HC Deb 22 June 1836 vol 34 cc754-7
Mr. Gillon

presented petitions from the inhabitants of Calton, Glasgow, with 4,000 signatures, praying the franchise might be extended to rate-payers; from the working classes of Leith to the same effect; from the inhabitants of Inverary, praying for household suffrage, and that the votes might be taken by ballot, also that they might be removed to schedule A, &c.; from the magistrates and town council of Lanark, praying to be exempted from the maintenance of prisoners after conviction; from the incorporation of bakers in Linlithgow, praying to be relieved from thirlage to the burgh mills, as their exclusive privileges were about to be abolished; from the inhabitants of Falkirk, objecting to the Bill altogether, and praying that, if passed into a law, they might be exempted from its operation.

Mr. Robert Stewart

moved that the Bill be committed.

Sir William Rae

said, that this was the first time that a 5l. qualification had been introduced into Scottish municipal elections. It was a new principle, and contrary to the Report of the Burgh Commissioners, who thought a 10l. qualification sufficient.

Mr. Gillon

said, that any one who was acquainted with the condition of Scotland would readily acknowledge the great benefits which that country had received from the passing of the Burgh Reform Act, in 1833, and that country owed a deep debt of gratitude to the Ministers, by whom it had been carried through. The advantages from that measure were scarcely inferior to those arising from the Reform Bill itself, and it had been, besides, the precedent for extending similar measures to England and Ireland, of which the one country had already reaped the benefits, and he was convinced they could not be long withheld from the other. That measure, excellent as it was in principle, had been passed without a minute knowledge of various details connected with the burghs of Scot land in order to put an end at once to the vicious system of self-election which there prevailed. In order to acquire information on these points a Commission had been issued, and on the Report of that Commission the present Bill was principally found ed. He believed the Bill in general would give satisfaction to the country, though there were many objections to its details. He thought great good would be obtained by extending the jurisdiction of the magistrates over the Parliamentary limits, and thus putting an end to opposing jurisdictions. The abolition of the old privileged incorporations was also a striking advantage. On the subject of the franchise, he was glad to see the 10l. principle broken in upon. It was manifestly quite unsuited to the smaller burghs; he wished the framers of the Bill had gone a little further and adopted the household suffrage, which had been accorded last year to the burghs of England. It would be his duty in Committee to propose a clause to that effect. He would be anxious to see the alterations on the clauses imposing on the extended boundaries the burdens of the old royalties; at present these clauses were undoubtedly very alarming. He begged to suggest the propriety of relieving burghs from the expense of alimenting prisoners after conviction for crimes committed beyond their jurisdiction. He would not go more into detail at present, but merely say, that if his hon. Friend was met in a conciliatory spirit on both sides, a Bill might be framed which would be productive of the best results to the burghs of Scotland.

Dr. Bowring

hoped, that time would be given to enable the people of Scotland to consider the provisions proposed in the Bill. He was in favour of the 5l. franchise, and wished that the people of Scotland should participate in municipal government as extensively as the people of this country.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

objected to the operation of the 5th Clause in certain cases —among others that of Dumfries and an adjoining suburb, which, being united by the Bill to Dumfries, was subjected to the heavy taxation consequent on the improvements the inhabitants of Dumfries were anxious to promote in their town.

General Sharpe

supported the view which the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright took of the operation of the 5th Clause.

Mr. Wallace

was in favour of the 51. franchise, and if he could, would extend the franchise to householders.

Captain Gordon

agreed with the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright as to the effect of the 5th Clause.

Mr. Fox Maule

approved of the manner in which his hon. Friend took up the Re port of the Commissioners, and of the measure he had founded upon it. He was not, however, disposed to agree to some of his amendments. He did not coincide with him as to the propriety of extending the power or sphere of taxation to the Parliamentary boundaries. If, for instance in Perth, that power were to be extended, it would lead to great inconvenience. If taxes were to be imposed to the extent of these boundaries, the Town Councils in return should convey water, and confer other advantages, which would be productive of great expense.

The Bill went through the Committee. House resumed.