HC Deb 28 March 1859 vol 153 cc913-4

said, he would beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the plan of uniformity of franchise between Counties and Boroughs is considered by Government to form an essential principle of the proposed Representation of the People Bill, on which the fate of the Bill is to depend; or whether, on the contrary, it is only one of those details which, though forming part of the original suggestions of Government, is to be considered to be open to any alteration or omission in Committee which this House in its wisdom may determine upon?


Sir, in answering the question of my hon. Friend, I would venture to call the attention of the House to the extremely inconvenient manner in which this Bill to amend the Representation of the People is debated. It is debated, if I may use the expression, wholesale and retail. We have had it treated wholesale for four nights in a debate which has been sustained on both sides with unflagging interest and unfaltering power; and I shall be perfectly ready, when the opportunity shall be afforded to me to vindicate the policy and to explain the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. I must however say, in answer to my hon. Friend, as I have already said in answer to a question from an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, that I cannot, within the scope of a fair answer, give the information which he desires. Speaking generally, I would say that we have placed before the House a measure which expresses the policy which the Government would recommend. If there are any Gentlemen who think that on the whole the disadvantages of the course which we recommend counterbalance or overweigh its advantages, it will be open to them to vote against the second reading of the Bill. That is the legitimate course. If the Bill goes into Committee I shall, on the part of the Government, listen to any proposition that is made on any Clause, in that spirit of candour which becomes the Government. If the decision at which the Committee arrives on any definite proposition is contrary to the course which the Government has recommended, then it will be open to us to consider that decision, and act in the manner which we think our duty justifies.