§ Order for Second Reading read.
SIR. GEORGE LEWIS
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that as in the former instance, it was a re-enactment of existing legislation. The Bill was entirely founded on an Act now on the statute book, but which expired in August next, and it was desirable that the second reading should be agreed to at an early period, in order that they might go into Committee, A very competent Committee fully inquired into the subject last Session, and the Bill was either a simple reproduction, as he had said, of the existing law, or was founded on the Resolution of that Committee suggesting certain amendments in that law. With this explanation he hoped the House would not object to the 316 second reading, and he would promise that ample time should be afforded for the consideration of the different clauses in Committee.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
said, he must protest against proceeding with the Bill at that hour (a quarter after twelve.) It had, indeed, been correctly described by the right hon. Gentleman. It was the Corrupt Practices Prevention Bill disguised under another name. And well it might be; for the very name of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act stunk in the nostrils of the country. He contended if the Bill were passed it would increase bribery and entirely let intimidation alone. Before the Committee to which allusion had been made, the great Conservative authority, Mr. Rose, of the firm of Baxter, Rose, and Norton, said that the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act was of no utility whatever. It had been condemned by almost every witness. But learned gentlemen able in the law, and able counsel, set their heads together, and close upon the mons parturiens followed this feeble and wretched little mouse. It was the only Government Reform Bill of the Session, and the House was asked to pass it after twelve o'clock at night. As a consistent Reformer he could not allow it to pass without raising his voice against the Bill, which he believed to be an insult to the country. If the second reading were persisted in, he should move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, that while admitting that there were some of the provisions of the Bill which might with advantage be adopted, he strongly objected to the 15th Clause, which legalized expenditure incurred for the conveyance of voters in counties, and yet conferred no such privilege upon boroughs. Seeing no good reason why such a distinction should be drawn, he should, if the adjournment of the debate were moved, support the Motion.
§ MR. BUTLER JOHNSTONE
said, he should give the clause his most strenuous op- 317 position. His constituency extended seven miles, and he did not think voters were patriotic enough to go to the expense of a conveyance seven miles out and seven in.
§ MR. CAVE
was in a worse position than the hon. Member for Canterbury, as his borough was 22 miles by 9 in extent, and from five or six parishes in it the voters had to travel from 10 or 12 miles to the poll. Besides which the last clause introduced a new method of altering polling places, but gave no power to add to them. So that by a petition of fifty electors, the polling places might be placed in even more inconvenient places, and the distances for the voters much increased. If this Bill passed as it then stood, he had no hesitation in saying it would practically disfranchise two-thirds of his constituency.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he thought the objections which had been advanced against the Bill in the course of the discussion were of a nature which might more properly be disposed of in Committee than on the Motion for the second reading.
§ MR. DEEDES
strongly urged the right hon. Gentleman to postpone the second reading. He (Mr. Deedes) had the strongest possible objection to some parts of the Bill, and if it were pressed on now he should be driven to vote against it.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he was convinced, after hearing the opinions which had been expressed by hon. Members, that the proper course would be to read the Bill a second time now. All the objections which had been made to the Bill might be dealt with in Committee. It should be remembered that, if the debate were adjourned, hon. Gentlemen who had spoken now could not speak again in the debate, whereas if the Bill were read a second time and went into Committee they would have a full opportunity of expressing their opinions. With respect to the 15th Clause, relating to the travelling expenses of voters, that was a question of great difficulty. It was not taken from the Bill of the hon. Member for Plymouth, but both the Bill of that hon. Gentleman and the 15th Clause of this Bill were taken from a common source—the recommendations of the Committee of last Session.
said, as he did not feel himself authorized in pressing the matter to a division, he should ask leave to withdraw his Motion and content himself with entering a protest against the second reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to
§ Bill read 2o, and committed for Thursday, 18th April.