HC Deb 08 June 1836 vol 34 cc208-11

The House went into Committee on the Bribery at Elections Bill.

On that part of Clause 3 which subjects a person guilty of bribing another to a penalty of 500l. for each offence,

Mr. Hume

said, that if it were desired that the penalty should be enforced and recovered, it should be a moderate one; but if the penalty was a heavy one, it would not be enforced.

Sir C. Burrell

was understood to say, that there was scarcely any instance in which (he penalty of 500l. in such cases was recovered.

Mr. Pryme

concurred in thinking that a severe penalty would defeat its object. He would move, as an amendment, that the sum of 50l. instead of 500l. be substituted.

Mr. Hardy

said, that if the penalty were reduced to so small a sum, it would give a great opening to bribery, for such a penalty if inflicted on a person administering the bribe, would be at once paid by the candidate

Mr. Pryme

said, that his object was to make the Bill more effective, by having a fine that would be imposed. Did the hon. and learned Member know the facts connected with the 500l. penalty? They were told, he believed, by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Montgomery. When the Bill was first proposed the penalty was a moderate one, but an hon. Member, who was opposed to the whole Bill, moved that the penalty be 500l., in the hope that if so high a penalty was attached to the offence, the Bill would be abandoned by its promoters, but rather than lose the Bill they adopted the amendment, and it passed. Would a penalty of 100l. suit the views of the hon. and learned Member?

Mr. Hardy

—If the penalty be small, parties would not sue for it, for in that case they would get little more than would cover their own costs.

Amendment negatived; Clause agreed to.

On the 4th Clause, enacting "That if any person shall, at any time after the passing of this Act, directly or indirectly give, offer, or allow, or in any way promise to or for the use or advantage of any voter, any gift, reward, or compensation of any kind, as a consideration in whole, or in part, for any loss of time in travelling to or from, or in attending at any such election for the purpose of voting, he shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of 50l."

Lord Stanley

objected to this clause, as it would prevent the payment of bond fide election expenses; and it was well known that many voters would not go to the poll unless the expenses of their conveyance was paid. There might be a maximum fixed for such expenses to prevent corrupt practices, but they ought not to prevent the payment of what were purely lawful expenses.

Mr. Roebuck

differed from the view taken by the noble Lord. The election was the business not of the candidates, but of the electors, and the candidate ought not to be asked to pay anything. The chief object of this Bill ought to be to prevent such payment.

Mr. Hardy

said, that his chief object in the clause was to prevent any money passing from the candidate to the electors, or that any pecuniary transactions should take place between them.

Mr. Roebuck

moved as an amendment, that the words "as a consideration in whole or in part for any loss of time in travelling to or from, or in attending at, any such election for the purpose of voting," be omitted. The hon. Gentleman said, that he did not wish by this alteration to prohibit candidates from bringing the voters up to the poll, but to prevent them from giving any distinct sum of money to any voter.

Mr. Grattan

protested against the extension of this amendment to Ireland. The object of it would be to prevent the travelling expenses of the voters from being paid, and it would then be impossible to have an election.

Mr. Heathcote

should give his most decided opposition to the proposal of the hon. Member for Bath, as it would bear very hard on the poorer class of voters, who were not able to pay their own expenses.

Mr. Aglionby

defended the amendment, which he thought would prove very beneficial. Its object was not to prevent voters being conveyed to the poll at the expense of the candidates, because, in the present state of the election law, it would be quite impossible to prevent it.

Mr. John Young

was quite satisfied, that if this amendment were adopted, the practical result would be that a very considerable portion of the county constituency, more especially in Ireland, would be disfranchised, as the poorer classes could not afford to pay for travelling to the poll,

Mr. Hardy

would move a proviso, "that nothing herein contained should prevent candidates or other persons connected with them from providing conveyances for voters to and from the poll at their election," This be hoped would meet the object proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Roebuck

must press his own amendment.—

The Committee divided on the original question;—Ayes 65; Noes 58; Majority 7.—Clause agreed to. Clause 5 was then proposed, enacting "That if any person shall at any time after the passing of the act, by himself, or by or with any person, or by any ways, means, or devices, or any colour, excuse, or pretence whatsoever, directly or indirectly give, present, allow, provide, or procure, or promise, engage, or agree to give, present, allow, provide, or procure any meat, drink, entertainment, or provision to or for any person, with the intent or for the purpose of thereby corruptly influencing such or any other person to give or to refuse, or forbear to give, his vote in any such election, or for the purpose of corruptly recompensing such or any other person for having given or refused, or forborne to give his vote in any such election, every person so offending in any respect shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of 50l.

The Committee divided: Ayes 33; Noes 40—Majority 7.

Clause struck out of the Bill.

The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.