HC Deb 15 June 1842 vol 63 cc1589-95
Mr. M. Gibson

moved the second reading of the Electors' Removal Bill.

Mr. Hodgson

opposed the motion. The bill opened the door to non-resident electors, who had been found a source of expense and corruption. He moved, that the bill be read a second time in three months.

Mr. M. Gibson

thought, the best course to pursue on that occasion would be to read the bill a second time, and in committee, the hon. Gentleman could introduce any alteration in the bill he thought proper. It was highly desirable that this bill should pass that House. In Manchester, out of 10,000 votes, no less than 2,000 were disqualified, in consequence of removal. He believed that all parties were interested in getting rid of that disqualification. In Ipswich, 124 voters were disqualified during the late election, and more than half of those were Conservatives.

Mr. Hodgson

meant to persevere, and divide the House on the question.

Sir G. Grey

said, he hoped the House would not divide upon the question, without clearly understanding the true state of the case. He admitted the force of the objection; but he thought it might be obviated. The only question was, whether the voter resided within the limits fixed by the Reform Act? If a clause were introduced to meet the objection, he hoped the House would agree to pass the measure.

Mr. Escott

said, that the point upon which he disagreed with his right hon. Friend was, that the residing within the limits of the borough should constitute the qualification. The Reform Bill established a 10l. qualification, and a voter ought not to exercise the franchise unless he could show he was in possession of that qualification.

Mr. Brotherton

hoped that the House would allow the bill to be read a second time. He believed that it would tend to prevent fraud. In consequence of the disqualification by removal personation had increased, it being the removers who were personated.

Sir J. Graham

agreed that this bill ought not to be dealt with on party considerations. He was bound to say that, in many cases, the question did operate with very considerable hardship, and tended to defeat the original object of the Reform Bill, as a person occupying a 10l. house might remove into one of greater value, and property being the qualification, he was even better qualified to hold the franchise than before. He thought that the object of the Reform Bill was not only to have a test of the value, but to have a security for the respectability of the occupant. The question of the 10l. value had then been very carefully considered before the measure was submitted to Parliament. The check upon (he voter, arising from houses, was very carefully considered. The two subjects had been taken conjointly with the 10l. qualification and the change of residence, and it was with reference to this that the third question was proposed. The question of the 10l. value was of course very carefully considered before the Reform Bill was submitted to Parliament. It was taken conjointly with the question of the 10l, qualification in reference to change of residence. In large cities that class of persons who most frequently change their residences from considerations of failure in the payment of rent or rates comprised, generally speaking, voters who were most open to temptation, and who were most to be guarded against. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon port, differing from the hon. Member for Winchester, thought it desirable that a tenant moving from a 10l. tenement to one of inferior value, should have the right of voting. Those who introduced the Reform Bill had thought otherwise, and the third question was introduced, for the purpose of preventing that class of persons from exercising the privilege of the franchise. The remedy proposed by the hon. Gentleman would cause much inconvenience. It would be impossible to enter into the question of value at the poll; an assessor, too, should be appointed. The duration of the poll would be prolonged, and the expenses greatly increased. On the whole, having given his best reflection to the subject, and with reference to maintaining the principle of the Reform Bill, he should give his vote against the second reading of this bill.

Lord J. Russell

remarked, that at the time the Reform Bill had been introduced, it was quite true that this question had been very much considered, whether the voting should be final for the year, and give the voter the right for that year, whatever circumstances might take place. Another course was, whether such check should not be proposed. That course had been adopted by the Government when they introduced the Reform Bill. If they looked to what had taken place since the Reform Bill, they would find that neither course had been carried into effect. They found that some persons, if they removed from one house to another, thought they had a right to vote, while others, under the same circumstances, did not think they had a right to vote. This was unjust to the one party or the other. In the Scotch Reform Act they had proposed a remedy, giving an appeal to the sheriff. They could not adopt this in an English amended act; for when the revising barrister left the borough, the investigation closed. They had to choose between the two opposite courses. He admitted that he did not see his way clear out of the difficulty; but having to choose between the two evils, the balance was in favour of seeking to remove the existing uncertainty; and he meant to vote with the hon. Gentleman, in the hope that in committee some clause might be provided which would meet the difficulty.

Mr. C. Buller

thought the House could hardly appreciate the difficulties attending the third question, of merely considering the question as it regarded voters who had changed their residence. If a person, occupying a house at a rent of 200l., gave up any part of it—if he let out a single room, he was disqualified. At the Devonshire election, in 1835, where the noble Lord had been beaten, a farmer had applied to him for his opinion as to his right to vote under the following circumstances. Re was registered as occupying a farm of 200 acres—he had since let out one field; and he had given it as his opinion, that the man was disqualified, inasmuch as he could not return a satisfactory answer to the third question, and in that opinion he was borne out by high legal authority. There was no particular virtue in a 10l. occupancy; it was merely a method by which to form an estimate of the intelligence and social position of a man; and if his intelligence and social position were such as to entitle him to vote in one October, there could not be much harm in permitting him to retain that right for a year. Then let the House Calculate the enormous expense incurred in investigating these questions, which acted as a discouragement to the presentation of petitions. For these reasons he should support the bill.

Mr. Hawes

was sorry that the right hon. Baronet came to the conclusion to oppose the second reading of the bill. He had been sitting for six weeks on committees, and he believed that five out of the six were occupied with inquiries into the description of the cases that had been alluded to. He, therefore, did not think it too much to ask that time may be allowed to consider whether they could not introduce a clause into the bill which would remedy the present evils, and keep clear of the objections that had been made to certain parts of the present bill.

Mr. Cripps

had served for six days on an election committee. Three days, or three days and a half were occupied with cases of removal. This was a very great grievance; but then he entertained the greatest objection to this method of meeting the difficulties of the Reform Act by a separate bill, and as the Government had given notice of their intention to introduce a measure on the subject, he thought they should seek to remedy the evil in question by means of that measure.

The House divided on the question that the word now stand part of the question; —Ayes 102; Noes 120:—Majority 18.

Question as amended put, that the bill be read a second time in three months.

Mr. Hume:

After the division that has now taken place, I wish to know when it is the intention of the right hon. Baronet to bring in a bill on this subject.

Lord John Russell:

One hon. Gentleman who divided against this bill said, there could not be any doubt that what his bill sought to cure must be universally admitted as a grievance, and one for which there ought to be a remedy. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite would say whether in his bill for general registration he has proposed any remedy.

Sir James Graham:

In answer to the noble Lord I have to say that I mean to state the provisions of the bill when introducing it, and not before. That is the most prudent course, and it is one in which I follow the example of the noble Lord.

Mr. Hume:

I move, Sir, that this House do now adjourn. I have received no answer from the right hon. Baronet.

Sir Robert Peel

There was so much confusion in the House at the time the J hon. Member put his question, that I hardly heard it.

Mr. Hume:

Then, Sir, I mean to repeat the question. The hon. Member for Manchester brought in a bill to remove an admitted grievance connected with registration. This grievance, it has been declared, ought to be remedied. I think it ought to be a part of the general bill, which it is said will be prepared by the Government. Perhaps the Government, as they have agreed to such a bill, will say, or the right hon. Baronet, as he must know something of such a bill, whether it be his intention to introduce an amendment at all of the character that has now been rejected?

Sir R. Peel:

The question is of a very unusual nature? There are many grievances which are tolerated, because persons prefer to submit rather than expose themselves to others, which they may regard as more intolerable. The inconveniences of the present state of the law are only relative—they may be admitted as inconveniences, and yet endured rather than have a worse evil. After the division that has taken place, I do not conceive that I should be pressed to make any further observation. My right hon. Friend has given notice of bringing in a general Registration Bill. He will explain its provisions when he introduces it. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman may propose to do; but I do not think, until the proper period arrives, that I should be called upon to give any other statement.

Mr. Hume:

In her Majesty's speech, the attention of this House was particularly directed to this subject. [Sir R. Peel: To what subject?] On the registration of electors; and this is a part of the grievance. I understand that her Majesty in her speech directed attention to this very subject. As it was the speech of the right hon. Baronet, surely he ought not to say, that he was not prepared with an answer on this subject, nor to go on with it.

Sir R. Peel:

I conceive the observation is quite uncalled for. Let me ask, how has this House been occupied since the commencement of the Session? You have had before you three great subjects — the Corn-law, the Income-tax, and the tariff. But then it is said, there has been no Registration Bill. A Registration Bill has been prepared, but there has not as yet been the opportunity of calling attention practically to it. If the bill, when proposed, should not meet with the approbation of the hon. Gentleman, it will be quite open to him to move any amendment he pleases with respect to it. It is, however, quite unusual to ask for the provisions of a bill that is not under consideration.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that what they were most desirous of knowing was, whether the Registration Bill of the right hon. Baronet would be in conformity with the Queen's speech. They were told early in the Session, by the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, before Easter, that the bill was quite ready; and we had now arrived nearly at the conclusion of the Session, and had not yet seen the promised bill. We want to know, said the hon. Gentleman, what are the intentions of the Government on this question—we want to know what are their reform views—we want to know whether they are going to give us a reform registration. We know how much they found fault with the existing state of registration, and particularly as it affects Ireland. Last year, we heard of nothing but grievances on that one point alone, and this year we hear of no grievances. Then we were told of perjury; and now we know that there is perjury—very great perjury—proved to have been committed on the very point which the bill that has been rejected proposed to avoid. This has been proved before your committees. I myself sat for fourteen days on the Weymouth election committee, and out of 500 votes, there were fifty votes affected, I think, on each side of the question, by removal. Now, what we want to know is, whether, in a bill for the registration of voters, you touch upon this subject, lam delighted the House has come to the conclusion it has just adopted, because it will convince the people of this country that, as far as the cause of Reform is concerned, this House is worse than the last. During the last Parliament this bill passed through its different stages. It went to the House of Lords, and then was heard no more of. That was the fate of the bill in the last Parliament, while this House has, on the second reading, thought proper to reject it. The country will believe that this House is more opposed than the last one, to the free exercise by the people of the elective franchise.

Lord Clements

inquired, if the right hon. Baronet opposite intended to introduce any measure for the registration of voters in Ireland. If any measure of the kind was to be introduced with respect to England, a similar one should be brought forward as regarded Ireland.

Sir R. Peel

said, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had already stated, at an early period of the evening, that he would state in due time the intentions of her Majesty's Government, with respect to a Registration Bill for England.

Mr. F. Maule

said, that after the answer which had just been given, he would move, that the bill be read this day week, instead of this day three months. They would then have heard of the determination of Government with respect to a registration measure, and whether provisions similar to those in the measure before the House, would be introduced into it. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving, that the bill be read a second time this day week.

Mr. Hodgson

said, that the bill had nothing at all to do with the registration of electors. If a bill for the latter purpose were to be brought in to-morrow, the subject before them would be improperly introduced into it.

Mr. Redington

said, that if such was the case, it was the more necessary, that they should legislate without waiting for a Registration Bill.

The House divided on the question, that the words "three months" stand part of the amendment;—Ayes 101: Noes 79; —Majority 22.

[The following are the Lists of the first division, which includes the second. It would be no use printing both.]

List of the AYES.
Ainsworth, P. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Bannerman, A. Cowper, hon. W. F.
Barnard, E. G. Craig, W. G.
Bellew, R. M. Crawford, W. S.
Bernal, R. Dalrymple, Capt.
Bodkin, J. J. Dennistoun, J.
Bowring, Dr. Dickinson, F. H.
Brocklehurst, J. Divett, E.
Brotherton, J. Duncombe, T.
Browne, hon. W. Dundas, D.
Buller, C. Easthope, Sir J.
Busfield, W. Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Childers, J. W. Ellice, E.
Christie, W. D. Esmonde, Sir T.
Clements, Visct. Ewart, W.
Clive, E. B. Ferguson, Col.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Forster, M. Philips, G. R.
Gill, T. Philips, M.
Gordon, Lord, F. Plumridge, Capt.
Granger, T. C. Protheroe, E.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Redington, T. N.
Hardy, J. Ricardo, J. L.
Hastie, A. Russell, Lord
Hay, Sir A. L. Russell, Lord E.
Heathcoat, J. Scholefield, J.
Hindley, G. Scott, R.
Howard, hon. J. K. Seale, Sir J. H.
Howard, hon. H. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Hume, J. Sheppard, T.
Hutt, W. Somerville, Sir W. M.
James, W. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Johnson, Gen. Stanton, W. H.
Johnston, A. Strickland, Sir G.
Lambton, H. Strutt, E.
Langston, J. H. Thornely, T.
Layard, Capt. Tufnell, H.
M'Taggart, Sir J. Tuite, H. M.
Main waring, T. Vivian, J. H.
Martin, J. Wall, C. B.
Maule, rt. hon. F. Wallace, R.
Mitcalfe, H. Wawn, J. T.
Mitchell, T. A. Wemyss, Capt.
Morris, D. Westenra, hon. H. R.
Morison, Gen. Williams, W.
Morrison, J. Wood, C.
Murphy, F. S. Wood, Col. T.
O'Brien, J. Wrightson, W. B.
O'Connell, D. Wyse, T.
O'Conor, Don
Ogle, S. C. H. TELLERS.
Oswald, J. Gibson, J. M.
Parker, J. Hawes, B.
List of the NOES.
Allix, J. P. Compton, H. C.
Antrobus, E. Connolly, Col.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Corry, rt. hon. H.
Bagge, W. Cresswell, B.
Bagot, hon. W. Cripps, W.
Baring, H. B. Darby, G.
Barrington, Visct. Denison, E. B.
Beckett, W. Desart, Earl of
Bell, M. Douglas, Sir H.
Beresford, Major Dugdale, W. S.
Bernard, Visct. Du Pre, C. G.
Blackstone, W. S. East, J. B.
Bodkin, W. H. Eliot, Lord
Botfield, B. Escott, B.
Buck, L. W. Ferrand, W. B.
Buckley, E. Fitzroy, Capt.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Fleming, J. W.
Burroughes, H. N. Forbes, W.
Campbell, A. Fremantle, Sir T.
Carnegie, hon. Capt. Fuller, A. E.
Charteris, hon. F. Gaskell, J. M.
Christopher, R. A. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Clayton, R. R. Gladstone, T.
Clerk, Sir G. Godson, R.
Clive, hon. R. H. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G. Gore, M.
Collett, W. R. Goulburn, rt. hn. H.
Colvile, C. R. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Grimsditch, T. Peel, J.
Grimston, Visct. Philipps, Sir R. B. P.
Hamilton, W. J. Plumptre, J. P.
Hampden, R. Price, R.
Hayes, Sir E. Pringle, A.
Henley, J. W. Rae, rt. hn. Sir W.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Reid, Sir J. R.
Herbert, hon. S. Richards, R.
Hervey, Lord A. Rolleston, Col.
Holmes, hn. W. A'C. Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.
Hope, hon. C. Rushbrooke, Col.
Hope, A. Scott, hon. F.
Hughes, W. B. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Hussey, T. Somerset, Lord G.
Ingestre, Visct. Somerton, Visct.
Irton, S. Stanley, Lord
Jermyn, Earl Stanley, E.
Lincoln, Earl of Sturt, H. C.
Lindsay, H. H. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Lockhart, W. Taylor, T. E.
Long, W. Thornhill, G.
Lowther, J. H. Trevor, hon, G. R.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Trotter, J.
Mackenzie, T. Vere, Sir C. B.
Mackenzie, W. F. Verner, Col.
Mackinnon, W. A. Vernon, G. H.
Mc Geachy, F. A. Waddington, U.S.
Manners, Lord C. S. Whitmore, T. C.
Martin, C. W. Wilbraham, hn. R. B.
Miles, W. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Morgan, O.
Packe, C. W. TELLERS.
Pakington, J. S. Hodgson, R.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Douglas, Sir C. E.

Bill put off for three months.