HC Deb 18 July 1836 vol 35 cc302-5

Lord John Russell moved the Order of the Day for the resumption of the adjourned debate on the Report of the County Elections Polls Bill.

Colonel Sibthorpe

said, he objected to a bill of this importance being discussed at so late a period of the night. He was opposed to the principle of the Bill, the object of which was to disfranchise a large class of electors. He should move, as an Amendment, that the report be taken into further consideration this day six months.

Mr. Arthur Trevor

said, this Bill was a decided interference with the elective franchise; for, by limiting the poll to one day, it rendered it utterly impossible for persons holding property in different counties to exercise their franchise in all. He believed that, under this Bill, a large proportion of county elections would be carried completely by clamour. He should support the Amendment of his gallant Friend, the member for Lincoln; and in doing so, he should stand by one of the truest and most undaunted patriots in the kingdom.

Sir Charles Knightley

said, this measure was introduced for the purpose of destroying the influence of the party opposed to the present Government. It was well known, that county voters were generally in favour of that party; and the object of this Bill was to prevent them, as much as possible, from exercising their elective franchise. [No! no!] The Government had better introduce a bill at once, disfranchising county voters; nay, they might as well introduce a bill, enacting, that none but radicals might sit in that House.

Mr. Forbes

said, it was right that this very important measure should receive a full and fair discussion; and he moved, that the debate be adjourned. [No! no!]

Mr. Hume

said, that undoubtedly if the hon. Baronet, the member for Northamptonshire, would bring in a bill to exclude any but radicals from a seat in this House, he (Mr. Hume) would second it [laughter.] This Bill emanated from the recommendation of a Committee up stairs, equally composed of Tories and Whigs; the Government had nothing at all to do with it.

Dr. Nicholl

I rise to order. I think the question is the adjournment. [Loud cries of "No! no!"]

The Speaker

The question is an Amendment to an Order of the Day. Since that, it has been moved, that the debate be adjourned.

Mr. Hume

continued. This Bill did not, therefore, deserve the character which had been given of it by hon. Members opposite. He thought the recommendation of the Committee ought to have some weight.

Lord Lowther

Undoubtedly, in the Committee to which the hon. Member for Middlesex referred, some such measure as this was recommended. But he believed that the measure contemplated in Committee was far different from that before the House, on the present occasion. He had recommended, for instance, that there should be a polling-booth allowed to a certain number of voters—between 400 and 500. He objected to the Bill, because it gave to the sheriffs or magistrates of counties, the power of fixing the number of polling-booths. It was not so much upon the principle as upon the details—the very important details that he objected to the Bill. He objected to limiting the poll to one day. He believed it would have the effect of preventing a large class of voters from exercising the elective franchise. He objected to the poll being kept open to six in the evening. [Mr. Hume: It has been altered to five.] He could state other objections, but he did not think it right to proceed with such important bills at this hour, and regretted that the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) did not persevere in his motion for adjournment after twelve o'clock.

Lord John Russell

It was quite evident that the noble Lord had not attended to the details of this Bill. He complained that the Bill gave the sheriffs or magistrates of counties the power of fixing the number of polling-booths. It did no such thing. It only gave to the sheriffs or magistrates the power of making representations as to the number of polling-booths required; it would be for his Majesty, in Privy Council, to determine upon their number and localities. And the other objections of the noble Lord were objections which had again and again been urged in former stages of this Bill, and which had been also urged against reducing the time for polling from fifteen days to two.

Mr. Forster

suggested, that the Bill should be postponed to afford time for the introduction of a clause, which he had before recommended, preventing elections in contiguous counties from taking place on the same day. It would only extend the time which the elections would occupy four or five days beyond the period they would, under the Bill as it stood, occupy; and it would remove a very main objection to the Bill.

Mr. Pringle

was anxious that the Bill should eventually pass into a law, but he hoped the noble Lord would take the advice of the hon. Member for Walsall, and postpone the Bill to afford time for obviating the difficulties which had been raised.

The House divided on the Motion of Adjournment. Ayes 26; Noes 52: Majority 26.

Mr. Forbes moved, that the House do adjourn.

Lord John Russell

said, he should postpone the further consideration of this Report till Thursday next; but in consenting to this arrangement, he must say he thought nothing could be more unjust than the course which had been taken. The Bill had been twice in Committee. It had been discussed when it formed part of another bill, and at the request of an hon. Gentleman opposite, he had made it a separate bill. He was sorry he had acceded to that request, because his doing so had led to an opposition which would not have been offered if this measure had continued a part of the former Bill. The present Bill was brought in at five o'clock in the afternoon; the hon. Member for Cambridge then discussed it, and it had been discussed in Committee. On the third reading, there would be another opportunity of discussing it. He submitted, however, because he never wished to enter into discussions of this kind, which involved division after division; but he did so, reminding the House that, if at this period of the year, they would not advance any important measures, except at an early hour, the Session would inevitably be protracted five or six weeks longer.

Mr. Forbes

withdrew his motion, and the debate was further adjourned.

List of the AYES.
Alsager, Captain Buller, Sir J. Y.
Blackstone, W. S. Chisholm, A. W.
Bramston, T. W. Clerk, Sir G.
Brotherton, J. Darlington, Earl of
Egerton, W. T. Parker, M.
Forbes, W. Perceval, Colonel
Forster, Charles S. Praed, W. M.
Fremantle, Sir T. Pringle, A.
Gladstone, T. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Gladstone, W. E. Tyrrell, Sir J. T.
Gordon, hon. W. Vesey, hon. T.
Knightley, Sir C.
Lefroy, right hon. T. TELLERS.
Lowther, Viscount Sibthorp, Colonel
Nicholl, Dr. Trevor, A.
List of the NOES.
Adam, Sir C. Morpeth, Viscount
Aglionby, H. A. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Alston, R. O'Connell, M.
Baldwin, Dr. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Bannerman, A. O'Loghlen, M.
Baring, F. T. Palmerston, Viscount
Blake, M. J. Parker, J.
Blamire, W. Philips, M.
Bowring, Dr. Price, Sir R.
Brady, D. C. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Bridgeman, H. Russell, Lord J.
Buckingham, J. S. Ruthven, E.
Chalmers, P. Stanley, E. J.
Chapman, A. Strickland, Sir G.
Dalmeny, Lord Stuart, V.
Denison, J. E. Thompson, Colonel
Divett, E. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Duncombe, T. Thornely, Thomas
Ebrington, Viscount Tulk, C. A.
Ferguson, G. Wallace, R.
Fergusson, rt. hon. R. C. Wakley, T.
Grey, Sir G. Warburton, H.
Hawes, B. Wood, Alderman
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Young, G. F.
Howard, P. H.
Knox, hon. J. J. Maule, F.
Mackenzie, S. Smith, V.