§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
MR. H. BERKELEY
said, he rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He was induced to do so from the consideration that it was not a measure calculated to present a specimen of an electoral law worthy of the country. He was perfectly well aware that he might subject himself to certain taunts from his right hon. Friend below him, that he could not see any perfection in any measure except that particular measure which he had often brought before the attention of this House; but he could assure his right hon. Friend, that if he would produce any measure that should be effective in putting down the corruption of the electoral system, whatever that measure might be, he would throw aside all his preconceived opinions, and lend him his warmest cooperation. Now, the Bill (for he supposed it was in the form of a Bill) had been an Act of Parliament ever since the Earl of Aberdeen's administration. At that time there was an election, which was so corrupt that the Earl of Aberdeen expressed the opinion that our electoral system was such that nobody could well be enamoured of it. So flagrant were the acts committed during that election, which was a fierce contest between the parties on each side of this House, that it was thought necessary to do something, or to pretend to do something, to abate the evil. A Committee of that House was formed, consisting of a great many lawyers, and on their recommendation the Government of the day formed this Act of Parliament. Since that time it had been our electoral law. It had been tried; it had been weighed in the balance and found wanting; it was now found not only perfectly useless, but it was literally the laughingstock of every attorney's clerk. This Bill was now in the hands of his right hon. Friend. The objections he had to it might be concisely stated. In the first place, he objected to its principle, which was to punish the elector, and not the candidate. It was in every way to protect the candidate, and to such an extent was that carried that with common care and attention any candidate's seat, do what he might, except personally or through one agent, was perfectly safe. Now, in the first place, her Majesty's Government thought proper to alter the law of agency, 512 and by it nowadays the candidate was ordered to name his agent or agents, by whose acts he must stand or fall. To illustrate his meaning, he would suppose that Brown was named the agent. That being so, all that Brown would have to do would be to keep his hands clean and to take care that through him directly the candidate was drawn into no illegal proceeding. Meantime, however, Jones and Robinson, not being agents in the sense laid down in the Bill, might do as they pleased, and the candidate would not be held responsible for their acts. When the measure containing a provision which so operated had first been proposed, an analysis of it, to which were affixed the initials of the late Mr. James Coppock—than whom no man was better versed in election law —appeared in The Times newspaper, and his expression in relation to the clause was, "When the House of Commons passes it, the country will know what to believe;" while the journal in which the analysis was published summed up its estimate of the Bill with the words, "It is evident this is one of those pompous professions which are meant to be inoperative." Nothing could, in his opinion, be more just than that view, and what, he would ask, was the sugar-plum which induced the House of Commons to swallow so noxious a dose? It was the curtailment of the election expenses, the doing away with bands and other causes of outlay, in lieu of which the candidate might, by good management, indulge in illegal expenditure at discretion without running any risk. Such was the way in which the Bill dealt with the question of agency, but how did it provide against corruption generally and intimidation? Everybody knew that one of the most effectual modes of corruption was treating, and that the most successful mode of treating was the giving breakfasts to the electors on the morning of the day on which the poll was to take place. A stranger, for example, in company with some person well known in the locality, went into the house of a licensed victualler—he was speaking on the evidence of facts which had come within his own knowledge—in the town in which the election was to be held, and said to him, "I want forty breakfasts at seven o'clock on the election morning." The innkeeper, pulling off his hat, replied, "Certainly, Sir; the breakfasts shall be provided." The breakfasts were provided; they were duly eaten by a corresponding number of 513 electors at the appointed hour, who went to the poll early, and thus opened the proceedings with an éclat which had its effect throughout the day; while if those breakfasts were not given to them, they would get breakfast at their own homes, would probably continue at work during the first half of the day, and then go to the poll after dinner. But the men who were breakfasted had another advantage. Their employers in the factory or the shipyards, or the overlookers, told them, "There is an election to-morrow," and they were excused the whole day; but their wages were paid. Now, was that bribery, or was it not? And they did not interfere with it by the Bill. Thus they went on, blindly satisfying themselves with ineffective legislation, and imagining that everybody else was satisfied. So much, then, for the law of agency and the way in which they abandoned corruption to take care of itself. Let them look now at what they had done with intimidation—a subject on which there was no division of opinion that it was the great evil of our electoral system. He knew that hon. Gentlemen who did not think proper to go with much minuteness into the question considered intimidation a part of the due influence of property. He was unable to consider it in that light, but rather as connected with the undue influence of property. Well, what did they propose to do on that subject by the Bill? They had proposed a wretched clause by which they said they would fine any individual who should affect with loss a man for giving his vote. Thus, if they took their custom away from the butcher, or baker, or turned a tenant out of his house, the aggrieved party might recover a penalty; but the recovery of the penalty was dependent upon the specific offence of the customer or the landlord making the giving of the vote the reason why he so acted. Could anything be more ridiculous? To show, indeed, how easily the provision could be evaded, it was sufficient to refer to what occurred after the late election for East Kent, when a landlord gave a tenant notice to quit, but added, "Take notice that it is not because you voted against my wishes at the election." That was, indeed, a state of things upon which, as was said by the late Sir Robert Peel and Lord Macaulay, they could not legislate. They could not legislate against a man for discharging or getting rid of his tradesman or of his tenant; and 514 if they attempted to do it, they would be guilty of injustice. The Bill, then, would do nothing with regard to intimidation; and he thought, as the Government were pleased to reject the measure which he particularly advocated, and which he believed would be effective, they were bound to give the country a Bill that would at least palliate the evils of the present system. The last clause, by which the auditor was done away with, might be beneficial, but the Bill was so rotten and so had that he had thought it necessary to call it to the attention of the House. It was not his intention, however, to ask for a division upon his Motion, but he had done his duty in bringing it forward, and he told the Government that under cover of this Act of Parliament at the next election, whenever that election should come, the richest party would win.
§ MR. M'MAHON
complained that the Bill repealed parts of several Acts of Parliament, leaving only one or two sections or half sections in force, and suggested that it would be desirable in Committee so to alter the clauses as to repeal the entire Acts, and re-enact in the Bill those provisions which it was thought desirable to retain in force, and thus consolidate the Law into one general statute.
expressed his approval of the Bill generally. The auditorship, so called, had been a farce, and he was glad that it was abolished. He considered, however, that the provision that paid agents should not vote at elections was too stringent, and would produce greater evils than arose from the existing system. As it was necessary in contested elections to poll as many votes as possible, each candidate would have either to bring his attorneys, messengers, and doorkeepers from some other town, or to employ the relations only of voters, themselves having no votes, or else to give notice to all his agents that he would not pay them, and leave it to be understood that if elected he would exert his patronage to obtain places for them.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he could not but venture to think that the annual discussion upon bribery and intimidation was neither more nor less than an annual farce. It was very much like the annual discussions which took place upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol in reference to the ballot. The fact was, it led to no good result. The difficulty 515 arose from the fact that neither in or out of the House was there any feeling that the act of bribery involved any moral culpability. That was the secret of the whole thing. The speeches on these occasions were very much like platform speeches, which in almost all cases had no meaning in them. The hon. Member for Bristol's great objection seemed to be that the candidate would escape detection and punishment, but the electors would not. And he said that it was perfectly impossible for the House to put an end to bribery and intimidation. The noble Lord the Member for Northampton gave the House to understand that in a contested election where matters were run hard everything was fair. After such expressions of opinion from two Liberal Members, was he overstating the case in maintaining that legislation such as the present was altogether a farce? It appeared to him that there was another view of the subject, which was always omitted upon these occasions. It was an old principle that charity ought to begin at home. Now, without entering upon a discussion whether that was a sound moral principle or not, he would ask the House to let justice begin at home? And how had the House proceeded in this matter? It appeared that a person keeping a post-office, with a wretched salary of £4 a year, was not allowed to vote, from a belief that some imaginary temptations to corruption were thereby guarded against. What must be the feeling of those men when they saw noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen in receipt of as many thousands as they had pounds giving votes in direct opposition to their public pledges? Was that justice? Was it a fair way of dealing with the people of this country? The whole proceeding was monstrous. A messenger rendered services for the remuneration which he received, and yet he, too, was to he precluded from voting, though gentlemen in the enjoyment of large pensions, and whose services it would be hard to define, were freely allowed to sit in that House and vote. A stronger case than any he had previously mentioned was afforded by the "testimonials" which hon. Members were allowed to receive. The gifts dignified by that name were neither more nor less than money paid for the price of a particular vote, and the Member receiving them was unmistakably bound to continue to vote in the same spirit. As long as 516 such a system was upheld, they were bound in consistency to allow voters to receive every shilling they possibly could for their vote.
said, he rose to express his regret, that while he could not support the Motion of which the hon. Member for Bristol had given notice, he could only give the second reading of the Bill a qualified support. He did not desire the Bill to be rejected, because (the measure being a continuation Bill) the country would thereby he deprived of some useful provisions which it contained. The Bill was, however, defective both in form and substance, and contained some clauses which were unnecessarily harsh, and to which he decidedly objected. The Bill was decidedly inferior to the measure introduced last Session by the right hon. Gentleman. That was to some extent a Consolidation Act, and as such very desirable, but the Bill before the House would merely add one more to the sixty or seventy Acts of Parliament to he found in the statute-book professing to regulate the election of Members of Parliament. That was a great evil in itself. If it were for the benefit of all classes that the law on the subject should be well defined and easily ascertained, it must be especially so in the case of Acts regulating the exercise of the franchise by great masses of the people. Now, however, if an elector wished to learn the obligations imposed upon him by the Legislature, he was bound to commence with the reign of Edward I., and to continue his examination of the statute-book down, and in-including the various Acts passed in the present reign. The right hon. Gentleman doubtless hoped, by avoiding the question of consolidation in the present Bill, to escape the innumerable Amendments which clustered round the measure of last year. But that was not a mode in which the Government or the House ought to legislate on topics so deeply affecting the people. It was rather a mockery of legislation, and he therefore hoped the present was merely intended to operate as a temporary arrangement, until the advisers of the Government had time to frame a Consolidation Act. There were also grave omissions from the Bill. It legislated at the wrong end, for, containing as it did very stringent provisions with regard to offending electors and constituencies, it failed to touch the root of the evil. If constituencies were corrupt, who corrupted 517 them? If electors were bribed, who found the money? The candidates in truth; and among those candidates some, of course, were returned to that House. Before the Committee which sat on this subject two years ago several suggestions and propositions for meeting that difficulty were made, but the right hon. Gentleman had not adopted any of these; he contented himself with proposing what had hitherto been found inoperative in practice. But his objections were not limited to the omissions from the Bill. To one proposition introduced into the Bill he decidedly objected, representing as he did a constituency which had suffered by anticipation from the effect of such a clause. It would be in the recollection of the House that after the last general election commissions of inquiry appointed to examine into corrupt practices at Wakefield and Gloucester reported that at Gloucester, with a population of 17,000 and a constituency of 1,700, there were between 300 and 400 corrupt electors; and that at Wakefield, with 950 electors, there were 250 corrupt voters. The House on that occasion adopted a course which, speaking with the greatest humility, he ventured to think was unconstitutional. Of its own mere motion, without intending or professing to legislate, it took on itself to suspend the issue of the writs in both those boroughs, thereby confounding the corrupt with the incorrupt and punishing the innocent with the guilty. After an interval of two years the House, as indiscriminate in its mercy as in its severity, allowed the writs to issue once more, without restriction or legislation, although it knew the name of every person guilty of corruption in either place. It was contrary to every principle of justice to disfranchise the guilty and the innocent alike. There was not the least necessity for it. The commissions upon the Gloucester and Bristol elections were to all intents and purposes judicial inquiries; they were presided over by men of a great deal of judicial experience, and were armed by statute with great powers. They were, in fact, actual trials of the guilt of the persons who were brought before them; and if the Commissioners reported that certain persons were guilty of corrupt practices, and certain others were not, what justice could there be in disfranchising the whole constituency; and thus involving the innocent in the punishment of the guilty? 518 The Commissioners reported that at Gloucester there were a number of gentlemen who had for many years associated themselves together for the express purpose of insuring purity of election, and that they had been sometimes successful, as for instance in 1852, when they brought about a perfectly pure and free election. But because those gentlemen had not always succeeded, and because in a large constituency a comparatively small number of persons were corrupt, those gentlemen who had so greatly exerted themselves to secure purity of election would, nevertheless, be disfranchised by the Bill. That was a grave matter, and he ventured to say that a Bill with such a clause in it would prove inoperative, for the reason that all would be desirous of evading the law. He believed that a more futile measure had never been presented to the House of Commons. The fact was, they were taking too much trouble with the subject, and were seeking by a complex machinery to do that which might be done by a very simple process, which was to excise from the register and disfranchise inexorably not only every one who took, but every one who gave a bribe. With the view of providing for such a course of proceeding, he would propose Amendments in Committee.
said, he thought that much might be done to mitigate bribery, and that every one's experience would satisfy him that the expenses of elections were a great deal heavier before the Corrupt Practices Act than they had been since. Sums were formerly spent on elections to which recent times afforded no parallel. Absolute extirpation, of the evil it was impossible to effect, but they ought not to rest under the reproach of not attempting to do what they could. The House would act imprudently if it would not give a second reading to the Bill, and its defects might be amended in Committee. There was this check upon bribery, that every one who practised it extensively fined himself. In many cases candidates had gone down to boroughs with the bonâ fde intention of paying no money unduly, arid yet they were made responsible by persons over whom they had no control. It was therefore found necessary to provide a check for this practice. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Powell), that the proper remedy for 519 bribery was disfranchisement. On the other hand, the House ought not to confound the innocent with the guilty, for if any severe penal enactments were attempted, the Bill would fail. He trusted that the Bill would be read a second time.
MR. SERJEANT PIGOTT
said, that having much considered the subject, and having heard a great deal of evidence on corrupt practices, he was convinced that the clauses of the Bill would have a very valuable effect in repressing corrupt practices. He did not agree with those who objected to the second clause, which was designed to stop up a very extensive source of corruption—namely, the employment in the business of the election of a number of persons whose services were required only for the purpose of securing their votes. The second clause was, in his opinion, the most valuable in the Bill. The tenth clause was also valuable, for nothing could be more futile than a pretence on the part of the Legislature to discourage bribery and intimidation, and yet to employ a machinery so cumbrous that in not more than one case in a hundred could the law be carried out. He did not concur with the hon. Member for Gloucester that there was injustice in suspending the writs of places guilty of corrupt practices. It was an ancient and equitable principle to hold a community infected by any crime responsible, and that, it was well known, was done in the ease of the hundreds. Thus it would be the interest of the leaders of parties to prevent corruption becoming extensive and systematic. He was of opinion that the Bill had some very valuable provisions, and that the House would do well to read it a second time.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he thought the Bill was not likely to be valuable to any but the Government; who, having lost the name of reformers by abandoning reform, were desirous of doing something to win the name back again. There were many forms of bribery which the measure in no way touched. He would explain a very common form of bribery, by reference to an actual occurrence. When a Gentleman now representing a county in that House had stood for it, all persons, except one gentleman, had thought he had no chance of being returned. That one person said that the hon. Gentleman would be returned, and 520 stated the majority by which he would gain the election. He was returned by a majority within two of the number named. Upon the individual who prophesied the result being asked how he had been able to predict it so accurately, he said that he held the maxim that politics had nothing whatsoever to do with an election; and he merely considered in which way it would be for the interest of persons to vote; that attorneys gave as many mortgages as possible to the surrounding farmers. It was then the interest of the candidate to retain the attorney for the sake of those over whom he had a hold. The attorney received his daily fee, and accompanied the candidate. If the voter was recalcitrant, the attorney said he was in want of money, and must call in the mortgage; and as a renewal of the mortgage would put the farmer to a great expense, the attorney was sure to be bought off by a promise of the vote. This sort of influence was not touched by the Bill. There were many other modes of bribery not touched by the measure. He would, for example, refer to the influence of Lords Lieutenant of counties. A person had been elected as captain in a volunteer corps, and had applied to the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Kent, the present Lord Chamberlain of the Household, to give him the nomination. The Lord Lieutenant, he had been informed, refused, observing that the person in question was a mere costermonger, for he had twice been chairman of the election committee of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Chatham. This person afterwards he-came High Constable of Chatham, and gave a grand dinner to a noble Lord, an eminent Minister of that House, who was brother-in-law to the Lord Lieutenant. After which, the commission so much sought by the person in question was very soon granted. Then, again, a Minister might barter his patronage for votes, and squander the interests of the country in order to benefit a faction. If the Minister were of a cool and cautious temperament, a significant gesture, or a whisper over the shoulder, might be quite sufficient to obtain the desired object; or the Minister might be of a more jovial turn of mind—might love hilarity and good cheer, and become most liberal with his patronage when his cheek was flushed with wine, and his heart was warmed by unwonted fire, and his tongue loosed with unaccustomed eloquence. He would 521 mention a fact that had occurred on October 29, at Chatham. As it concerned the noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty, he had given him notice of his intention to refer to it. The noble Lord went down to Chatham when every one thought a general election was impending, and took with him his brother-in-law, Mr. Otway. Mr. Otway had been rejected by Tynemouth, Stafford, and Chatham, and was again likely to become a candidate for Chatham. At the public dinner the noble Lord made a speech. The noble Lord commenced by apologizing for his appearing there at all; representing, as he did, "another part of the county, the different constituencies of which were like families, somewhat jealous of each other;" for he had not yet visited his own constituency, when he went to Chatham to canvass for Otway. He then went on to say, he might be asked why he had come to Chatham. Now, that was a pertinent question. But the noble Lord himself had answered the query by saying "he went in obedience to superior orders; he had heard a voice saying, 'Paget, you are wanted at Chatham.' " Now, that voice could be no other than that of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government; no one would have ventured to make such large promises as the noble Lord made, without the noble Viscount's authority. The noble Secretary of the Admiralty, however, went on to tell his hearers that "Chatham was about to become one of the most important naval stations in the kingdom." Now, that was a proposition involving probably the expenditure of millions, and of course met with "loud cheers" from the electors of Chatham. The noble Secretary then told them that Chatham was "about to possess the most magnificent arsenal that England, or, in fact, all the world, had ever possessed;" that "the basin accommodation of Chatham would surpass the whole of the boasted basin accommodation of France put together." This was, no doubt, a very good way of conciliating the electors of Chatham, but was not calculated to win the favour of the taxpayers of England. It was for the House to say whether these great works were to be constructed, and those large sums expended. It was not for the noble Secretary to make promises in our name, which we were only to ratify and fulfil. The House was not to be let into the secret of its future conduct by a 522 speech of a Secretary to an after-dinner audience in a dockyard; as if the House were unworthy to be more than that Minister's instrument. But the noble Secretary went somewhat further than that, by telling his audience, the electors of Chatham, that they had no fear of France, for that England "was never in a better position to enter into war nor with a navy in a more efficient state." That speech was certainly not complimentary to the French; nay, it was insulting to them. Although, indeed, the braggadocio may have been in reality directed, not to the conquest of France, but to the corruption of Chatham. Or if it were said in excuse that this speech was merely an after-dinner indiscretion, then it was another instance of what was so common last year—namely, "ministerial mudlarking." After those lugubrious civilities had passed at Chatham, the noble Lord returned to London with his brother-in-law by a special train. Now he (Lord Robert Montagu) should like to know how that train was paid for? Perhaps that transaction was quietly managed by a draw upon the civil contingencies? or, seeing that it was after dinner and wine, was it paid by a vote in excess? He mentioned those facts for the purpose of showing one way by which a Minister might bribe the electors without being restrained by the proposed Bill. Some just remarks had been made, in regard to intimidation. He gathered from the public prints that the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty was accused of having intimidated some of the electors of Totnes into voting for the man of his choice. He had been informed that the noble Duke had issued a threat to turn the electors out of their holdings and deprive them of their cowsheds. He also saw in the leading journal an extract from a local paper stating that "Mr. J. Fender had placed the magnificent sum of £1,000 at the disposal of a committee in order to be applied to the general welfare of the inhabitants of Totnes." But that "the gift had not been promulgated because the election was going on," but the writer of the paragraph said "he saw no reason why it should any longer be kept a secret." Such were the acts of Liberal Members. It was only the name of "Reformers" which' screened them from the ire of the people. He put it to the House to say whether the Bill would, in the least, restrain bribery and corruption from being practised in the three 523 or four modes he had pointed not; and whether the sole object of the Government in bringing it forward was not to recover for themselves an empty reputation as Reformers? For any other end he thought the Bill would be wholly inoperative.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, he should support the second reading, he-cause he believed the Bill would effect an important amendment of the law, while he thought that its rejection would have the effect of throwing the whole law in respect to bribery into confusion.
said, no person was more opposed to bribery than himself. He would, therefore, cordially support the second reading of the Bill. There was, however, one clause very comprehensive indeed, inasmuch as it took within its provisions every agent, attorney, poll-clerk, messenger, and other person employed at elections. It should, however, be recollected that there were many persons employed at elections who were not interested for either of the candidates. It ought to be carefully considered whether those parties, however neutral, ought to he included in the general charge. He totally disagreed with the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Powell) as to the operation of the 11th clause. He thought that that clause conveyed a wholesome warning to constituents against bribery. But there was another class of persons who sinned in a different way. He was concerned some years ago in the investigation of a serious riot, arising from the circumstance that voters had been prevented going to poll in consequence of the crowds of non-electors that assembled round the doors of public-houses, which were kept open during the whole time in close proximity to the polling-places. He thought much mischief might be prevented by requiring those public places to be kept closed during the days of nomination and voting.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
—As the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley) has waived his objection to the second reading of the Bill, it will only be necessary for me to advert to some of the objections made to particular clauses. I readily admit that the Bill will not put a complete and effectual stop to all corrupt practices at elections. I am not presumptuous enough to suppose that I could frame a measure which would achieve that result. As long as human nature remains as it is, 524 as long as there are objects of ambition to be sought after, and persona willing to accept bribes, it will be impossible for any law entirely to prevent corruption. All that can be done is to render bribery as difficult as possible, the detection of bribery as easy as possible, and the punishment of offenders as certain as possible. The noble Lord opposite, who professes to be conversant with all the arts of bribery and corruption, practised in county elections, said he would undertake to evade the Bill in fifty different ways. That may be quite possible; but although we cannot do everything by legislation, that is no reason why we should not attempt to do anything. I do not claim credit for any originality in this measure. It is based on the Resolutions of the Committee of the House which considered and reported upon the Acts in operation some three years ago. A complaint has been made by the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Powell) that the Bill is directed rather against electors than candidates; but in that respect it has followed the recommendations of the Committee, and I think he has not drawn the distinction between those recommendations and proposals that were made and rejected. An hon. Member made a proposal in the Committee, to require a declaration from Candidates, but it was not pressed to a vote. With respect to the clause disqualifying agents, I have to observe that it was contained in a former Act, and evidence was given before the Committee that its omission from the last Act has led to a great deal of bribery. Since the Bill has been printed I have received letters testifying to the importance of the clause, and stating that large numbers of electors have been employed in some places as messengers or in some such capacity to influence their votes. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) has complained that we have disfranchised country postmasters who may not receive more than £4 a year from the State, while leaving in possession of their votes persons in receipt of fixed incomes from the public revenue. I do not propose any change in the law with regard to the holders of post-offices. Their exclusion is part of the existing law which was in force in the last century, which prohibits all persons engaged in the collection of public revenue from voting for Members of Parliament. It is obvious, on the other hand, that retired officers and others in receipt of fixed incomes 525 not held at the pleasure of the Crown may be quite as independent as any other persons in the country. There is no analogy between them and those employed in the collection of revenue. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Reading (Mr. Serjeant Pigott) as to the clause which provides a new mode of dealing with the reports of Commissions of Inquiry, when those Commissions report that extensive bribery has prevailed in certain constituencies. I also agree with the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Powell) that the course pursued by the House as to the writs for Wakefield and Gloucester was open to objection. For this House, without the authority of law, to continue the suspension of writs for any considerable period, is a course which I think should not be encouraged. What is now proposed is that the House should be empowered by law to suspend writs for a limited period in cases where corruption, though not universal, is general and extensive. I believe such a provision, if enacted, would create a general desire in a borough to prevent bribery and corruption, and would induce persons of influence, instead of looking on such practices with indifference, to exert themselves to put down all illegal practices. Some proof of this is efforded by the fact that no complaint of bribery or corruption has been made with regard to the last elections for Gloucester and Wakefield. The hon. and learned Member for Wexford (Mr. M'Mahon) said, that in amending any Act we should take the opportunity to consolidate the whole law on the subject. An attempt of that kind was made last Session; but, as has been already said, a number of Amendments clustered round every clause, and I believe it would be found impossible within any reasonable time to pass such a measure through the House. I have, therefore, thought it better to make this Bill more moderate in its pretensions, embodying in it the main provisions recommended by the Select Committee, I am glad to find that the Motion for the second reading meets with the general assent of the House, and I trust that when we go into Committee the Amendments will be discussed with an earnest desire to make the law as effective as possible.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had not objected to the officers on half-pay having votes; but what he said was, that 526 so long as Members of that House, receiving large salaries and pensions, had votes in that House, it was a hard measure to prevent a post-office employé in. a country town from exercising his right of voting.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
maintained that all illegal payments should be made bribery, and punished accordingly. He announced his intention to propose some Amendments in Committee.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday next.