—no, he would not say reproached—but animadverted upon him for not having rested his case on some general train of reasoning; but had he not adduced a stream of concurring evidence to show that what he proposed would most conduce to the good government of the places to which this Bill was intended to apply? He had thought it better to refrain from adducing any authority except such as was founded upon general reasoning, but if the House wished for other precedents then he would refer them to one of great authority—he would refer them to a Bill brought in by the noble Lord himself—and when he heard the noble Lord pronouncing censure upon those who were unwilling to place implicit confidence in the electoral body—when he heard him talk about good government on the part of the governing body, because forsooth, the electoral body would only choose those in whom they could confide, he stared at the restrictions which he found on looking into the Act which the noble Lord had supported through that House, "for the better regulation of the affairs of the parishes of St. Giles's-in-the Fields, and St. George's, Bloomsbury." Here there was an excellent opportunity for the noble Lord to act upon his own principle; but had he done so? The noble Lord had now disclaimed all restrictions as unnecessary and uncalled for, on the ground that the governing body would be always controlled by the good sense of the electoral body; but was this the principle upon which the noble Lord's own Act was founded? The House would see. The Act to which he referred provided that one-half of those who should be eligible to vote for the election of vestrymen, churchwardens, and other parochial officers in the parishes of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields, and St. George's, Bloomsbury, or who, in execution of that Act, should, from time to time, be elected under it, should be resident householders in the parish, and rated to the relief of the poor in an annual assessment of the value of not less than—what did the House think? why, than 75l.per annum. The noble Lord attached another qualification to the other half; but although four 118 divisions took place respecting the qualification of the electoral body, not one division occurred with reference to the governing body. By the same Act no rate-payer was entitled to vote unless rated to the amount of 30l. a-year. An hon. Gentleman proposed that the rating of voters should be 15l., but the noble Lord opposed and divided against the proposition, which was lost. The noble Lord said, on that occasion, that though he thought 30l. too high a qualification, he considered 15l. too low. Not a doubt was entertained as to the propriety of the qualification of the governing body, but there were four divisions on the subject of the elective body. Thus it appeared that when this Act was passed, the noble Lord, who now reposed the utmost confidence in the discrimination of the elective body, had great doubts as to the electors choosing the persons best qualified for the due administration of their affairs.
§ Viscount Howick
was not surprised that the right hon. Baronet, with that skill and dexterity which never failed him when he found himself in an awkward position, had endeavoured to draw the attention of the Committee from the real point before them, by trying to get up a laugh against his noble Friend on a matter entirely inapplicable to the present Question. The right hon. Baronet did not attempt any answer to the point urged by his hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) in reference to such places as Portsmouth; nor had he met the observation of another hon. Member, who pressed him to state any general grounds for a qualification such as that, proposed. Both these points the right hon. Baronet thought it unsafe to handle, and, in lieu of entering upon them, he had entertained the Committee with a history of an Act relating to the joint parishes of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields and St. George's, Bloomsbury. The right hon. Baronet could not pretend to say that the uniform practice was in favour of a qualification, as would appear from a reference to Acts passed for the towns of Liverpool and Bristol. If the right hon. Gentleman's proposal were agreed to, the only consolation was, that under the qualification the Clause would be a dead letter, a result, however, which he did not think desirable, and he should therefore oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, he was willing to move that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again, if the Committee 119 were indisposed to hear his reasons for giving his hearty concurrence in the important Amendment of the right hon. Baronet. One objection urged against the Amendment was, that no qualification was required by existing charters. This objection came with a very ill grace from the noble Lord, whose Bill showed little respect for the very charters which he thus affected to quote as perfection. But how stood the matter? Was no qualification for the office of mayor required under the present system? He contended that there was, and of the very best description, that of graduation in office. In Oxford, for instance, a person is first elected common-councilman; he is then eligible for the office of chamberlain; he may then be elected bailiff; and the next step is that of assistant, from among whom the mayor is chosen. Thus an individual is several years before the public, and his conduct open to general observation, before he can be called to take upon himself the office of mayor; whereas, by the present Bill, a rate-payer is one day to be elected of the town-council, and the following day to be appointed mayor. Is it too much, then, to require of such an individual that he shall have some qualification beyond, it may be, the payment of sixpence a-quarter to the poor's-rate. He had already that evening had occasion to state, but he must repeat, that the Corporation of Oxford consists of about ninety members, less than forty of whom could not make a payment out of the city funds; whereas the Bill sought to establish a town-council of thirty-three, of whom eleven should be a quorum, capable of doing every act for which forty were now necessary, and of dealing with the corporation funds as they pleased. The city of Oxford had not borrowed large sums of money, but such was the case with many Corporations; now, he would put it to the Committee whether it was fair to parties who had advanced large sums to present Corporations, in whom they had confidence, to transfer their securities to a new body, furnishing no test whatever of individual respectability, or of their means of meeting any pecuniary penalties they might incur by breach or neglect of duty. In such case, he contended that the creditors ought to be entitled to immediate payment of the monies they had advanced. The noble Lord, the Secretary at War, had stated that where a pecuniary qualification 120 was required for office under local Acts, it was never looked to or insisted on, but his experience had taught him quite the contrary. He would instance the Act passed for the improvement of the town of Ryde, in which he resided. The Act provided that every commissioner should be possessed of an estate in land or houses, within the town, of 1000l. value, and no commissioner had been allowed to act until he had made oath to his qualification. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department had taunted the right hon. Baronet with having laid no ground, with having used no argument, for establishing the qualification for which he contended. He (Mr. Hughes), in consequence of the impatience of the Committee, had only advanced some of the arguments which occurred to him; he hoped the Amendment would now be carried, but if not, and it should be again brought forward in any after stage of the Bill, he pledged himself to adduce additional reasons in its favour.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 204; Noes 267—Majority 63.
would suggest the necessity of adopting some satisfactory provision in the case of charitable trustees, before the Clause was finally disposed of.
§ Sir Robert Peel
would give no opinion now as to the mode in which charitable funds should be disposed of, reserving to himself the right to enter upon that subject in the proper Clause; but he thought, as the present Clause left such funds in hands of the common-council, the head of which was the mayor, who was also returning-officer of the borough, and as the Bill disqualified a person receiving assistance from the charitable trustees of the town from voting for the town-council, but did not disqualify a 10l. householder who might receive such alms from voting for Members of Parliament, he was of opinion that charitable funds would be liable to abuse for election purposes. He wished to separate altogether the application of charitable funds from election objects. In acquiescing in the words of the Clause, he was not to be precluded, however, from offering an Amendment, if he should see fit, as to the general disposition of charitable funds, when the proper time arrived.
§ Lord John Russell
agreed with the right 121 hon. Baronet as to the propriety of separating the application of charitable funds from Parliamentary elections, but that was not the time to consider the subject.
moved a proviso, that no person should be qualified to be elected a counsellor or charitable trustee who was a clergyman in holy orders, a licenced dissenting teacher, or an officer in the Customs, Stamps, Excise, or Post-office.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that he did not think the proviso necessary, and he therefore felt bound to object to its introduction.
§ Sir Robert Peel
thought that if we reposed so much confidence in the electing body as to fix no qualification for a councillor, on the same principle we ought to allow of the election of a person who had been a bankrupt, if the electors thought the individual had acted with integrity.
§ The Clause as amended was agreed to.
§ On Clause 22, appointing the period for electing councillors, being proposed,
was ready to act as the Committee might desire, and to go on or not, according to its discretion. He would detain the Committee but a very few minutes, for the Amendment which he had to propose was so plain and simple, and its principle was so general, that it was not necessary for him to discuss the matter at any length. He did not propose by this Amendment, to affect in the least the rights conferred on the new body of electors created by the Bill: he did not propose to mix up with the new privileges a reservation of any former rights to cramp their operation; but his object was simply to make provisions, by means of which the constituency enacted by the Bill might be brought to work most steadily and effectually for the good government of boroughs. The old system of municipal government had many and serious vices, among which was the principle of self-election,—a principle not to be justified 122 on any considerations of expediency or sound policy, because under it an entire separation might take place between the feelings, interests, and opinions of the community at large and the governing body, which rendered it an unfit instrument of municipal government; and he therefore held it to be a wise principle of this Bill to make the governing body really and truly represent the opinions and feelings of the people, of whose interests it was the guardian. But the Question was, should the governing body represent as closely as they reflected the interests and opinions of the community—should they also as closely represent, which he feared would be the case, if no alteration were adopted in the Clause, the caprices and prejudices of the body at large? There was at least this advantage about the old system, that in all matters relating to business, there was a body with a character of steadiness and fixedness in affairs of business—a steadiness, permanency, and freedom from caprice, which rendered those who had to transact matters of business with it, able to depend on the adoption of an uniform rule of action in such dealings. Now he thought that in avoiding the vices of the old system new vices might be created, and the constituency might, under the present mode of election, choose a body so capricious and uncertain in its conduct, as to be hardly less unfit to administer the affairs of a borough than the old governing power. He apprehended that if the proposed plan were adopted without modification, something like this would be likely to occur. He did not deny the advantage of the plan proposed by his Majesty's Ministers so far as this—that the whole Council should not be elected at the same time, but that a portion of it should be periodically chosen, for thereby he thought there would be a better chance of the different views and feelings of a borough being justly represented, and less likelihood of the governing body uniformly representing one set of prejudices and opinions. But he thought that if such frequent elections as the Bill proposed should take place, the Council would be liable to adopt a capricious course of action. The towns would be kept in a constant state of electioneering fever. Under the operation of this Bill the corporation would be appointed for a period of three years, one-third of the body having annually to be elected. Now 123 he contended that from the great number of elections consequent on this Bill, the greatest heats, and animosities, and bitterness of feeling, would be excited and constantly kept up. And lest there should not, in the ordinary course of the provisions of the measure, be sufficient disturbance and inconvenience from the interruption of men's avocations, and the unsettling of their minds, it had been determined that upon every death that took place in the governing body, there should be an express and separate election to fill up the vacancy. Only let the House consider the effect which would be produced in Liverpool by these elections—in Liverpool, where there were to be ninety Councillors, and where they might consequently calculate on three deaths annually, and therefore three bitter political struggles. It was assumed by the Government that under the working of the new system, the best men would be selected as members of the governing body, and yet these men they proposed to subject to the constant trouble of re-election, and to the annoyance of a struggle upon every occasion when they may have done anything to affect their popularity. He did not dispute the propriety of giving the rate-payers the entire control over the appointment of the corporate body; but granting this, what possible advantage could there be in calling on the persons elected to appear year after year before their constituents? He thought these frequent municipal elections would be infinitely worse than the constant recurrence of Parliamentary elections, because all the flattery and servility, and so forth, which was not uncommon at elections for Members of Parliament, would come more home to every man in those municipal contests. Besides, he would ask if they were content, as it appeared they were, to give great powers to the corporate body so chosen, could they not rely upon its members for exercising their functions fairly for a longer period than that they proposed to appoint? His ground was this—if they could trust these men at all, they could trust them for a longer period; and by so doing they would secure a governing body with more experience, more uniformity, and more fixity of principle and proceeding than they could hope for under the arrangement originally contemplated. It would relieve the towns, too, from the excitement and injury of such 124 frequent elections, whilst at the same time the community would be enabled to exercise over the governing body that just control which he for one was not in the least degree willing to take away. There were two modes by which his object might be carried into effect. The first was to make the elections triennial, and cause half the governing body to go out at that time, or the same effect might be produced by making the elections biennial, and this might be done without altering the other parts of the Clause. The latter course he should adopt. He should have been himself disposed to propose a longer period than two years, but this shorter time he proposed with the hope of gaining the support of some hon. Members who might be inclined to go thus far with him. He had promised the House not to trouble it for more than a very few minutes, and he would keep his word. He concluded by moving, that after the word "every" the word "succeeding" be struck out, and the word "alternate" be put in its place—that is, he altered the Clause so as to declare that one-third part of the Council should go out of office every second year, instead of every year, as was proposed in the Bill.
§ Sir John Hobhouse
could not help thinking that the arguments of his noble Friend told against himself. He thought that the greater the power they intrusted to these individuals the greater should be the hold they had on them. For his own part, he thought the elections should be as frequent as was consistent with the peace of the towns, so that the people might have the power of removing men in. office for malversation or incapacity. He denied that elections would perpetually produce disturbances. If he thought so, he should be against the Bill altogether. He would refer to the annual elections in the city of London to support his view. The Common-Councilmen were elected every year, but there were no disturbances produced by those elections. He did not think the noble Lord had, in any point of view, proved the necessity of his Amendment. He doubted the effect of the annual elections producing annual troubles: and even if they did, he considered that they would be cheaply purchased by the control of the community over the governing body. The Bill was purely popular, and founded on a popular basis. He was 125 happy to find accordingly that the right hon. Baronet's proposition, which was restrictive in its nature, had been rejected; and he hoped that his noble Friend's Amendment, which was also restrictive, would be rejected in like manner. It was restrictive of the rights of the constituent body; and although the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet might be right, viewing the measure as they did, yet he would contend that on the other side, thinking as Government did, it was right in refusing to accede to the Motion.
§ Mr. Sheil
was understood to ask, why the noble Lord had not made a similar proposition with respect to the provisions of the Scotch Burghs' Bill, which was brought forward when the noble Lord was in power? Men in power changed their opinions, and might now be Conservatives although some four years ago they were excellent Reformers.
§ Mr. Brotherton
supported the Clause. He was of opinion that, the elections would be peaceful, and that the people would elect only those in whom they had confidence.
§ Mr. Scarlett
observed, that there would be great anxiety for office in large towns, where 25,000l. or 30,000l. a-year was held for charities. In those towns there would be frequent contests and great disturbance and injury caused thereby.
denied, that he and his Friends were departing from the popular principle because they did not approve of having elections every year. If the right hon. Gentleman thought their annual municipal elections so good, why did he not on the same principle support annual Parliaments? Was it not equally necessary that the conduct of a Member of Parliament should be annually subjected to the approval of his constituents, as that a member of the Town Council should be put to a yearly election. Under the system proposed, there would be elections every three months, and every man's occupation would be interfered with by the constant canvassing and excitement which would be going forward.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 176; Noes 220; Majority 44.
|List of Noes.|
|Adam, Admiral||Andover, Lord|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Anon, Sir George|
|Ainsworth, P.||Astley, Sir J.|
|Alston Rowland||Attwood, T.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Fellowes, hon. N.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Fergus, John|
|Baines, E.||Ferguson, Gen. Sir R.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Ferguson, R.|
|Baring, Francis||Fielden, J.|
|Barnard, Edward G.||Finn, F.|
|Barham, John||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Bannerman, Alex.||Fitzsimon, C.|
|Barry, G. S.||Fitzsimon, N.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Folkes, Sir W.J.H.B.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Fort, J.|
|Benett, J.||French, F.|
|Berkeley, Hon. F. C.||Gaskell, Daniell|
|Bewes, T.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Blake, Martin Jos.||Goring, H. D.|
|Blackburne, John||Gordon, Robert|
|Blamire W.||Grattan, James|
|Blount Sir C.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Biddulph, Robert||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Grote, G.|
|Bowes, John||Hall, Benjamin|
|Bowring, Dr.||Handley, Henry|
|Brabazon, Sir W. J.||Halleyburton, hn. D.G.|
|Brady, D. C.||Harland, W. C.|
|Bridgman, H.||Hawes, B.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Brodie, W. B.||Hay, Col. Leith|
|Brotherton, J.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B.||Heathcoat, John|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Heneage, Edward|
|Buller, Charles||Hector, C. J.|
|Butler, hon. Pierce||Hindley, C.|
|Byng, George||Hobhouse, Sir J.|
|Callaghan, D.||Holland, E.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hodges, T.L.|
|Carter, J. B.||Hoskins, K.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Howick, Lord|
|Chalmers, P.||Howard, Philip H.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Hutt, W.|
|Clay, W.||Hume, J.|
|Clayton, Sir W.||Jervis, John|
|Clive E. B.||Kemp, Thomas R.|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Kerry, Earl of|
|Cockerell, Sir C. Bt.||King, Edward B.|
|Codrington, Sir E.||Labouchere, Henry|
|Collier, John||Langton,W. Gore|
|Cooper, W.||Leader, John Temple|
|Crawford, W.||Lefevre, Charles S.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Lister, E. C.|
|Curties, Herbert||Loch, James|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Locke, Wadham|
|Denison, John E.||Lushington, Dr.|
|Denistoun, A.||Lushington, G.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Lynch, A. H. S.|
|Divett, Edward||M'Cance, John|
|Dobbin, L.||Maher, John|
|Donkin, Sir R.||Mackenzie, J. A. S.|
|Dunlop, C.||Macleod, R.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Macnamara, Major|
|Dykes, F. L. B.||M'Taggart, J.|
|Ebrington, Lord||Marsland, H.|
|Elphinstone, L.||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Euston, Lord||Marshall, William|
|Evans, George||Maule, C. Fox|
|Ewart, W.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Fazakerley, J. N||Maxwell, John|
|Milton, Viscount||Scourfield, W. H.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Seale, Colonel|
|Moreton, hon. A. H.||Seymour, Lord|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Sharpe, General|
|Morrison, James||Sheil, Richard L.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. L.||Simeon, Sir R. G. Bt.|
|Murray, J. A.||Smith, Robert V.|
|Musgrave, Sir R.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Nagle, Sir R.||Speirs, Alexander|
|O'Brien, C.||Speirs, A. G.|
|O'Brien, W. Smith||Spry, Sir S.|
|O'Connell, D.||Stewart, R.|
|O'Connell, Maurice||Stuart, Lord D.|
|O'Connell, Morgan||Stuart, Lord James|
|O'Connell, J.||Stewart, Patrick|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Strickland Sir G.|
|O'Ferrall, M.||Strutt, E.|
|Oliphant, Lawrence||Talbot, J. H.|
|Ord, William||Talbot, C. M. R.|
|Oswald, J||Talfourd, T. Noon|
|Paget, Frederick||Tancred, H.W.|
|Parnell, Sir H. B. Bt.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Parer, John||Thompson, Col.|
|Parrott, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Pattison, James||Tooke, W.|
|Palmerston, Lord||Townley, R. G.|
|Palmer, Gen.||Tracey, Charles H.|
|Pease, J.||Trelawney, Sir W.|
|Pelham, hon. A.||Troubridge, Sir T.|
|Pendarves, E.W.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Turner, W.|
|Perrin, Louis||Tynte, C. J. Kemys|
|Phillips, Mark||Vigors, N. C.|
|Phillipps, Charles M.||Villiers, Charles|
|Ponsonby, W.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Ponsonby, hon. T.||Vivian, Major|
|Potter, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Poulter, J. S.||Wallace, Robert|
|Power, P.||Walker, C. A.|
|Power, J.||Walker, R.|
|Poyntz, W. Stephen||Walter, John|
|Price, Sir Robert Bt.||Warburton, H|
|Ramsden, John C.||Ward, H. G.|
|Rice, Right hon. T.S.||Wason, R.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Westenra, hon. H. R.|
|Rippon, C.||Wemyss, James|
|Roche, David||Wigney, Isaac N.|
|Roche, W.||Wilbraham, George|
|Roebuck, J. Arthur||Williams, W. A.|
|Robarts, Abraham W.||Williams, W.|
|Robinson, G.||Wilde, Sergeant|
|Ronayne, D.||Williams, Sir J.|
|Rooper, J. Bonfoy||Wilson, Henry|
|Rolfe, Sir R. M.||Wilks, John|
|Russell, Lord John||Winnington, Capt. H.|
|Russell, Lord||Wyse, Thomas|
|Russell, Lord Charles||Wood, Charles|
|Rundle, J.||Wrottesley, Sir J. Bt.|
|Ruthven, E. S.|
|Scholefield, J.||Stanley, E. J.|
§ Clause agreed to. The House resumed.
§ Committee to sit again.