§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that it was impossible that the Bill could pass as it at present stood. The fourth clause of the Bill was absolute nonsense, for by it a particular form of affidavit was required, which was to be provided in a schedule to the Bill, but as the Bill stood there was no schedule to it at all. He thought it would be a disgrace on their legislation to send the Bill in its present shape to the House of Lords. Besides, if the Bill were passed, the effect of it would be to bring nil those individual cases involving the withdrawal of election petitions for consideration before the full House, which would be very 1086 inexpedient. He did not know what reasons there might be in the background for urging the Bill forward; but if there was a suspicion that any election petitions had been improperly withdrawn, or that petitions had been presented to the House with the view of extorting money, those were subjects which the House ought to take seriously into consideration. If such cases had occurred, it was surely desirable to proceed in the first instance by inquiry, so as to ascertain the most effectual manner of dealing with the evils, and not by guessing at the remedy to attempt to meet them in so crude and unsatisfactory a mode as was proposed by this Bill. At all events it was impossible that the Bill could proceed in its present state without bringing their legislation into degradation, and he should therefore move as an Amendment that it be recommitted, in order to be read a third time that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ MR. MALINS
said, as he had taken a very active part in supporting the general object of the Bill, and believed it to be a very important one, he was glad to see that the sense of the House was obviously in favour of giving some additional protection to its Members with reference to the system of presenting and withdrawing election petitions. It was certainly undesirable to sanction crude and ill-digested legislation on any subject; but when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) pointed out that by the 4th clause of the Bill an affidavit was to be made in the form prescribed by the schedule, and that there was no schedule to the Bill, he ought to remember that that was clearly the result of the great pressure placed upon private Members at this period of the Session. The question, however, was whether they should continue to press on a Bill of this important kind in its present shape, the principle of which they had already affirmed, or stop to cure the omission which the right hon. Baronet had pointed out. What he (Mr. Malins) would recommend was that, as after such delay there would be little chance of carrying the Bill through this Session, his hon. Friend (Mr. Spooner) should withdraw his Motion for the third reading of the Bill, on the understanding that the Government would on a future occasion assist his hon. Friend (Mr. Adderley) in his endeavour to amend the law in 1087 this respect. ["Hear, hear!" from Sir G. GREY.]
§ MR. SPOONER
(who had charge of the Bill in the absence of Mr. Addlerley) said, that he would adopt the suggestion on that understanding.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, the Bill dealt with a great evil, but one which it was very easy to desire to have remedied, though extremely difficult to discover what the proper remedy should be. He was glad, however, that the Bill had been withdrawn, for in its present shape it would have been wholly inoperative.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the measure had been brought into a state of confusion, owing to the manner in which the Government monopolised every moment of the public time, and the consequence was that the object which his hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had in view, was quite defeated. In its present state he did not object to the Bill being withdrawn.
§ 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 three months.