HC Deb 08 July 1861 vol 164 cc569-72

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.


proposed to omit, in page 2, line 21, of the clause having reference to polling places, the word "Pontefract," for the purpose of inserting "Wakefield." As this was purely a Yorkshire question, to which neither the ingenuity nor the malice of man could give a party character, he hoped hon. Members would give their votes irrespective of party considerations. Not being connected with Pontefract or Wakefield, either in a representative capacity, or by ties of family, property, or marriage, he came into court with clean hands; and he asked the House to give effect to the wishes of the Yorkshire Members, as expressed in the only division which had taken place on this question, in the proportion of five to one. Unless for some good reason shown, Wakefield, the old county town, ought not to be deprived of its ancient privilege. He held in his hand a list of twelve polling places which were nearest to Wakefield, while only seven were nearer to Pontefract; and, of the electors, those who were nearest to Wakefield were 13,325, and those nearest to Pontefract only 4,564, or in the proportion of three to one. He had consulted Bradshaw, and found that the trains from every direction which went to Pontefract, with two exceptions, went to Wakefield also. It was true that by the Government Bill of 1854 Wakefield was incorrectly represented on the map as at the outskirts of the county; but, truly represented, Pontefract was much nearer the outskirts of the southern division than Wakefield. He thought that the House would agree to his Motion, the Government, in the first instance, having given notice of a clause in which Wakefield was substantially adopted.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 21, to leave out "Pontefract" and insert "Wakefield."


said, the gentry and inhabitants generally of the southern division of Yorkshire would be awkwardly situate if the House arbitrarily set aside the arrangement which Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned, after careful consideration; for it was evident that a place which was perfectly central, as long as the division remained intact, must find it itself on the borders as soon as it was divided. He bore no possible ill-will to Wakefield, where his family had resided for years; but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that it was a place which, in electioneering periods, became the resort of tumultuous gatherings. Believing that Pontefract was on every ground more advantageous, he supported the clause as it stood.


said: Wakefield being unrepresented, thanks to Her Majesty's Ministers, it behoved all Yorkshire Members to support its interests. It was, perhaps, not generally known that the hon. Member, who had spoken so enthusiastically in favour of holding elections for the Southern Division of the Riding in Pontefract, possessed a large estate in its immediate vicinity, and much house property in the town of Ferrybridge, which forms part of that borough. Under these circumstances, and considering how long the hon. Member has been its representative, he would be unworthy the trust reposed in him by the electors, and the property he possessed in the district, had he taken any other course. The House, doubtless, would be of opinion that the influence which the hon. Gentleman had acquired in his borough was sufficient already, without according to him the prestige he would naturally claim by getting £2,000 or £3,000 spent at every general election amongst a certain class of voters, which must be the case were his proposition carried. From time immemorial Wakefield had been the town at which the nomination and election of the candidates for the West Riding had been held, and he saw no reason why its privileges should be transferred to Pontefract. The objection that Wakefield was frequented by multitudinous assemblages at election times was, in reality, not a valid argument, because Pontefract was but a few miles distant, and there were complete facilities for reaching it from all points of the Riding by railway. The hon. Member for Pomfret was wrong in stating on a previous occasion that the borough had more railway accommodation; on that score Wakefield was infinitely preferable, as their lines north, south, east, and west there converge to a common centre. He hoped Wakefield would be selected by the House. It was the old county town, and more convenient to a large majority both of electors and population. The head quarters of the West Riding constabulary—the place where all the public offices were situate, and where every accommodation could be had for the electors. The hon. Member for Pomfret after announcing his conviction to the House that all the principal proprietors and men of position in the southern division preferred Wakefield to Pomfret, must have been somewhat startled to find that twenty out of twenty-six Yorkshire Members went into the lobby against him immediately afterwards.


said, that he and the people of the southern division were very much astonished that Pontefract had been selected by the Home Secretary. Did the right hon. Gentleman know that it was the most inconvenient place in the whole division? A district of 17,000 people would be inconvenienced by its adoption. It was thirty miles from Sheffield; and to get to it a great number of electors would have to travel over three lines of railway. Sheffield was the place. It was a town with 185,000 inhabitants; besides which it was the centre of a district which contained a population of 400,000. The selection or rejection of Pontefract might affect enormous interests of the hon. Member for that borough, but he (Mr. Hadfield) had to defend the interests of a town with a population of 185,000. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would select some more convenient and accessible place than Pontefract, which was the most corrupt place in the whole West Riding.


said, that not-withstanding the solemn denunciation of the electors of Pontefract by his hon. Friend who had just spoken, the rejection of the word "Pontefract" from the clause under consideration would place the House in a very painful position, for they would then have to decide between the rival claims of Wakefield and Sheffield. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment, proposed that "Wakefield" should be substituted for "Pontefract;" and his hon. Friend who had just spoken would not hear of Wakefield—he must have Sheffield. Some hon. Members proposed Wakefield and others Sheffield; but the best thing to be done was to follow the plan pursued by the lawyer in the fable, and give one shell to Wakefield and another to Sheffield, reserving the oyster for Pontefract. The matter had been fully discussed on a former evening, when a considerable majority appeared to be in favour of Pontefract.

Question put, "That 'Pontefract' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 107; Majority 13.

Question, "That 'Wakefield' be there inserted."

Put, and agreed to.

Bill to be read 3o this day.