HC Deb 20 July 1854 vol 135 cc463-87

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 34 (Election Officer, how paid).


said, it had been suggested that some provision should be made for the payment of the election officers and other reasonable expenses, and to meet those wishes he had drawn up a few words to be inserted at the end of Clause 34 to meet this point.

Amendment proposed, in page 13, line 3, to add at the end of the Clause, the words— And the reasonable expenses incurred by the Election Officer in the business of the Election and the performance of his duties pursuant to this Act, shall form part of the Election Expenses. and shall be paid rateably and proportionably by the Candidates respectively.


said, this Amendment would leave the relations between the election officer and a candidate in a very unsatisfactory state. There was nothing in the Bill to determine what was reasonable or not. What the election officer might think a reasonable charge the candidate might think unreasonable. He considered there ought to be some power of determining questions that might arise as to expenses between candidates and election officers. He thought the sum for election officers too small considering their responsible duties, and that it was advisa- ble to get a superior class of persons to fill those posts. He also thought it was highly objectionable in principle that candidates should be called upon to pay the expense of election officers. These officers were for the good of the country, not for the good of the candidate, and ought to be paid out of the borough rate, or county rate, as the case might be.


said, he thought the clause relating to the payment of advertisements ought, to be made more definite. He also thought the sum named in the clause was sufficient.


said, no one had been named as the party who was to determine what were legal expenses. His great objection to the Bill was, the unsatisfactory mode in which the clauses were framed.


said, that the Bill had been drawn up with great care by some of the most eminent lawyers in the House, the Members for East Suffolk, Midhurst, and Bath, and by the Attorney General; and he believed with an anxiety that it should be effective for its purpose.


said, he would suggest that the charges of the election officer should be subjected to the revision of the returning officer.


said, his feeling was, that if they were to have an election officer at all, they ought to have the office filled by one of the most respectable individuals in every borough or county. It appeared to him, also, that 10l. from each candidate would be a paltry remuneration for such an officer; for it would be perfectly absurd to expect that any respectable man would consent to receive such a sum for the invidious duties he would have to discharge. He did not think such an officer would be overpaid if he received 100l., instead of 10l.; and, if no one else did it, he would, at a future stage, propose that the remuneration to election officers should be 100l.


said, he wished to know whether the noble Lord meant that each candidate should contribute 100l.?


said, what he meant was, that the 100l. should be paid rateably among the candidates.


said, he apprehended they could not now take that proposition into consideration, seeing that they had already gone beyond that part of the clause. With respect to the question immediately before the Committee, he should prefer leaving it to the tribunals of the country, rather than to the returning officer, to say what expenses were reasonable. There was also another point of some importance. He should like to know at what time of the election this fee—whether of 10l. or 100l.—was to be paid to the election officer? At present a man of straw was often proposed as a candidate at an election, and he was required, with the other candidates, to pay the returning officer his share of the necessary expenses. Would such a person likewise have to pay 10l. down to the election officer? He (Mr. Henley) thought he should do so, for, otherwise, the man of straw might go away before the election, and they had already defined a candidate to be, not only a man who is nominated at an election, but one who might be about to be nominated.


said, he would put another case. One or two gentlemen at an election for a county might set up a gentleman as a candidate without his knowledge or his consent, and as the Bill stood at present a gentleman so proposed would be obliged to pay 10l. to the election officer. He thought that unreasonable.


said, his objection throughout had been the entire want of security provided by the Bill, both as to the ability and the character of this election officer. He thought, with regard to the suggestion of his noble Friend (Lord Hotham), that 100l. would be an enormous amount of remuneration for the kind of person likely to he appointed to the office.


said, a candidate frequently came down to a borough and went about canvassing the electors for a few days, when, finding he had no chance of being returned, he retired, but without incurring any expense. Now, he wanted to know whether such a person would be bound, under this clause, to pay 10l. to the election officer, who would have nothing whatever to do for him?


said, that would depend altogether on the definition which the Committee might give to the word "candidate" in the interpretation clause. He was convinced that this election officer would have the candidate more in his power than the returning officer had at this moment. He would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) whether, if the election officer for East Suffolk charged him 500l. as his expenses at an election, the hon. and learned Gentleman would venture to call him to account for it; and if he did so, would he dare to go further, and bring the matter before a legal tribunal? He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman would never venture to do either the one or the other. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bentinck) that the election officer ought to be a man of the greatest competence and respectability; but the only men fit for the office, namely, the County Court Judge in every English county, and the assistant barrister in Ireland, were those against whom the Committee appeared to have the most prejudice.


said, he must contend that when a man came into Parliament and voluntarily gave up his services and his time to his country, it was neither just nor reasonable that he should be subjected to an impost like that under discussion, and that the fairer course would be to charge the remuneration of the election officer on the county or borough rates.


said, he would suggest that, instead of two per cent, the election officer should be allowed five per cent commission. In this case, if there were four candidates, and the expenses of each were 300l., the election officer would receive 15l. commission, and 10l. from each candidate, which, together, would amount to the sum mentioned by the noble Lord (Lord Hallam).


said, he could not conceive why a candidate should be called on to pay any part of these expenses at all.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 56: Majority 32.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 47: Majority 56.

Clause added to the Bill.

Clause 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 (the Interpretation Clause).


proposed to alter the definition of candidates. The clause provided that a candidate at an election should mean and include all persons elected as Members to serve in Parliament at such election, and all other persons who had been or were about to be nominated or proposed as candidates at such election. He proposed to strike out the words "mean and," and also the words "or are about to be," and after the word "proposed," to insert the words "or who shall have declared themselves to be candidates."

Amendments agreed to.


proposed to insert, after the words, "have declared themselves candidates," the words "at or before the election."

The insertion of the words having been agreed to,


said, that the adoption of that Amendment superseded the necessity of the one suggested by himself.


then proposed to strike out certain words in the latter part of the clause, so as to make the words "personal expenses" include all reasonable travelling expenses of the candidate generally.

Words struck out.


said, he wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Suffolk, whether the expenses of chairing were among those personal expenses which would be illegal under the Bill?


replied in the negative. In the Bill which he had the honour to introduce, he proposed to render the expenses of chairing absolutely illegal. That clause was not in the present Bill, but he doubted very much whether the expenses of chairing were or could ever be considered legal, and they certainly could not be included in the words "personal expenses." He would be ready at any time to speak and vote in favour of a proposition prohibiting chairing expenses altogether. He had himself on one occasion paid a sum so enormous for chairing, that he feared the Committee would hardly credit him if he were to name it.


said, he hoped the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk would again bring forward his clause relative to chairing and bands.


said, there was one expense necessary to be incurred before the election officer appeared upon the scene—that of postage. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but in large boroughs, such as that which he had the honour to represent, the expense of circulating addresses among the electors amounted to a very large sum. In his own case it cost 100l., and he thought that item of expenditure ought to be authorised.


said, the expenses in question were provided for in a clause of which he had given notice, empowering candidates to pay all such expenses as they bonâ fide thought ought to be paid in ready money before the election, but requiring them, of course, to render an account of all such payments to the election officer.

Clause agreed to.


said, he would now bring forward the clause of which he had given notice. He presumed that when that House entertained the three Bills that were brought forward on the subject of bribery and corrupt practices at elections, and referred them to a Select Committee, it intended to do something more than merely to consolidate the law, because the uncertainty of the law, the impossibility of knowing what a person might do, or might not do, was one of the evils complained of. Now, what were the facts of the case? After the last general election they had upwards of fifty Election Committees, and between 250 and 300 gentlemen were employed for a vast number of days endeavouring to settle some of the most perplexing questions possible, many of whom ended their inquiries without being sure whether they had decided right or wrong. No fewer than forty Members lost their seats, nine writs were suspended, the country was put to the expense of several Commissions, and a great deal of discredit was thrown upon that House, upon a large portion of the electoral body, and upon the whole institutions of the country. He was afraid that the law would not be made much better by the present Bill. They had, it was true, put a check, or thought they had put a check, upon some of the expenses connected with an election, by the creation of an election officer; but the uncertainties of the law still existed, and he apprehended that they would be, if possible, increased by the enactments of the present Bill. That being the case, he would beg to be allowed to lay before them a few facts with regard to the expenditure at contested elections. He would not go to Yorkshire, where 250,000l. was spent in One election; nor to Northamptonshire, where three noble families were reduced to the verge of ruin by the expenses of an election; but would refer to elections which had occurred recently, and which were within their own cognisance. In 1846, the election for the county of Middlesex cost 13,000l. to the three candidates, and the contested election for the northern division of Lincolnshire cost one candidate alone 15,000l., and the three candidates together 23,000l. In that division of Gloucestershire which was contested the other day under the new Act, the election cast 10,000l.; and to come to the county in which he resided, the cost of the elections for the last few years amounted to the enormous sum of 30,000l. Nobody would venture to say that such a state of things ought to continue. Such a vast expenditure could not be incurred without a great deal of unfair and improper influence being used, and the result in many instances had been that the man with the largest purse was usually sent to Parliament. He would mention two very curious cases which had occurred. The first illustrated the question of refreshment tickets. There was a county returning three Members. Three gentlemen stood on one side and only one on the other, and it was agreed that each should give a 5s. ticket for refreshments. Accordingly, the three candidates who represented the same interest each gave a 5s. ticket, and the other—the opposing candidate—did the same, so that the elector who voted for the former got 15s., while he who voted for the latter obtained only 5s. Of course, the three candidates were returned. The other case illustrated the point as to the expenses of conveyance. There was a borough in which it was the custom to give the voters 2l. 2s. each as head-money. Upon one occasion, the candidates decided that they should give the head-money no longer; but the electors refused to go to the poll, and the candidates hit upon the following expedient—each voter had a cab sent to his house accompanied by a servant, and all the members of his family, himself included, were driven to the polling-booth. There could be no doubt that, if such expenses were allowed to go on, they would continue to be used for corrupt purposes. Some hon. Gentleman had talked of the loss of time of the voter in going to the poll, but he could not comprehend how any man who estimated the possession of the franchise could feel it to be a grievance to be required to come to the poll once in three or four years. Some hon. Gentlemen were also haunted with the notion that, if the expenses of an election were abolished, the House would be invaded by a host of adventurers, who by giving large promises would obtain seats in the Legislature. All he could say was, that having had much experience of popular constituencies, that provided a man's character would stand the test of public scrutiny, the fact of his being a gentleman of independent fortune was a positive passport to favour. Upon what conceivable principle, except that of vicious practice, could they saddle a candidate with the personal expenses of a voter? Let the candidate pay his own personal expenses—let the voter pay his—and let the county or borough pay that which properly belonged to it. Whether his clause was agreed to or not, he hoped the Committee would, at least, declare its opinion upon the subject, so that some clue might be given to the members of an Election Committee as to how they were to decide upon the case of a controverted election when it came before them. The question was surrounded with great difficulties, but they never would escape from those difficulties unless they based their legislation upon some sound and intelligible principle, such as that contained in the clause which he had now the honour to propose.

Clause (Every person who shall advance or pay, or cause to be paid, any money for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the conveyance of any Voter to or from the Poll, or for the refreshment of any Voters on the day of nomination, or between that day and the day after the declaration of the Poll, shall forfeit the sum of fifty pounds to any person who shall sue for the same, together with full costs of suit),—brought up, and read 1°.


said, that the expense of refreshments was voluntarily incurred, and was not by any means necessary for the exercise of the elective franchise. But the question of conveyance was totally different. In many of the Irish counties, the effect of the proposed clauses would be to place in the hands of the wealthier classes the power of carrying the elections, for large numbers of the voters lived at considerable distances from the polling places, and the expense of going to the poll was, to such poor men, a very serious matter. The expense of removing electors from one street to another in boroughs ought to be declared illegal, but to extend the same prohibition to counties would not conduce to that freedom of choice which the noble Lord wished to secure to the voters.


said, he was in favour of the principle of every voter paying his own expenses. Some few might be prevented from voting on this ground, but the way to remedy that would be to give universal suffrage.


said, he thought that in Scotland there would be great difficulty in bringing voters to the poll—a distance of perhaps fifteen or twenty miles—with- out an allowance for travelling expenses. Universal suffrage would be no remedy for this evil; it would merely increase the numbers who suffered from it. If the ticket could be got rid of altogether, he thought it would be a great advantage; but he did not see how it was to be done. He represented a place where many of his constituents resided in England, and he should be glad to see a law passed preventing non-residents from voting.


said, he hoped that the framers of the Bill would no longer be charged with the undue severity of their measure; for no clauses could be devised more severe or more oppressive in their operation than the one just proposed. The effect of it would be, if enacted, to render absolutely illegal these expenses, as also to subject to pecuniary penalty, as well as to penal action, every person who might make the smallest payment for travelling or refreshment expenses for a single voter, no matter the peculiarity of that voter's case. The present state of the law rendered it absolutely necessary to settle the question. On one side they had the high authority of Lord Lyndhurst, that moderate payments for refreshments and travelling expenses to voters coming from a distance were not illegal either by the common or statute law; while, on the other hand, they had the opinion of the Attorney General, that all such payments were altogether illegal. It was well known that at every election some expenses of this kind were incurred. Suppose after the next general election, petitions were presented complaining of them, in one room counsel might rely on the opinion of the Attorney General, and if there was the slightest feeling against the sitting Member, he was sure to be unseated; whilst in the very next room, another Committee would avail themselves of the authority of Lord Lyndhurst, to retain a certain gentleman in his seat. Such a state of things ought not to exist, and the proposal of the noble Lord, or some other, should be adopted. In deciding on this question, they should look to what public opinion was; no person could assert that public opinion was against these payments, for there had not been an election in the country for many years past at which they had not been made. So long as the law forced persons to come from a distance to give their votes, so long ought these payments to be allowed within reasonable limits. A measure had been proposed to the Select Committee, to enable every man to give his vote at his place of residence, wherever it might be; he hoped that would eventually become law; but until it did these tickets must be sanctioned. He was entirely against legalising the giving refreshments to any voters, except those coming from a distance; but in every county of England there were a large number of persons who could not come to the poll unless they received a reasonable sum for their expenses. To refuse it to them would be to disfranchise one-fourth of the constituency of England; he, therefore, could not support the Motion of the noble Lord.


said, he had watched with much interest the proceedings of the hon. and learned Gentleman in his somewhat novel character of reformer and purifier of our election proceedings; but he should be sorry if the Committee was induced to affirm the proposition he had now laid down, and deeply regretted that he had ever touched the question at all. If they attempted to legislate with no better definition than reasonable and unreasonable expenses, they would be opening a door to every conceivable excess and corruption on the day of election. What was reasonable for one man, who could carry off two bottles of port wine without being in the least excited, would be very unreasonable for another weak-headed man, who would be rolled in the dust by half a bottle. And how would an Election Committee decide what was reasonable for a thirsty man, and for one who had not the least appetite for drink? To legalise this definition of reasonable and unreasonable would do more harm than if they never touched the question at all. He was confident the Bill would never pass with a clause affirming the legality of giving reasonable refreshment on the polling day. The other proposal with regard to the hire of carriages might require more consideration. All admitted that it was in harmony with the Bill to prevent this small species of bribery; it was in harmony with the principle they had laid down in prohibiting the giving of a yard of ribbon for a cockade, and preventing the employment of any agent, poll-clerk, or messenger who was an elector. They were not dealing with a weekly, a monthly, or even an annual event, but with a case that arose on an average once in about three years. Once in three years the electors of this country, intrusted by the Constitution with supreme power over the empire, were called upon to exercise their high function by voting for representatives in that House. They were involved in a certain amount of trouble in going to the poll; but what did it amount to? Take a county election. The polling districts, on an average, were not seven miles in diameter; and that did not imply that the elector had to walk or ride seven miles, but only three and a half. Would it be contended that the electors, the privileged class in this country, people who were held out as, par excellence, in an independent condition, and fit to be intrusted with the power of choosing representatives for their fellow-countrymen, were not able, once in three years, to go three miles and a half to give their votes? In counties the polling places were always in towns, consequently the dense population of the county was clustered round the polling places. Then the facilities given by railways enabled these poor, helpless people, who could not walk, to perform their duty. Nearly every town in the kingdom had now a railway in connection with it; and a parliamentary train ran on each line every day at a penny a mile; so that actually for 3d. or 4d. this poor elector might go from his residence to the polling place to give his vote. Was it necessary, for the sake of this miserable pittance, to violate the principle of this Bill by introducing the proposed system? It would be degrading the elector to allow him to be paid by Act of Parliament for exercising his high functions. But there was another objection to the hiring of carriages on the day of election, it was made a source of bribery to those who had votes to give. How was it with the car-owners in Ireland, with the cab and omnibus proprietors in England? It was a regular and systematic mode of bribery. As soon as the day of election was named, there was a scramble between the two parties which should get possession of the carriages. As a consequence, the price was raised; and very often the raising of the price was an obstacle to the voters getting up to the poll at all. The voters were persuaded to wait till they were sent for; it often happened that the committees could not get the carriages on account of the competition, or the drunkenness and inattention of those having the control over them; and the price was so raised that the voters could not hire for themselves. When they proposed to prohibit every species of bribery, they should also prohibit that of bribery by cabs and carriages. It was said that if this system were not allowed, none but rich men would be returned for the counties; that the rich men had got all the private carriages, and the farmers the horses, which they would lend for the conveyance of voters; but that the friends of the poor candidate having no carriages to lend, his supporters would be unable to come up to the poll. But it was not usually poor and rich men who were pitted against each other on the day of election. Ordinarily the contest was between the propertied classes, Whig and Tory generally, though they were pretty much merged into one now. They had proprietors and rich men on both sides. He warned the country Gentlemen that the system which they supported was not calculated to maintain their influence, but rather to bring in the parvenu millionaire whose long purse enabled him to bear the expense. Gentlemen of old family, who had traditional influence, were mistaken if they thought they served their interests by encouraging enormous expense. It would be better for them to depend on their traditional influence, which gave them a hold on the constituency. For example, he would take the county he himself represented. It contained 36,000 electors. Suppose the principle of giving refreshment was once recognised, and that every Yorkshireman who came to the poll was to receive even the smallest sum suggested by any Gentleman—two shillings—it gave a sum of 3,600l.; add to this the travelling expenses. In some counties, he believed, the voters require carriages and four; but, setting it down at the sum of 2s., this would require 3,600l. more, making a fixed charge of 7,200l. at every election for the West Riding, independent of all other expenses. He warned the county representatives of the danger that threatened them. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly), that it was important that the question should now be settled; but if it was to be settled by affirming the principle that a candidate might pay for the travelling expenses and moderate refreshment of the voters, he hoped the Bill would never pass that House. The principles of the hon. and learned Gentleman might be affirmed in Committee, but he hoped that in a future stage the clause would be rendered inoperative, or the Bill be rejected altogether.


said, that whatever decision the Committee might arrive at on this subject, whether to pronounce these expenses illegal or otherwise, it was incumbent on them and would be a great boon to candidates, that the law should be positively determined, and not left in its present discreditable state of uncertainty. The same authorities, and very high ones, which had determined that travelling expenses were legal, had determined that refreshments were illegal, and he regretted that the noble Lord (Lord R. Grosvenor) had not kept these two questions separate. He understood that the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General was different—that he had expressed it as his opinion that moderate travelling expenses were legal, but that the giving of refreshments was illegal. The Southampton Election Committee, on which he had the honour to sit, unanimously came to the decision that travelling expenses were legal. If the hon. and learned Attorney General had been tried and judged according to his own opinion, he would not now be sitting for the borough of Southampton. He (Sir J. Walsh) had suggested that the Committee should come to a resolution on the subject, but he had been met by the argument that the opinion of Committees on the subject were so contradictory that it would be useless to do so. That showed the importance of their coming to some decision on this question. Not only did they think in the case of the Southampton Committee that moderate travelling expenses were legal, but they were also of opinion that some moderate sustentation of the voter was permissible. The Committee in that case being unable to fix the law, he thought it extremely desirable that it should be now decided and set at rest. He feared if they made all travelling expenses illegal, that the practical effect would be to disfranchise many persons. There were a large class of persons who would not incur the expense of travelling any distance merely upon public grounds. He was ready to agree with the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) that where the distance was only three and a half to seven miles the candidate ought not to pay anything towards travelling expenses. The average distance, however, was much greater; and there was a large class of non-resident voters who might have to come from very remote places, and who would certainly expect to have their expenses paid. If the two questions, of travelling expenses and refreshments, were separated, it would, in his opinion, be far more convenient and far more just. With regard to the latter point, he had always felt that the House of Commons, in its desire to put down anything like bribery, had reversed the principle always applied by that House to cases of corruption and bribery. There had been a tangled web of legislation adopted, and the decision of the question had been referred to a tribunal avowedly partial. He believed the candidate, in giving a moderate refreshment to the voter, had not the slightest idea of corrupting him. It was a practice consecrated by custom, and sanctioned on the ground of hospitality, and he hoped the Committee would pause before they pronounced this practice illegal.


said, he was desirous of saying a word upon the matter after the pointed manner in which his opinion had been referred to by the hon. Member for Radnorshire. He adhered to what he had before stated, that, as regarded travelling expenses, express decisions of Committees of that House had determined that such payments were legal, but with respect to refreshment tickets he was of opinion that the payment came within the terms of the Treating Act, and was therefore illegal. With regard to the payment of travelling expenses, no one in that House or out of it would be more cordially satisfied with a declaration or enactment that such payments were illegal than himself. Although the decision of the Committee upon the Southampton Election Petition was strongly in favour of the legality of such payments, his own doubts were such that a week anterior to the election, when it was proposed to have the out-voters up to vote, he declared he would not have them. They were, however, brought in without his knowledge, and payments made on their account without his consent, by which means he was involved in the expense and annoyance of an Election Committee. In his opinion it would be desirable to strike all out-voters from off the register for boroughs. Such a course would limit the expense, and be beneficial to candidates. Counties stood upon a different footing in this respect. Still the more that House instilled into the minds of the electors of England the importance of the franchise intrusted to them, and convinced them that it was a trust upon the proper discharge of which the well-being of themselves and their country depended, the more would purity of election be promoted. But so long as they were paid for their votes in the shape of travelling expenses and refreshments, they derogated from the value of the right. As he wished to see all such expenses abolished, he should support the proposition of the noble Lord.


said, the Committee seemed to be agreed upon one point, namely, that this question must be settled. Certain tests, therefore, must be applied to know how it should be decided. The Bill was framed for two purposes—to diminish expense, and to prevent corruption at elections. Consistently wit] these two objects, the Committee would agree that no impediment or obstruction ought to be interposed to the discretion of voters in the exercise of their franchise in favour of the candidate for whom they intended to vote, provided they were not influenced to do so by any corrupt motives. Taking this test, he could not see how the Committee could assent to the noble Lord's proposition; and if they could not assent to it, they must be driven to the other alternative of legalising travelling expenses and refreshments in some way. How, might be open to considerable doubt. In respect to travelling expenses, it was clear that, by refusing to pay them, the number of voters brought to the poll would be diminished. Although there were lines of railway intersecting the kingdom, they only afforded facility of communication to certain towns, and not to electors in distant districts. It was perfectly clear that the mere payment of travelling expenses would not tend to increase corruption at elections. It was only in those cases where more was given than was necessary to bring the voter to the poll that the voter was corrupted. With regard to travelling expenses, he felt no doubt whatever, if the alternative was to allow or disallow them, they must allow them, because the disallowance would be to disfranchise half the voters for counties. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) said there were 36,000 voters in that district, and the allowance of 2s. a head for travelling expenses, and 2s. a head for refreshment, would impose a cost upon the candidates of upwards of 7,000l. Assuming that 20,000 out of the 36,000 received the 2s.—and that was an extravagant estimate—the sum expended would be only 2,000l., and, divided among four candidates, would be only 500l. each. He would put it to any county Member whether, in the present uncertain state of the law, he would not think himself well off with a payment of 500l. for refreshment expenses? By allowing refreshment expenses to a limited amount they would not add to corruption. No man would poll for a certain candidate because he received 2s., but because he preferred that candidate to any other. Since it would neither add to the expenses of the election nor increase corruption, to allow reasonable expenses for travelling and reasonable expenses for refreshment, the proper alternative, in his opinion, was to allow them. If they disallowed them, they would make the law antagonistic to the general feelings of the people of this country; the law would become worse than nugatory; every one would endeavour to evade it, and more stringent legislation would be necessary, for the present Bill would then utterly fail in its object.


said, he must confess he had very great doubts with respect to the clause now under consideration. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walpole) that it did seem to be the opinion of that House, and he could not but say it was a very reasonable opinion, that, as they were making a new law on this subject, candidates and the country generally should be informed whether the expenses of refreshment and travelling were to be considered legal or illegal. As he understood his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, it had been frequently decided that travelling expenses which were bonâ fide the expenses of bringing persons to the places of polling, were legal expenses, and that, in his opinion, any payment for refreshment came under the words of the Treating Act, however conflicting later decisions had been. There appeared to him to be a difference between the question of travelling expenses and the question of refreshment. A poor man, living some miles from a polling place in a county, might very well say, "I cannot put such a value on my franchise that I can afford not only to lose my day's wages, but to spend money for the purpose of being conveyed to the place of polling." He thought, in that case, it was not unreasonable that others, and even candidates, should provide the expense which the poor voter could not afford himself. He, therefore, could not give his vote for the proposition of his noble Friend (Lord R. Grosvenor). He thought the question of refreshment, however, was of a totally different character, because, after all, the expense of a man's daily food was an expense defrayed by him, and an expense which, at all events he need not call on the candidate to defray; as it was more than probable that he and his neighbours meeting together might be able to take such refreshment as was necessary. Though he had endeavoured as far as possible to bring his mind to consider that some provision of the kind ought to be introduced, he could not concur with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it would not lead to any corrupt expense. It was quite true, if they continued a practice which had been usual, of the candidates furnishing refreshment expenses, and if they limited to 2s. what had hitherto cost 5s. a head, they did not introduce any corruption. But there were numbers of cases in which it had not been the practice to allow a sum for refreshment, where persons had been accustomed to go to the poll and did not receive any allowance whatever. Immediately Parliament said 2s. should be allowed for the purpose of refreshment, numbers of men who would now never think of claiming a single farthing, but would go and give their votes and return to their own dwellings without calling on any candidate for payment of refreshment, would say, "After all, it is a legal payment; it is not a gift or any act of generosity on the part of the candidates; it is found in the Act of Parliament, and we have a right to be paid." He should be afraid, therefore, an element of corruption would be added, and though for some time he was inclined to vote for a clause of this kind, on the whole he had come to the conclusion that it was desirable to allow travelling expenses, but that it was not desirable to allow the expenses of refreshment, and that to make the law more clear, a clause should be inserted, declaring that such expenses came within the provisions of this law. That was the conclusion as to the best course to pursue which he had come to after great hesitation and consideration.


said, that the multiplication of polling-booths ought to render the payment of travelling expenses quite unnecessary. He had no faith in this new attempt to put down bribery and corruption, of which they would never see the end until they adopted the ballot and largely augmented the franchise.


said, he thought the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) was guilty of very great inconsistency in calling upon the humbler classes to invest their savings in the purchase of 40s. freeholds, while at the same time he decried the payment of travelling expenses. Why, those were the very persons who would become practically disfranchised if they were denied the expense of their journey to the polling places. Now, speaking without the slightest personal feeling on the matter, he would put it to the hon. Gentleman, did he really mean to deprive these poor men of the means of access to the poll, after they had been induced to expend their savings on the obtainment of votes in various counties? If, however, their object was to disfranchise all the outlying voters, he thought the fair mode of procedure would be to disfranchise all non-resident voters in a county. Still he trusted the Committee would not adopt any measure that would have the effect of disfranchising the poor, while the rich were allowed to retain their privilege of voting. To adopt a measure of that character would indeed be to impose a property qualification with a vengeance.


said, he must deny that there were any voters in the counties so poor as to make their travelling expenses an object to them. [Laughter.] Well, he would give hon. Gentleman a proof of that. In the factory with which he was connected there were about 1,000 adult labourers, but of that number not more than five, or at the outside ten, had votes. But he would tell hon. Gentlemen that if the whole number were enfranchised, there was not one of them that would not scorn their 2s. tickets, and would go manfully to the poll.


said, he first wished to observe, that it was all very well for the hon. Gentleman to talk of voters in his borough walking like men to the poll—very possibly that might be so with men who had not half a mile to go, but he should like to know what could men do who had a journey of perhaps fifteen or twenty miles to take to reach the polling-booth. And as to refreshments, it was all very easy for voters to go out to the hustings to vote, and then return to their dinner—but that could not be done by the county voters. The hon. Member for the West Riding had laid much stress on there being omnibuses and railways in every part of the country. Now he begged to tell that hon. Gentleman that in the county which he had the honour to represent, they had no such convenience. The object of these travelling expenses was to enable the poor voter to exercise his franchise—and, therefore, in allowing them these ex- penses they would be merely performing an act of justice.


said, he could not assent to the proposition, that any person who paid the cab-hire of a voter, however old, infirm, or poor such voter might be, should be liable to a penalty of 50l. He considered that the proper course would be to allow a moderate amount for travelling expenses, for at county elections some voters must necessarily come a considerable distance to record their votes at the poll. The Committee might rely upon it, that if their legislation were contrary to public opinion, means would be found for evading the law.


said, he trusted the Committee would not allow this opportunity to pass without putting the question of providing refreshment for voters upon some clear and intelligible footing. In some counties, tickets for 3s. and more were given to the voters by the agents of each of the candidates; and in case of a plumper, the agent of the candidate who received it gave the voter two refreshment tickets. The evidence given before the Election Committee showed that many Members were unseated for mere treating; and, whatever they should do with respect to travelling expenses, he trusted they would settle the question of refreshment. In 1852 Sir Edward Buxton introduced a Bill for the purpose of legalising refreshments supplied to voters to a limited amount. That Bill was thrown out, and soon afterwards a general election took place; and he would venture to say, that there was no contested election for a county throughout England at which treating did not take place, except in one case, to which his modesty prevented him from referring more particularly. He hoped the House would come to some specific decision upon this subject, and that it would be determined whether refreshment tickets should or should not be issued.


in reply, said, he never heard anything like the inconsistency of the arguments used against his proposition. No two hon. Members agreed as to what they thought ought to be done under the circumstances. He was not surprised at that when he found them departing from the principles they had at first laid down, which his proposition merely intended to render more perfect. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) said, that every facility possible ought to be given to all classes of vo- ters to exercise their franchise. He (Lord R. Grosvenor) fully concurred in that sentiment; but he asked the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee upon what ground the candidate should be called upon to pay for that facility? He had put that question before, and he had waited in vain for an answer.


said, that the inconsistency of which the noble Lord complained in respect to the way in which his proposition was met, arose in a great degree from the fact of the noble Lord having combined in one proposition two questions which were essentially different. There was a manifest difference between paying for the conveyance of a voter to the poll and the payment of refreshments for him. Under the circumstances, he (Mr. Goulburn) could not concur in the Motion. From the speech of the noble Lord himself, it appeared that the House of Commons could not prevent the conveyance of the voter to the poll in the ordinary way, without giving him increased and new facilities for exercising his franchise. They were not now prepared to lay down a new system by which the votes were hereafter to be taken, in order to get rid of the reasonable expenses involved in the conveyances of voters to the poll. He contended, therefore, that they would be virtually disfranchising a large portion of the voters if they passed that clause without giving at the same time new facilities to the voter to exercise his constitutional right.


said, he represented an Irish county, and therefore he was quite familiar with the subject. He had nothing but his popularity to depend upon with the constituency which he had the honour to represent, because it was a popular constituency, and perhaps this being a popular question it might be to his interest to vote against this proposition; but he was so satisfied of its policy that he felt constrained to support it. At one period in the county which he had the honour to represent, it was determined to send a car to the door of every elector to bring him up to the poll, but that proceeding, instead of increasing the number of electors who registered their votes at the election, rather induced them to stop at home. [Laughter.] Strange as it might seem, it was nevertheless true, for the car led them to expect a pleasant drive, besides being taken to the poll, and because they could not have that they declined to vote at all.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 190: Majority 104.


said, he hoped that the Committee would consent to take the further clauses that had to be considered upon the bringing up of the report. There were a great many other Orders of the Day on the paper, and it would be convenient if the House should now proceed to consider them.


said, he was anxious to propose the clause which stood in his name that night, and he hoped the Committee would allow him to do so. The clause he had to move, he wished to follow Clause 4. It provided that the refreshment tickets should be delivered to such voters as should apply for them. Unless some such clause as this were introduced, he was convinced they would virtually disqualify one-half of the county voters of England, or they must put the candidates to enormous expense for providing additional polling places. They had established the principle that travelling expenses were not illegal or corrupt payments; and he contended that a reasonable and fixed allowance to the poor man for refreshment was equally unobjectionable to a payment for his conveyance.

Clause (Provided always, That upon the consent and application in writing of all such persons as shall be Candidates at any contested County Election, after a poll has been demanded, it shall and may be lawful for the Election Officer to issue tickets or orders in such form as he may think fit for refreshments to voters on the day of polling, not exceeding the amount or value of two shillings each ticket or order, to be delivered to such persons as shall apply, by the Poll Clerks, or some other persons to be appointed for that purpose by the Election Officer, to each voter, on his having voted or polled at such Election, and the amount of the tickets or orders so given shall be paid or discharged in money or refreshments by any person who may be willing so to pay or discharge the same, and such person or persons shall send or deliver such tickets or orders to the Election Officer within one month after the day of Election, and the Election Officer shall pay or discharge such tickets or orders, and charge the same in his accounts, in the same manner and subject to the same provisions as are herein contained regarding the expenses of the Election, to be provided for and paid by such Election Officer: Provided also, That the Candidates shall pay to the Election Officer the amount of such tickets or orders in equal proportions, or in such other proportions as they shall agree upon)—brought up, and read 1°.


said, he had already declared that his opinion was opposed to the principle contained in this clause; and as the Committee had already fully discussed the question, he hoped they would divide upon it at once.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 126; Noes 142: Majority 16.


said, that there were some clauses yet to be considered, and some propositions to be made on the report. He proposed that those clauses should be postponed until the report was brought up, and that the Bill be reported now, and taken to-morrow, at twelve o'clock. If the Bill were to be reported, the House would order it to be reprinted.


said, he would insist upon the Bill being printed before they proceeded further.


moved that the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.


said, he had a very important clause intrusted to him, and he thought that the best course to be adopted was, that the Chairman should report progress, and ask leave to sit again. They had been sitting since twelve o'clock at noon, and it was very hard upon hon. Members that they should be kept for so long a time upon this Bill. He should second the Motion.


said, 'that in the course of the discussion upon the last clause, it had been said that it was absolutely necessary to settle this question. Some voted for and some against the clause, but everybody said it must be settled, and he should like to know whether any hon. Gentleman had any clause which was to settle it. It was not yet settled whether travelling expenses were legal or not; and it was absolutely necessary to bring forward some clause to determine that point.


said, there was a clause which had been printed these three days, which was calculated entirely to settle the question, and if they now reported the Bill, the clause would be brought forward upon the report.


said, he thought it impossible for him to propose a clause upon the matter, not knowing whether the House would allow travelling expenses or refreshments; but as soon as the House came to a decision, he should be ready to propose a clause. He wished to go on with the Bill, so as to be able to send it up in conformity with the Resolution of the House of Lords.


wished, as the clauses had been very much altered, that the Bill should be reprinted.


said, he should be glad to know whether it would be reprinted until it had been reported upon.


said, that until the Bill had been reported, it could not be reprinted.


said, he thought that the object of the hon. Member (Mr. Irton) would be best attained by allowing the Bill to be now reported, because it could not be reprinted until it had been reported.


said, if the Bill should not be reprinted by to-morrow. at twelve o'clock, he would not proceed with the Amendments.


said, he did not object to reporting the Bill. All he asked was, that the House should not be called on to discuss the Bill further at twelve o'clock, after having been engaged on it the whole day.


said, he understood that Bills must be sent up to the other House by the 25th instant, in conformity with an order made by that House; and in reference to that matter he wished to ask a question of the Lord President of the Council. He (Mr. Bright) was not a great authority in constitutional law or practice, but it did seem a very odd thing that the other House should pass an order which was a species of coercion on the proceedings of the House of Commons. If the House of Peers could pass this order, they might have passed an order that they would take no Bills after the 25th of June; and if the House of Lords could pass such an order, why could not the House of Commons, and thus put coercion on the Queen herself, and force a dissolution or prorogation of the House? The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) very properly treated this Bill as highly important; and, perhaps, it was likely to be as useful as even the Univer- sity of Oxford Bill. It had now nearly passed, and the House was compressed into a night or rather into a day's sitting to finish the Bill; and he should be very sorry that the House should submit to have its deliberations interfered with, and the public interest damaged, by a coercion of this kind with regard to a Bill of this nature. He undertook to say that if there were a dozen men in that House who had an animosity to this Bill, and who were resolved pertinaciously to oppose it, they could act in such a manner as would render it impossible to get this Bill through the House, so as to reach the House of Lords before Tuesday next, and then the order of the House of Lords, combined with a small minority of the House of Commons, would stunt and overrule the large majority of the House. He thought it a very unconstitutional course to be taken by one out of two legislative bodies, and he thought the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) ought, through his Colleagues in the other House, to represent the difficulty in which they were. As the Chairman said, to have the Bill reprinted it was necessary that it should be reported; that would be the best course to adopt, and he trusted that the Bill might become law. If hon. Gentlemen withdrew their Motions, then on the third reading they could discuss any clauses to be added to the Bill.


asked, when the noble Lord meant to take the third reading of the Bill?


said, he proposed to take the third reading on Monday. With reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester, there was no doubt that there appeared on the Minutes of the House of Lords a statement that, after the 25th of July, with certain exceptions, they would not allow any Bill to be read a second time. He must say there were some grounds for this unusual Resolution in the practice which had prevailed for some years, of sending, at a late period of the Session, a great number of Bills for the consideration of the other House. At the same time, he did not expect that the House of Lords would be so capricious as to reject Bills of great importance. The present measure was one of considerable urgency, as there were several boroughs the writs of which were suspended, and he, for one, would not consent to these writs being issued, unless a measure of the present kind were passed. It would be a question with the House of Lords, supposing the Bill were not sent up to them until the latter end of next week, whether they would read it; and it was obvious that those who did not wish the Bill to pass would have a foundation for their opposition, on the Resolution with respect to the second reading of Bills which had been generally agreed to by their Lordships. He did not wish this obstacle to be placed in the way of the present Bill; and he therefore hoped, under these circumstances, that the House would agree to the Bill being reported.


said, that, on the understanding that the report should not be brought up until six o'clock to-morrow, he would consent to withdraw his Motion.


assented to this.

Motion for reporting progress withdrawn.

The House resumed; Bill reported; as amended, to be considered to-morrow.