§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2 (Construction of Section 57, of 5 and 6 W. 4, c. 76).
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
renewed his objections to the proposal that the Mayor of a town, who might be inexperienced, should preside ex officio over magistrates of great experience appointed by the Crown. Whenever the Mayor had had magisterial experience, no doubt precedence would be cheerfully accorded to him. He must take the sense of the House against a provision which would not add to the dignity of the Mayor, but which would cast a slur on the municipal administration of justice. He moved that the clause be expunged.
§ MR. SCHOLEFIELD
said, that the hon. Member had spoken as if the Mayor of a borough had nothing to do but preside over petty sessions. But this Bill was to give him precedence, not only at petty sessions, but at meetings of magistrates held for a variety of purposes, such as the licences of public-houses, and at goal sessions. The goals were erected and maintained by the borough, and who so fit to preside at such sessions and at licensing sessions as the Mayor? He was the functionary responsible for the peace of the borough, and in times of excitement and disturbance the Government communicated with him on the best mode of preserving the peace. The intention of the Municipal Corporations Act clearly was that the Mayor should have precedence within the borough.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
would remind the hon. Member for Birmingham that in the borough represented by him the magistrates did not refuse to accept the presidency of the Mayor until a person was elected Mayor to whom the hon. Member knew they had reason to object. A licensed victualler had once been Mayor of that town, and surely the hon. Member would not wish to see a person Chairman of the licensing sessions on licensing day.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
supported the Amendment, and said he did not see what necessity there was for introducing the Bill at all. So far as Birmingham was concerned, he believed that at great personal inconvenience the justices of that place had opposed the measure. He thought that as there was a strong objection on the one side, while on the other it was a matter only of sentiment and pride, the House ought to have some explanation from the Secretary of State why they should be called on to agree to this clause.
§ MR. BAINES
said, the Bill was only intended to continue a practice that prevailed in every municipal corporation in the kingdom except Birmingham. If the Mayor was not to be ex officio president, they must have the inconvenient system of annual election, else the Mayor, who might only be magistrate for the year of his office, would have no chance of being president at all.
§ Question put, "That Clause 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided;—Ayes 91; Noes 22: Majority 69.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
gave notice that as he found many hon. Gentlemen were not aware the division on this clause would be taken to-night, he would move the rejection of the clause on bringing up the Report.
§ Clause 3 (Amendment of Section 98 of 5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 76.),
§ MR. FREELAND
said, that this clause proposed to alter, in a manner which he thought most objectionable, the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act with reference to Borough Justices. By that Act it was provided that every person assigned by Her Majesty's Commission to act as a Justice in and for a Borough should reside within the Borough for which he should be so assigned, or within seven miles of the Borough, or some part thereof, during such time as he should act as a Justice of the Peace in and for such Borough. By this Bill it was proposed that every justice 653 should be deemed to reside within such Borough, if he occupied any house, shop, warehouse, or other premises within the same, or within seven miles thereof. A person, therefore, who resided eight, ten, or fifteen miles away from a Borough might, if he occupied a tenement within that Borough, no matter how insignificant its value, be so assigned to act as a Borough Magistrate. He thought that such an alteration would introduce a class of persons not contemplated by the Municipal Corporations Act, and that in a political point a view it was open to very serious objections. He had received a letter from an old and tried friend of the Liberal party as regarded the effect of the change proposed, and with the permission of the Committee he would read a short extract from it, in the spirit of which he entirely concurred—As to Section 3, by which a Justice is to be deemed to reside within a borough, if he occupies a house, &c., within seven miles thereof, it would, if I were in Parliament, be opposed by me tooth and nail. Justices are now appointed by the Crown, in other words, by Her Majesty's Ministers, through the medium of the Lord Chancellor. To a certainty, if such a clause becomes law, the great man of the neighbourhood, if he be in favour with the Ministers of the day, will, in reality, have the nomination of Borough Justices. Now, being a magistrate gives, as it ought, a position and an influence—which, if possessed by country gentlemen, will be extraneous and adverse in most instances to Liberal principles Boroughs have always been the strongholds of Liberalism. I cannot, for my own part, imagine what Her Majesty's present Ministry can (if they really be Liberals) be thinking of. My strong impression is that, if this clause passes, such of Her Majesty's Ministers as are really and truly Liberals will live to regret it.He would not trouble the Committee with any further comments, but he would move the omission of the clause.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
certainly had not proposed the clause from any political motive. In some large boroughs various persons resided more than seven miles from the town, but were virtually citizens of it, and came there to their place of business daily. Being, however, at present excluded, whatever their other qualifications, from the magistracy by the present law, this clause was framed to remove their disability. The provision was, he believed, not liable to abuse, and would effect an Amendment in the existing law.
§ MR. DENMAN
suggested that a portion of the proposal of the hon. Member for Chichester should be adopted, and that the words at the end of the clause 654or within seven miles thereof" should be omitted.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, as were also Clauses 4 and 5.
§ Clause 6 (Power to make new Adjustment of Wards in Boroughs),
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he had been informed that the object of this provision was to authorize alterations in the arrangement of wards with a view to party purposes. He, therefore, hoped the Home Secretary would explain whether there was any real necessity for it.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
, as far as he was concerned, was totally unconscious of any party object in proposing the clause. It had been stated to him that since the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act changes had taken place in the population of certain wards, which rendered their boundaries unsuited to their present requirements. The power taken by this clause, if discreetly exercised, would be beneficial; but if any jealousy was entertained on the subject, and the power was shown to be capable of abuse, he should not insist upon the clause.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at half after One o'clock.