HC Deb 12 March 1856 vol 141 cc19-21

Order for Second Reading rend.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that he would very briefly explain its nature. In some of the smaller burghs of Scotland the present system of self-government was most unsatisfactory, no confidence whatever being placed by the inhabitants in the municipalities, which were entirely self-elected. Those municipalities often chose as town councillors persons who resided at great distances, and the consequence was, that the funds of the burghs were frequently misapplied, He proposed to place the Royal burghs in this position upon an equal footing with the Royal burghs which had been already dealt with by the Scotch Municipal Reform Act. He was aware it might be objected that the burghs to which this Bill would apply contained very small constituencies, but those constituencies were certainly as large as the constituencies of some of the burghs which were affected by the Reform Act. Those burghs had eleven councillors now, and he proposed to reduce that number to six. The franchise might be lowered, and the number of the voters thereby increased; therefore the smallness of the burghs could be no ground against the Bill. The Bill, moreover, would remove the discord and jealousy which now prevailed in those burghs, inasmuch as the constituency would have the election of their own municipal representatives. He had brought forward the measure from the best motives, with a view of removing an undoubted practical grievance and abuse.


said, that although he had always been desirous of extending the principle of local self-government, he felt great difficulty in assenting to the second reading of this Bill. The burghs to which it referred had been excluded from the operation of the Scotch Municipal Reform Act on the ground that they had substantially no constituencies, and it was an absurdity to attempt to deal with popular elections in places where no constituency existed. In New Galloway, for instance, there were twelve electors and nine councillors, and the revenue of the corporation amounted to £6 11s. a year. In Lochmaben the constituencies numbered thirty-five; there were nine councillors, and the revenue of the corporation was £21 1s. 1d. In Culross there were twenty electors and nine councillors, the annual revenue being £50; and the constituency of Bervie consisted of twenty-eight persons, of which there were fifteen councillors. He thought the House should consider whether it was desirable to legislate as his hon. Friend proposed with reference to such burghs, when there were many other towns in Scotland, with a much larger population, which did not possess municipal corporations, He must say he thought the best course would be to sweep away altogether the corporations to which the Bill referred, and to place the funds of the burghs under some more efficient control.


said, some of the Royal burghs were included in the Municipal Act and others excluded. That circumstance, therefore, created an invidious distinction. He considered that those burghs were entitled to representation, and he should therefore support the Bill.


said, it was not a question of corporations, for those burghs had corporations by Royal charter; but whether or not those corporations should continue to be self-elected, as they had been for the last twenty-three years, to the exclusion of the great body of the inhabitants. Some of those burghs were very respectable towns; as much so as many English burghs which sent Members of Parliament; and therefore, if the Government did not introduce a measure for their reform, they certainly ought not to oppose it.


said, he did not think the measure was called for, as he had never heard of any grievance. In some of the small burghs the corporation would exhaust the whole of the respectable portion of the population. He should therefore vote against the second reading of the Bill.


said, that at present the respectable portion of the community in many of the Royal burghs were altogether excluded from taking any part in the management of municipal affairs, and, with the view of remedying that evil, he hoped the House would sanction the Bill of his hon. Friend.


said, he would support the Bill, unless the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would give the House an assurance that he would deal with the subject in a general measure.


said, he thought he might give a pledge that, if the Bill were withdrawn, he would he enabled in the course of the Session to submit to the House a measure respecting the local government of Royal burghs in Scotland.


said that, under those circumstances, he would consent to withdraw the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.