§ Order for Committee read.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, that he had been under the impression that all objections to the principle of the Bill had been completely disposed of by the almost unanimous assent of the House to the second reading. He found now a notice on the paper, given by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe), who intended to reopen the question of the principle. He should, therefore, simply move that Mr. Speaker leave the Chair without then entering into any explanation of the alterations he proposed to make in the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. PACKE
said, he had had no opportunity in the previous stages of the Bill of stating the strong reasons he entertained against it, and he had hoped that the noble Lord would have given some reason for proceeding so rapidly with the measure. He thought it was a measure fraught with mischief, and would be the cause not only of inconvenience, but of great injustice to county electors. Only two reasons had been stated for limiting the poll in counties to one day. In the first place it was said that there was more bribery on the second than on the first-day. Although there might be a greater pressure of voters on the second day, he did not believe it was the result of bribery. 353 The other ground was the decrease of expense. If he had merely his own interests to consider, he might assent to the measure on this ground, for no doubt expense would be lessened; but they were to consider whether they would not be depriving some county electors of the franchise by placing it beyond their power to exercise it in more than one place. He himself had votes in seven counties, and at the election of 1841, if he had not had the advantage of two days' polling, he could not have exercised his right of voting in those several counties. The time occupied by all the county elections in the Kingdom was only six days. According to the Act the sheriff of a county was required to fix the day of election not sooner than ten days after receiving the writ, and not later than sixteen days. The number of county ejections in England and Wales was seventy-nine; and he wished to know how it would be possible for electors who had votes in different counties to give their votes if the polling were in all cases limited to one day. If they were all to be determined in such a short time, was it not a mockery to pass such a measure? and it would be better at once to disfranchise so many voters, than do it, as it was rumoured was intended, by a sidewind in the shape of this Bill. The noble Lord must see that his own Bill would not produce the benefit he desired. The only remedy he proposed was the extension of the hours of polling from 4 to 6 o'clock. Now the result of that would be that frequently there must be two hours' polling in the dark—which would give great facilities for election riots, in which the destruction of the poll books might easily take place. He was able to refer to a speech delivered by a distinguished Member of that House, which embodied his own sentiments so fully that he would beg to read a portion of it. It stated—He thought it politic to, reduce the expenses of contested elections within a certain limit; and that limit was the consideration due to the full and free exercise of the franchise. The paramount consideration was not whether the expenses of candidates could be reduced, but whether such reduction was consistent with the full and free exercise of the franchise. He was bound to say he did not think it was, trying the present measure by that test. He perfectly agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. B. Denison), that the analogy between counties and boroughs could not be sustained. No Bill had ever met with greater approbation than that for abridging the time for elections in boroughs. But it must be observed that 354 residence within seven miles was an indispensable condition of voting in boroughs. In reference to counties, there was no such limitation; and in some counties it appeared that so many as one-fourth of the electors were non-resident. This discussion was in some respects rather a game at cross purposes; the facts adduced by the noble Lord (Lord Worsley) for the purpose of showing that the number of voters on the second day at various contested elections was so small as not to affect the result, might bear a different construction. He had no idea that the number of voters who voted on the second day was so great. He knew two constituencies—the one the largest in England, Middlesex; and the other the smallest, Rutlandshire—in which the decision of the first day was reversed by that of the second. Speaking generally, no rapidity of communication could compensate for the difficulty stated by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. B. Denison), that several gentlemen had a right to vote in two, three, or four counties; and that they might be precluded from the exercise of their right by means of the proposed restriction. When there was a rule established by which parties were permitted to exercise their rights in more than one county, he did not see why the House should depart from that principle.' The period of two days for polling was in favour of the franchise. He saw no advantage to be gained from the adoption of the present measure, except in reducing the expense of contested elections; but he did not think that advantage would be wisely purchased in the present instance. On the whole he was for adhering to the present practice. He was surprised that those who were seeking to enlarge the county constituencies, which could only be done by multiplying the number of out-voters—to which he had no objection, provided they were bonâ fide votes—should wish to abridge the time of polling. He wished to maintain the practice most conducive to a full and free exercise of the franchise. On these grounds he should vote against the second reading."— [3 Hansard, lxxxv. 862–3.]That was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), when a measure similar to this was before the House, and which was negatived by a large majority. He (Mr. Packe) was much surprised to see the name of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. B. Denison) on the back of this Bill, who, on a. late occasion, had stated his belief that county elections could be completed in one day, if there was an increase of polling places, and that it would only operate to prevent a few persons voting in several counties; yet that hon. Member, the year before last general election, in a speech of his following the hon. Member for Manchester, then Member for Durham (Mr. Bright), who stated that the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. B. Denison) had admitted that the county of Durham could be polled in one day, used these words:—He had made that admission; but that was 355 not the question. The question was, whether they ought to apply the same rule to counties as to boroughs. If they did, they would undoubtedly deprive a number of out-voters of the opportunity of voting. He, for instance, had a vote in Lin-colnshire and in Yorkshire, but could not avail himself of it if the election for each took place on the same day. He had heard no complaint whatever from county constituencies on the score of expense; and haying been requested by a great number of persons to oppose this Bill, he, for these reasons, had resolved to do so."—[3 Hansard, lxxxv. 861–2.]He would only consent to the Bill, if it gave those whom it prevented from voting in all the places they had the franchise, the power of voting by proxy.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon. this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, that the county he represented was placed in peculiar circum-stances, and the electors, would he prejudiced by the operation of this Bill. He trusted he might be allowed to state those circumstances. [Lord R. GROSVENOR: The Bill does not apply to Scotland.] If the Bill did not apply to Scotland, he had nothing to say on the subject.
§ MR. ALCOCK
said, he agreed with the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) that it would be indiscreet to sanction the extension of the hours of polling from Four to Six o'clock; but that was a matter for consideration in Committee. He agreed with his noble Friend (Lord R. Grosvenor) in wishing the polling at county elections to be confined to one day. It appeared by a return for which he (Mr. Alcock) had moved, that there had been contested elections in only twenty-two counties since 1840, and which required two days' polling. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire had laid great stress on the argument, that if there was only one day to poll, many persons who had votes in different counties would be unable to give them. But the facilities of locomotion were very different now to what they were at the time of passing the Reform Bill. It was only after the opening of the Great Northern Railway that he (Mr. Alcock) was enabled to give his vote in the county of Lincoln. If this Bill was passed, it would enable a county election, when the nomination was on a Wednesday, to be concluded on a Saturday; whereas now it 356 could not be concluded till the Tuesday, making the time the election was pending nearly a week.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he wished to state on the part of the Government, that they thought this a question which rather concerned the county Members than the Government, and he was now about to express only his individual opinion with regard to it. After the second reading of the Bill had been assented to by the House, he was not prepared individually to oppose its going into Committee; but he wished to warn the noble Lord (Lord R. Grosvenor), as he had done on a former occasion, of the difficulties he would have to encounter in Committee, in taking care that the Bill should be workable for the purposes of the ensuing election. By the first Act which regulated elections after the passing of the Reform Bill, the 2 & 3 Will. TV., c. 64, the polling places in counties were fixed. This was found inconvenient, because it was often desirable to alter, increase, or diminish the number of polling places; and by a subsequent Act, 3 & 4 Will. TV., c. 102, power was given to the magistrates at quarter-sessions to make alterations. But the power was carefully guarded. In the first place, a requisition was to -be made to the magistrates by at least ten voters, and a month's notice was to be given of the intention to apply to the magistrates, which was to be lodged with the clerk of the peace; and, besides, notice was to be given in a newspaper circulating in the county ten days before the time at which the decision of the magistrates was to be given; and after that a memorial was to be sent to the Queen in Council, who would give permission for the alteration to be made. The first application must he made to the Court of Quarter Sessions. It was now the month of June, and no quarter-session would be held in time to go through the required formalities before the dissolution of Parliament. The. noble Lord, by a notice of Amendment he had given, seemed to have considered that point, for he wished to "enable the sheriff to make such provisions in the polling booths that not more than 300 electors should poll at the same compartment, instead of 450, as is the rule at present." The noble Lord contemplated the difficulty, for by that Amendment he proposed to put the whole matter in the power of the sheriffs, as regards either the alteration or diminishing the number of polling booths; or, if it was not doing that, at 357 least there was no other provision for the placing the polling districts in the most convenient places for the voters. [Lord R. GROSVENOR: Not the polling districts.] He meant the "polling places." At any rate the effect would be to put the voters to inconvenience, and bring them up in crowds to places to which they would not otherwise have come. He should withhold his opinion as to what should be done with the Bill in Committee until he was satisfied that the proposed arrangement would be advantageous to counties.
MR. BECKETT DENISON
said, he would not retract the expressions which he had used on a former occasion, though he admitted experience had taught him wisdom. He had received letters from the under sheriff of Yorkshire, for the West Biding, and from the deputy clerk of the peace, stating that there would not be the least difficulty in taking the polling under the Bill in that district in one day, and he felt confident that every objection made to the measure could be fully answered in Committee.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the expediency of taking the votes in a county in one day's poll must depend much on the divisions of each county, and the number of voters. Numbers alone formed no difficulty in getting people up to the poll, but there was a difficulty in getting carriages. Where the arrangements of a division of a county were framed with reference to the facility of getting carriages for two days' polling, there would be great inconvenience in polling those places in one day, without giving an opportunity to such counties to consider the difficulty, and endeavour to remedy it at quarter-sessions. Time should be given to look to the arrangement of the county, and to see the numbers of voters assigned to a district who came up in one day. He did not understand that the noble Lord's machinery dealt with that question so as to operate on the next election. It would be impossible for that to be the case unless it was provided for in the Bill. The next quarter-sessions would be on 1st July, and the notice required by the present law could not be given, for let this Bill have what facility it might in passing, it could not become law many days before the end of the Session, and, therefore, could not operate on the next election unless it provided some machinery for the purpose. That being so, he was disposed not to proceed further with the Bill. If, however, it contained the required machinery 358 for obtaining one day's polling at county elections, with the present facilities of locomotion he thought it would be a good thing. As to the diminution of expense, that was not so clear, for if polling places were multiplied agencies must be increased, and it was probable the expense of carriages would be much greater.
§ MR. S. CARTER
said, the only alteration would be, that instead of having a certain number of booths—say two for 900 voters, or one for each 450—they would have three booths, or one for every 300. It would not be necessary to alter the polling divisions of the counties at all.
§ MR. FELLOWES
said, he was at a loss to understand how the noble Lord, who professed himself in favour of an extension of the franchise, could bring forward a Bill which would assuredly have the effect of restricting it. He proposed, indeed, to add two hours to the time for polling; but if the elections took place, as they often would, in winter, it was evident that those persons who were inclined to not and disturbance would avail themselves of the darkness; and that the Bill would lead to confusion and tend to disturb the elections, instead of producing peace and good order. He should vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. DEEDES
hoped the hon. Member for South Leicestershire would take the sense of the House against proceeding with the Bill The fact referred to by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Alcock), that since 1840 advantage had been taken of the second day to poll in not more than twenty-two contested county elections, was a proof, not that this Bill was necessary, but that it was not required.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he could not but express his surprise that this Bill, of which the operation would undoubtedly be to restrict the exercise of the most valuable of all political privileges, the franchise, should have emanated from the Opposition side of the House, where professions of "liberalism" were of such frequent recurrence. He had the good, or it might be the bad, fortune to be entitled to seven county votes, in Northumberland, in Yorkshire, in Lincolnshire, in Middlesex, in Hertfordshire, in Nottinghamshire, ad Bedfordshire, and how would it be possible for him, with all the assistance he might derive from railways (for he grieved to think that he would be under the miserable necessity of riding by rail at the next election) to exercise the franchise in respect 359 of all these seven votes, if the polling time were to be limited to a single day. How was a farmer who bad come to London to sell his cattle at Smithfield to get back to Northumberland to vote at the election? He could only do so at the expense of great personal inconvenience, and with detriment to his interests. As to the plea of economy, on which it was sought to vindicate this Bill, such a plea was utterly contemptible. He liked to see money spent at an election, and would be glad if a little Californian gold flowed freely at the ensuing one. If Gentlemen valued the representative system, they should not button up their pockets as though their hands were never to be admitted into them.
§ MR. W. BROWN
said, that as the representative of one of the largest constituencies in England, he begged to state that he was sure the proposition to confine the polling at elections to one day would meet with the concurrence of his county, inasmuch' as it would tend to diminish the opportunity of exhibiting many of the bad feelings which were too often excited on such occasions.
MR: LOCKE KING
said, that the Bill was supported by the representatives of very large constituencies—-by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord R. Grosvenor), by the hon. Members for Lancashire and for the West Riding. That alone seemed a sufficient reason why the House should go into Committee.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that he had mot the honour of representing a county, and probably never should, there-fore perhaps he ought to apologise for addressing the House on a subject which, as had been said by his. right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, belonged more especially to county Members. It appeared to him that the-noble Lord the Member for Middlesex had not satisfied the House as to the pressing necessity of this measure at then present moment. He (the Attorney General) did not say that it might not be convenient to have one. day's polling for county elections; and if there was time to arrange the machinery, he should not oppose their going into Committee on the Bill, because he thought it desirable that there should be. one day's polling in elections, for counties as well as in boroughs. He was not much moved by the argument that it might tend to deprive some persons who had votes in different counties of their right of voting. But what principally influenced him was the difficulty he had 360 in persuading himself that inconvenience might not be caused at the next election by accepting the interposition of the noble Lord now. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. B. Denison) said there was no difficulty in. This county. But he represented a populous district, where the conveniences for polling, were probably better arranged than in those where population was thinner. The noble Lord (Lord R. Grosvenor) must be, aware of those difficulties, for he had endeavoured to provide for them by extending the hours for polling, which had been so strongly objected to; and, besides, he apparently thought there would be such a throng. of voters at the polling places, that he had provided for the enlargement of the. booths. His (the Attorney General's) objection to going on with this measure was, that they did not know whether it would not be almost impossible in some counties to take the poll in one day. Although he agreed in the principle of having only one day's polling, and that arrangements might be made to that effect, yet he thought such arrangements could not be made at the present moment, and therefore it would be better to defer the measure till they had further information on the subject.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, he thought the remarks of the Members of Her Majesty's Government were quite enough to induce the House,. without a moment's delay, to go into Committee, for they had all admitted the principle of the Bill. Only two hon. Members had spoken against the measure; and the House must remember they were not asked to read the. Bill a third time, but. merely to go, in to Committee upon it. It had been stated by two hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the, House, that they had each seven votes, and their apprehension was that they would not be able to exercise their franchise in seven different places unless the poll were kept open for two days. Now, seeing how many people, in this country had no vote at all, and remembering that the hon. Gentlemen to whom he alluded were generally found voting against the extension of. the franchise to their fellow-countrymen, he did not think any great weight would be attached to their arguments. It was well known that even in the most sharply-contested elections the result might be considered to be practically decided before two o'clock on the first day. He found that in, the West Riding of Yorkshire upwards of 4,000 electors had voted between 361 eleven o'clock and twelve o'clock, and that only 500 electors had voted between three o'clock and four o'clock. With regard to the difficulty of voters coming up to record their votes, it had been stated that some Leicestershire grazier might, perhaps, if the county election were restricted to one day, have to go upon that same day to some great annual fair at a distance from the county, and that was a reason why we were to have two days' polling! As to the difficulty which it was stated would exist in thinly-populated districts to find carriages in which to convey the voters to the poll, he hoped to live to see the day when voters in counties would be ashamed to be brought up to the poll at the expense of candidates. He would never degrade a fellow-countryman of his by paying him the money to perform such a duty. But polling districts were not so very extensive as to prevent county voters from walking to the poll. An average distance of seven miles was an extreme case; and was it too much to expect on the part of representatives who sat in that House until one or two o'clock in the morning gratuitously doing their duty to the electors of this country, that those electors; when the sacred duty devolved on them once in the course of throe, four, or five years, of making their choice of a Member, would not freely and willingly and gladly walk a distance of seven miles in order to give their votes? Again, farmers generally had horses; we had been told some time ago that they owned nearly all the horses in the Kingdom, and they were therefore the last persons to be considered in this case. When the Reform Bill was passed, two days were the time allowed for voting in boroughs, and every argument now used against limiting the county elections to one day was used then. But many boroughs extended for seven miles, which was about the average size of the polling districts in the counties, and yet, notwithstanding the time of voting had been restricted to one day, all the predictions uttered as to the probable disfranchisement of voters were falsified, and the alteration had met with the most complete and unanimous approval of the country. The experience which that change had afforded gave a sanction to the proposed adoption of the same rule for counties; and he did hope that, after the almost universal admission that the principle of this Bill was a good one, the House would not surely stultify itself by refusing to go into Committee.
§ SIR BROOK BRIDGES
said, he thought that that House ought to consider the convenience of electors rather than the convenience of Members. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had cast reflections on those county voters who allowed themselves to be taken in carriages to the polling booths; but it should be remembered that whether they were taken at their own expense or at the expense of others, carriages for their conveyance should still be found. The hon. Gentleman had also stated that in some of the boroughs there were electors who were placed at as great an average distance from the polling booths as the county electors. But he could inform the hon. Member that in the county which he (Sir B. Bridges) represented, Kent, there was a town of 20,000 inhabitants, in which all those who had votes for the county were fifteen miles from the polling place. He believed that the House ought not to be asked to pass such a measure as that at the present advanced period of the Session; but he would not further discuss the question whether or not it might be desirable to adopt it on some future occasion.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that if the county electors had excessive distances to travel for the purpose of recording their votes, it rested with the justices of the quarter-sessions to remedy that evil by increasing the number of polling places. But as the justices could not immediately proceed to cause additional polling places to be constructed, he would suggest that the House should pass the Bill with the addition of a Proviso to the effect that it should not come into operation until after the lapse of twelve months. There could then, he thought, be no reason for opposing the Motion that they should go into Committee on the measure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might ask for delay before the House gave its sanction to the Bill; but he believed that they only wished to see it, permanently defeated. They had always opposed it, and he feared: that they would always continue to do so.
said who listened with. much pleasure to the suggestion of his hon. Friend who had just addressed the House. The magistrates assembled. in quarter-sessions could not at present make provisions for securing the necessary number of polling places the next election; but that objection would be ob obviated by Suspending the operation of the measure for a period of twelve months. He was 363 trongly in favour of the principle of the Bill; and he only wished to see it carried into effect under the circumstances which would he most likely to ensure its successful operation.
§ MR. OSWALD
said, he could not sympathise in the complaint of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe), and of the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Col. Sibthorp), who wanted to be seven gentlemen at once. It so happened that he (Mr. Oswald) had himself three county votes; but he would be happy to give up two of them for the attainment of a public advantage. He wished the Bill might be made to extend to Scotland, with the addition of a Proviso to the effect that in the case of the more remote islands of that country, the additional number of polling days should be allowed. He sincerely sympathised with the constituents of the hon. Member opposite (Sir B. Bridges) on account of the difficulty of travelling in the districts to which he had alluded, the state of which must be very bad indeed, when they could not go sixteen miles without having forty-eight hours to do it in. He cautioned large landed proprietors against resisting such a measure as the present. By Opposing it they were seeking to give property not only its fair and legitimate force, but a force which it ought not to have. The effect of keeping up two days' polling was to increase the expense and diminish the number of candidates who could stand for counties.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 82: Majority 84.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
§ Clause 1,
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that as that was the repealing clause of the Bill, he wished, before they adopted it, to ask the noble Lord who had charge of the measure when he proposed that it should come into operation? He wished to know whether the noble Lord would postpone that period until the justices in quarter-sessions should have had time to provide additional polling places? He could tell the hon. Member for the West Riding, that, with the present number of polling places, many county voters would either abstain from exercising their franchise, or would have to walk or to get themselves conveyed a distance of fourteen or fifteen miles; such, at all events, 364 would be the effect in the county he had the honour to represent.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that, although the polling districts might extend over an area of fourteen miles, the average distance which the voters would have to travel could not amount to more than seven miles. Many of the electors would be in the immediate vicinity of the polling places.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he did not see what advantage it could be to a voter fourteen miles from the polling place to know that some other more fortunate person lived immediately near it. In the boroughs, seven miles formed the maximum distance from the polling places.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that in the borough of Aylesbury the distance was considerably more than seven miles.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, that the borough of Shoreham embraced a district of twenty miles long, and ten miles wide; and yet he had never heard that there had been any difficulty in getting any of the voters there to poll in a single day.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, it was his intention that the Bill should come into operation immediately. He regretted that this should be viewed in some degree as a party question; he did not say that one party would gain more than another by the proposed change. It was said he had shown no strong grounds for the measure proposed; he had not thought it necessary to make a long speech in its favour, after several Members of the Government had admitted its necessity, and the principle of the measure had been acted on by the Legislature ever since 1832. The hon. and learned Attorney General had said they were legislating in the dark. He differed from this; he had seen much of contested elections, and was convinced that a great' deal of the disorder and intoxication prevailing at elections was owing to the continuance of the poll for two days. If the measure was brought. forward late in the Session, that was not his fault, for two measures embracing the same principle as this had been before the House, and had been withdrawn. It was fallacious to contend that the polling could not be taken on one day. In fact, it was done so now; for no voter set out on the Monday, in order to vote en the Tuesday. Therefore, it could not be urged that it was impracticable for the voters to get to the poll. Allusion had been made to the 365 difficulty of obtaining conveyances. At present, the first day, in nine cases out of ten, decided the election; and that, although the first polling day was only seven hours, from nine to four, while on the second day it was eight. From this he inferred that there would be no difficulty whatever in polling all the voters on one day. He did not apprehend that any further arrangements would be necessary; but to obviate any difficulty that might arise, he proposed to extend the time of polling till six o'clock. At present, on the first day, the average number polling was one voter in a minute; under the proposed arrangement it would not be more than one in two minutes. The possibility of a not had been referred to; but he thought this much less likely in a county than in a borough. He had never heard of a not in a county polling booth. He had always understood the boroughs were much more dangerous places; now, it seemed, it was the counties that were to be dreaded.
MR. BECKETT DENISON
would be no party to this Bill if he thought that its effect would be to deprive any elector of the right of going to the poll and giving his vote in the manner he did at present. The fact was, that every election was disposed of on the first day of voting, and therefore it was quite clear that all electors who came to vote on the second day had their trouble for nothing. He believed that there had been only a single instance since the Reform Bill, in which the voting of the second day had reversed the decision of the first day. If space were wanted, the sheriff had power to make as many additional booths as might be required, and the difficulty of bringing up voters would not be increased by the voting being limited to a single day. The under-sheriff of the West Riding of Yorkshire had informed him that at the last election, which took place at the time when the days we're shortest, the largest number of voters had been polled during the early hours of the first day, and that on the second day the polling booths had been nearly empty for several hours. The under-sheriff had also stated to him that he would engage to poll the whole of the electors in three hours. It was, therefore, quite unnecessary that the public should be kept in Suspense during the whole of a second day, and that working men should be kept away from their labour for that time. All the objections urged against this Bill had been urged against the Bill 366 for cutting down the elections in boroughs to a single day; but he believed that there was no man in that House who did not admit that that measure had produced a salutary effect.
§ MR. HENLEY
wished to ask whether the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. B. Denison) would propose to disfranchise the electors who voted on the second day of the election? Was the hon. Member aware that in the counties of Middlesex and Rutland two elections had taken place since the Reform Bill, both of which had been decided by the second day's polling. The hon. Member stated that he would be no party to this Bill if he was sure that it would have the effect of preventing parties from voting. Now what was to be done in case a not should take place? When riots occurred in towns, they necessarily happened under the eye of the returning officer, who could suspend the polling. But if there were twenty or thirty places of polling in a county, he (Mr. Henley) should like to know whether the presiding officers in these separate districts would have power to suspend the poll in case of persons being prevented by a not from exercising their franchise? If not, it was very probable that parties would mob the hustings in order to prevent voters from registering their votes.
MR. BECKETT DENISON
said, he had no intention of disfranchising any person; and the whole effect of this Bill would be to oblige the greater proportion of voters to take means for registering their votes on the first day. He would have the poll taken in all cases in the shortest possible time, so that voters in one part of a district could have no knowledge of what was going on in another part, and that object would be effected by the present Bill. He believed that the deputy-sheriff possessed the same power as the sheriff of suspending the poll in case of a riot. With respect to the extension of the hours, he (Mr. B. Denison) must say that he felt so thoroughly convinced that there was no necessity for it, that he must vote against his noble Friend on that point.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, he was of opinion that this Bill would promote the convenience of candidates, and would operate very much to the inconvenience of the great body of electors. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. B. Denison) had stated that he had been informed by the under-sheriff of that district that he 367 could poll the whole of the electors in three hours. But could he do so if the bribery oath was administered to all the voters?
MR. BECKETT DENISON
was of opinion that the bribery oath could not be administered' to all the voters.
said, he believed that the bribery oath might be administered to as' many voters as either of the' candidates pleased—