HC Deb 10 June 1857 vol 145 cc1537-45

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that the only objection which had been urged against it, so far as he was aware, was one of a formal character, arising out of an implied understanding which it was said that the House had come to, to defer all questions of reform to the next Session. The present Bill, however, dealt with the elected rather than with the electors, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had himself answered the objection referred to, by introducing this year a Bill which dealt with the interests of the elected—he meant the Parliamentary Oaths Bill, which the present Bill in some measure resembled, as it only regarded the declaration which new Members had to make after taking the Oaths. The question involved in this Bill never had been treated as any portion of a Reform Bill, except in 1852, when the substance of this very Bill formed one of the clauses of the measure then introduced. The Bill which he now asked the House to read a second time could not be called an innovation, because if passed it would only result in a recurrence to the ancient state of things which existed previously to the last century, when no property qualification whatever was required for Members of Parliament. Such was still the state of the law as regarded Scotch Members, and previous to the Union it also prevailed in Ireland. It was only fair, he thought, that it should now be extended to both the latter classes of Members. Qualifications for Members of Parliament it was known were often bought and sold, and many men of integrity had been known to take the Oaths who had no bonâ fide qualification. The Bill he felt every confidence would be attended with the greatest benefit, and, without further trespassing upon the attention of the House, he begged to move its second reading.

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


said, that when his noble Friend at the head of the Government announced his intention to bring in a Reform Bill next year, it was qualified with the understanding to which the House had agreed, that this and all other Bills which affected the representation of the people should not be proceeded with in the present Session of Parliament. That being so, he would, without entering into the merits of the question, suggest to his hon. and learned Friend that he should postpone its consideration; but, if he were not disposed to take that course, he begged to move as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. For the same reason, also, he should feel, it to be his duty to oppose the next two Bills which stood upon the Order paper—namely, the Election Expenses Bill and the Registration of Voters Bill.

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


drew the attention of the House to the fact that not the least assurance was given by the right hon. Baronet as to whether the question of qualification would be dealt with in the proposed Reform Bill, and unless some such assurance was given, he trusted his hon. Friend would divide the House upon his Motion.


thought they could not expect more from the Government than the pledge that they would introduce a measure of Parliamentary Reform next Session. He himself was placed in a position of great difficulty by this Motion. He thoroughly agreed in the principle of the Bill that property qualification should be abolished; but it would be more satisfactory, that a question of such importance as Parliamentary Reform should be dealt with by the Government comprehensively rather than in a fragmentary manner by private Members. They had plenty of business before them for the present Session. They had the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, the Fraudulent Trusts Bill, the Divorce Bill, and other measures, and he thought they would be better employed by applying themselves to the consideration of these; for nothing could be done this Session in the way of Parliamentary Reform under the circumstances; and even if it could it would be of no practical avail, because Parliament would not be dissolved in consequence. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend would consent to the postponement and withdraw his measure; though, if he declined to do so, he should feel bound to vote with him.


said, it appeared to him that a new doctrine was about to be laid down in that House, that the representatives of the people were not to discuss the subject of their representation, but to be tongue-tied for that Session. The noble Lord said, "If you have not sufficient confidence in us to postpone all questions of Parliamentary Reform until next Session, transfer the Administration to other hands;" the reason being that Her Majesty's Ministers had in embryo some measure of reform which they hoped during the recess to bring to mature gestation, and that by next spring they would be in a "parturient" state, and would then lay on the table their little joy before an admiring Senate and people. In the meantime they were to tie up their knockers, and not breathe a word about reform. He feared that Her Majesty's Government did not sufficiently appreciate the determined intentions and the meritorious exertions of his hon. Friend who had brought in this Bill, of his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex, who had introduced the next Bill upon the paper, and of himself, who claimed the paternity of the third Bill. He said that those three measures which stood for second reading that day made a very pretty little boquet of reform, which they begged the noble Lord to accept; and how, he asked, was the noble Lord to know what the wishes of the people were, except through their representatives? Here they were, all piping hot from the hustings; and he contended that there never was an assembly more ready or more fit to give the noble Lord a hint as to what the people expected in the way of Parliamentary Reform. But delays were dangerous. Long Parliaments had usually very short memories; and, probably, in a year or two hon. Gentlemen might have forgotten the pledges which they had made at the hustings; but now they were in a state to tell the noble Lord exactly what was wanted, and he begged to inform the noble Lord now that what was required was a large and full measure of reform, which would give the franchise to a great portion of the working and industrious classes of the country. Unless the noble Lord should be prepared to bring forward a complete and efficient measure of reform he had better leave the subject alone. That being the state of the case, if any Member of the Government would tell him (Mr. Duncombe) that two of the points in their little charter of next Session would be the abolition of property qualification for Members and a more perfect system of registration of voters, he should be prepared to withdraw his Bill for the present Session, and he should advise his hon. Friend (Mr. L. King) to do the same: otherwise, he hoped his hon. Friend would press his Motion to a division, and so let the country see who were reformers and who were not; and whether there was anything like a fulfilment of the pledges which had been so recently given on the hustings.


concurred in all the arguments which the hon. Member for Finsbury had used in favour of the second reading of the present Bill, and urged that it might be passed, not only safely, but easily, without interfering with the promised Reform Bill of next year. It involved merely a broad general principle, which the Government and the House could decide upon as easily now as six months hence. There was but a single clause referring to seven statutes, and repealing them all, so far as they related to the qualification of Members. If the principle of the Bill were affirmed, there would be no trouble in Committee in dealing with its details. Besides, there had been no pledge given that this subject would be dealt with in the Reform Bill of next year. On this ground, he hoped that the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, and others who approved of the measure, would now support its second reading. It was important that the new Members should have an opportunity of recording their votes in its favour, and thus indicating clearly the current of public opinion out of doors on this and kindred subjects. This qualification must have been originally imposed on the supposition that it would ensure a higher degree of intelligence, or else of honesty and faithfulness, in the representatives of the people. But it did not accord with his experience that people became more honest or clear-headed as they increased in wealth, or that a man's property was any test of his moral and intellectual qualities. If this were true among candidates, it should also be true among electors. But he had often found among the electors who were lowest in the scale as to property a higher degree of independence and enlightenment than among those who were far above them in worldly circumstances. It was not a property test that was needed for Members, but a moral and intellectual test. Let the Educational Committee of the Privy Council come forward and submit the programme of an examination which all candidates should successfully undergo before they could be elected. If they must have a test, let it be of that description. He objected to the property test as unduly limiting the class out of which constituencies might select Members. It was on behalf of the electors, who sought to have their opinions fairly represented in Parliament that he supported this Bill, and not for the sake of the candidates merely. Then they were not left to mere theory for their arguments. They had the example of Scotland, in which no property qualification was required; and yet he submitted that the Scotch Members were equal in efficiency to any other Members. Would any one stigmatize the Scotch Members as inferior in honesty or ability? and yet, without maintaining by necessary implication that they must be inferior, how can any one oppose the present Bill? If any of the "bit-by-bit" reformers were afraid to introduce so very sweeping a measure all at once, let them bring it in gradually, if they chose, beginning with the Northern counties of England and the province of Ulster to see how it would work, and then introducing it over the whole country. He hoped the hon. Member for East Surrey would press his Motion to a division.


hoped that the House would follow the recommendation of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and that they would concur in that which he thought was a general understanding—though, of course, it was not an engagement on the part of anybody—that questions affecting the constitution of that House should be postponed to the next Session, seeing that in the present there really was no probability of there being sufficient time to give that consideration to these questions which their importance undoubtedly deserved. That remark would apply, not only to the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, but also to the two other Bills which stood next upon the order paper. He forebore from entering at all, on the present occasion, into the merits of the Bill which his hon. Friend had proposed; at the same time, his hon. Friend must of course be aware that, whatever he might think of the merits of his own proposition, there might be others who entertained the strongest objections to it; and when it came to be argued—as it must be when it should be brought under the deliberate consideration of the House—much might be stated in opposition to the views of his hon. Friend and the promoters of the Bill. He forebore from sketching even any of those familiar topics which must naturally enter into the mind of every one in connection with the question of property qualification, such as that a property qualification was almost an essential feature of the constitution, and was required for magistrates, electors, and others. He would not enter into these discussions, but earnestly recommend his hon. Friend to permit the measure to stand over for future consideration, and not to press the House to a division upon the present occasion.


could not agree in the reason—he had almost said the excuse—which had been put forward by the Government for postponing this measure. The proposed measure was, he repeated, a clause in the Bill of 1852, which had been brought in by the Cabinet of which the noble Lord now at the head of the Government was a member, and he really could not see any valid reason for refusing to proceed with it in the present Session. If the measure to be introduced next year should be worth anything it would probably occupy the whole attention of the House, and there would be no time to discuss small measures of this kind, which might very well be passed now, and clear the ground for next Session.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 204: Majority 59.

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

Bill put off for six months.

List of the AYES.
Adams, W. H. Colvile, C. R.
Alcock, T. Coningham, W.
Althorp, Visct. Cotterell, Sir H. G.
Anderson, Sir J. Cowan, C.
Atherton, W. Cox, W.
Ayrton, A. S. Craufurd, E. H. J.
Bagwell, J. Crawford, R. W.
Ball, E. Crook, J.
Barnard, T. Crossley, F.
Bass, M. T. Davey, R.
Baxter, W. E. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Beale, S. De Vere, S. E.
Beaumont, W. B. Devereux, J. T.
Berkeley, F. W. F. Dillwyn, L. L.
Biggs, J. Dodson, J. G.
Black, A. Duke, Sir J.
Bland, L. H. Dunbar, Sir W.
Bowyer, G. Duncombe, T.
Brady, J. Dundas, F.
Brown, W. Dunlop, A. M.
Bury, Visct. Ebrington, Visct.
Butler, C. S. Ellice, E.
Buxton, C. Evans, Sir De L.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Evans, T. W.
Byng, hon. G. Ewart, W.
Calcutt, F. M. Ewart, J. C.
Clay, J. Fenwick, H.
Cogan, W. H. F. Fergus, J.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Forster, C.
Collier, R. P. Fortescue, hon. F. D.
Gilpin, C. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Glyn, G. G. Perry, Sir T. E.
Goderich, Visct. Philips, R. N.
Grace, O. D. J. Platt, J.
Greene, J. Price, W. P.
Greer, S. M'C. Ricardo, O.
Grenfell, C. P. Ridley, G.
Grenfell, C. W. Robartes, T. J. A.
Greville, Col. F. Roupell, W.
Gurdon, B. Russell, F. W.
Gurney, S. Russell, Sir W.
Hackblock, W. Salisbury, E. G.
Hadfield, G. Schneider, H. W.
Hanbury, R. Scholefield, W.
Hankey, T. Smith, M. T.
Hanmer, Sir J. Smith, A.
Harris, J. D. Somers, J. P.
Headlam, T. E. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Holland, E. Stapleton, J.
Hutt, W. Stuart, Lord J.
Jackson, W. Sullivan, M.
Kershaw, J. Thompson, Gen.
Kinglake, A. W. Thornely, T.
Kinglake, J. A. Thornhill, W. P.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Tite, W.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, E Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Langton, H. G. Tottenham, C.
Levinge, Sir R. Townsend, J.
Macarthy, A. Trelawny, Sir J. S.
M'Cann, J. Turner, J. A.
MacEvoy, E. Vivian, H. H.
M'Cullagh, W. T. Waldron, L.
Maguire, J. F. Watkins, Col. L.
Martin, P. W. Whatman, J.
Matheson, A. Whitbread, S.
Melgund, Visct. Wickham, H. W.
Mostyn, hn. T. E. M. L. Willcox, B. M'G.
Napier, Sir C. Willyams, E. W. B.
Neate, C. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Nicoll, D. Woods, H.
O'Brien, P. Wyvill, M.
Ogilvy, Sir, J. TELLERS.
Paxton, Sir J. King, hon. P. J. L.
Pease, H. Cobbett, J. M.
List of the NOES.
Adair, H. E. Briscoe, J. I.
Adderley, C. B. Buckley, Gen.
Adeane, H. J. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Akroyd, E. Buller, J. W.
Annesley, hon. H. Bunbury, W. B. M'C.
Bailey, C. Burke, Sir T. J.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Calcraft, J. H.
Baring, T. G. Carnac, Sir J. R.
Bernard, T. T. Castlerosse, Visct.
Bernard, hon. W. S. Cecil, Lord R.
Barrow, W. H. Charlesworth, J. C. D.
Bathurst, A. A. Christy, S.
Beach, W. W. B. Clifford, C. C.
Beecroft, G. S. Close, M. C.
Bethell, Sir R. Cobbold, J. C.
Blackburn, P. Cole, hon. H. A.
Blakemore, T. W. B. Collins, T.
Booth, Sir R. G. Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.
Botfield, B. Coote, Sir C. H.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Corry, rt. hon. H. L.
Bovill, W. Cross, R. A.
Bramston, T. W. Cubitt, Mr. Ald.
Brand, hon. H. Dering, Sir E.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Divett, E.
Drummond, H. Lowther, hon. Col.
Du Cane, C. Luce, T.
Duncombe, hon. A. Macaulay, K.
Duncombe, hon. Col. Mackie, J.
Dundas, G. Mainwaring, T.
Du Pre, C. G. Malins, R.
Dutton, hon. R. H. Manners, Lord J.
East, Sir J. B. March, Earl of
Egerton, W. T. Massey, W. N.
Egerton, E. C. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Elcho, Lord Miles, W.
Elphinstone, Sir J. Miller, T. J.
Ennis, J. Mills, A.
Esmonde, J. Mills, T.
Estcourt, T. H. S. Moncreiff, rt. hon. J.
Farnham, E. B. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Farquhar, Sir M. Moody, C. A.
Finlay, A. S. Morgan, O.
FitzGerald, W. R. S. Morris, D.
FitzGerald, rt. hon. J. D. Mowbray, J. R.
Foley, H. J. W. Naas, Lord
Foljambe, F. J. S. Newdegate, C. N.
Forde, Col. Nisbet, R. P.
Foster, W. O. Packe, C. W.
Fortescue, C. S. Pakenham, Col.
Freestun, Col. Palmer, R.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Palmerston, Visct.
Galway, Visct. Patten, Col. W.
Gard, R. S. Paull, H.
Garnett, W. J. Pennant, hon. Col.
Gaskell, J. M. Pevensey, Visct.
Gifford, Earl of Portman, hon. W. H. B.
Gilpin, Col. Powell, F. S.
Glyn, G. C. Power, N.
Goddard, A. L. Pryse, E. L.
Greenwood, J. Pritchard, J.
Gregory, W. H. Puller, C. W.
Gregson, S. Ramsay, Sir A.
Gray, Capt. Raynham, Visct.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Repton, G. W. J.
Grey, R. W. Robertson, P. F.
Griffith, C. D. Rushout, G.
Grogan, E. Sclater, G.
Hall, Gen. Seymer, H. K.
Harcourt, G. G. Shirley, E. P.
Hardy, G. Slaney, R. A.
Hassard, M. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Hatchell, J. Smollett, A.
Hay, Lord J. Spooner, R.
Hayes, Sir E. Stafford, A.
Herbert, Col. Stanley, Lord
Holford, R. S. Steel, J.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Stirling, W.
Hopwood, J. T. Steuart, A.
Jervoise, Sir J. C. Taylor, Col.
Johnstone, hon. H. B. Tempest, Lord A. V.
Johnstone, J. J. H. Thesiger, Sir F.
Johnstone, Sir J. Tollemache, J.
Jones, D. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Kendall, N. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Ker, R. Trueman, C.
Kerrison, Sir E. C. Vansittart, G. H.
King, J. K. Vansittart, W.
King, E. B. Verner, Sir W.
Knatchbull, W. F. Verney, Sir H.
Langton, W. G. Vivian, hon. J. C. W.
Laurie, J. Waddington, H. S.
Legh, G. C. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Walter, J.
Lewis, rt. hn. Sir G. C. Warburton, G. D.
Lovaine, Lord Warre, J. A.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Westhead, J. P. B.
White, H. Woodd, B. T.
Whiteside, J. Wrightson, W. B.
Whitmore, H. Wyndham, W.
Wigram, L. T. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Williams, M.
Willoughby, J. P. TELLERS.
Wise, J. A. Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.
Wood, rt. hon. Sir C. Mulgrave, Earl of