§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
moved the Second Reading of this Bill, as to which he thought there was such a concurrence of opinion in its favour that no argument was needed from him him to prove its necessity.
§ MR. WALPOLE
feared that the passing of this Bill would be attended with the greatest possible inconvenience until an additional number of polling-places could be supplied, which could not be done without some delay, and consequently the arrangements which would become necessary would not be ready for operation by the next election. Until this were effected, he repeated that, just at the eve of a dissolution, it would not, he thought, be convenient to press such a Bill as this.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, it would be perfectly easy for the House to agree to the second reading of this Bill, which would simply involve an acknowledgment of the principle that, as soon as convenient, the time of polling in counties should be reduced from two days to one; and then all the Government would have to do would be to determine in Committee when the Bill should come into operation. He begged to move, therefore, that this Bill be now read a second time.
MR. BECKETT DENISON
, having had some experience in county elections, believed they might well be concluded in one day. There were very few instances in which the decision of the first day had been reversed by the polling on the second. County elections, too, involved a holyday 792 for everybody; and a holyday in the manufacturing districts was a very considerable evil. It was not easy to calculate what it cost the West Riding of Yorkshire to have its election prolonged to a second day. They had only to increase the number of polling-booths, and, though the polling in one day only might have the effect of preventing electors coming from one county to another in order to vote, the question was, whether it was worth while to keep the poll open for two days, in order to allow parties to vote in two or three different places.
§ MR. PACKE
thought that the admission made by the hon. Member that the Bill would disfranchise some voters, was of itself a strong objection against the Bill. He had been a great deal connected with county elections, and had never known any bribery or corruption in his own county, though no doubt both had been practised in boroughs. It would be most unfair to deprive any elector of the power of voting in another county by any such limitation as that proposed. He should give the Bill his determined opposition.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
deemed it his duty to offer every opposition in his power to this Bill. It had been said that the second day's polling caused great dissipation and immorality in the large manufacturing towns. More shame for them if it did! Why was not better order kept? The Bill was a disgrace to a civilised community.
§ MR. W. BROWN
said, the second day's polling was productive of great inconvenience, without, as far as he knew, any advantage whatever.
§ MR. LOCKE KING
supported the Bill, believing that, practically speaking, county elections were determined in one day, and that they could be concluded in that time without any disadvantage.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
could not understand how any Gentleman who was desirous to put down bribery and intimidation could oppose this Bill. It appeared that a noble Lord in another place was driving from the House one of the most estimable Members representing a county in the north of Ireland; and every one who had ever contested a county knew that all the intimidation and bribery, as well as the drunken scenes, occurred on the second day of an election. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the 793 Home Department did not contest the principle, and the objection made by him should be reserved for Committee; but the fact was, that they would not want more polling places.
§ MR. BRAMSTON
should oppose the Bill, believing it to be inconsistent with the provisions of the Reform Bill, one great object of which was, that there should be no surprise at elections.
§ MR. ROBERT PALMER
would be very glad to diminish both the time, ex-! pense, and trouble of county elections, and, if he were told that it could be conveniently carried out, he should vote for the second reading of this Bill. He did not attach very great importance to the objection that it would prevent persons resident in other counties from voting, and would not allow this to weigh against the great convenience that would be afforded by this measure in other respects.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
had no very strong feeling either one way or the other with regard to the Bill. Every one was ready to acknowledge that the limitation of polls to one day in boroughs had been productive of the greatest good; but it might be a very serious question as to whether at present the necessary arrangements could be made to conclude a county election in one day; and he begged to ask the noble Lord who brought in the Bill, therefore, whether he had made any provisions to increase the number of polling places?
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
replied, there was a provision in a recent Act of Parliament for an increase of the number of polling-booths. That would not come into operation until the next Parliament was elected, and he believed it would not be necessary in the meanwhile to make any additional provision for the purpose.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was favourable to the principle of this Bill, although he believed the difficulty about the increased number of polling-booths would be greater than the noble Lord supposed. He trusted that the House would not divide upon the second reading.
§ Bill read 2°.