HC Deb 03 July 1855 vol 139 cc408-13

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.


said, he wished to move, by way of Amendment, to substitute for Clauses 17, 18, 22 and 23 in the separate paper, that the taking of the poll of the ratepayers on an election should be by means of voting papers. In the parish of St. Pancras there were 20,000 ratepayers, and yet at the last election for the vestry, not with standing there was considerable excitement, not more than 3,500 voted. Either it was desirable that the ratepayers should take part in these elections or not; and, if desirable, the course he recommended would afford them an opportunity of doing so. It might be said that the system of voting by papers would open a door to fraud; but he believed that after making every allowance for fraud, a much truer representation of the constituency would be obtained by the system than was done by the present mode of voting. In order, therefore, to admit of his Amendment being introduced, he should oppose the adoption of the Clauses 17, 18, 22, and 23.


said, he considered the noble Lord to be most unfortunate in his proposition. It was a system based upon fraud. The noble Lord had referred to the parish of St. Pancras, but what was the case with respect to that parish? Notwithstanding there was only one polling-place, between 5,000 and 6,000 ratepayers attended and gave their vote at the late election—and this number would be materially increased when, as was proposed by the Bill, there should be eight polling-places. If the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) should agree to the Amendment, he would be committing the greatest possible error.


said, he must deny that the whole system of voting by papers collected from the houses of the ratepayers would be tainted with fraud.


said, he differed from his hon. Colleague (Mr. Williams), for he was of opinion, even if the plan proposed by the noble Lord were not accepted, that some mode of collecting the votes of the ratepayers different from the existing system should be devised. Practically, the system of voting by papers not only and really enlarged the circle of voters, but introduced into it a far more respectable class of voters.


said, the plan proposed by the noble Lord was not a new mode of voting in the metropolis. It had been acted upon in some cases for the last ten years. It was perfectly true that the Boards of Guardians were desirous that the elections of their body should be continued in the way in which they were now conducted—namely, by voting papers; but he had received communications from many individuals, saying that they preferred the mode of voting as proposed by the Bill. They must all know, as practical men, that if they wished a great scheme, such as the Bill embodied, to be carried out, they must make it palatable to those who had the carrying of it out. He thought that if the Bill could be made odious and unmanageable it would be by adopting the Amendment of his noble Friend.


said, he could not concur with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that the Bill would be ruined by the adoption of the Amendment. As far as regarded the election of the Boards of Guardians, the system of voting by papers had worked well.


said, he should support the Amendment, as it would be the means of obtaining the votes of a much larger number of voters than could be obtained by the present system.


said, that by increasing the number of polling-places, as it was proposed to do, a larger number of ratepayers would have convenient means of voting. He believed there existed a very strong opinion on the part of the ratepayers that the present system should be continued.


said, he approved theoretically of the principle involved in the Amendment, and, as a proof of it, he had himself proposed that the system of voting papers should be adopted in the election of Members of Parliament; still, practically, he believed such a mode of election would be unpopular, and therefore he could not take upon himself the responsibility of supporting the Amendment.


said, it appeared to him that the balance of argument was in favour of voting by papers. Now, the question really came to this—whether the inspector should come to the voter, or the voter to the inspector. And what ought to be considered was, which of the two systems would be most convenient to the ratepayers. It was not at all necessary to have police inspectors; all that was requisite was to take securities against fraud. Now, the system of voting by papers certainly appeared most convenient.


said, he quite agreed that the question should be determined upon the principle stated by the right hon. Baronet (Sir H. Willoughby) as to what was most convenient for the ratepayer. He heard that very great irregularities had arisen in the system of voting by papers; but, on the other hand, there was doubtless great force in the arguments in favour of that system. But as the public feeling appeared at present to be against it, he thought that it would be best to retain the clauses as they stood.


said, he did not propose, as in the then state of the House (hardly twenty-five Members present), it would be useless—to press his Motion to a division, but he retained his opinion, and rejoiced at its reception. He also reserved the right of bringing forward the question at a future stage and in a fuller House.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he wished to bring forward a clause, providing that any works to be done respecting the sewers within the city of London should be executed by the City Commissioners of Sewers out of the rates raised by them within the city; but, in case they should not execute such works, then the Metropolitan Board might execute the same and require the Chamberlain of the city to pay the expenses. He considered that to be a very reasonable request.


said, he was very sorry he could not agree with the proposition. His hon. Friend had called it a very reasonable request on the part of the city of London, but he (Sir B. Hall), in the contrary, thought it was the most immodest proposition he had ever heard in his life. Now, what would be the effect of the clause? The House had decided that the main sewers of the metropolis, especially the intercepting sewers, should be wholly and exclusively under the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that there should be one supervision, one collection, and one general control of those great works. But what did the city of London propose? Why, as regarded the city, that they should execute the work themselves, subject to the supervision of the Board of Works. That was ostensibly their proposal; but he would show that they really proposed a great deal more. He would, however, first point out the inconvenience that would arise from the adoption of the clause. Suppose it was determined to construct a sewer from above Vauxhall-bridge to Deptford-creek, which the Metropolitan Board might do as the Bill now stood; all the plans, and levels, and contracts would, under the provisions of the Bill, be made by the Board. But if the clause of the hon. Member for the City of London were adopted, the Board would have to stop at Temple-bar, and resume their works again at the eastern end of the city. Now that was absurd on the face of it. Suppose anything happened to the main sewer within the city, the Metropolitan Board would have no power to act without first communicating with the Commissioners of the City of London. Talk of administrative reform! Why, if the clause were adopted, they would fall into the greatest possible state of confusion But, beyond that, the real object of the city of London was to be excluded from taxation for the great work now contemplated. They were desirous of doing a small portion of it, which ran through the city of London, and then escape being brought under the general taxation for executing the whole work itself.


said, he had been asked to support the clause, and it was the first time he had any idea that the City of London had any object which did not appear on the face of the clause. He thought it not an unreasonable request on the part of the City of London.


said, he was opposed to the clause, as it would be introducing two sets of Commissioners instead of one to superintend the great works to be carried on.


said, he must express his surprise at the imputation cast by the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) on the City of London. He denied that the city wished to escape from the general taxation for carrying on those works. All they desired was to be allowed to execute the works within the city themselves.


said, he was of opinion that the City Commissioners executed their work in the best possible manner, in an engineering point of view, and also economically. He saw no objection to their being allowed to execute their own work.

Clause negatived.

On the question that schedule A stand part of the Bill,


said, he would move that the word "one" be substituted for the word "two," the effect of which Amendment would be to reduce the number of members constituting the Board.


said, when he proposed that the Board should consist of forty-two members, it was suggested that that number would be too large. He then promised to consider whether the Board could not be reduced to a number not less than thirty. But since that time a great increase of labour, not contemplated when the Bill was originally drawn, had been added to the duties of the Board by the recommendation of a Committee which had been sitting upstairs in reference to buildings; and that being the case, he did not think that forty-two was by any means too large a number for the discharge of the various onerous duties of the Board.

Question put, "That 'two' stand part of the schedule."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 1: Majority 81.

SIR WILLIAM CLAY moved, that the parish of Poplar be included in part 2 of schedule A, the effect of which would be to constitute a new district consisting of Poplar parish.


said, it had already been made a matter of complaint that there were too many districts, and yet the hon. Baronet proposed to create an additional district. There were thirty-six districts, and he would have one more, which would make it thirty-seven. There was no good ground for the proposition. Neither in respect to area, population, or rental had Poplar any claim to be made a distinct district. There were several districts that exceeded Poplar in all those respects.

Question put, "That 'Poplar' be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 28; Noes 59: Majority 31.

Schedule A ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The remaining Schedules were then agreed to, and the House resumed.


said, he felt that he should not be discharging his duty if he did not take that opportunity of expressing his thanks to the House for the forbearance which had been shown on all sides in the progress of that important measure through the Committee, and for the able assistance which had been given by the House to pass the Bill through its several stages up to the present.

Bill reported, as amended.

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