§ Sir E. Sugden,
in calling attention to the provisions of the bill, begged to assure the House that he and those at his (the Opposition) side were as anxious as hon. Members on the other side to correct the errors of the present system of registration, and to have a bonâ fide registration. They fully admitted, that there were many great defects in the present state of the law which required correction. For instance, if an overseer, or any officer whose duty it was to see that a due publication of the lists was made, neglected that duty, or discharged it imperfectly, the consequence would be, that a part, or perhaps the whole, of the constituency, would be deprived of their rights. Again, if the revising barrister improperly performed his functions, whether by mistake or otherwise, it might happen, as in the previous case, that the whole, or part, of a constituency might be disfranchised. These were evils which, it was agreed on all hands, ought to be corrected. In the bill now before the House, clauses were introduced to remedy these evils, and, with some slight exceptions, he believed, no objection would be made to that part of the measure. The other evils of the existing system that required correction were of a different nature. Most men were agreed that, in taking an objection to a vote already upon the list, the objector ought to state shortly the ground of his objection; and also as regarded voters already upon the lists, it was he believed, agreed on both sides of the House, that some provisions should be made to prevent fraudulent wholesale objections to those voters. This was partially provided for by the bill before the House, but he thought, that other clauses would be requisite to carry out the remedy to its proper extent. The remedy for the evil was a very simple one. Let it be enacted, that no party should be allowed to object to an otherwise good vote merely because the claimant could not attend; let it be provided, that an objection to a voter already upon the list should not be entered upon, until the objector 744 made a prima facie case against the right. He thought, too, that a further provision would be desirable upon this point to prevent wholesale objections of a frivolous and vexatious character to large bodies of voters. That evil would be guarded against by making the objector give security for costs in case he should fail in making good his objections. It would also be necessary to guard against a fraudulent practice of claiming in respect of property which does not exist, and giving an address which could not be found. With the permission of the House he would now call its attention to what the present bill contained. The leading provisions of the bill were, first, to form a new court of registration; secondly, to establish a court of appeal, which hitherto had not existed as regarded the registration of votes; thirdly, to alter the franchise, both by diminishing the time during which rates and taxes must have been paid; and, by reducing the amount of contribution to the public burdens, which it was at present necessary that a man should make, to entitle him to the right of voting; and, lastly, it provided for a distinction hereafter to be made between voters in general —one class consisting of voters who might be objected to, and another class consisting of voters who might be called established voters, or permanent voters, being men to whose right of voting, after certain ceremonies had been gone through, no objection was ever again to be made. Before he entered into a discussion of these provisions of the bill, he begged the House to consider for a moment what the present courts of registration were, and what the nature of the objections to them. The great object of the Reform Bill was to establish courts, which would travel round the country simultaneously at a convenient time of the year, for the purpose of registering all the votes of all the voters in England. The season selected for the discharge of this service was when no other public business could possibly interfere with the progress of it—when Parliament was not sitting—when the courts of law were idle—when the labours of agriculture were concluded — in short, a season when there were the fewest calls upon individuals to prevent a due attention to the establishment of their public rights. A system of that kind could only be carried into effect by the existence of such a bar as that which happily was possessed by this country. It could only be carried into 745 execution by taking barristers, nominated by the judges, and sending them simultaneously upon all the different circuits. What was the advantage of this system? He always understood, that the great advantage was, that the claims of all the voters in the kingdom were considered and registered as nearly as possible at one and the same period. The barristers chosen were not, certainly, men of great experience in their profession; and perhaps it would be impossible to obtain men of greater experience, as the remuneration offered to those gentlemen was very limited; and they could not obtain men of long standing at the bar to fulfil such duties, unless, indeed, they made choice of parties who had failed in their profession. He believed, therefore, it would be difficult to improve the system in that respect. If permanent judges were established, the whole of their time must be dedicated to the one sole duty of registration—they could mix in no other avocations—take no other part in the administration of the law. He would leave the House to form an opinion as to what the efficiency of judges would be, whose duty was thus limited to one object alone. Under the existing system, the young men who were appointed to perform the functions of revising barristers were taken from the ranks of the profession, whose daily habit it was, to watch the proceedings of the courts of Westminster-hall, and who, in fact, might be said to belong to the family of the law. Returning from their registration circuit, they re-entered the family mansion, mixed again with their brothers of the law, and profited by the experience to be obtained from a daily attendance on the administration of justice in the different courts. Out of this circumstance was derived a great security for the careful and proper discharge of the duties delegated to the registration judge; for, if upon his circuit he should happen to go wrong—happen to fall into error in his decisions—he was sure of not being dealt with very lightly or very sparingly by his legal companions when he rejoined them at the Sessions, at the circuit table, in Westminster-hall. To use a common phrase, if he happened to make a wrong decision in the course of his circuit he would not fail to be well "rowed" when he came back. He (Sir Edward Sugden) thought, therefore, that the courts, as at present constituted, afforded very great advantages. Why should their constitu- 746 tion be changed? He owned he was at a loss to answer that question. The noble Lord waited till the system worked well before he proposed to abolish it. The country was satisfied with the present courts. There were, no doubt, conflicting decisions, but they were now chiefly con-lined to points which their own legislation had left open, and upon which even the judges of Westminster-hall would not be agreed. It was a subject of complaint, that barristers were appointed the moment they were called, and therefore without experience, but this would easily be remedied by the bill now before the House. It was evident that the noble Lord, when he proposed a new tribunal, with a new set of judges, did not anticipate that that tribunal would be perfect, or that its judges would not sometimes fall into error, because, at the same time that he proposed to establish a Court of Registration, he proposed also to establish a Court of Appeal. What necessity could there be for a court of appeal if the lower court were so constituted as to secure uniform correctness of decision? What was it that the noble Lord proposed? Why that there should be fifteen judges, who should perambulate England and register all the electors. To what extent would this duty employ them? If he were permitted to judge by the number of days and hours which had been occupied by the 160 or 170 barristers hitherto employed to effect the registration, he came to the conclusion that each of the fifteen new judges would be employed some 230 days in the year in revising the electors of England and Wales. That would necessarily take them out of Westminster-hall, and render it utterly impossible that they could attend to any other matter. Now, if he were asked what would be the quality of those judges after the lapse of a given time, he should say, that it would be infinitely below that of the present revising barristers, because, instead of taking part in the general business of Westminster-hall, they would be entirely absorbed by the duties imposed upon them —would live, as it were, in an atmosphere of their own—would have no opportunity of improving their legal knowledge—would be cut off from the rest of the profession—in fact, would become mere political judges. For his own part, he had never quite understood the nature of the objections which had been made to the judges of the land having a certain jurisdiction in these cases. 747 He was told, that it would make them political judges. He did not quite understand what was meant by that objection. Was it intended to say, that if a judge of the land was to decide in some twenty registration cases in the course of the year, he would become a political judge: that he would be contaminated and infected by the decision of those cases in such a way, that no man afterwards could have confidence in him as a judge in civil and criminal cases? If that were so, if the judges of the land, who were engaged in carrying on all the judicial business of the country, were to be thus contaminated by the decision of a score of registration cases, then he asked the noble Lord to consider what the effect would be upon the fifteen judges whom he proposed to appoint, and who would have to decide nothing else but registration cases? If there were any force in the objection as applied to the judges of the land, he must say, that he thought the noble Lord particularly unfortunate in the selection of his tribunal for the trial of these political rights. This was to be followed by a Court of Appeal. But before he showed the House what the effect of these fifteen judges would be in other respects, he begged first to draw its attention to what he considered to be a most important part of the case; and that was, by whom were these judges to be constituted, and what would be the effect of the manner of constituting them? The judges of the land were to select forty-five barristers, and out of these forty-five the Speaker was to select fifteen, who were to be the judges of original jurisdiction in all matters connected with the registration of electors. The court of appeal was to consist of three judges, who were to be selected by the Speaker, not out of any list furnished by the judges, but out of any portion of the bar that the Speaker thought proper. The Speaker, also, was to fill up all vacancies that might occur in the courts of original jurisdiction, or in the courts of appeal, without reference to the recommendation of the judges. Now, this proposal was only part of a great system; for in the Irish Registration Bill, introduced a short time since by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, he found that a court of appeal was to be established, in which also the judges were to be nominated by the Speaker. The Scotch Registration Bill was not yet present, but he was informed that in that bill likewise the same course was to be observed. The noble Lord, therefore, and 748 the Government, evidently entertained a settled scheme of establishing the Speaker of that House as the nominator of all the registration judges in the three kingdoms. Now that was a scheme which he (Sir E. Sugden) earnestly hoped would be defeated. There was a time, indeed, when it was thought not inconsistent with the duties which the Speaker had to discharge in that House, that he should hold other situations of an official character under the Government. That time had passed away—it was not now competent to the Speaker to hold any official situation under the Government of the day. Speaking, however, upon this point, he (Sir E. Sugden) could not lose sight of what took place in that House on the nomination of the predecessor of the present Speaker. He could not forget that the grounds of objection to the former Speaker were said to rest upon a principle which ought to be established in that House, and that principle was loudly proclaimed to be, that the Speaker must, in his political sentiments, agree with the majority of the House. That being laid down as a fundamental principle, he must assume that the Speaker would always coincide in political views with the Government, because it was difficult to suppose that any government could exist which did not represent the opinions of a majority of that House. He would not pay the present Speaker the idle compliment of saying that he did not fear what he would do, but that he feared what others might do. The eminent qualities which that right hon. Gentleman had shown in the chair, and the high estimation in which he was held by all parties, enabled him to say fearlessly, and without the hazard of being misunderstood, that he would trust neither the present nor any future Speaker with the power proposed to be given to him by this bill. The duties to be devolved upon him were of a nature that required the utmost impartiality; and although he did not doubt that any Speaker would desire to act without partiality, yet, as he must necessarily have some political bias upon his mind, it would be difficult for him, unless he were differently constituted from the mass of mankind, to prevent that bias from having some influence upon his judgment. When the list of barristers nominated by the judges was put into his hand, he would probably find the names of gentlemen of all colours of politics; and when he came to make his selection from these— 749 seeing that in point of legal qualification there was little to choose amongst them— the natural bent of his mind would be to select those who entertained the same opinions upon politics which he himself professed. Nay, it was quite possible— the House having established the principle that the Speaker's politics must agree with those of the majority of the House—that the Speaker, in making his selection of the registration judges, might consider himself bound to take those whose political views coincided with his own. The judges of the court of appeal were, in like manner, to be nominated by the Speaker. He (Sir E. Sugden) begged the House to consider for a moment what the effect of this would be upon the character and station of the Speaker. He believed, that the independence of the Chair, that the position which the Speaker now held in the estimation of both sides of the House, and the honourable associations connected with the name and office of him who presided over the proceedings of the House of Commons would be considerably lowered, and damaged by the exercise of the new functions proposed to be given to him by the present bill; he believed that the effect of it would be to reduce the Speaker to a mere political character. Every appointment made by him would be canvassed by both sides of the House, and however honourably or conscientiously, he might have discharged his duty, exceptions would be sure to be made to it. This was a situation to which the Speaker ought not to be exposed. He felt that he was entitled to consider himself as the advocate of the Speaker whom he was addressing, and in that character he called upon the House not to place their Speaker in a situation of difficulty in which no other Speaker had stood. When Speaker Southall answered the question of Charles the 1st. in the House of Commons, he made use of these memorable words:—that he had no eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in that House except as the House was pleased to direct him, whose servant he was there. That office was the most honourable to which a commoner could aspire; but he warned the House not to convert their servant into their master. As regarded the court of appeal, the duties which that court would have to perform would be those which the House of Commons itself had not, in the balanced state of parties, the means of performing. The court of appeal would have to decide upon those 750 important matters, which, in point of fact, would settle the question which of the two great political parties into which the kingdom was divided, was to be predominant in the election of Members to serve in Parliament. According to the present bill, the revising barristers, instead of being compelled to hold their court at a fixed period, could do so at any time that best suited themselves. This, in his opinion, would create great inconvenience and injury throughout the land. By the provisions of the bill, the period fixed for the payment of rates would be materially altered; it would depend, not as it did at present, on a certain fixed day throughout all the country alike, but it would depend on the period when the judge gave notice of his intention to hold his court of registration in that particular district. What would be the consequences of this? There would be different classes of voters in the same county, and different rights of voting never contemplated by the Reform Act, but brought into operation by these new fangled clauses. He could have wished, from the respect which he bore to the noble Lord opposite, that he had proceeded to alter the franchise in a more manly way, that he had done his work in a more bold and straightforward manner. The franchise was altered by the bill, but in so skulking a way, that this could not be discovered except by a person qualified to judge of the interpretation of Acts of Parliament. The alteration was sought to be accomplished by clauses which professed to have other objects. It was not a measure which the leading Minister of the Crown ought to have laid on the Table of the House of Commons, He used strong language in regard to this mode of altering the franchise, and he felt bound to show that House that he had not done so without considerable provocation. The clauses relating to that point so completely altered the Reform Act, that, if the present measure passed, the payment of taxes as a qualification to vote would be rendered unnecessary. The noble Lord, when he made such a proposition, ought to have brought it fairly and openly before the House. The noble Lord had not probably read "Coke upon Littleton." If he had, he would recollect that, among other things, the student was advised not to trust to abstracts or to extracts, but to read the originals. He had read Coke and profitted by the advice. He had also read both the abstracts and the body of the present bill. In the abstract, page 9, he found 751 on the margin—"Overseers to give public notice as to the payment of rates and taxes by occupiers of premises of the yearly value of 10l." That was satisfactory enough; but he wished to know why, in the clause itself, the words "taxes" were not introduced. Which was wrong, the abstract, or the body of the bill? [Lord J. Russell: It was a mistake in the margin.] There was certainly a most material difference between the abstract of the clause and the clause itself. When the noble Lord brought in the Reform Bill, he required, as the condition of voting, not only payment of the rates and taxes, but of the whole rents, rates, and taxes. He was the person who objected to the word rents; and when Lord Althorp told him that he was determined to yield to the objection, and to strike out the word rents, the noble Lord at the same time said, that he did not think that the alteration would be pleasing to him. He replied, that he knew it would lessen the qualification; but as he was convinced that it would create dissention between landlord and tenant, and perhaps give the former an undue influence over the latter, he cordially concurred in the word rents being struck out. He was entitled, therefore, to the credit of being a Reformer—at least to that extent. But what could have induced the noble Lord to attempt, by a side wind, to strike the word taxes out of the Reform Bill? Was it in order that the present bill might be in unison with one brought in on the same subject in regard to Ireland? In the bill which the noble Lord had introduced in 1838, and which went up to the House of Lords, there was no withdrawal of the word taxes, nor was there in the bill introduced by the Attorney-general in 1839. Therefore the question, as to the omission of the word taxes had never yet been discussed. To that extent, then, the present measure interfered with the principle of the Reform Bill. Ministers desired to lower the qualification, and thereby to increase the constituency, without assigning any reasonable motive, and in a way not at all consistent with that in which so important a question ought to be introduced. He had another objection to the bill. It went to create a new class of voters, which the noble Lord called established voters. He objected to this, because it introduced a class of voters having the same interest, but with different rights. This would produce great inconvenience, and establish a distinction which it was not de- 752 sirable should exist between rich and poor. According to the provisions of the bill, if persons were objected to in claiming to be registered, they might at the time of revision claim to be entered as established voters; and if, after the objections against their titles had been heard, they were found to be entitled to be put on the registry, they were to be considered as established voters, whose titles were not liable to be afterwards called in question. He begged the House to consider what a system of wholesale fraud such a practice might introduce. A person who had title had only to get one of his own friends to come forward and object to his being put on the registry, and when the barrister had disposed of the objection, that person would claim and be admitted as an established voter, unchangeable while he remained on the registry. A better mode of introducing fraudulent voters could not be conceived. These were his objections to the bill. If the House would bear in mind that they had now a tribunal which was working well, with which, he would venture to say, the country was satisfied. [No.] He believed, that the country was satisfied with the present revising barristers—the system might be capable of some improvement; but show him any tribunal which had worked better, or produced more satisfaction than the registration courts. He believed, that the present system was entirely free, whatever defects it might have of its own, from those evils which he had pointed out as likely to result from the bill now before the House. He begged to remind them, that the original reform bill proposed, that the nomination of the revising barristers should rest with the judges, subject to approval by the Lord Chancellor. This was objected to, because it would have given a political character to those individuals; and the Government, after a discussion on the clause, consented to withdraw that check, and left the appointment as it now stood, in the hands of the judges. He had no objection to the establishment of an appeal court, but he did not think that the noble Lord correctly estimated the results of this part of the measure. He was confident that, after the first year, the judges would not find it necessary to sit beyond six or seven days, as they had only to decide on questions of law, and not on matters of fact. The points of law would be very few indeed, and the differences would arise not from any difference of 753 opinion between the judges as to the law, but on those various points which the Legislature themselves had left doubtful. He had great authority for the alteration which he proposed to make in the measure. He had the authority of the noble Lord himself, and also of the Government. He took the bills of 1838 and 1839; nor would he propose anything of importance which had not already obtained the concurrence of the noble Lord. Last year the noble Lord had brought forward a bill, on which the present measure was founded, and also another bill, which went to alter the franchise in several important particulars. That bill, however, had not been brought forward during the present Session, and he wished to know why it had not been brought forward in connection with the present measure, in the same way as it had been in the last Session of Parliament? He understood that the Government were anxious to define the franchise in Ireland; yet, as regarded England, the present measure would leave all the difficulties attendant on the franchise untouched. What then was the course he ought to pursue? Should he oppose the second reading, or reserve himself for the committee. In the alteration which this bill sought to accomplish in the franchise there was this difference between it and the bill for Ireland—it sought to effect it in a hidden and in a sort of petty larceny way, while the bill for Ireland went directly to the point. He did not feel himself called upon now to grapple with any principle, and to oppose the second reading. It was for these reasons that he would propose in committee to strike out the obnoxious clauses, and he would ask leave to introduce other clauses, in order to establish a perfect system of registration, with which he was confident both sides of the House and the country would be satisfied.
§ Mr. Gisborne
was happy to find, from the speech of the rt. hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that there was a large part of the bill to which there would not be much opposition. The evils sought to be remedied he conceived, were—first, those relating to the great facilities and encouragement which the present system gave to objectors; and in the second place, those which had arisen from the various interpretations of the law by the revising barristers. In respect to the first, the hon. and learned Member seemed to admit that the bill 754 would not only cure those evils, but would do so in an unobjectionable manner; that was the view which he himself took of the measure. He was certainly much surprised, however, to hear it stated that very little evil had arisen from the varying decisions of the revising barristers. He suspected that the hon. and learned Member had not been used to attend the registration courts. He remembered being once present at one, where one of the revising barristers sat in a room on one side of the passage, and the other in a room on the opposite side. There was nothing but the passage between them, yet the one admitted the claims of a person holding the lease of a chapel, while the other rejected them. He remembered also that three Quaker gentlemen had claimed on their property, through the middle of which the boundary line ran. The property was all conveyed by one deed. They attended at one place and their claim was sustained; but in the other division, although they attended and produced their deed, the revising barrister was of a different opinion, and would not admit their title. These were only samples of the great evils of the present system. Whatever ingenuity had been exercised in defining the franchise, equal ingenuity had been used to defeat it. He believed the noble Lord had adopted the plan which was the most likely to attain a uniformity of decision in points connected with electoral law, yet the plan was not without its faults. He thought it objectionable that the judges of the Court of Appeal should have in some degree a coordinate power with the legislature itself. He believed, however, that on the whole it would be more likely to produce uniformity of decision than any attempt they might make to define the franchise by words. The hon. and learned Gentleman had objected to the nomination of the revising barristers and of the judges of the court of appeal being given to the Speaker. He begged to remind the House that in the bill which they had passed in 1838, and which was not returned from the House of Lords, the nomination of the revising barristers was placed in the same hands. The right hon. Gentleman could not but recollect, when he objected to the Speaker having appointments of a political tendency, that the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he introduced the question of election committees to the House, made 755 no objection to placing in the hands of the Speaker, the nomination of the committee who were to have the whole power of determining the character of the election. He could not see anything more objectionable in the Speaker nominating the revising barristers than in this. If ever there was a case when that power could be objected to, it surely was in that of an election committee. In regard to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman in reference to the established voters, he thought it might produce great benefits in this respect; but whether it did so or not depended completely on what the voter might be called on to establish before he was admitted on the registry. The words of the Reform Act were, "provided the claim of the party was proved to the satisfaction of the revising barrister." Certainly these words gave large and extensive power to the barrister. It left a great deal in his hands; nor was he prepared to say that the revising barristers had abused it. The usual custom was, to call on the voter to prove his title to the property on which he claimed. If the person in possession held the property contrary to law, he said let the law vindicate its right; but it was a dangerous thing to leave to revising barristers the power of trying the validity of a person's title to his property. No countenance was given in the original bill to this part of the subject; but the 56th clause of the present measure declared,Nor shall any objection to the title of any such established voter to hold any lands or tenements be allowed, unless the objection be grounded on something which shall have happened after the date to which the qualification of such voter was last established.The plain inference from this was, that if the party was not an established voter, the revising barrister might inquire into his title. He only wished to know why the words had been introduced in regard to established voters only. Why was the title of a party not an established voter to be subject to inquiry after he was once upon the registry? The noble Lord said it could not; but the clause which he had just read certainly gave a colour that it could. He was happy to hear some Members say that it could not be inquired into. If that was the case, one great objection which he had to that part of the bill would be removed. He thought some alterations ought to be introduced in order that the bill might be made consistent 756 with itself in this respect. He would go so far as to say that any person whose title had been objected to on any one ground should be considered, to a certain extent, an established voter, if that particular objection was disproved; and he thought that he should be so far put on a footing with the established voter as that he ought never to be objected to on that particular ground again. He thought that otherwise such a clause would press very severely on the smaller voters. Take, for example, the case of a poor man, having a small holding, and suppose that it was mortgaged. In order to satisfy the revising barrister, he must attend with his lawyer every time his claim was objected to. He could not see any objection to creating those two classes as established voters. He thought there was considerable force in the objection of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in regard to the perambulatory character of the court. He had heard nothing to convince him that the business might not all be done at one time, and he had no objection lo leave it at the option of the revising banisters to fix the time. On the whole, he thought great benefits would accrue to the country from having a court of appeal, without which he could see no prospect of their obtaining uniform decisions in regard to the franchise. Without meaning any disrespect to the revising barristers, he did not think that, without some such court of appeal, they would ever get rid of the difficulties arising from a variety of decisions. Although he entertained some trifling objections to the measure, he thought that it was founded on sound principles, and would correct many of the greatest abuses in the present system in a most unobjectionable manner. He should therefore vote for the second reading.
§ Mr. Warburton
did not mean to enlarge on the objections which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had thrown out against the bill, but he thought it had been an almost established point, that the present system of the revising barristers was objectionable and inconvenient to the country and to the House, from the great number of disputed points which had been brought before the election committees. Repeated discussions had taken place on the point, whether it were expedient to continue the present condition of the revising barristers, or to limit them to a smaller number with a court of appeal. 757 After repeated negotiations had taken place on both sides of the House as to the mode in which the reduced number of revising barristers should be appointed, and after the understanding which had been arrived at in regard to these appointments, the former bill on this subject went through its final stages without any division. The very point, therefore, on which so much objection had been raised, was one which had been mutually agreed to by both sides of the House in 1838. The hon. and learned Gentleman had dwelt at great length on the exceeding difficulty of finding persons properly qualified for the fifteen proposed judgeships, "because," said he, "they would be excluded from the practice of their profession." He begged to refer the honourable and learned Gentleman to the constitution of the present Court of Bankruptcy. Were the commissioners of that Court not excluded from practice? Had the working of that court been found to be disadvantageous to the public? Did the objection of the hon. and learned Member apply to that court? Yet the commissioners were excluded from Westminster Hall. On the contrary, whatever objections have been raised to some parts of the constitution of the Court of Review, none had ever been raised to the Bankruptcy Court, Why? Because any sort of point of law that was possible to be raised, came before the Commissioners of Bankruptcy. He could hardly describe the cases in law or equity that might not come before the revising barristers. He admitted that the manner in which the distinction between established and other voters might be evaded was a very proper question for consideration in the committee on the bill; but a clear distinction between them ought to be taken.
§ Mr. Hume
was willing to allow the weight of several of the objections taken to the bill by the right hon. and learned Gentleman; and the simple mode of getting rid of them all was, for the noble Lord to define in this bill, as had been done in the Irish bill, what the suffrage should be. It had been held that what was good for England was good for Ireland; and he saw no reason why what was good for Ireland should not also be good for England. As far as the bill went it seemed to him an improvement, and the two principal clauses would remove many existing difficulties; but the time had arrived when it 758 was highly expedient to make the suffrage in the two countries similar.
§ Mr. Alston
was also of opinion that the right of the voter ought not to depend merely upon the dictum of the revising barrister.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
referred to certain salaries named in the bill, and expressed his desire to learn from the noble Lord what they were likely to amount to? He was prepared to be astonished at very little from the other side of the House, but he should still be surprised if the noble Lord had not yet made up his mind on the point, after having proceeded thus far with his bill.
§ Lord J. Russell
did not think it necessary to state his views upon that point until the House went into committee on the bill, but it might be some comfort to the hon. and gallant Member to be informed that there would be a considerable saving under the new plan. At present the cost of registration was about 35,000l. or 36,000l. a-year, and by this bill it would probably be reduced to the extent of 15,000l. or 16,000l. a-year. He did not mean to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman through the various details into which he had entered, but he would notice one or two points. Objection had been taken to some supposed unfairness in the wording of the bill, particularly by the omission of the word "taxes," in the body of the bill. The marginal abstracts of bills were sometimes incorrect, and he (Lord J. Russell) did not undertake to be responsible for their accuracy; but he said last year that he thought it not advisable to keep up the restriction as to the payment of taxes as well as rates. He thought the payment of poor-rates quite a sufficient test of the solvency of the voter. Voters were often liable to be disfranchised by the non-payment of taxes up to a certain day. He had no direct proposal to make on that subject in the present bill; but it was his intention to renew a measure he had introduced last year on the subject of the payment of rates and taxes, and changes of occupation. He could not concur with the hon. Member for Kilkenny in thinking that the cases of England and Ireland were parallel. The hon. Member had said, "Make the franchise the same in both countries;" and the observation had been much cheered on the Opposition benches. [Cheers.] He did not exactly know what was meant by the 759 cheer, if it meant that it would be expedient to abolish the right of the 40s. freeholder in England, he could not agree in that opinion; for he thought the 40s. freeholders in this country a most valuable constituency. If, on the other hand, it meant that it would be proper to restore the 40s. freeholders of Ireland, he must say, that he was not prepared to take any such course. On Monday next such an announcement might possibly be made; but he should be much surprised at it. The franchise was not the same in England as in Ireland, and the same doubts did not arise regarding it, and on every account he saw no reason for adopting the suggestion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny.
§ Bill read a second time.