HC Deb 10 March 1859 vol 152 cc1677-82

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 to 10 inclusive agreed to.

Clause 11 (Punishment of persons guilty of personating Voters).


said, he would propose the insertion of words extending the Clause to those who should induce others to personate.


asked bow the hon. Member proposed to detect and prove the delinquency against which he wished to provide?


replied that he would proceed in the same manner as in a case of subornation of perjury.


suggested that the word "suborn" should be substituted for "induce."


said, he would adopt the suggestion.

Amendment agreed to.


said, he would move an Amendment to the effect that cases of personation should be tried, not by the justices of the borough in which the offences were committed but by those "of the county in which the borough was situated." In many cases the justices in boroughs were political partisans.


said, he did not think justices in boroughs were more subject to political influence than justices in counties.


trusted the Commit- tee would not sanction au Amendment, the effect of which would be to throw a reflection on the borough justices.


said, he thought it would be most objectionable to throw on one set of justices duties which ought to be performed by another set.

Amendment withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, agreed to; as was also Clause 12.

Clause 13, Penalties for Bribery at Elections.


said, he thought the proposed penalty of 40s. for bribery far below the offence. He would therefore move to insert "£50" instead of "40s."

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 1, to leave out "40s." and insert "£50."


remarked that if the penalty should be fixed at £50 the clause might as well be left out of the Bill. The present penalty was £50, and was so high that nobody thought of putting it in force. The object of the clause was to make the penalty small but certain. Besides the pecuniary penalty, the party offending would be disfranchised for six years. The greater part of the persons to whom the penalty would apply were poor, and to them 40s. was a serious sum. The rich would have to pay 40s. for every person whom they might bribe.


said, that these who bribed were usually rich men, who would not be deterred by a penaly of 40s.


said, he hoped the Amendment would not be pressed. His attention had been called to the penalties which had accrued under the Act, and he had been informed by a deputation which waited upon him that the Act could not be put in force in consequence of the penalties being so heavy. He believed that if the present Bill should pass there would be no difficulty in putting an end to the bribery which at present existed in Chester and other places.


said, that the object of the clause was that every instance of bribery should be punished, and they were far more likely to arrive at this result by imposing the penalty of 40s. The penalty of £50 would not be felt by a rich man in a pecunary point of view. That class of persons were deterred by the degradation and exposure.

Question put "That 40s.' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 261; Noes 13; Majority 248.

Clause agreed to.

The remaining clauses were then agreed to.


said he wished to move the addition of a clause reducing the period of residence within a borough necessary to qualify a man to vote as a burgess at municipal elections from three years (as at present) to one year, as in the case of Parliamentary elections.


said, he must oppose the proposition. He had taken great pains with the Bill, and would suggest that it should pass as it stood. He had found that bribery and corruption in municipal affairs prevailed more or less all over the country, and he did not wish any clause inserted that would tend to cause political discussion and imperil the passing of the Bill this Session.


said, he thought the hon. Gentleman in his Bill had not gone the right way to cure the evils complained of, and was of opinion that municipal electors were in as much need of protection as the great body of Parliamentary electors throughout the country.

Clause brought up, and read 1o.

Question put, "That the clause be read a second time."

The Committee divided.

The Tellers being come to the Table, Mr. Gilpin, one of the Tellers for the Ayes, stated that Mr. Arthur Kinnaird, Member for the City of Perth, had not voted, though he had been in the House when the Question was put; whereupon the Chairman directed the Honourable Member for Perth to come to the Table, and asked him if he had heard the Question put. The Honourable Member having stated that he had heard the Question put, and having declared himself with the Ayes, the Chairman desired his name to be added to the Ayes.

The Tellers accordingly declared the Numbers:—Ayes 97; Noes 187: Majority 90.


said, he would propose the insertion of a clause to repeal that provision of the existing Act which rendered the possession of a certain amount of property in real estate, or being rated at a certain annual value, requisite qualifications for the office of mayor, alderman, or councillor of a borough. The House had wisely repealed the property qualification for Members of Parliament, and he now asked them to do the same for municipalities. It was desirable, no doubt, that persons of pro- perty should be amongst the members of municipal corporations, and should exert their due influence in local affairs; but it was also desirable that the corporations should include men of ability and character belonging to different classes of society. It did sometimes happen that the interests of private property were at variance with the interests of the community. The wealthy alderman who resided in a suburban villa might perhaps feel indifferent to questions of sewerage and sanitary regulation, which would be matters of life and death to the poor inhabitants of the closer and more crowded districts of the town, and cases had even been known in which the inspectors and officers of health were afraid to lay an information against some wretched cottages or other dangerous nuisance because the owners of those buildings were members of the corporation, and they were their servants. It was not, however, from the poorer classes themselves, nor was it from any ambitious demagogues who wanted to get into municipal offices, that this demand for the repeal of the property qualification now proceeded; but one corporation after another had petitioned the House of Commons to that effect—the corporations of Rochdale, Oldham, and Sheffield had lately done so, and if the corporation of Leicester had not actually petitioned, it had joined in expressing the same desire. These corporations wanted to be allowed to avail themselves of the talents and energy of men in every rank of society who might be found willing and competent to serve the borough, and whom the electors might think fit to be chosen.

Clause brought up and read 1o.


said, he hoped it would not be thought that he had cured all the existing evils. The Bill had been drawn for one certain object, and he did not see how the proposition before the Committee could prevent bribery and corruption at municipal elections. Property qualification was a subject upon which different opinions existed, but upon the same ground as that which induced him to oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield, he should oppose the proposition of the hon. Member for Oldham.

Question put, "That the clause be read a second time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 181: Majority 73.


said, he would now bring up a clause relieving Dissenters from the necessity of taking the oath not to use their office to the prejudice of the Established Church.


said, he must repeat the answer he had given to the previous proposal.

Clause negatived.


said, he rose to propose a clause providing for the votes at municipal elections being taken by Ballot. He considered that the arguments he had adduced on previous occasions remained unanswered, and when he contrasted the small talent of which he could boast with the great ability with which he was opposed, he could not but attribute his succes to the goodness of his cause. Those hon. Gentlemen, however, who advocated open voting at Parliamentary elections would naturally advocate it at municipal elections, which were also liable to bribery and intimidation. It was impossible to overrate the mischief that arose under the present system. There was but one remedy for intimidation, and that remedy for intimidation was the Ballot. He would not trouble the Committee with many cases, but would cite a few to show the cases of tyranny by the employers to the employed, for in those municipal elections the stronger put the screw upon the weaker. There was a case of a man employed at a mill at Staleybridge who was employed there twenty years, and one morning he was told he might go home, because he had voted for a candidate to whom his employer was opposed. Cries of "Divide!"] That was the way the wrongs of the working classes were received by the House. He had before him thirteen cases of persons brought to ruin in that way. He would read them if they liked. He could bring cases of that sort from every corporate town in England, The only protection against this was secret voting, and as he should bring the subject of voting Ballot for Members of Parliament before the House this Session he should leave the matter now in the hands of the Committee.


said, he wished to point out, that the Committee had already decided in the 16th Clause, that the mode of voting should be as heretofore; and he must, therefore, appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, whether it was competent now to bring forward a clause which would upset the previous decision.


said, that the clause would be inconsistent with the 16th Clause, which had been agreed to.


said, he would submit to the dictum of the right hon. Gentleman, but would, perhaps, introduce an Amendment on the Report.

House resumed; Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Tuesday next, and to be printed [Bill 70].