HC Deb 04 March 1859 vol 152 cc1282-5
MR. E. ELLICE (St. Andrew's)

said, he rose to ask the Lord advocate whether, by the new Reform Bill for Scotland, it is intended to confer on Burghs and Counties a similar franchise to that provided for in the second, third, and fourth Sections of the first Clause of the English Reform Bill now before the House. Under ordinary circumstances he should have hesitated before asking such a question, but there were peculiar circumstances which rendered him desirous of giving the Lord Advocate an opportunity of removing doubts which had arisen in consequence of the statement he made the other night. A discussion then took place, originating with his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). He did not altogether agree with him as to the mode in which he originated the discussion, but it resulted in his obtaining from the Lord Advocate a statement with respect to the intention of the framers of the Bill. The Lord Advocate stated that it was the intention of Government to originate such a measure, and that that measure would be based on the general principle which had been announced as applicable to England. On looking for the principle on which the Scotch Bill was to be based, he touched on this principle in the Bill which had been presented to the House for the reform of the representation of England, and he found in the very first clause the main principle on which the Bill was founded, namely, the alterations in the franchise. He found there certain matters which, although not possibly affecting England to a very large extent, certainly did affect Scotland to a much greater extent, It was provided—and he thought this was not stated the other night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that all holdings less than freeholds, long tenures, copy-holds, lifeholds, and so forth, were to be changed from the present qualifications of £10, to a reduced qualification of £5. Now in Scotland the £10 feu, that being the common holding of the country, if that were reduced from £10 to £5., as in the English Bill, there would be a very great difference. He was not going to argue that point; but what he wanted to ask was, whether they were to take for granted, from the statement of the Lord Advocate, that it was the intention of the Government towards Scotland that the principle adopted in the English Bill of reducing the long tenures—the £10 of the long tenure and the copyhold being for political purposes and qualifications strictly analogous to the feu tenure in Scotland—whether that principle were to be applied to Scotland? He did not think that the Lord Advocate would wish that any hon. Gentleman who might vote for the second reading of the English Reform Bill should do so from any misconception of his statement of the other night; and therefore he thought he was right in giving the noble Lord and an opportunity of clearing up that point, and stating whether the principle of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th section of the English Reform Bill were intended to apply to Scotland?


—As soon after the English Bill has been read a second time as the pressure of public business will admit, it is our intention to introduce a Scotch Reform Bill. At present we contemplate introducing it before Easter, and I think the House will agree with me that it will be much more convenient that a general statement of its provisions should then be made than that on the present occasion we should give any partial information which might lead to very great misconception. I may also say to another hon. Gentleman who has a Question on the paper (Mr. C. Fortescue) that when the Scotch Bill has been introduced, and before it is read a second time, I shall take an oportunity of stating the course n loch the Government intend to take with respect to Ireland.


said, he begged permission to ask a Question of which he had not given notice, relative to a speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) which he made a few nights ago, on the occasion of the introduction of the Bill for the amendment of the representation of England and Wales, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Member for Birmingham said that was so unsatisfactory [Cries of "Order!"] He begged to ask if the hon. Gentleman was in a position to name a day on which he would place his Bill on the table of the House, as it was extremely desirable that the independent Members of the House should have an opportunity of choosing the best measure.


said, he would not follow the Ministerial practice of saying that he had not received notice of the Question, and request the hon. Gentleman to postpone it till some future occasion. Generally speaking, however, it was better for the House to attend to one thing at once, and probably, also, it would be better for the cause of Reform—and the Government, no doubt would prefer it—that the undivided attention of the House should be given to their Bill. Whenever he might think right to introduce the Bill which he had prepared he would give ample notice of his intention to do so.