HC Deb 12 April 1837 vol 37 cc1124-50

Mr. Hume moved the second reading of the County-rates Bill. He said, that in consequence of its having been intimated to him that there would be some opposition to the measure, he should explain the principle on which it was framed. The object of the Bill was to direct that a Board for the management of the County-rates should be elected by the rate-payers, instead of the control of their funds being left to the magistrates, as they were at present. At present, the rate-payers had no control whatever over the county expenditure, and they had not even a right to know how the money was expended. The Court of King's Bench, by a recent decision, declared, that the county rate-payers had no right to call for the particulars of the expenditure. He proposed, that there should for the future be a county board, composed of from twelve to fifteen members, and elected by the great body of the rate-payers, which should have the management and control of the county expenditure. They should also have the direction of the assessments and the regulations and repairs of the roads, the prisons, and the control over expenditure in the gaols. This Bill, then, would be placing the population of counties on the same footing as regarded the county expenditure as the population of the municipal boroughs. He was convinced that nothing could be more satisfactory to a community paying rates than knowing that they had a proper check and control over the expenditure. It was notorious that the County-rates had greatly increased within the last few years, in consequence of which, in some counties, a finance committee had been appointed to watch over and check the expenditure, and wherever such Committee had been established there had been a great reduction. If this committee were advantageous in some counties, it should be extended to all, and certainly it was desirable to have a uniform law and system a regarded the county expenditure. It had been suggested that the guardians of the poor should have the election of the county board, instead of the great body of the rate-payers. He did not agree in this suggestion, because he thought that the guardians of the poor had already enough to do, and he also thought that they should have nothing to do with the county expenditure. He, at the same time, felt bound to say, that if the House thought it desirable that the election of the county boards should rest on these bodies, an alteration to this effect might be made in the Committee. He considered that the improvement that would be effected by this Bill would be so important and extensive, that he regretted that the Government had not taken the matter up, and given their weight and influence to carry the measure into effect. All that he then asked was, if the principle of the measure were approved of, that he should be allowed to go into Committee, when any alterations might be proposed which hon. Gentlemen thought desirable, and he could assure them that he would give his mature attention to the consideration of them. It had been said, that one of the objects of this Bill was to create a rural police; but this was not the case, for all that it did was to give the board a check on the county expenditure, as well regarding the police as other matters. He concluded with moving the second reading of the Bill.

Mr. Alston

complained that the hon. Member for Middlesex had put his (Mr. Alston's) name to the Bill, without any reference to him for his consent.

Mr. Hume

begged to explain. The hon. Member had presented a petition from the county of Hertford in favour of the Bill, and he was given to understand that the hon. Member was a warm supporter of the Bill. So he had been informed by a Friend of the hon. Member; and the hon. Member not having been in the House when he moved for leave to bring in the Bill, he had named the hon. Member as one of those who was to bring it on. When the hon. Member presented the petition from the county of Hertford, he understood the hon. Member would be a strong supporter of the principle of the Bill; indeed the hon. Member had told him so himself.

Mr. Alston

It was quite true, that he was favourable to the principle of the Bill; but if the hon. Member had shown him the Bill, if he had seen the bulk of it, and the machinery requisite for working out its details, he should at once have declined to give it his support. The petition he had had the honour of presenting from the county of Hertford, was for the establishment of a better principle with regard to County-rates, and in so far he coincided in the principle of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Middlesex. He considered that the County-rates had hitherto been administered in a very culpable manner, and inasmuch, as representation ought to accompany taxation, he considered that the payers of the rates ought to possess some knowledge of their appropriation. This object might be effected by a county council or board, but he thought the present Bill so complicated, and calculated so much to increase the expenses of counties, that he was quite sure his constituents would not pray for its introduction into their county. In fact, he was sure that it would increase the expense ten times told, and would be the occasion of adding to the rates more than the Poor-law Act had diminished them. If this Bill should pass, of necessity the counties must be divided into wards; there must be a registration of voters, and lists of those entitled to vote. Indeed it was impossible to calculate the expense which would fall upon the county, as well as upon the high sheriff. Being of opinion that the clauses could not pass in a Committee, he was of opinion that the time of the House ought not to be wasted by allowing the Bill to pass to that stage. He never could consent to the proposition that these boards should have the power of appointing magistrates. The proposition was most offensive to the existing magistracy. What had the county magistrates done to deserve this treatment? If they were competent, by the law of the land, to act as judges, surely they had integrity enough to administer the affairs of the county. At the same time, he admitted that there ought to be a check, and that those who paid the rates ought to have control over their administration. So satisfied was he of the objectionable nature of the details of the Bill, that he felt it to be his duty to move that it be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Gally Knight

said, that the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Middlesex, and of which he had now moved the second reading, went to cast a reflection upon the whole of the magistracy of England, and he regretted that the hon. Member had not confined its operation to the county of Middlesex, which he represented. He was free to confess, that the present state of things in the county of Middlesex could not be defended. The magistrates of that county had allowed large sums of money to be carried off by defaulters, and before the county had recovered from the difficulties thrown upon it from that cause, the magistrates had allowed other irregularities to creep in. He was of opinion that in Middlesex some preventive check was requisite; but what was requisite for a metropolitan county, formed no test of what was necessary and requisite for the rest of the counties of England.

Colonel Wood

regretted that the hon. Member should have dragged the county of Middlesex and its affairs into this discussion. If the management of its pecuniary affairs were investigated by a Select Committee, he was confident that a report would be made acquitting the county of the charge brought against it. With respect to the general question before the House, he decidedly objected to this Bill. The board which it proposed to constitute would not only supersede the judicial au- thority of the magistrates, but would be, to all intents and purposes, a legislative body, a kind of county Parliament. He supposed that hon. Members opposite wished that these boards should transact all the private business which now came before Parliament, at least so he should infer from the evidence of the hon. Member for Middlesex before the commission appointed to inquire into this subject. That hon. Gentleman had declared, that if these boards were once established, he should recommend the withdrawal from Parliament of a great portion of the local business which now occupied so much of its time. He thought it most objectionable to give to such boards the control of all the private interests of the county. The board would consist of only one chamber, be it remembered, for he heard nothing of a county House of Lords. ["Hear," and a laugh.] The hon. Member opposite might laugh, but all who were concerned with the conduct of a private Bill knew well that it was in the House of Lords that their different interests would be most carefully attended to, and that the most impartial and unbiassed decision would be pronounced. He did not think that the proposed boards would be at all more careful of the interests of the county than the magistrates were at present. The County-rates, instead of being diminished, would be enormously augmented. The Bill, in short, would uproot the magistracy, and be a powerful engine in the hands of the hon. Member for Middlesex for overthrowing the ancient institutions of the country. He thought, however, that the disproportion between property and the amount of rates levied on it in counties was so great, that it was indispensable that some plan should be devised for relieving it of the burthen. The best method of effecting this, in his opinion, would be to provide for the construction of roads, bridges, gaols, and other public works and edifices, at the public expense. He should vote against the second reading of the Bill, and if he succeeded in his opposition, he should move for a Committee up stairs, and refer the subject of County-rates to that Committee, to inquire if any measure could be devised for relieving the rate-payers from the cost of roads, bridges, and county gaols, and he hoped the result of the inquiry would be a practical plan for their relief. He was quite sure that all other charges on the County-rates would be so trifling, that it would be considered unimportant and indifferent by whom they were levied or collected.

Sir John Wrottesley

said, that there was a great deal of mismanagement under the present system, and that was a sufficient motive to induce him to vote for the second reading of the Bill. The hon. Member for Brecon must settle, the details of the plan he proposed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he rather thought, that whoever might be the individual filling that office, would not support the hon. Member in throwing the whole of these charges upon the Consolidated Fund. He did not approve of the mode of forming the county courts proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, but he cordially concurred in the principle of the measure. He was certainly opposed to the principle of having annual elections of the persons to form these county courts; and he should not recommend to the House to agree to the second reading of the Bill, if he were not prepared with a substitute, which he was convinced would act with great simplicity, and be most effective—namely, constituting the courts of a delegate from each union in the county. If he found that there was no other resource against the evils which at present prevailed, he should vote for the second reading of the present Bill, in the hope that, although the hon. Member for Middlesex was rather pertinacious, he would be prevailed upon to alter its details in the Committee.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

regretted that the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department was absent when so important a measure as this was to be discussed. The Bill was an indictment against the magistrates of England, and he was surprised to hear the hon. Baronet who spoke last, say he would support it. There was no complaint against the County-rates in Kent. The hon. Baronet was much mistaken if he supposed the board of guardians would add to their other labours that of managing the County-rates. The magistrates of the county which he had the honour to represent were most anxious to reduce the rates as much as possible, and they had succeeded. He had no hesitation in saying, that the effect of this Bill would be to add 3,000l. or 4,000l. a-year to their amount. Any such measure was entirely unnecessary in the county of Kent. There the financial and judicial affairs of the county were under a different management; the financial being disposed of at a general sessions held annually; and here nothing of importance could be done without previous notice having been given, so that the rate-payers might be made fully aware of what was intended. The accounts were annually made public. All persons interested might inspect them, and all complaints were attended to and taken into consideration. This was the system they now had in the county of Kent, and they did not desire a better. He should oppose the Bill.

Lord Ebrington

, though he did not agree with the details of the Bill, quite approved of the principl—that the people should elect those who imposed the rates. An infusion of rate-payers in the vestries had been productive of the best consequences, having produced an amendment in the distribution of the funds, and, in some instances, decreased the burthen one-half. He objected to the machinery by which it was proposed to carry the principle into effect, and he agreed with the hon. Member that it would be better to name a Committee to inquire into the subject.

Sir Eardley Wilmot

thought that every provision of the Bill would lead to difficulty and expense, and, though not unfriendly to the Bill, he could not support it in its present shape.

Mr. Roebuck

said, though some hon. Gentlemen were pleased to call the principle of the present Bill a new one, it was, in fact, in operation both in that House and in all the boroughs throughout the kingdom. The principle was, that taxation and representation should go together, and that those who expended taxes should be responsible to those who paid them. He considered the unpaid magistracy a nuisance to the country. [Cries of "No," and "Order."] Hon. Gentlemen might cry "No," but he said "Yes." The gaols of the country were crowded by poor miserable wretches who had been sent there by the magistracy. The unpaid magistracy, so far from being beneficial, was a curse to the country. There never could be a good magistracy which was not elected by the people. Hon. Gentlemen objected to the details of the measure, and among those to the patronage which it would create; but surely there was nothing objectionable in a patronage which merely amounted to the payment of necessary officers. Counties had their peculiar description of interests as well as towns and as the principle had been affirmed— that the affairs of towns should be governed by the inhabitants of towns, he could not understand why the affairs of counties were not to be governed by the inhabitants of counties; they were governed on the principle of representation in towns, and they ought to be governed on the same principle in counties. Those, therefore, who should vote against this measure would vote against representation, would vote against responsibility through representation to the persons taxed, and were enemies to real responsibility.

Mr. Edward Buller

declared, that if any thing had been wanting to induce him to vote against the second reading of the Bill before the House, it would have been supplied by the speech which he had just heard. He protested against this Bill, or any Bill which, under pretence of regulating County-rates, would abolish the present system of county magistrates. If the Bill were to become law, it would be impossible for the magistrates to discharge their duties, and therefore he should oppose it. He had always held that justice should emanate from the Crown, and therefore he should vote against the measure.

Mr. Byng

objected to every clause of the Bill, and therefore thought it would be more candid and explicit in him to vote at once against the second reading. He did not think that the magistracy of England deserved to be disgraced by such a Bill. He was satisfied with the magistrates of his own county, who, in conformity with the obligation imposed on them by an Act of Parliament passed fifteen years ago, published their accounts every three months, and sent them to the overseers of each parish. It was true that there had been an increase of the rates in the county, but be could account for every shilling. The increase was owing to the expenses of building the House of Correction, the Lunatic Asylum, and the Westminster Bridewell. The money for the erection of the first had been raised by a tontine, which would soon become extinct; the sums expended on the second had been raised in the ordinary way, and not only was the interest paid, but one-fourteenth of the capital paid off every year. Seven years had elapsed since the money had been borrowed, and in seven years more the Lunatic Asylum would have been paid for by the county. Of this asylum, too, he must remark, that the system adopted by the magistrates administering its affairs, was much more economical than that formerly followed by the overseers. The accounts were public, everybody might see them four times a-year; he had heard no complaint of improper expenditure, and he did not think that any could be substantiated. He therefore, notwithstanding his regard for his hon. Colleague, and his acknowledgment of the services rendered by him to the county, should vote against the second reading of the Bill.

Mr. William Miles

hoped that hon. Gentlemen who had found fault with the details of the Bill, would not vote for the principle of it. He left it to the House to pronounce whether the unpaid magistracy of England deserved the reprobation bestowed on them by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. The principle of the Bill, as it appeared to him, had not been sufficiently explained. It should be considered whether any alteration at all was necessary, and, if any, what that alteration should be. It should be asked whether a radical reform was required? and whether, if it were wanted and this Bill adopted, there would be a more effectual control over, and a more certain diminution of, the expenses, combined with an equally secure guardianship of person and property? If the system did really give cause of complaint, it was strange that, notwithstanding the exertions of the hon. Member for Middlesex to promulgate his Bill both last year and this, the petitions on the subject were so few. The hon. Member had introduced his measure with four petitions from Marylebone. As a county Member, he must protest against a Member for Middlesex, backed by the vestry of Marylebone, dictating to the counties of England. If he had not seen in all magistrates and bodies of magistrates, a disposition to redress grievances—if he had not observed that every quarter session was marked by some magistrate rising to propose something beneficial, he might perhaps think and act otherwise. In his own county there was either a most complete apathy on the subject of expenditure, or there was a perfect satisfaction with the economy of the magistrates. The working of the system of Finance Committees had been most excellent. He could not see why the principle of the Municipal Reform Bill should be introduced into counties, or why this uncalled-for experiment should be, forced on the rural population. That population looked on the magistrates rather as settlers of disputes, than as dispensers of justice; and it must be the obvious interest of those magistrates not to accumulate burthens on their own property and on their tenantry. He was rather surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Bath, who was a lawyer, should propound the doctrine that the magistrates should court the people. Magistrates to court the people, to whom they were to administer the law, and the criminal law to boot! He was not aware that the people were so capable of forming a dispassionate opinion, or so likely to be unbiassed as to justify this, He would ask the hon. Member for Middlesex, whether the Municipal Corporation Reform Bill was so very popular; whether the candour and ability of the magistrates elected under it were so unquestioned, that this uncalled-for experiment might be safely made in counties? It did seem strange to him, that no opinion on the subject-matter of the Bill had been expressed by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department; it seemed strange, because he thought this a subject which required a decided opinion from the noble Lord. A commission had been appointed to inquire into County-rates. Two Members of it he saw among hon. Gentlemen opposite. That commission had made a report; but the noble Lord had not defended his own commission; no, neither he, nor one Cabinet Minister was in the House to defend it. This, to him, appeared indicative of a determination to leave the question open, and to give way to the creation of an elective magistracy. He, and his Friends, would not object to a Bill founded on the report of the commission; no, they would support any measure for amending the practice of the present system, and he (Mr. Miles) could offer many suggestions for that purpose.

Mr. Shaw Lefevre, though he had been a member of the County-rate commission, did not consider it his province to bring in a Bill founded on the report of that commission. He thought that such a Bill ought to be introduced to the House with the full weight and authority of his Majesty's Government. He could not concur in the Bill of his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex; he thought it impossible to alter it with advantage in a Committee up stairs, and therefore he should vote against it. The proper description of the Bill would be found, as he thought, in the preamble to it. It was there stated, that "the levying, collecting, add expending of the County-rates, would be rendered more certain, speedy, economical, and secure, if, &c." Now, whatever he might think about economy, he felt convinced, that if the Bill were carried, the County-rates would be expended much more certainly securely, and speedily. Let the House merely look to the number of officers who would be appointed, and have to be paid under the Bill; let it look at the cumbrous machinery of it, cumbrous as well as expensive; let it look at it, and reflect that there were seven counties in England, and twelve In Wales, which paid less than 6,000l. in County-rates; that there were eighteen counties in England, and twelve counties in Wales, in which the amount of County-rates did not exceed 10,000l. In all these the expense, under the proposed scheme, would be much greater than it was under the present system. In some particulars, they would have to pay 100 per cent. additional, and more. He could not concur in the observations on the magistracy of the county which had fallen from, the hon. and learned Member for Bath: he knew it to be composed of men of all polities, all anxious to promote the happiness of the people. The hon. Member for Middlesex had gone for a precedent to a time beyond Edward 3rd. In order to find out institutions adapted to the spirit of the nineteenth century, that hon. Member had searched among the precedents of the fourteenth. He was only surprised that one step further back had not been taken by the hon. Member—that, as in the times of our Saxon ancestors, magistrates and bishops were elective, he (Mr. Hume) had not included bishops also in his Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had said, that the magistracy of England was a nuisance; a portion of it might be so, but that portion was composed of the popularity-hunting magistrates. To the popularity-hunting magistrates half the abuses of the old system were to be attributed; it was they who, to increase their own fame, put their hands into the pockets of the rate-payers, and fostered the system of compulsory charity. He would never give his consent to making the magistrates elective; he would always maintain that the ministers of justice should be appointed by the Executive. While there were several counties to the financial management of which he had no objection to make, there were others in which due strictness had not been observed. He had, therefore, recommended, that a person should be appointed by the board of guardians to act with the magistrates at sessions; and he did not conceive that any exception would be taken to that recommendation. Several other propositions had also been made by the County-rate commission which would tend to lessen the rates. The hon. and gallant Officer (Colonel Wood) wished to throw the expenses of the administration of the criminal law on the Consolidated Fund; he was of opinion that the Government ought to undertake the charge of the gaols, but that the counties ought to bear the expenses of prosecution. This latter charge would be considerably reduced by the appointment of county recorders. He also thought, that the rate might be levied in a less costly manner. He was quite sure that if this Bill passed through the present stage, and was sent to a Committee up stairs, it would be so altered there that the hon. Member for Middlesex would take the same course as that pursued by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, and disown the Bill.

Mr. Lennard

, in supporting the Bill, begged it to be understood that he cast no reflections on the magistrates of England. But he supported it for the sake of the principle involved in it namely, that where there was taxation there ought to be representation; that there ought to be popular control in every case where public money was expended. The evil of the present system was, that any number of gentlemen arbitrarily nominated by the Lord-Lieutenants of counties, had the power of raising money and spending it as they thought fit. This was a state of things which he thought most unsatisfactory and unconstitutional; and this power in the magistrates, whether it had been abused or not, was so objectionable in principle, that he thought it ought no longer to be retained. It had been said, that the object of the Bill was to introduce into counties the practice which now prevailed in boroughs. He believed that practice to be a very beneficial one, and he should be glad to see it extended to the whole country, since nothing was, in his opinion, more desirable than to accustom the people to the management of their own affairs, and to self-government. He would not say, that the large power now enjoyed by magistrates was an usurpation, for it had been conferred upon them by successive Acts of Parliament; but he was sure, if we had now to legislate upon the subject de novo, no one would think of conferring upon an irresponsible body, such as the magistrates of England were, the very large and unlimited powers they now enjoyed. He was sure that a board for the management of County-rates, such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, would be satisfactory to the public, and would remove much distrust that now existed; and it was on that account he gave the Bill his support.

Mr. Tulk

said, that so far as his observation went, no body of men could have acted more honourably than the magistrates of this country. He must say, that he had remarked, that gentlemen of all parties were eager to save and economise the funds which in their capacity as magistrates they had to administer. But when he said this, at the same time he must observe, that it was a matter of importance whether that control should be exercised subject to the superintendence of the ratepayers or not. The principle of the Bill, in his opinion, was so good, that he should vote for the second reading of it. He wished to see the election principle carried out as far as possible throughout the country. That principle had been carried into operation in the corporations of England and Scotland. Why, then, not apply it to counties? Till that was done, the rate-payers would not be satisfied that their interests would be attended to as they ought to be. He thought the hon. Member for Middlesex had not been fairly treated in this debate. Some hon. Gentlemen had either mistaken, or chose to mistake the principle of the Bill. They argued as if nomination for the choice of the Crown and election were one and the same thing. He wished, however, that his hon. Friend had not made this Bill so complicated, and if he would simplify the details, he was quite sure that he would carry it.

Mr. James

had no intention of saying anything in disparagement of the magistrates of England; he had been a magistrate of the county of Cumberland for twenty years, and he was not going to cast any discredit on his own order. He was quite sure that if the magisterial office were taken out of the hands of the present magistracy, the rate-payers would be the worse for it, because, if the magistrates were like the magistrates of Cumberland and Middlesex, they had always done their duty, But he believed that if the election rested with the rate-payers they would recollect that, and therefore hon. Gentlemen need not be so sensitive on this point. The details of the Bill certainly might require consideration in Committee, but the principle of the Bill was a good one, and he should accordingly give his vote in favour of the second reading.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that after the full discussion which this measure had received, he should not trespass upon the patience of the House with many observations. He could not help wishing, however, that this discussion had taken place in the presence of some Member of the Government; at least, of that Member of it in whose hands was placed the control and superintendence of the magistracy of the country, in order that it might be made known that the measure either had the support or the opposition of Ministers. He was aware, from disclosures which had been made on the preceding evening, that Wednesdays were dedicated by the Government to avocations not altogether disconnected with business, but yet partaking of a festive character. He did not wish to interfere with the relaxation of those, who, in the present situation of affairs, conducted the business of the country, and he had, therefore, waited till the present hour of the evening, in the hope that the noble Lord would make his appearance in the House, and, with increased alacrity and refreshed and reanimated by the grateful relaxation in which he had indulged, would be prepared to state the opinion of the Government on the measure. This was no ordinary measure, to be left to any Member to deal with as his fancy or caprice might dictate. The Government themselves had not so considered it. They appointed a commission to inquire into the subject two years ago, and they had transmitted the report of that commission and the present Bill to the different quarter sessions of each county, and required an answer to be sent to Lord John Russell at the Home, office, acknowledging the receipt of both, He held in his hand a copy thus addressed.

Mr. Hume

begged to say, that it was quite true that he did request the Home, office to send copies of this Bill and of the report of the commission to the different quarter sessions; but he received an answer from the clerks of the office, that the Government did not choose to interfere in the matter, and he sent the copies himself as a private individual.

Mr. Goulburn

observed, that with respect to one copy, then, the hon. Member had been too late in arresting the progress of his first arrangements; however, after the statement of the hon. Member, he would not press that point farther. He entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Hampshire, who said, that he did not see why he should be called upon to explain the reasons for the Report to which the Committee appointed by the Government had agreed. The Government ought to be called upon to state what were their views and intentions on this subject, and to enlighten the House by an exposition of the bearings of the measure. He therefore did expect, that if the noble Lord himself (Lord J. Russell) was prevented from attending, some Member of Government would have been in the House prepared to state the intentions of Government with respect to this measure. He saw the Under-Secretary for the Home Department present, and, therefore, there was yet hope. He indulged the confidence that the House might know from him before the debate closed, what were the views and opinions of the Government upon this measure. For his own part, he could not concur in the motion for the second reading of this Bill, because every Member who had approved of the principle, had stated his disapprobation of all its details. He could not help thinking that the hon. Gentlemen who approved of the principle, but disagreed with every one of the details of the Bill, would act more wisely and consistently by voting against the Bill, and leaving to the Government to bring in such a measure as they thought necessary. The hon. Member for Middlesex said, that the present was not a judicial question, but merely a financial one. Why, the hon. Gentleman could not have read his own Bill. By the provisions of this Bill, the sheriffs of the county were subjected to all the responsibility of the custody of the prisoners within the county, but the council were to determine who should be the gaolers, and what should be the regulations of the county prisons. The judges were to try the prisoners, but the constables were to be appointed by the council; when they were acting wrong, they were to be punished by the council; and if they did right, by the council they were to be rewarded. He would not go into the other provisions of this Bill. There were at least twenty other instances in which similar inconsistencies existed, He said, there- fore, that this was not a financial measure, but one which would affect the administration of justice throughout the country, and therefore a measure which ought not lightly to be dealt with, nor merely on financial grounds. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had, in the course of that night's debate, given, as was his wont on similar occasions, his opinion on the magistracy of England. He (Mr. Goulburn) did not stand there to defend the magistracy of this country—it needed no defence from him. The observations of the hon. and learned Member, libellous as they were, were not a libel upon the magistracy, but upon the people of England. The hon. and learned Member had stated, that the people of England had no confidence in their magistrates; but he should like the hon. and learned Member to look round him at the present moment, and see who it was, and what they were, whom the people of England chose to represent their interests in the Commons House of Parliament, He would ask the hon. and learned Member, if the magistrates were so bad as he represented them —were such oppressors of the poor as he declared them to be, what would become of the judgment of the people? If what he stated was true, the people had neither judgment nor discernment. But he would take the contrary view of the case. In his opinion the people of England had both judgment and discernment, and it was found that, in the great majority of instances, they had elected the magistrates of the country to represent them in that House. The hon. and learned Member for Bath said, that taxation and representation ought to go to together; and because the County rates amounted to 600,000l. per year, the people ought to elect those who had to administer those funds. It was true that the magistrates had the administration of the funds thus collected; but they did not impose taxation on the rate-payers. That was the Act of Parliament, and the magistrates were merely the instruments of Parliament in the collection and administration of the impost levied for county purposes. Taxes, then, thus imposed were imposed by persons who were elected by the people. At the same time, he would at once state, that he had no desire to support the abstract principle of this measure, let alone its cumbrous machinery, and the expense which must be attendant upon its adoption. He had heard of shaving by steam, and. of the application of locomotive engines for the purpose of cutting mustard and cress, but this Bill beat either of these projects, by proposing a complicated machinery to effect a simple purpose. As to cutting out every clause of the Bill to substitute others in their place, if he had no other objection to the measure, that would be quite enough to warrant his opposition to it, and he must say, that it appeared to him to be the simpler course to throw out the present Bill, and introduce another better calculated to effect the purpose which it professed to carry into execution. There was, however, one clause of this Bill—namely, that which made the magistracy elective, which must prevent his acceding to the measure, because he could not agree to it without acceding to a principle which must be subversive of the judicial character of a quarter session. These objections had been stated so fully, that it was not necessary to go further into them. After the length to which this debate had gone, he now would only say, that the machinery of the Bill was too cumbrous to execute the purpose of the hon. Gentleman, even if that purpose met with his (Mr. Goulburn's) approval; but he believed that the magistracy did faithfully administer the finances of the counties to which they belonged; and, inasmuch as they paid the greater portion of the rates themselves, they were not likely to apply the distribution of the funds under their control in a manner calculated to be injurious to their own interests; nor did he think they would neglect the interests of those who contributed a smaller portion to the County-rates. He never gave a more cordial vote than he should have the pleasure of giving, by dividing in resistance to the motion for the second reading of this Bill.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, that nothing could be further from his imagination when he entered the House, than the supposition that he would be called on to address them on the present occasion, nor should he have deemed it necessary to do so, if the absence of his noble Friend had not been made the subject of observation. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that the Home-office had caused copies of this Bill to be sent to the quarter sessions of the different counties; but all he could say was, that the right hon. Gentleman's assertion was the first intimation he had received of such a fact. He did not, however, believe that the Home-office had used any influence one way or the other on the subject; and, as the Government regarded the matter as a mere local measure, they declined to interfere, on the ground that, as the him. Gentlemen on both sides of the House were magistrates, it would be best to leave them to decide it among themselves. It certainly appeared to him that the Bill related only to a financial arrangement, but, as he did not think himself called on to enter more at large into the subject, all he would say was, that it was his intention to vote for the motion of his hon. Friend (the Member for Middlesex), because the measure involved a principle of which he approved, namely, that all those who contributed to the rates should know how their funds were applied. While he said this, he must also state, that there were many parts of the Bill to which he should object; but, as to the absence of his noble Friend, he considered that that absence was justifiable, inasmuch, as this was not a question into which the weight of Government ought to be thrown. He regretted the observations which had been made by the hon. Member for Bath, and thought it always ought to be remembered, that nothing was more injudicious than remarks which tended to bring those in whose hands the administration of justice was placed, into contempt, especially in that House, inasmuch as such remarks were calculated to shake the confidence the people ought to have in the impartial administration of the law. He should vote for the second reading of this Bill, but he wished it to be understood, that he did so, without in any manner pledging himself as to its details.

Lord Stanley

would not enter into the discussion of the merits of the Bill, although he had a strong opinion with regard to it, but he was satisfied, that one way or the other, the decision of the House upon that subject was one of the greatest importance, involving as it did the whole management of the civil economy of the country, and of its whole criminal and civil jurisdiction. This was the first time that it had been stated in the House of Commons, that it was either expedient or decent for his Majesty's Ministers calling themselves the Government of the country, to abstain from expressing, in their places as Ministers of the Crown, the views they took of the system pursued with regard to the magistracy of England. If any hon. Gentleman considered this measure unimportant he was quite at liberty to differ in opinion from him; but if this Bill was important, they would not deny that the Home Secretary ought to have been in his place. If the measure were unimportant, why was a commission issued? why had circulars been sent round? why had the hon. Member for Hampshire and other Members of the commission been called to express their views upon the question? The Government ought to have taken the initiative, or, if they did not think proper to take the initiative, at all events they were bound to take on themselves the responsibility of sanctioning or opposing the Bill. The noble Lord at the head of the Home Department was not present, although the question was one which affected the judicial character of the magistracy; the hon. Gentleman who was Under-Secretary for that department, had stated, indeed, that it was purely a financial question. Where, then, was the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Was it a question of great, prominent, political importance or not? and if so, why were the Members of the Government not present? At any rate why was not a representative of the Home-office present? What was the duty of the Home-office? Was it not a part of its duties to regulate and control the magistracy, and to take care that the magistrates discharge their duties? Was it not a part of the duties of the Home-office to check the magistrates when wrong, and to encourage them when right; and when it was ascertained that they had discharged their duties, to defend them before the country? The Home Secretary was not there, but the Under-Secretary for that department was. Was the House to collect from the Under Secretary's observations that the Government thought that this was a question which might be left to be settled by the county magistrates who, were Members of that House? Why, they were the accused parties—the men who were on their trial. Nobody disputed the weight which the county magistrates bad in that House—a weight which they rightly possessed on account of the authority and influence which their conduct had obtained for them; but the present question was not one which ought to be left to the decision of the magistrates themselves. A charge was brought against the magistrates, and the Government ought to declare whether that charge was made with their sanction and authority. They ought not to wait till the rejection of the Bill, and then say, "We had our own opinion upon the merits of the measure, but we left it to be decided by the county magistrates, and you cannot wonder at the result." The Under-Secretary for the Home Department, however, was in the House, and, cautiously guarding his revelations as far as the Government was concerned, he stated, though with some hesitation, that his own opinion was in favour of the principle of the Bill. There were no means of thanking him for not going further. There was hardly any Member who had that night approved of the principle of the Bill who did not say, that it was impossible to carry its details into execution. Now, he (Lord Stanley) objected to the principle of the Bill, because he considered that the magistrates of England had discharged their duty to the country. In his conscience he believed that the Bill, if accepted in principle, would cast a slur on the magistracy. That slur would undoubtedly come with greater force, if the presence of the Government showed that they were parties to it. It was true, that the vindication of the magistracy would hardly lose much by their absence on this occasion. But, involving as this question did, the whole social and internal administration of justice, he could not give his consent to the second reading of this Bill, in as much as he conceived that by doing so, he should be casting an imputation upon a body of men, against whom no man could substantiate a charge of impure or improper motives, and whose services were not only the most important, but the worst paid of any class of men in the country.

Major Beauclerk

hardly considered it decent to bring a charge against any individuals without knowing what reasons there were for their absence. The stronger the language used, the more cautious ought hon. or noble Members to be how they attacked parties without knowing why they were absent. He did not stand there to say anything against the magistracy; that body was composed of men of the most noble and honourable character. He happened to be one himself—one of the magistracy, not one claiming a noble character. Those hon. Gentlemen who understood the meaning of plain English, would bear him out in that assertion. He had heard with great surprise the statement of the hon. Member opposite, that the magistracy, as now appointed, gave satisfaction to the people of England. To the aristocracy they might give satisfaction; but the middling classes of the people by no means felt that satisfaction in the manner of their appointment, selection, and conduct, which some hon. Gentlemen had so loudly asserted. He would tell them how the dissatisfaction of the people with the magistracy arose: they were too busy in using their influence and authority to forward electioneering purposes. As a proof of it, he would call the attention of the House to the conduct of the magistracy of the county of Surrey, who had joined and linked themselves together to turn him out of the seat which he then had the honour to occupy. He was certain that they did every thing in their power to produce that result; but, unfortunately for themselves, their exertions were a failure. If the people had any voice in the election of their magistrates, he was certain that they would return few of the magistracy who had combined together to refuse them their due share in the representation. He did not agree with many parts of the attack which the hon. Member for Bath had made upon the county magistracy; but still he must say, that the dissatisfaction which they excited among the middling classes, would not be so general if they were not so peculiarly of one character. It was a notorious fact, that the Lord-Lieutenants of counties, who were principally Tories, appointed no gentlemen to the magistracy save those who professed the same politics with themselves. He repeated that such was the fact. It was very true that the same thing was done by Whig Lord-Lieutenants, whenever they had the opportunity; and it was a practice which was as blameable in them as in their political antagonists. He was quite sure that no man would venture to assert, that he could not point out a certain county in which the Lord-Lieutenant had steadily adhered to his determination of never making a Reformer a magistrate.

Mr. Ewart

rose amidst cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Question!" The hon. Gentlemen opposite might continue their cries as long as they pleased, but he was determined that they should not put him down by their clamour. As the hon. Gentlemen opposite were beginning to behave with that decorum which, was necessary to qualify them for their duties as representatives of the people, he would proceed to express his opinions briefly upon this Bill. He had many times had occasion to acknowledge the kindness and courtesy of the noble Lord opposite, with whom he had once had ties which he could not easily forget, He was paying a compliment, a sincere compliment, to the courtesy of the noble Lord, and he was therefore not a little surprised at the want of courtesy, and he might even say the bitterness, with which the noble Lord had commented on the absence of his noble Friend at the head of the Home Department. He was not there as a defender of the Government, but if comments were to be made on the absence of the Home Secretary that evening, he might be permitted to regret the absence of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, who had been Home Secretary for many years, and of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland, both of whom had formerly expressed great interest on this subject. If the noble Lord was justified in making his attack on the Ministerial side of the House, surely he was justified in reciprocating the attack. He contended, that the long and bitter philippic which the noble Lord had delivered against his noble Friend, was not in any way connected with the question before the House. That question was, whether the principle of popular government, which the House had sanctioned in the Bill for the administration of municipal bodies, was to be extended to the county magistracy, and out of that question arose another—whether the conduct of that magistracy was as pure and unimpeachable as it had been that night represented to be. For his own part, he must say, that he had seen enough of the magistracy to be convinced that their conduct in the administration of justice was not that which it ought to be. He thought that the people should enjoy the benefit of the principle of representation in the choice of their county magistrates, as fully as they did in the choice of their corporate magistrates in towns and cities. He was convinced, that though the principle might not meet the approbation of that House, it would meet the approbation of the country, and he was likely convinced that some other House of Commons would pass a Bill founded upon it before many years were over, even though the present House should determine to reject the measure of his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex.

Mr. Brotherton

hoped that the House would listen to him on the present occasion with the same pleasure with which they generally listened to him when he rose to speak last. He should not have risen had he not been anxious to correct a statement made by a right hon. Gentleman opposite, respecting the amount of expense incurred in the county of Lancaster for county bridges or county police. It appeared from a Parliamentary Return, made last year, that for the four preceding years an expense of 24,000l. was incurred in Lancashire under that head. The average expenditure of each of those four years was, therefore, 6,000l.; but during the last year it had only been 3,000l. Though the Bill was unpopular in the House, and though he could, himself have wished for more simple machinery to carry it into effect, he should most cheerfully give it his support.

Mr. Benett

declared his intention to oppose this Bill. He defended the magistracy from the attacks which had been made upon them that evening, and called the attention of the House to the fact that not one single proof had been adduced in justification of those attacks. He was certain that the people were quite content with their present control over the magistracy.

Mr. Villiers

was decidedly in favour of this Bill, which instead of being an innovation, was only a restoration of the ancient practice of the constitution. He denied that the people had at present any control over the county magistracy. The only check on the county magistracy was derived from the publicity of their proceedings; for everybody knew that the check upon them in the courts of law were merely nominal. He asserted, upon the authority of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire, who had the experience of fifteen years as chairman at the quarter sessions for that county, that the county magistracy were unfit for the administration of justice.

Sir Eardley Wilmot

intimated to the hon. Member that he had never made any such declaration.

Mr. Villiers

was under the impression, that on a former occasion his hon. Friend had made such a declaration. In a conversation which occurred during the present Session on this Bill his hon. Friend stated that in his opinion he did not go far enough and that something more was wanted, for whenever he (Sir E. Wilmot) wanted the county magistrates to assist him in a case of criminal justice, they regularly shrunk from the responsibility.

Sir Eardley Wilmot

The hon. Member is making a personal attack on me, and therefore I beg leave to say that I never—

The Speaker

called the hon. Baronet to order, and informed him that the time for his explanation would be after the hon. Member had concluded his observations. Though the practice of interrupting hon. Members in the course of their speeches had prevailed very much of late years, it was decidedly irregular, and he thought it would tend much to the order of their debates if hon. Members would revert to the old system of hearing speeches to an end, and then explaining or replying to the statements contained in them.

Mr. Villiers

said, that he had not the slightest intention of making any personal attack on his hon. friend the Member for North Warwickshire. But it had been said that evening, that the conduct of the magistracy gave general satisfaction; and, as he differed from that statement, he thought that he had a right not only to mention his own experience on the point, but also to quote, as a supporter of the Bill, the authority of his hon. friend the Member for North Warwickshire, who had unquestionably said, that whenever a question arose upon the administration of the county finances, then a crowd of magistrates were always present to discuss it; but that he could get none of them to assist him whenever an important case connected with the criminal justice of the country came before him. He contended, that it was coeval with the constitution that taxation and representation should go together; and he was surprised to find the noble Member of North Lancashire opposing that principle, which was incorporated in this Bill, merely because he thought that the passing of it might be construed into a slur upon the magistracy.

Sir Eardley Wilmot

felt himself called upon to explain the observations which had fallen from him on a former occasion, in consequence of what had just been said by his hon. Friend. He certainly had made use of the expression that this Bill, if it were to be made law, would not go far enough. He had said that this Bill, if pressed to its full extent, would destroy the judicial power of the magistracy. He repeated, the same opinion now. If the Bill passed, no magistrate could act in a judicial capacity. An hon. Member had said in the course of the evening, that he would resign his commission of the peace if the Bill passed. He (Sir E. Wilmot) said so too. As to the other part of the observations which he was represented to have made—he meant that part of them which accused the magistrates of not being present at criminal trials—he had only to observe, that he never had said, and that he never could say, that they were absent because they shrunk from the responsibilities of their station. What he had said was this—that on the first day of the session the financial, and on the second day the judicial, business of his county was taken. On the first day they had a voice in the management of the business, and therefore they attended as they had something to do, whilst on the second day the chairman conducted the business, and they failed to attend, because they had nothing to do.

Lord Worsley

said, he was not at all surprised that this Bill had been introduced, as he had heard very general complaints during the last four years that the County-rates had not been properly applied.

Mr. Edward J. Stanley

said, that he should vote for the second reading of this Bill, as he concurred in the principle of it, that there should be some species of representation of the rate-payers in the body which imposed no small amount of taxation upon them. He was surprised at the opposition which the noble Member for North Lancashire had given to this measure, for that noble Lord, in the Bill which be had introduced for the regulation of grand juries in Ireland—bodies which in that country stood in the place, and executed several of the functions, of the county magistracy of England—had admitted the principle of having a number of assessors chosen by the rate-payers associated with the grand juries in levying the county-cess. He therefore called upon the noble Lord to admit in England the principle which he had sanctioned in Ireland—a country to which he was sorry to say that the noble Lord was reluctant to give any species of popular representation. He thought, that the people of England might claim from that noble Lord, as a right, to have granted to them that species of representation which, with all his prejudices against Ireland, he had felt himself unable to withhold from the people of Ireland. He maintained that the people of England had a right to have a vote in the election of the body which imposed taxation upon them. Indeed, the magistrates of England were the only irresponsible body which had power to impose and levy taxes upon the country. He was simply stating his reasons for voting for the principle of the Bill. He would not trouble the House further—he would give his vote for the principle of giving the people some representation in their local taxation; but while he said this, he must also say that he differed, in almost every point of detail, from the measure of the hon. Member for Middlesex. In voting for the second reading, he protested against being considered as pledged to more than the advocacy of the principles, and he owned he was surprised at the hon. Member for Hertfordshire moving an amendment to put off this Bill for six months, while, at the same time, he admitted the principle that taxation and representation should go hand in hand.

Mr. Hume

said, it was singular that so many hon. Members should admit the principle of his Bill, and object to the details, without, in any one instance, specifying which of the details they objected to. He was rather surprised at his hon. Friend, the Member for Cheshire, being in any degree astonished at the inconsistency of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, in conceding this principle to Ireland when he refused it to England. The conduct of that noble Lord was one altogether of inconsistency. While the noble Lord sat on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and, as it were, spell-bound by liberal opinions, he had given utterance to opinions as liberal as the most liberal could desire; but when he changed his seat to the other side of the House, his sentiments were as Tory-like as the bitterest Tory could wish. Hon. Members had accused him of drawing an indictment against the magistrates of the country, but the gentlemen who were considered to be thus accused did not act as gentlemen usually did by sitting as judges in their own cause. If they considered themselves accused, he called upon them to leave the House. It was altogether unfair that they should judge in a cause in which they were concerned. All he wanted was this—let the magistrates riot as much as they pleased in their judicial power, but let them not put their hands into the pockets of the people. Alter the hon. Members who had spoken against the Bill, and had therefore misstated its objects and intentions, let them allow it to go to a Committee, and he should be prepared to defend every one of its clauses, and to show that its machinery would not involve one-fourth of the expense now incurred in any one county. In the face of the Commons of England, he would say to the magistrates, "You who think yourselves arraigned — you who think this an indictment drawn against you—rise and leave the House."

The House divided:—Ayes 84; Noes 177: Majority 93.

List of the AYES.
Attwood, T. Lynch, A. H.
Ball, N. Marjoribanks, S.
Bannerman, Alex. Marshall, Wm.
Baring, F. P. Maryland, Henry
Beauclerk, Major Maule, hon. F.
Bernal, H. Murray, rt. hon. J.
Bewes, T. O'Connell, D.
Blake, M. J. O'Connell, J.
Brady, Denis, C. O'Connell, M. J.
Bridgman, H. O'Connell, Morgan
Brocklehurst, J. Ord, W. H.
Brotherton, J. Palmer, General
Buller, Charles Parker, John
Buller, E. Parrott, Jasper
Bulwer, H. L. Pease, J.
Bulwer, Edw. L. Pechell, Captain R.
Chalmers, P. Potter, Richard
Clay, William Rippon, Cuthbert
Codrington, Sir E. Roebuck, John A.
Crawford, W. S. Rundell, J.
Crompton, Samuel Russell, Lord Charles
Dalmeny, Lord Seale, Colonel
Dundas, hon. J. C. Smith, R. V.
Ebrington, Viscount Stanley, Edward J.
Elphinstone, H. Strickland, Sir G.
Fergusson, ft. C. Thompson, Colonel
Grattan, Henry Trelawney, Sir W.
Grote, George Troubridge, Sir T.
Hall, Benjamin Talk, C. A.
Handley, H. Turner, W.
Hawes, B. Walker, R.
Hay, Sir A. L. Wallace, Robert
Heathcoate, J. Warburton, H.
Hector, C. J. Ward, Henry George
Hindley, C. Wason, R.
Holland, Edward Whalley, Sir S.
Hume, J. Williams, W.
Hutt, Wm. Williams, W. A.
James, W. Wilmington, H. J.
Lambton, Hedworth Wrottesley, Sir J., Bt.
Leader, J. T.
Lennard, T. B. TELLERS.
Lushington, Dr. Ewart, W.
Lushington, C. Villiers, C. P.
List of the NOES.
Alford, Viscount Benett, J.
Alsager, Captain Berkeley, hon. C, C.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Bethell, Richard
Ashley, hon. H. Blackburne, John I.
Astley, Sir Jacob Blackstone, W. S.
Bagot, hon. W. Boldero, Capt. H. G.
Bailey, J. Boiling, Wm.
Baillie, H. D. Borthwick, Peter
Balfour, T. Bowles, G. R.
Barclay, David Bradshaw, James
Baring, H. Bingham Bramston, T. W.
Baring, W. B. Bruce, C. L. C.
Barneby, John Buller, Sir J. B. Yarde
Beckett, Sir J. Burrell, Sir C. M.
Bell, M. Byng, George
Campbell, Sir H. Jones, Theobald
Canning, rt. hon. Sir S. Kerrison, Sir Edward
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Knatchbull, Sir E.
Cayley, E. S. Knight, H. G.
Chandos, Marquess Knightley, Sir C.
Chaplin, Colonel Lees, J. F.
Chetwynd, Captain Lefevre, Charles S.
Chichester, A. Lemon, Sir C.
Clive, Viscount Lennox, Lord G.
Clive, hon. R. H. Lennox, Lord Arthur
Codrington, C. W. Lowther, J. H.
Colborne, N. W. R. Lygon, Hn. Gen,
Cole, Viscount Manners, Lord C.
Compton, H. C. Maunsell, T. P.
Cooper, E. Miles, William
Corry, H. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Morgan, Chas. M. R.
Cripps, J. Mostyn, E.
Darlington, Earl of Neeld, J.
Dillwyn, L. W. Neeld, John
Eastnor, Viscount Nicholl, Dr.
Eaton, Richard J. Norreys, Lord
Egerton, Sir P. Packe, C. W.
Egerton, Lord Fran. Palmer, Robert
Elley, Sir. J. Palmer, George
Elwes, J. Parker, M.
Estcourt, T. G. Parry, Sir L. P.
Estcourt, T. H. Patten, J. Wilson
Fector, J. M. Pemberton, Thomas
Ferguson, G. Pigot, Robert
Finch, George Polhill, Frederick
Fleming, John Powell, Colonel
Folkes, Sir W. Praed, W. M.
Follett, Sir W. Price, S. C.
Forbes, Wm. Rae, Sir Wm.
Freemantle, Sir T. W. Reid, Sir J. R.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Richards, R.
Geary, Sir Wm. Rickford, W.
Gladstone, T. Ross, Charles
Gladstone, Wm. E. Ryle, John
Gordon, hon. W. Sandon, Lord Visct.
Goring, H. D. Sanford, E. A.
Goulburn, H. Scott, Sir E. D.
Goulburn, Serjeant Scott, Lord J.
Greene, T. Sheppard, T.
Grimston, Viscount Sibthorp, Col.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Sinclair, Sir G.
Hale, Robert B. Smith, A.
Halford, H. Somerset, Lord G.
Harcourt, G. S. Stanley, E.
Harcourt, G. Stanley, Lord
Harland, Wm. C. Stewart, John
Hawkes, T. Sturt, Henry Chas.
Hayes, Sir Edm. Sam. Talfourd, Serjeant
Henniker, Lord Thomas, Colonel
Herbert, hon. Sidney Thompson, Ald.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Trevor, hon. A.
Hinde, J. H. Twiss, H.
Hope, Henry T. Tyrrell, Sir J.
Hotham, Lord Vere, Sir C. B.
Howard, P. H. Vesey, hon. T.
Hughes, Hughes Vivian, John Ennis
Inglis, Sir R. H. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Irton, Samuel Walpole, Lord
Jermyn, Earl Walter, John
Johnston, Andrew West, J. B.
Johnstone, Sir J. Weyland, Major
Wigney, L. N. Wrightson, W. Battie
Wilbraham, B. Wyndham, Wadham
Williams, Robert Yorke, E. T.
Williamson, Sir H. Young, G. F.
Wilson, Henry Young, Sir W.
Wodehouse, E. TELLERS.
Wood, Colonel Alston, Rowland
Worsley, Lord Wilmot, Sir J. E.