HC Deb 12 December 1837 vol 39 cc1027-8

Mr. Hume moved, in pursuance of notice, for leave to bring in a bill to define and regulate the lawful expenses at elections of Members to serve in Parliament for England and Wales. Great irregularities took place under the present law, in consequence of certain charges being legal, but which were not sufficiently defined. Taking the Middlesex election as an instance, he would venture to say that upwards of 600lwere expended at every election, three-fourths of which would be saved, if the magistrates of the county would allow the candidates the use of the public rooms, instead of compelling them to hire rooms at their own cost. No man ought to be compelled to incur an almost ruinous expense, when he was endeavouring to serve his country. He hoped, at least, there would be no objection to the introduction of this bill.

Colonel Sibthorp

was not one of those who agreed with the hon. Member that a candidate for a seat in Parliament ought to be absolved from all expense whatever, nor was he of opinion that any Member ought to be paid for coming to that House. He should not object to the bill being brought in, but he should certainly oppose any clause that went to make liberal treatment of the voters illegal. He wished to ask the hon. Member when he intended to move the second reading of the bill.

Mr. Hume

was anxious to have the Bill printed, in order that Gentlemen might be acquainted with its provisions, and he should propose that on the third Wednesday in Feburary it should be read a second time. The clause against treating had been expunged from the Bill, in consequence of a similar clause having been inserted in the Bill introduced last session by the hon. Member for Bradford.

Sir R. Peel

hoped the House would look steadily at what might be the consequence of that part of the Bill by which it was proposed to relieve candidates from the charge of erecting booths, and of transferring that charge upon the crown or upon the country. At first sight such a proposition did not appear to be an unequitable one; but it behoved the House to look well to what might be the probable consequence of it, while they were consulting economy. The consequence might be, that the constituency might not have the means of getting to the poll within the period now limited by the law. Supposing the leading authorities by whom those booths were to be erected should be in the interest of one of the candidates? Such might be the case; they ought, therefore, to consider well the possibility of abuse under the proposed change. While on the other hand, if the candidate, from an apprehension of intimidation or of disturbance, were to be at liberty to erect a booth where he pleased, provided he did so at his own expense, that would be a very great check against those evils. He thought, therefore, that the law as it now stood under the Reform Bill was a very good law. It afforded an excellent precaution against intimidation by giving an option to the candidate to erect a booth any where he pleased at his own expense. He trusted the House would give attention to the possible consequences that might arise under the proposed alteration.

Motion agreed to.

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