§ Order for consideration of Lords Amendments read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the said Amendments be now read."
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he must press for the postponement of the Order, on the ground that an hon. Friend of his had a petition against the Bill, and was not able to be present to lay it before the House.
§ MR. BUTLER
objected to the haste with which these Amendments were being hurried; he entertained strong objections to them, and he had reason to believe that there was a general feeling throughout the metropolis against them,—true it had not been strongly expressed, but these Amendments had only been placed in the hands of Members the previous morning, when it appeared that they were of a nature seriously to interfere with the rights of the ratepayers, to choose their own churchwardens and parochial officers—500,000 ratepayers were to be deprived of their rights, the alteration was uncalled for, and unless the right hon. Baronet would consent to postpone the consideration of these Amendments, he should move that the further consideration be postponed till to-morrow.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the words "That the" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "consideration of such Amendments be postponed till To-morrow."
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, the only Amendment proposed by the Lords related to the appointment of parochial officers. That Amendment was contained in the first clause, and he believed that was the only point to which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Butler) referred. Under the Act of last Session the Vestries were elected an by almost universal suffrage, namely, by a rate-paying suffrage. One-third went out by rotation every year, and there was household suffrage with single voting. The Lords thought that bodies so constituted had the confidence of the ratepayers, and that they might be intrusted with the election of the parochial officers, rather than that there should be a recurrence of those exciting scenes which had occasionally taken place. In most of the parishes the vestries elected the churchwardens, overseers, and other parochial officers. In other parishes they were elected by the parishioners at large, and the object of the Lords' Amendments was to assimilate the practice.
§ MR. PELLATT
complained that the Lords' Amendments would destroy the whole vitality of the Bill. Parishes now in the enjoyment of open vestries would not like the measure, and he should move the omission of the Lords' Amendments so far as they went to extinguish the first clause.
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, there was no right which the inhabitants of the metropolis valued more than the ancient right of electing their parochial officers. In some parishes there were 20,000 ratepayers who would have the right to vote for those parochial officers, while the largest number of members in any vestry was not more than 120. The ratepayers did not wish to delegate this right of election to the vestries. The first clause of the Bill which had been expunged by the Lords was the very part of the measure which was viewed with the greatest satisfaction by the inhabitants of the metropolis, and he certainly hoped that the House would not agree to its being expunged.
§ SIR WILLIAM CLAY
said, there was much that was good in the Bill, which he was sorry to see rejected. After the passing of this Bill a church rate could only 1418 be made in open vestry, which he thought a very great point. Another important object of the Bill was to dispense with the necessity of the payment of church rates to entitle a person to the enjoyment of the elective franchise. If his hon. Friend's object was to defeat the Bill by postponing the consideration of the Lords' Amendments to-morrow, he feared he must vote against him.
§ MR. WILKINSON
said, that at a meeting of parochial officers, held a few days since, there was a general expression of opinion that sooner than lose the Bill the first clause should be struck out. As he understood that the clause inserted by the Lords could not be struck out, and the original clause inserted, he should not offer any opposition to the Bill as it stood.
§ MR. MURROUGH
said, that a great number of the Members for the metropolis looked upon the first clause as the only valuable part of the Bill; and, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Wilkinson) who had shown less discretion in the matter than his hon. Colleague, he could assure the House, from his acquaintance with the constituency of Lambeth, that that feeling was shared by a great proportion of that constituency. The right hon. Baronet opposite would not be showing that moral courage which, from his general political conduct, might be expected from him, if he did not move that the Lords' Amendment for expunging Clause 1 be not agreed to.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. BUTLER
admitted the necessity for legislation, and that there were useful clauses in the Bill; but the Amendments materially affected the rights of his constituents, rights which they valued; he should therefore move that the Amendment of the Lords to expunge Clause 1, be not agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the Amendment in page 1, 'Leave out Clause T.'"
§ The House divided:—Ayes 8; Noes 53: Majority 45.
§ Amendment agreed to:—Several others agreed to; one agreed to, with an Amendment.