§ MR. WALPOLE
rose to move the Second Reading of the Registration of Voters Bill. It would be necessary for him to give the House some explanation of the principles and details of the measure he now brought before them, and he would take that opportunity of doing so as briefly as possible. There could be no question that the efficiency and integrity of our representative system depended to a great extent on the working of the machinery employed in the Registration Courts; and therefore no consideration could be more important than to see that the machinery would answer the purpose for which it was intended. At present there were many impediments in the way of an accurate and complete registration; and the object of this Bill was to obviate and remove them as far as that object could be effected. To the claims of persons clearly entitled to the franchise, there had been and were raised the most frivolous objections; and if these objections had been vexatiously used, as he would show they had been, for the purpose of attacking the most undoubted qualifications, not only on the ground that they were either deficient in point of tenure or insufficient in point of value, but on some trivial error, some casual omission, some verbal inaccuracy, then there could be no question that something should be done to 390 stop that evil. The fact was, that hundreds of voters were yearly objected to, not for the purpose of testing the validity of their qualifications, but for party considerations; and he was sure it was the duty of the House to protect the rights and interests of their different constituencies. The Bill of which he now moved the second reading was founded on the report of a Select Committee which sat last year to inquire into this subject. That Committee was composed of men of every shade of opinion; and after having heard an immense mass of evidence from the best witnesses, local agents, experienced solicitors, and revising barristers, they submitted a number of suggestions to the House, in the propriety of which, with one exception, the Members of that Committee were almost, if not altogether, unanimously agreed. Now these suggestions related more especially to the machinery' of registration, and they were incorporated in the Bill, with the one exception to which he alluded. It appeared from the evidence before that Committee, that every county constituency underwent a complete and total change once in every ten years. By that he did not mean that every name on the registry was altered; but the number of changes during that period was equivalent to the number registered. Thus, if there were ten thousand voters on the registry of Middlesex in 1840, there would be 10,000 changes in it in 1850. One-tenth of the constituencies in all, and one-seventh of them in many cases, were struck off in that interval. No one could believe that the actual changes in the nature of the qualification were so numerous as this; and in fact it would be found that they were chiefly caused by the wholesale manner in which objections were made: no inquiry was instituted beforehand, and no pains was taken to ascertain whether the voter had or had not the qualification which he claimed for. These objections were frequently founded on the mere omission of a number, a name, or a figure; and on such grounds forty-nine out of fifty of them were made and advanced before the revising barristers. The character of the objectors was another point which ought not to be lost sight of. The objectors, for the most part, were men of no station, character, or substance; and he wished the House to bear in mind that fact, and also to remember that objections were made by persons paid for that purpose; and if the objections were very numerous, they were often accompanied by actual forgeries, for 391 others were employed to counterfeit their signatures. By this Bill provision was made to ascertain who the objectors really were; and it also had in view the correction of another evil somewhat similar in character. He alluded to the practice of making objections against those who resided at a considerable distance, taking care at the same time that there was some trifling error which required correction; and then the inconvenience of attending the revision was that which the objector mainly relied upon; for, if the voter appeared in support of his claim, that trifling error was pointed out as a reason why costs should not be given; and if he did not attend, his vote was struck off for non-attendance. However, as the law at present stood with respect to costs, the objector could withdraw when he found the voter was coming forward, and so escape from all liability; while the latter, who might have been put to much loss of time and expense in appearing to substantiate his claim, could not recover a single farthing, as the court had no power of giving him compensation. He would confidently ask the House, therefore, under such circumstances, whether some guarantee ought not to be given for the honesty of the objector, and the bonâ fides of the objection? No doubt some advantages should be given to the objector; and the justification for it was the necessity of having a pure and accurate registry. He could assure the House there was no one more anxious than himself to keep the registry pure and accurate; but he hoped they would draw a marked distinction between a pedantical accuracy in names and figures, and a substantial accuracy which would retain every name on the list of voters that had a right to be there. The question they had to consider was, how they could ensure both these objects, how they could ensure an accurate register, while they protected and preserved bonâ fide qualifications. There could be no doubt that accuracy of registration was very important to prevent expense and useless trouble; and this and the other object were therefore both attended to in the present Bill, namely, to combine on the same registries the minimum of clerical errors with the maximum of bonâ fide and honest qualifications. This the Bill attempted to do under three general heads: the first was to give bonâ fide electors a protection and indemnity against frivolous objections when they had once 392 substantiated their title to vote; the second, was to draw a marked distinction between those objections which were founded on the merits, and those objections which were purely technical; and the third, was to leave to the objector the fullest power of purifying the registry, but under such regulations as would restrain him from exercising that power in a vexatious manner. In order to give the elector greater security against being objected to again, when once he had proved his claim, he proposed that any person seeking the franchise should be at liberty to give notice that he intended to prove his vote in a stricter manner than usual. Having done so, to the satisfaction of the revising barrister, the latter was to write the word "proved" against the elector's name, and thenceforward he was to be entitled to the privilege of "a proved registered voter"—that is to say, as long as he retained the same qualification he should be entitled to remain on the list; and if he was objected to at a subsequent period, he should then be entitled, on substantiating his vote a second time, to recover, as of right, forty shillings from the party objecting, which would operate as an indemnity against his being objected to on frivolous grounds. There were clauses in the Bill to defeat the possibility of collusion between the objector and the voter. Secondly, he proposed that in all cases any person who objected to another's vote should specify generally the grounds of his objection, which was doing no more than was required in every court of justice. In doing so, he admitted there would be a necessity for guarding against the introduction of special pleading; and he, therefore, proposed that the objector in his notice should specify generally whether his objection would be founded on the merits, or whether it was founded on technical points. If he proceeded on the merits of the vote, he should then be entitled to go into these questions only on which the validity of the claimant's right depended, and not into matters of technical statement, as he was now in the habit of doing to save himself from costs. If he proceeded on the grounds of misdescription, or such technical points, he should then be confined to those points only, and not be allowed to object on the merits. This rule would restrict a great many objections, for the number of this character made every year was very great indeed. By the 11th Clause, a power was given of correcting misdescription. He proposed that if any person were ob- 393 jected to on such ground, he should be allowed to go before a magistrate and make a statutory declaration as to what he considered his proper description to be; and the magistrate was thereupon to sign a certificate, on the production of which the revising barrister was to make the correction without requiring the voter's attendance. He had also introduced provision to do away with a very common cause of fraud at the time of polling, namely, double entry of votes, which gave immense opportunities of personating voters. The House would scarcely believe how many cases of this kind existed, and to what evils they gave rise. In the West Riding of York, there were between 1,000 and 2,000 of such double entries; and many of the electors were registered not merely twice, but seven, eight, nine, ten, and even eleven times over. In a division of Lancashire, of 540 electors 123 were more than once registered; and in another county a Member of the House was registered not less than sixteen times. In order to rectify this growing evil, it was proposed that each voter should be bound to elect the polling place at which he intended to vote, and should not be permitted to vote elsewhere; and wherever his name occurred on the register, the revising barrister was to make an entry to that effect. The consequence, as he hoped, of this arrangement would be, that no person could possibly be personated at different places, for the check-clerk would perceive immediately whether the right elector had come to the poll. Under the third general head of the Bill, it was proposed to leave the objector a larger power of purifying the registry, while he was, at the same time, restrained from exercising that power in a vexatious manner. Much of the efficiency of this provision would depend on the question of costs. An important part of the Bill undoubtedly was that which required the deposit of costs. All the agents informed the Committee that they could not get on with the registration as it ought to be proceeded with, in order to prevent wholesale objections, unless some deposits of costs were made. Amongst the most intelligent agents of this country were those for the West Riding of Yorkshire; and they all concurred in thinking that to make the system a really good one, some deposit was absolutely necessary. What he proposed by this Bill was, to require objectors to deposit for every objection 2s. 6d. by way of costs with the overseer. That sum 394 would be brought into court by the overseer; if the objector failed to make good his objection, it would be handed over to the party objected against; if he succeeded, it would then be returned. Every one conversant with the working of registration was aware that there were numerous instances in which parties were put to great trouble and expense; and it was generally agreed that a larger power of enforcing costs to any extent, however minute, would be better than the present uncertain system. He doubted whether it would be advisable to make this clause applicable to boroughs; though it was made to apply to them as the Bill stood at present. He ought to mention, that there was one of the suggestions made by the Committee not inserted in this Bill; that suggestion was the first adverted to in the report, and it related to a point exceedingly important. He was anxious to have an opportunity of calling the attention of the House to it; and he proposed, at some future period, to bring the subject under their consideration. The suggestion was, that what was called the Splitting Act should receive an extended application. The House was aware that this was an Act passed by Lord Somers, one of the greatest constitutional lawyers who ever lived in this country, declaring that more than one voice should not be heard to vote for the same tenement. It had been decided by our courts within the last two years, that that Act of Parliament applied to none but fraudulent cases. Now, it appeared by the evidence of the Committee, that it was the constant practice—and this applied to all parties—for houses to be bought, and then split up into fifty votes. This had been done to a great extent, and they had it in evidence, that the majority of the West Riding, which was the largest constituency in the country, was actually turned by votes thus put on the register. If such a constituency as that could be swamped by the contrivance of any party, whether Whig or Tory, through persons being put on the registers who did not pay one shilling to the county funds, who had no connexion whatever with the county, and who took no interest or part in its affairs—if that kind of practice was to be allowed in future, depend upon it our representative system would be completely swamped. He was perfectly convinced that some such measure as that which he alluded to must be proposed to the House before a very long time elapsed; at the same time he knew full well that the measure 395 was one of immense difficulty in a legal point of view; and he would candidly state, that he believed it would give rise to so much discussion by persons who took a different view from that which he adopted, that, to avoid this discussion, and to prevent anything like a party character to the present Bill, he had purposely excluded all mention of it. If ever he brought the topic under the consideration of the House, he would do so at the longest notice; for he was well aware that a more important constitutional question could not be brought forward. It really was not, and it ought not to be made, a party question; it was a question affecting the efficiency, integrity, and honesty of our constituency, and as such it must be discussed hereafter. He believed he ought to mention two other particulars with which the Committee had concluded their report. They stated, that though they did not think it advisable to make any distinct proposition to that effect, they considered it might be desirable to have public officers to make out the register, and that the revising barristers ought to be paid in a different way. With regard to the first point, he thought it very important; but the question immediately arose, by whom were those officers to be appointed? Who was to pay them? Who was to select them? Under whom were they to act? Whoever appointed them, it would give rise to the suspicion of partiality; and he need not say that in matters of registration, even the suspicion of partiality ought carefully to be avoided. He hoped the House would always bear in mind, if they ever thought proper to alter that part of the registration law, that the presence of the local overseers was absolutely essential for the purposes of revision. They were the only impartial persons who knew anything certain of the different voters, or who could inform the revising barristers whether voters were resident or had changed their residences, or whether their houses were properly described; and this was information which must constantly be brought under the immediate notice of the revising barrister. He hoped the House, therefore, would never dispense with the presence of the parochial overseers. With respect to the payment of revising barristers, he certainly thought that under the old system, when they were paid by the day, the business was often protracted unnecessarily. Under the present system, they were paid by the job; and in some instances he believed it 396 to be true that the business was hurried over much too quickly. How to remedy this, he really did not know; even if a remedy was to be applied, it was one of those matters which rather belonged to the province of the Executive Government than to any individual Member. Perhaps he might be permitted to make this one observation, in case the Government should think proper to interfere—that the present system, which was every day gaining ground, of appointing persons who were to act as judges in some cases and advocates in others, ought not to be continued. No less than seventy or eighty local judges had recently been appointed, who now were placed in this anomalous position; and they might depend upon it that it would be found necessary to alter this system before ten years had passed over. It must always be remembered, that the qualities of a judge and the qualities of an advocate were totally distinct. He had now endeavoured to put the House in full possession of the provisions of this Bill. He believed it to be a Bill of great practical importance. He founded that opinion, not merely on the evidence before the Committee, but, perhaps he might add, on personal observation and practical experience, which made him very familiar with the law of registration. Without much presumption, he might be allowed to say, that, having revised, for three consecutive years, one of the richest and greatest of the manufacturing counties—South Lancashire—and for two consecutive years the county of Middlesex, he could assure the House that they had no conception of the vexation and annoyance, the trouble and expense, to which some of the best and most undoubted voters were put. The House could have no conception of the reckless, thoughtless, and indiscriminate manner in which objections were taken, or how much the electors stood in need of an improved system, in order that they might be protected in their undoubted rights and privileges; and he believed they would find that some interference on the part of the Legislature was absolutely necessary. Certainly, it appeared to him that the electors of this county had a right to require, when they had substantiated their votes year after year, that they should not be called upon again and again to substantiate what they had so often established and proved before. He thought they had a right to require, according to the principles which regulated the procedure of every court of justice, that 397 they should know beforehand the nature of the attack which was brought against them, in order that they might be enabled to prepare for their defence. He thought they had a right to require that a mere error of description should not be visited with the same consequences as a defect of qualification; and, last of all, he thought they had a right to require that a mere man of straw should not be allowed to cast his objections far and wide, not because he had any reason to suppose that the voter's qualification was a bad or doubtful one, but rather in the hope that out of the hundreds against whom he directed his darts at haphazard, some might be unable or unwilling to support their votes, and their names would be struck off for non-attendance. These were the rights which it was the object of this Bill to support and confirm; and these were the rights which he thought that House, as representatives of the people, were bound to protect. He had only to add, that his intention in submitting this Bill was simply and solely to devise a remedy for what he believed to be a great practical evil; and in case it went into Committee, he should be happy to receive from any quarter such suggestions and alterations as would bring about that object which he proposed to effect by this Bill.
§ SIR G. GREY
did not rise for the purpose of following the hon. and learned Gentleman into the different clauses of this Bill, the object of which he had explained with so much ability and clearness. He should only on this occasion express a hope that the House would give a second reading to this Bill under the circumstances in which the Bill came before them. It was intended to carry into effect the great majority of the recommendations of the Committee appointed to investigate the allegations made on this subject in the course of last Session. He believed the Bill strictly followed the recommendations which emanated from that Committee, being either adopted unanimously or by a very great majority of the members, omitting, as he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had wisely done, the first recommendation, as to which great difference of opinion existed. Looking at the Bill, he found that it contained what he regarded as some very valuable provisions, with others which would require very careful consideration. He did not consider it necessary now to go through the different clauses, or to state the view he took of all 398 the points embraced in the Bill. He thought it right only to state that he gave his support to the Bill, founded as it was on the recommendations of the Committee, to which great weight was given. But he feared they could not anticipate that they would see any system free from abuse. In legislating upon this subject, it should be their aim to make such stringent regulations as would not only protect the voter in the bonâ fide exercise of his franchise, which was the great object, but also would not throw needless obstacles in the way of well-founded objections. These were the two principles which ought to be kept in view; and he should be happy to concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman in framing such provisions as might give effect to them.
§ MR. BRIGHT
did not vise to throw any opposition in the way of this Bill, by which he quite agreed that some amendments might probably be made to the system of registration now practised. He rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House for a moment—and he thought himself entitled to it for the sake of persons out of doors, against whom serious charges had been brought in connexion with that subject—to the charges made when this Committee was moved for by the hon. Members for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) and North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley), to the effect that numbers of objections had been served by the instigation of the Anti-Corn-Law League on persons about whose real claims to vote there could be no doubt, as they were possessed of considerable property. The object of those hon. Members was to expose the system of organized registration carried on by the Anti-Corn-Law League. The report which the Committee had furnished to the House, he thought its Members themselves would admit, did not, in any degree, bear out the charges made on the occasion to which he referred. The Committee stated that certain complaints had been made by hon. Members, but that these were denied by the parties to whom they related; and it was admitted that the evidence was of such a nature that the Committee did not feel themselves competent to come to any accurate or positive conclusion on the subject. The hon. Gentleman road extracts from the evidence given before the Committee by Mr. Wilson, chairman of the Anti-Corn-Law League, relative to cases of alleged fabrication of votes which occurred in North Cheshire and North Staf- 399 fordshire, which he contended fully established the justice of the course taken by the Anti-Corn-Law League in reference to them. With respect to the North Cheshire case, which concerned a Gentleman who was a Member of that House (Mr. George Cornwall Legh, Member for North Cheshire), Mr. Wilson said —At the revision for North Cheshire, last year, we objected to a great many parties, some of undoubted wealth. We objected especially to one list, and upon that list there were the names of fifteen or sixteen parties, claiming in respect of freehold rent-charge out of the property of the George Inn, at Knutsford; George Cornwall Legh, Esq., was the owner. I will read two or three names, to show they are persons of property: Thomas Blackburne, rectory, Prestwich, Lancashire—nature of qualification, freehold rent-charge; description of property, George Inn, Knutsford; George Cornwall Legh, Esq., owner. William Ireland Blackburne, Prestwich, Lancashire, freehold rent-charge, George Inn, Knutsford; George Cornwall Legh, Esq., owner. We objected to these gentlemen, and struck them off.No consideration was given in respect of the grants of these qualifications; and though the revising barrister was asked for a case on which to go to the Court of Common Pleas, it was not judged expedient by the parties to proceed with it. With respect to the North Stafford case, Mr. Wilson stated as follows:—Then there were numerous parties who claimed without having any qualification; take as a sample North Stafford—there is the parish of Wolstanton, there were thirty-eight voters upon the list as freeholders in that parish, who, upon being questioned in the barrister's court, admitted they had no title to the property, nor had it ever been conveyed to them; so that there were thirty-eight in one parish who had no title whatever to the property. I believe they were squatters who had settled upon the land, and had never acquired a title; This property was at Mow, Mow Cap and Golden Hill; and these thirty-eight parties had been upon the register for years, and they were proved in the revision court never to have had the slightest title to a vote.More than one of the revising barristers had also declared that the course taken by that body was most meritorious. The hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) had omitted to state the principal cause of the difficulties found to exist at present, which was, the various sorts of qualification provided throughout the counties. He found from the list given by the Committee, that of copyhold qualifications there were not less than 400 different kinds, of leasehold qualifications 250, of occupying tenants 50, of freeholds 576, making altogether 1,276 county qualifications. He main- 400 tained that it was totally impossible, with any system of registration, to put the matter on such a simple basis as the hon. and learned Gentleman wished. So long as you had such a variety of qualifications, you must have of necessity great freedom of objection, and the voters must be subjected to a considerable number of those inconveniences to which the hon. Gentleman had called the attention of the House. From a table, furnished to the Committee by the chairman of the League, it appeared that of the total objections made to voters by their agents in the revising barristers' courts, there had been substantiated in North Warwickshire 96½ per cent; in North Staffordshire, 98 per cent; in South Lancashire, 75 per cent; in North Cheshire, 79 per cent; in South Cheshire, 83 per cent; in East Gloucestershire, 89¾ per cent; in Buckinghamshire, 92 per cent; in Westmoreland, 100 per cent; for in the last county every single objection taken by the League was declared to be good, either by the revising barrister, or in the Court of Common Pleas. He took the League, therefore, to be entirely cleared of any accusation that had been brought against it of having improperly interfered with the registration courts. Every one who had heard or read of the proceedings of the Committee would admit that Mr. Wilson had given his evidence in the most open, clear, and direct manner; there was not one objection made against the body with which he was connected that he did not fairly meet; and he thought it would be admitted by a majority of the Committee that every objection made to the proceedings of the League had been overturned. With respect to the Bill before them, it was a matter of course that the Bill should be read a second time after the expression of the right hon. Baronet's opinion; but there were certain clauses in it most strongly objected to by persons intimately acquainted with the registration system. He had no object beyond that which the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated himself to entertain. He wanted as many persons as possible to be on the register, who had legal and good qualifications to be there. He would not however, consent to such stringency of regulation with regard to the bringing of objections as would enable persons to be on the register who had no qualification, and would operate to prevent fair objections being made; for he thought, it infinitely better that you should have a large number of 401 names on the list, and a large number of objections brought, if necessary, than that persons properly entitled should be excluded from voting.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the hon. Member for Durham seemed confident that the House would not calmly consider this question; and he also seemed inclined to cast a slur upon it because there was nothing in the report of the Select Committee indicating that the charges made against the Anti-Corn-Law League when the Committee was moved for had been substantiated. Now he begged leave to say that in moving for the Committee he had only one object in view—namely, that of bringing before the House a great question which affected the rights and privileges of the constituencies, and to obtain an impartial tribunal before whom that question might be investigated. And there had never been a Committee appointed in which every shade of opinion was more fairly represented. A more impartial Committee never sat. With respect to what he had stated as having taken place in Warwickshire, he was sure that no member of the Committee would say that he was not justified in making that statement, because it was fully borne out by evidence. All the allegations he had made were distinctly proved; and the reason why no notice was taken of these allegations was, that the Committee desired that all matters which were calculated to prevent the calm discussion of the question should be excluded from the report. In Mr. Wilson's (chairman of the League) account of the North Warwickshire objections, he only gave 201 bad, 24 good: total 225. But there was evidence that there were no less than 710 notices served in the two parishes of Birmingham and Aston alone; and that a man of the name of Stafford refused to swear that he had not signed 400 notices with his neighbour's (Worthington's) name, by whose evidence it appeared that he (Worthington) had signed from 1,500 to 2,000 notices with Stafford's assistance. He stated that he began on Thursday, and was signing till Sunday morning. Mr. Hibbert, in his evidence, stated that there were 194 objections signed by Stafford in Worthington's name in Birmingham alone. There were actually signed by Worthington about 510, 340 of which were heard in the Birmingham court. Mr. Wilson only claimed for the League 225 objections; costs given in 15 or 16 cases; but as far 402 as could be ascertained about 1,000 votes had been objected to in North Warwickshire, whilst Mr. Wilson's account only showed 245, so that there must have been 775 more notices than the objections shown in Mr. Wilson's statement. He knew perfectly well how Mr. Wilson arranged his account; he had taken no notice of the objections which were not decided upon by the court, for when the signature of Worthington was proved to be false, the objecting parties retired. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire would be able to prove that similar circumstances had taken place in the county which he represented; and he was aware that like events had happened in Cheshire and in other counties. He would not deny that abuses occurred in connexion with all political parties in the country; but these abuses required a remedy. Something had been said about the split-voting system by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Bright), and he would only mention one case in connexion with that system. In the West Riding of Yorkshire no less than fifty persons' names were placed on the register whose claims to vote were concentrated in the ownership of one set of buildings called "Bright's-buildings," at Barnsley. The property was proved to be worth only 1,900l., so that, divided among the fifty claimants, it only gave 39l. 16s. for each. He believed that Bright's buildings formed a factory; and the hon. Member for Durham should recollect, when he brought forward instances of abuse, that he was himself living in a glass house. Similar qualifications, though of greater value, were to be found in Sussex, Middlesex, Cheshire, and Lancashire. He thanked the Government and the House for having received the measure so favourably, and he was sure that great advantages would arise from the adoption of it.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, it was true to a certain extent that the present Bill was founded on the recommendations of the Committee; but it was not strictly in accordance with all the suggestions of the Committee. The principle of the Bill went a good deal further than those suggestions; and they must take care that they did not facilitate the admission of fictitious votes into the registry, by discountenancing many of those objections which the hon. and learned Gentleman called frivolous and vexatious. The provision in the Bill which enacted that no persons except the overseers should be 403 allowed to object, unless their property was situated in the same district as the claimant's, was calculated, he thought, to enhance materially the expense of registration, as it would oblige parties to hare an agent in each district, and to limit improperly the right of objection. Any person in the same county or borough ought to be allowed to object. With these reservations, he supported the views of the hon. and learned proposer of the Bill; approving particularly of that part of the measure which gave a sort of security to votes once placed on the registry.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
thought that a provision, requiring the objector to be of the same polling district as the claimant, was absolutely necessary, as that would prevent men of straw being set up as objectors. He deprecated the introduction of irritating topics into the discussion of what was a great national question; and he should have thought that the members of the Anti-Corn-Law League—which was now defunct—needed not to be so sensitive in respect to any reflection on the means of their past success, but might have consented to consider this question now simply as a constitutional one. The danger was, lest any party in the country should become possessed of the means of swamping the constituencies, by wholesale objections, fictitious claims, or by splitting tenements. The last point was considered by the Committee as important enough to deserve a separate consideration; and the Bill, which had his support, therefore, only applied to the two other points.
§ MR. G. J. HEATHCOTE
was ready to concur in the view expressed regarding this Bill by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department; but thought that the measure should receive full consideration. It was not a Bill for the alteration of the franchise, but for the purification of the register. Of most of the provisions, as described by the hon. and learned Gentleman, he was inclined to approve; but he thought there were others which required improvement. He wished to ask, if costs were to be allowed in cases where a person made an objection, and substantiated it? At present, the objector ran the risk of affronting the person to whom he objected, and also incurred large costs, whilst he gained nothing if he succeeded; but if a person made a proper objection, and it were allowed—if, for instance, in a case of misdescription, the party had to alter his description—he 404 thought the objector should have costs for his trouble, otherwise no person would be induced to make this sort of objections. With respect to the observations of the hon. Member for Durham, he could only tell the hon. Member that in the county which he represented, the League had made three or four hundred objections, and were obliged to withdraw them. He hoped that full time would be allowed for considering the measure before going into Committee.
The CHANCELLOR or THE EXCHEQUER
bore testimony to the fairness and care exhibited by every Member of the Committee, whose report had been referred to, with respect to every question brought before them. Nobody who read the evidence could deny that great abuses were proved both in respect to claiming and objecting to votes. With respect to claims arising out of splitting tenements, he thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman was right in not meddling with that subject, as it involved considerations somewhat of a constitutional character. With respect to every point contained in the Bill, the Committee were unanimous; and he, therefore, thought it extremely desirable that the House should have the opportunity of considering the details in Committee, as the Bill, as far as it went, came before the House in accordance with the unanimous recommendations of the Committee.
§ MR. GISBORNE
hoped the authors of this measure would, before it went into Committee, reconsider the provision with respect to double entries. That practice was said to favour personation; but, surely, a party who was in circumstances to have a right to be registered in more than one polling district, would be likely to be pretty well known. The other provisions of the Bill appeared to be beneficial.
§ Bill read a second time.