HC Deb 12 June 1850 vol 111 cc1140-2

Order for Second Reading read,


, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said its object was to remedy the existing law, which was liable to abuse. At present, the mayor of a borough, assisted by two assessors, was required annually to revise the burgess list. It happened occasionally, that the mayor was a candidate for the suffrages of these very boroughs, and that circumstance might influence his decision in cases which came before him. He could show the necessity of such a Bill as the present by what had taken place in one borough, and he had no doubt similar proceedings might be adopted with impunity in other places. In the borough to which he alluded, the mayor, two or three years ago, was a candidate for election, and he, in point of fact, had to revise the lists for his own election. That person first of all canvassed the borough, he then proceeded to revise the burgess list, and afterwards he returned to his canvass, and congratuted his friends on the course he had taken. [An Hon. MEMBER asked what borough was alluded to.] He alluded to Rochester, where, in consequence of a number of objections having been raised which were afterwards withdrawn, the proceedings were delayed to such a late period that the lists could not be gone through, so that they had to fall back on those of the preceding year. This he conceived was a grievance to which a remedy should be applied.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

COLONEL SIBTHORP moved, as an Amendment, "That the Bill be read a Second Time that day Six Months." It was intended to affect the whole of the boroughs of England and Wales; and yet he had not heard that there had been one petition in favour of it, whilst the petitions against it had been numerous. He objected to the measure as calculated to entail considerable expense upon the boroughs throughout the country, already sufficiently taxed, and as interfering with a system which had worked satisfactorily, and without a single complaint, as far as he was aware, for a period of seventeen years. In the Rochester case, to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, an action had been brought against the mayor, when a verdict was given for the defendant upon the merits.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."


seconded the Amendment. He objected to the Bill on the same grounds as those mentioned by the hon. and gallant Colonel; and added, that he was acquainted with many towns where party spirit ran high, but he had never heard of partiality being charged against the presiding officer.


, in supporting the Bill, admitted that it owed its inception to what had occurred at Rochester. At the same time, he believed that that was not an isolated case; and every one must admit that it was a sound, useful, and constitutional principle that no man should preside as judge in his own cause. With regard to the apprehended increase of expense, he thought that the cost of municipal registration, as at present conducted, was as great as it would be under the proposed Bill. He suggested, however, that the measure should not be imperative in its enactments, but permissive, taking effect only upon a memorial from a certain number of the ratepaying inhabitants of a borough. A clause of that nature might be added in Committee.


opposed the Bill on the grounds already stated. In the borough of East Retford the lists were made up by the overseers; and during the last seven years not a single objection had been taken to the burgess list. His constituents objected to the expense of a revising barrister's court.


opposed the Bill. Whatever alterations might be necessary in Rochester, there was surely no necessity for passing a practical vote of censure upon every municipal authority throughout the country.


said, a deputation had waited on him some time ago from Rochester, complaining of the conduct of the mayor; and his answer to them at that time was, that the law provided a remedy against a mayor who neglected his duty, and that, until they had tried that, they had no right to ask the interference of Parliament. An action had since been brought against the mayor, for whom, however, a verdict had been passed. Without reference to that particular case, he would admit that there might be some difficulty in proving a motive, which he apprehended would be necessary to establish a case against a mayor; but, at the same time, in the absence of any complaints, he thought he was not justified in inferring that the system, as at present established by law, had not worked well. He should, therefore, oppose the Bill. He might just add, that as the law at present stood, the two assessors might overrule the mayor. Those assessors were elected by the burgesses at large; who had therefore the remedy in their own hands, by electing two honest assessors. Under these circumstances, he could see no necessity for the Bill.


stated, that in York the expense of revising the municipal lists at present was only the amount of the handbill announcing the revision, no allowance being made to the overseers at all. Feeling that the Bill would entail a needless expense upon corporate towns, he cordially supported the Amendment.


had himself revised these lists upon three occasions, and could bear testimony that under the present system there was no expense whatever. He had presented a petition from Sunderland against the proposed Bill; and he trusted that it would be rejected by the House.


said, that seeing the strong feeling of the House against the Bill, he would not press it.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added. Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.