HC Deb 02 March 1836 vol 31 cc1139-41
Mr. Elphinstone

moved the second reading of the Final Register of Electors' Bill.

The Attorney-General

would not oppose the second reading of the Bill; but there was one clause which his hon. Friend had inserted in it to which he (the Attorney-General) must object. By the law as it stood at present out-voters were disfranchised; but if the clause which he alluded to were to be passed, it would re-create a body of out-voters.

Mr. Rigby Wason

was of opinion that the registration before the revising barristers was not yet sufficiently perfect to admit of being rendered final. When some further time had elapsed, he should not object to the registration being final.

Mr. Grote

thought that the hon. Gentleman misapprehended the object of the Bill. He did not understand that it was intended to make the revising barristers' decision final; but that no objection to a vote should be raised before an Election Committee unless there had been a previous objection raised before a revising barrister, and that all votes brought before him, and not objected to, should be final. He thought this was a wise and politic measure; and one which was calculated to save a vast expense to parties going before Election Committees.

Mr. James B. Praed

opposed the Bill. It was essentially opposed to the principle supported by his Majesty's Ministers at the passing of the Reform Bill. He thought the practical effect of the measure would be to embarrass and postpone, if not to prevent altogether, the administra- tion of the law at the proper time and place.

Mr. Charles Buller

was surprised that the Member for West Yarmouth should, after a year's delay, have brought forward the same specious, plausible, but unsound objections. He might as well urge them against every Court of Law in the kingdom, and particularly against the House of Lords. According to his arguments noble Lords should exclaim against the presumption of those who appealed to them, after having had the benefit of the best Judges, Counsel, &c, in the Courts below. He thought the House had, very consistently in its references to this subject, considered the Revising Banisters' a Court of Appeal, in conformity with the usual course of practice in all the English Courts of Law. The House would now do wisely to sanction by its vote all its best decisions, and not leave it open to a man with a large purse to refuse to go at the proper time before the revising barrister, put his opponent to ruinous expense, and set justice at defiance, by a protracted investigation before a Committee, as at present.

Mr. Hume

suggested, that as, by the law as it now stood, a man was not entitled to vote till he had paid up his rates a full year, he should be allowed the benefit of a full year after the payment in considering his sufficiency as a rate-payer.

Mr. Warburton

recommended that the questions put to the voter should be as simple as possible, and no question of law and fact combined, as in the case of scot and lot voters. He related an instance of perjury that occurred to a person of this class, in his reply to the third question, which he thought ought to be omitted.

Mr. Aglionby

agreed with the last speaker, and instanced probable cases of embarrassment to voters in replying as to the value of holdings which might fluctuate from 12l. to 10l. a few days before the poll. He thought that a man's having been once qualified during the previous year ought to suffice.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that this purported to be a Bill for the general and final Registration of Voters, but he found also mixed up with it clauses to permit changes in the localities and qualifications of certain classes of voters—a mode of getting through the business that he especially reprobated. The hon. Member should limit his Bill to its specific object.

Mr. Williams Wynn

did not rise to object to the Bill, but there were such a variety of matters contained therein that it could not well be considered as a whole, and he would recommend that it be referred to the Committee up stairs to consult on the classification of the clauses, and bring them in a more consistent form before the House.

Sir James Graham

had sat six weeks last Session on a Committee along with the hon. Member for West Yarmouth, in the discussion of the principle points of this question, yet one of the most important remained undetermined. It was this —whether the decision of the Revising-Barrister was to be final or not? He purposed to draw a line of distinction between the objections taken at the registration, and arising subsequently to it, and previous to the vote. The Barrister's decisions on the first class should be final. The latter might be left open to further consideration.

Bill read a second time.