HC Deb 17 May 1854 vol 133 cc477-9

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he would now beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. There were seventy-six Parliamentary burghs in Scotland, sixty-three of which were Royal burghs. The boundaries of these sixty-three burghs were fixed by prescription. The Parliamentary Reform Act altered the boundaries of the Royal burghs. Portions of the ancient territory of the burghs were excluded, and other portions of territory, not hitherto belonging to the Royal burghs, were included in the new Parliamentary boroughs. Such was the effect of the Reform Bill. In the year following the Parliamentary Reform Act the Municipal Reform Act was passed, which gave certain rights to persons living within the Parliamentary boroughs. The result, therefore, was this, that the residents within that portion of the ancient burghs which was excluded from the Parliamentary boroughs were deprived of their votes for Members of Parliament, though they still remained subject to the rates and taxes of the ancient burghs. He proposed to remedy that grievance by giving to such persons a vote, which they did not at present possess. In respect to those persons living in that portion of the Parliamentary borough which had not formerly belonged to the ancient burghs, and who therefore had no right to vote at the election of magistrates acting within the boundaries of the ancient Royalties, although by subsequent Scotch legislation they had been made liable to various local charges for the support and govern- ment of gaols, the payment of the police, and other things — he proposed to give them also a vote in the management of the boroughs to which they had been attached.

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


said, he admitted that his hon. Friend's object was a very desirable one, and that there were a great many anomalies in the existing state of things which his Bill was intended to cure; but it was altogether impracticable to carry a measure of this kind out, the difficulties in the way of it being absolutely insuperable. Since his hon. Friend brought in a similar Bill last year, and which he afterwards withdrew, he (the Lord Advocate) had made many inquiries into the subject, the result of which was, that he found in almost every instance that each individual burgh would claim to be exempted from the operation of a general Bill like the present. He, therefore, felt it his duty to oppose the second reading, because he did not believe that there was a single burgh in Scotland that wished the Bill to pass in the state it now was. Under these circumstances, while giving his hon. Friend all credit for the attempt he had made, he having made before a similar attempt, but entirely failed, he would urge him not to press the Bill to a second reading. At all events, he (the Lord Advocate) was obliged to move that the Biil be read a second time that day six months.

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


said, he felt it would be useless for him to press the Bill on the consideration of the House, after what had fallen from his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. He would therefore not divide the House on the Motion for the second reading, merely remarking to his right hon. and learned Friend that "where there was a will there was a way."


said, he considered that the grievance complained of by these boroughs was of their own creating. The real English of the story was this—that, in order to serve their own party purposes, the ascendant party at the time of the Reform Bill broke through the old boundaries of the boroughs and extended the new boundaries into districts which best served their political friends, and now they were feeling the inconvenience of their own contrivances. As this, however, was a little Whig quarrel, the House had better leave it to the two hon. Gentlemen themselves to settle.


said, he must deny that the statement of the hon. Member was correct. He should support the Bill, which, if not now carried, he hoped would be brought forward again at a future day.

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

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

Bill put off for six months.