HC Deb 16 July 1858 vol 151 cc1590-604

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee,

Clause 1,

Amendment proposed, To leave out the words 'to pay the actual travelling expenses,' in order to substitute the words 'to provide conveyance for any voter for the purpose of an election; but it shall not be lawful to pay any money or give any valuable consideration to a voter for or in respect of his travelling expenses for such purpose.'


said, he thought the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) very objectionable, and intended to divide the Committee against it. In the first place, it would occasion the necessity of employing a great number of agents, and thereby increase considerably the expenses of a candidate at an election. He also thought it was calculated to create great abuses. The words "conveyance for the purposes of an election" were too vague, and might cover conveyance to the nomination as well as to the polling. The conveyance which the candidate should provide should be strictly confined to the journey to the poll. It would be very difficult to work the clause in practice without exposing candidates to petition. The only two courses open to the Committee were either to generalize the language of the clause, which would, perhaps, be the better plan, or to particularize by laying down a scale of mileage. He would suggest the insertion of the words "it shall be lawful to pay the 'necessary' travelling expenses of any voter resident at a distance of more than one mile from the place of polling," leaving it to be determined by a Committee whether any given expenses were "necessary" in the event of any question arising.


said, he thought that the clause, as amended, would entail enormous expense on candidates. There was a freehold qualification for voters in Dublin, and they were scattered all over the country. If this clause were adopted, the candidates would have to send railway tickets to all parts of Ireland. He should prefer the law remaining as it was, rather than that it should be altered in the form proposed.


said, it appeared to him that the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman would not only negative the principle involved in the original clause, but that it would be impracticable in its operation. He regarded the words "bona fide travelling expenses" as sufficient. Such a definition had always been admitted by the practice of Election Committees. The Amendment was impracticable, because it would not permit the payment of any money to a non-resident voter. Was the candidate, then, to be expected to send a special train for him? It was astonishing that this legislation to reduce election expenses should emanate from quarters professing to be liberal. It was a mockery to extend the franchise to the poorer classes, and then say that they should not have the means of exercising their right.


said, he should support the Amendment exactly because he sat on the Liberal benches. Without some such provision the power of the landlords at Irish county elections would be overwhelming.


said, he should cordially vote for this proposal, because he believed that in the vast majority of cases there would be no difficulty experienced in working elections with the aid of travelling orders or tickets.


said, the clause of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) seemed founded on the distinction between money and money's worth—a distinction which in the matter of bribery was of no great value. As he understood the proposal, if a candidate wanted to bring up a voter from a remote village he could not send him the money to pay for his journey by post-office order. But if the candidate knew anybody else living in the same village, he might transmit the post-office order to him, and then get him to go to the railway station with the voter and buy a ticket for him. If, on the other hand, he did not know any inhabitant of the place, the candidate must send an agent down there expressly to go through the process of taking the man to the railway station, and then obtaining a ticket for him.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last could not understand the question, because in the county of Durham, at least, which was, perhaps, more intersected with railways than any other part of the country, the common practice was to provide the voters with blank travelling tickets, and the arrangement was well recognized between the different railway companies. No inquiry was made at the railway station for which candidate the elector meant to vote; and each candidate had to pay his proportion of the cost of these tickets. The fears conjured up by hon. Gentlemen as to the effect of this provision were, therefore, purely imaginary.


said, he was afraid the noble Lord viewed this Bill with too exclusive reference to his own particular county. The plan which had just been described might work exceedingly well in Durham, but might not be so convenient for districts possessing inferior facilities for communication. Neither ought the case of boroughs to be wholly overlooked. In Taunton, which he represented, there were about ten or twelve non resident electors, whose votes at a contested election would probably turn the scale, and it was obviously a great object to get them up to the poll. The candidates, however, were often in great perplexity to decide whether they ought or ought not to write to the voters, offering to pay them their travelling expenses if they came to vote. At the last election he had himself been in this position; but he had thought it safer, owing to the uncertain state of the law, to prevent his agent from making such an offer. It would be only fair both to the candidate and to the voter that the Legislature should settle this doubtful question. The payment of the actual expenses of the voter might reasonably be allowed; but, in his opinion, the original clause would carry that principle out better than the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. If it was desirable that an elector should come up from Kent to an election in Somersetshire, how could he be got to do so unless his expenses were paid? He thought the Amendment, indeed, would not work, and he should therefore support the clause as it stood originally.


said, he understood the sense of the Committee to be in favour of allowing fair travelling expenses to the elector, and the only question was, which was the safest mode of giving effect to that principle. He thought that the clause as originally proposed would be open to great difficulties, and, if adopted, would lead to a large amount of litigation and bribery, which must be the case if money were allowed to pass between the candidate or his agent and the voter. On the other hand, the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman opposite would, in his opinion, remove all difficulties, and settle the question in a distinct and satisfactory manner. It seemed to him that they were really straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. There was no difficulty in making arrangements for the conveyance of soldiers, and why should the case be different for the conveyance of voters?


said, he intended to vote against the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, because it would open a door to bribery. If the Amendment was, as he hoped it would be, negatived, then the Committee ought to pause before it assented to the first clause at all. Nothing but the absolute refusal of travelling expenses altogether would check abuse. Supposing a non-resident voter had omitted to procure one of the recognized tickets before starting on his journey, and afterwards claimed repayment of his fare from a candidate's committee before voting. If refused, the man might turn round and say, "Oh, very well; I know where to go; they are not so particular over the way!" This was not an imaginary case, but one that had actually occurred.


said, he thought the whole of the discussion would be viewed by the country as an effort to give elections to the longest purse. What chance could the poorer candidate have against the rich man who could bribe under the thin disguise of paying for travelling expenses? The clause was nothing but bribery ill-wrapped up. He had sufficient acquaintance with elections to know how the thing would go. The out-voters would find business to settle or friends to see at the place of poll, and then they would ask which of the candidates would pay for their travelling, and to him they would promise their vote. It was just as much bribery as any other manner of offering pounds, shillings and pence for a vote. It was said that the poor voter must have the means of exercising his franchise. If that was not a hollow pretence, let those who urged it show their sincerity by proposing that the Consolidated Fund, or the county rate, or anybody except the candidate, should pay the money.


said, he advocated the payment of the poor voter's conveyance on the same principle as he advocated the ballot. He wished to place him on an equal footing as regarded the exercise of his franchise as his wealthy neighbour. If privileges were conferred on the poor man, they ought to be a reality, not a mockery. At the same time it was essential that none of the candidate's money should touch the palm of the elector. He could not share in the morbid sympathy shown for the candidate's pocket. If a candidate without large fortune fairly threw himself upon the sympathies of the great mass of the electors, he was not likely to be left without support.


said, there was a large class of cases of constructive bribery which the hon. and learned Member's proposal would not meet. In a late election in Northamptonshire in which a noble Lord, now a Member of the other House, was a candidate, all the carriages and chaises in the district were hired at an expense of as much as £7,000. Abuses of that kind required correction as much as any others,


said, he concurred with the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Deedes) in condemning the principle of allowing a voter's travelling expenses at all. The elector did not go to the poll on the candidate's business; and if he was indifferent to the exercise of his suffrage, it would be better that he should stay at home. The spirit of modern legislation was to raise and purify the franchise, though he could not but fear that recently they had been retrograding on this subject. As they would next year have to discuss a new Reform Bill, he thought that they should not now he called upon to enunciate a principle of such doubtful policy at the fag end of a Session. This clause had given rise to much difference of opinion, which there was no hope of their now bringing to a mature and satisfactory adjustment; and he suggested that it would be much more expedient, instead of entering upon new ground, to make the measure simply a continuance Bill.


said, that if the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had been present yesterday he would hardly have made the speech which he had just delivered, as at the commencement of the discussion the same objection was raised as that he had just now made. The answer he gave was this: that certain difficulties had arisen in the law of the case which rendered it necessary for the Government to deal with this question; and it was intimated on the part of the Government some months ago, that the point under discussion would be dealt with by a Bill introduced at the end of the Session. When the right hon. Gentleman said they were introducing a new principle he would remind him that the question as to the legality or otherwise of the payment of the elector's travelling expenses by the candidate had never yet been decided by either courts of law or Election Committees. Moreover, a majority of nearly two to one had recognized the propriety of legalizing travelling expenses under certain conditions; and the only question was what was the least objectionable form in which that principle could be carried out. If direct money payments were allowed, there was the danger of larger sums than the real cost of conveyance being obtained from the candidate, which might have the effect upon a scrutiny of vitiating the purity of particular votes. On the other hand, if the candidate was left to provide the conveyance, he believed that in the great majority of cases nothing would be more easy than for orders to be given to the various railway authorities to grant the voter a ticket for his conveyance to the poll. There might, no doubt, be some cases in remote parts of the kingdom in which there would be a difficulty of settling the matter in that way, but oven in those cases the difficulty could be easily surmounted in another way. Weighing the difficulties on both sides, and considering which of the two propositions before the Committee was preferable, he had no hesitation in saying that that of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was the least open to objection. To disallow those expenses in all cases would in effect be to disfranchise a large number of electors. He was of opinion that the clause, as amended by the hon. Gentleman, would have the effect of allowing those expenses in such a shape as would at the same time shield the voter from any corrupt influences.


said, he agreed that this clause did not introduce any new principle whatever. For his own part he thought the conveyance of the elector to the poll was the business of the elector, and not the business of the candidate, and he thought the House would be guilty of evading its duty if it neglected this opportunity of clearing up the present uncertainty of the law. He was satisfied that if any money was allowed to pass from the candidate to the voter there would be a great deal of bribery. In the case of overcharge no candidate or agent would have the moral courage to tax the voter's demand, and bribery would follow as a matter of course. Contrasting the two plans before the Committee, he thought the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was entirely free from the objections which attached to the former.


said, he should oppose this clause in any shape, as he thought that it would open the door to the grossest acts of bribery and corruption. The measure, in his opinion, was a perfect delusion, and was calculated to demoralize the voter, instead of to protect his interests. If the House were really anxious to put down malpractices at elections, let them pass a stringent measure which would be intelligible to all parties, and not attempt such patchwork legislation as this, which, in his opinion, would legalize bribery in its worst form. Besides, under the clause this practical difficulty might arise, that if there were three candidates, and the outlying voters were brought in to vote for them, each candidate might be made to pay separately for the same man's conveyance. Again, in the case of split votes, what check would there be upon double, charging? Their legislation would therefore open the flood-gates of bribery under a new form. Was there, he asked, any hon. Member in that House—["No, no!"] There was, perhaps, many a true word spoken in jest. Was there any hon. Member who was not aware that unjustifiable practices were carried on at elections which were apparently the most pure?


said, it was an answer to the case put by the learned doctor, to say that no one voter could go to the poll in three omnibuses.—[MR. BRADY: There might be three candidates.]—But the voter could only go in one omnibus. He agreed that there might be difficulty in carrying out the clause. He himself had had some considerable expense—he meant experience as to the costs of cabs and omnibuses. When he contested Middlesex, a county which was said to exhibit great purity, a Bill was brought to him for cabs and omnibuses, amounting to £1,200 and upwards. The electors seemed to have got an idea that it was contrary to the British constitution to walk to the poll, and he thought such a feeling was encouraged by such speeches as that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Bath (Sir A. Elton) who talked of the "morbid sympathy for the candidate's pocket." He, for one, confessed to having a morbid sympathy for the pockets of candidates, but that was only because he had a sympathy for the electors, and a wish that they should preserve their position and respectability. What necessity was there for disfranchising electors in counties in consequence of not providing conveyance? why not increase the number of polling places? If they legalized this payment for conveying voters to the poll, they would open a door to bribery on a large scale. He had so much morbid sympathy for the pockets of candidates, and for the respectability of voters, that he hoped that the clause would not pass. If the matter, however, came to a division, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member, Mr. Ayrton.


said, he thought it necessary that this clause should pass in its present shape, and not as it was proposed to be amended. In many parts of Ireland it would be impossible for a candidate to provide conveyance for voters, and the only way of getting them to the poll was by paying them their expenses.


said, he believed that a system of direct money payments for so-called travelling expenses would demoralize the electors and ruin any candidate in the south and west of Ireland.


said, he hoped that the word "reasonable" or "suitable" would be inserted before the word "conveyance" in the Amendment. He believed, however, that a majority of the Committee was in favour of leaving the law as it now stood, without any alteration at all, and that that was the effect of the decision arrived at by the Committee on the day previous.


said, they were simply passing a declaratory act on a doubtful question. The right hon. Member for Kidderminister (Mr. Lowe) had said with his usually ingenuity that there was no difference between money and money's worth, but he would put a case on that point. If the right hon. Member got a number of likenesses of himself printed at a cost of half-a-guinea each and presented them to his constituents, would that be the same as if he had presented them each with half-a-guinea? The likeness would be not money, but money's worth. This Amendment was peculiarly suited for Ireland, for otherwise six voters would go to the poll in one car, and they would each charge for the car. If his proposition were adopted, the carman would be paid once for the car, and there would be no bribery. He submitted, therefore, that by his proposition it would be impossible to carry on any system of bribery, while it would effectually establish the principle of enabling the poor voter to exercise his franchise without any difficulty or inconvenience, by compelling the payment of his travelling expenses in such a manner as would avoid any direct money advances to the individual elector.


said, he was decidedly opposed to the payment of any travelling expenses in any manner; and thought that the number of polling places should be increased.


said, be must protest against legislating in this direction at all, and especially to the introduction of such a principle in a continuance Bill. He should vote against the Amendment, though he admitted it was an improvement on the original clause.


said, he would not use any strong language about Pharisaical intentions or whited sepulchres, but must avow his invincible repugnance to this Bill. He would therefore oppose it to the utmost of his power. The people out of doors would put their own construction upon the conduct of the Committee. They all knew that they were rapidly approaching to a general election, and this clause was intened to apply to it. He believed, that by this clause the whole flood-gates of corruption would be opened, and that to pass it would be a disgrace to the legislation, honesty, morals, and character of the country.

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 145: Majority 106.


said, he believed there were many hon. Members who were in the same position as he was, that they did not know exactly on what they had been dividing. He wished them now to decide the question whether candidates ought not to be precluded, not merely from making direct money payments to voters but even from providing conveyance for them at all. He was against doing either of those things, and thought that the number of polling places should be increased. In his own case a number of voters went down to Brighton, and sent word that they would vote for him if he would pay their expenses up to town. This was nothing but a system of bribery, and he should therefore take the sense of the Committee against the Amendment.


said, that the only thing decided by the last vote was that it was better to provide a conveyance for the elector than to pay him any money for travelling expenses. The question which the hon. Member wished to be settled could be best decided upon the Motion that the clause stand part of the Bill.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman had considered his suggestion, made yesterday, as to inserting the word "actual," or "suitable," or some such word, in reference to the conveyance of voters?


said, he did not intend to propose any such word, but would consider any Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.

Question put,— That the words, 'provide conveyance for any voter, for the purpose of an Election, but it shall not be lawful to pay any money or give any valuable consideration to a voter for or in respect of his travelling expenses for such purpose,' be there inserted,

The Committee divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 58: Majority 75.


said, he would move to add the following proviso to Clause 1:— Provided always, that a full, true, and particular account of all such payments, signed by the candidate or his agents, shall he delivered to the election auditor, with the names and addresses of the persons to whom such payments have been made; and the amount of such account shall be included in the general account of the expenses incurred at any election, to be made out and kept by such election auditor.


asked whether it was compulsory on the auditor to publish those accounts?


said, the Act itself made it compulsory upon him to do so.

Proviso agreed to.

On the Question that the clause as amended stand part of the Bill,


regretted that any such matter as that which they had been discussing should be introduced into a Continuance Bill. He thought that a candidate should not be called on to pay anything at all. So long as candidates paid anything, so long would they have corrupt practices. One hon. Member thought that the possession of the vote was a privilege, and another thought that it was a right, but he thought that it was best described neither as a right nor a privilege, but as a perquisite. That House had done all it could to make it be so considered. It was all very well to say that the expense of elections had diminished; but he should like to know what would become of a poor candidate in Middlesex—a man who could not pay down £1,000 for cabs and omnibuses. He would move the insertion of these words:— Provided that every candidate shall be reimbursed his expenses out of the county, city, or borough rate, as the case may be, in which the voter's name may appear on the register. That was something tangible. He apprehended that they would need no further Reform Bill, and that there would be no bribery if his Amendment passed. He made the Motion in order to elicit discussion.


said, it might be an excellent thing to relieve candidates of all expense; but there was this trifling objection to the somewhat original Motion of the hon. Member for Dovor, that it would enable one party to order the expenditure, and impose on another the duty of paying it. He doubted whether, if candidates had the borough or county rate at their command, the expense of elections would be diminished. The only way to stop bribery was a declaration by the candidate at the hustings, repeated when the Member took his seat, that he had not paid anything beyond the strictly legal expenses, and this declaration should be so framed that no gentleman who had paid anything more than the legal expenses could make it without forfeiting his character as a gentleman. They should render bribery in-famous if they wished it to be discontinued.


said, he thought the proposal of the hon. Member would convert this into a taxing Bill, creating as it would a new charge upon the county or the poor rates. In that case, he put it to the Chairman whether it would not be necessary that notice should be given of any such Motion, and that the measure should also assume the shape of a money Bill.


said, that the Amendment did not propose to deal with any public fund, but merely with local rates, applicable to local purposes. It would not, therefore, come within the category to which the right hon. Baronet had referred.


characterized the proposal as a monstrous one, which would encourage the most mischievous and costly electoral contests in every county and borough in the kingdom.


said, he believed that nothing was so likely to prevent needless expense for conveyance to elections as to require those who used such conveyance to pay for it themselves. That would be the practical effect of this Amendment. As, however, the proposal was liable to the objection that it enabled one authority to order and required another to pay this expenditure, it would be better to withdraw it for the present.


said, he would support the Amendment. He saw nothing monstrous in the proposition, as it had been described by the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire (Mr. Barrow), who probably looked upon county rates as a sort of sacred deposit, only to be dispensed by county magistrates themselves; but there were many complaints of the way in which the money was spent by them in the various counties throughout the kingdom. The Government had already conceded one point of the charter in abolishing the property qualification of Members, and he did not see why they ought not to take another step and return to the old principle that the place represented should pay the expense of representation. He supported the principle of the Amendment, but would advise his hon. Friend to bring it forward at some future period.


said, as the sense of the Committee was so clearly against him he would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, which he had only brought forward in order to ventilate the question. He thought, indeed, they would never get rid of bribery whilst Members paid voters' travelling expenses.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he was of opinion that the candidate should not pay for or provide conveyance. As to the disfranchisement of voters, he thought that if a man could not provide his own conveyance to the poll he disfranchised himself, and had no right to complain. He should divide the Committee against the adoption of the clause.


said, he thought that if the clause passed it would lead to a good deal of litigation, for claims would be made for expenses, and suits would arise.


said, he concurred entirely with what had been said by the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng).

Question put, "That Clause 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 68; Majority 57.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2.


said, he would move in line four to leave out after "provided," to the end of the clause, and insert "the said further commission shall cease to be payable on and after the passing of this Act." The object of this Amendment was to put an end to the payment of the election auditor by a per centage on the expenses incurred by the candidates. That principle appeared to him to be a most objectionable mode of paying the auditors, as it exposed those officers to a temptation to connive at improper expenditure, and that temptation ought to be removed. The fee of £10 proposed by the Bill was quite sufficient remuneration in all cases, whether of large or small constituencies, for an officer who had no functions to perform beyond those which might readily be discharged by any attorney's clerk.


said, he should support the Amendment. He thought that these appointments of auditors were objectionable.


said, that in his own case two-thirds of the expenses were paid before the day of nomination, and he objected to pay an election auditor a per centage on money with which he had nothing to do. He thought that a payment of £10 by each candidate was sufficient without any per centage.


said, he also would express a hope that the payment of the election auditor would in future be by a fixed payment, instead of by a per centage.


said, he should also support the Amendment, for he could not conceive a more objectionable mode of paying the election auditor than by a per centage. There might be a question as to whether the £10 would be sufficient remuneration, but he thought the principle upon which payment should be made was clear.


said, he thought the creation of election auditors had failed to achieve the object which was intended to be attained—that of preventing bribery and treating. He hoped that next year the Government would take into consideration the propriety of discontinuing them. He would support the Amendment.


said, he agreed that the system of a per centage should cease, and suggested that payment should be by fixed sums, one amount to be paid where there was no contest, and a higher amount—say an additional £5, where there was a poll. He hoped the Government would adopt the Amendment with the alteration he had suggested.


said, he doubted whether an election auditor was of any use in any case, but he could not for the life of him understand of what use he was when there was no contest. In his case his expenses had been nearly doubled in consequence of there being an election auditor. He had gone through two uncontested elections in eighteen months—one at the general election and one on taking office. The expense of the two elections was only £22, and yet he had had to pay the auditor in addition ten guineas on each occasion.


said, he confessed he was rather puzzled to say what was the best mode of paying the auditor; and, in fact, he was in as great doubt about the matter now as when the discussion commenced. His own impression was that as. this was only a Continuance Bill it should place the matter on the same footing as it was on before. As to the question of the value of the auditor, he thought that had better be postponed until another year; but hon. Members informed him that one result from having an auditor was that expenses were much diminished. A candidate was enabled to say—"I cannot allow this particular item because it will be published as part of the costs." He would propose, in order to give fair remuneration, that the auditor should be paid £10 in respect of the first £200 of expenses, and above that sum the commission should be 2 per cent; but he would add, "in no case shall the first fee and further commission exceed £20 from each candidate."


said, he believed this proposition would be generally satisfactory to the Committee.


said, that on the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 3 and 4 were agreed to.


, on behalf of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr.Macaulay), said, that he wished to move that the following clause be added to the Bill:—

Clause, ("For better securing to Returning Officers the expenses incurred by them in taking polls at Elections, Be it Enacted, That the persons proposing any candidate shall be jointly liable with such candidate for the payment by him to the Returning Officer of an equal share of the said expenses. brought up, and read 1o and 2o.

Question put, "That the clause be added to the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 34: Majority 110.

House resumed.

Committee report progress; to sit again this day.

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