HC Deb 10 May 1865 vol 179 cc98-104

Order for Committee read.

MR. HUNT moved— That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to extend the provisions of the Bill relating to the powers and duties of revising barristers to the case of registration in cities and boroughs. This Instruction, he explained, did not refer to all the provisions of the Bill, but only to three clauses—first, that revising barristers should have power to make an immediate order as to costs when the objection was frivolous; next, that the revising barrister should read out in an audible tone the corrections he might make in the register; and thirdly, that in order to be able to keep order in his court he should have power to commit for contempt of Court for the day on which he was sitting.

Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to extend the provisions of the Bill relating to the powers and duties of revising barristers to the case of registration in cities and boroughs.—(Mr. Hunt.)

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Overseers to publish Register.)

MR. C. WYNN moved to insert at beginning of clause— The clerk of the peace of every county shall, on or before the 1st day of June in each year, transmit to the overseers of every parish or township within such county a sufficient number of copies of the part or parts of the register relating to such parish or township and the overseers. His object was to secure greater accuracy as well as economy by the abolition of all reprints of the existing registers by overseers for publication in their respective parishes. The only objection he anticipated to the proposition was that this course would transfer the cost of printing from the parishes to the country rate.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Grounds of Objection to be specified in Notice.)

MR. HUNT moved an Amendment which, he said, had been suggested by the hon. Member for Oldham. The clause provided that objections should be made specifically in writing; but he proposed so to alter the clause that objections to the list of claims to be placed on the register should continue to be general.

Amendment moved to insert at commencement— Any notice of objection to any person on the list of claimants for any parish or township, may be given according to the provisions of the seventh section of the principal Act, but with that exception.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 (Each ground of objection to be treated by Revising Barristers as a separate Objection.)


observed, that there was at present no legal form of withdrawing an Objection, and he hoped that the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would endeavour, before its final passing, to supply that deficiency.


said, he did not see the necessity for any positive enactment upon that point, but he would try to ascertain whether he could meet the wish of the hon. Member for Knaresborough.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 7 (Persons claiming Right to vote or objected to, may make Declaration as to Facts of Case.)


said, he proposed to introduce another provision in its place, and he would therefore propose that it should be negatived.

Clause struck out.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 (Such Costs in no Case to exceed £3.)

MR. C. WYNN moved to insert in line 38 after the word "costs" the following words:—"Shall not upon any one vote exceed the sum of £5," on the ground that the maximum of £3 which his hon. Friend proposed would, in many cases, be too small.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 37, to leave out "three," and insert "five,"—(Mr. Charles Williams Wynn,)—instead thereof.


said, that the maximum of costs at present was £1, which was obviously insufficient. The Committee which sat upon the subject last year had recommended £5; but he thought the general view of the House would be met by a maximum of £3.


were of opinion that £3 would be sufficient.


said, that the two revising barristers and an election agent who were examined before the Committee of last Session held that £5 was the proper maximum.


objected to £5 as excessive.


would support the proposition of the author of the Bill.


hoped the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wynn) would divide upon the question. The time had come for putting a stop to the wholesale system of objections. Persons were often obliged to go down from London to the West Riding to defend their votes, and when they arrived there the objections were found to be frivolous and vexatious. He hoped, then, that £5 would be made the maximum.

Question put, "That 'three' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 111: Majority 5.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 (Committal for Contempt.)


said, there was no necessity for the clause. The revising barristers' courts had been in existence now for upwards of a quarter of a century, and he was not aware that during that time any complaint had occurred that they had not been conducted in a proper manner, or that the officers of the court had not been treated with respect; and, therefore, there was no necessity for the introduction of the power of committal. On the other hand, it was to be remembered that revising barristers, though entitled to much respect, were most of them young and inexperienced members of the profession, and he thought the Committee should hesitate before they gave them the power of committal. No grounds had been shown for its introduction into the Bill, and he moved its omission.


said, the power of committal would only extend to one day. He considered that the revising barrister ought to have power to keep order in his own court.


said, he had been requested by several revising barristers to bring this question before the Select Committee in consequence of the great difficulty they experienced in keeping order in their courts. The only way of doing so at present was by adjourning the court and putting an end to the business of the day. He would give an instance of what came under his own notice in one of those courts. A gentleman on that occasion persisted in making seven or eight speeches when he was only entitled to make one; and when spoken to by the revising barrister he defied his power or authority to stop him or to turn him out, and persisted in going on. The consequence was that the barrister was obliged to turn the matter into a joke, and let him speak as often and as long as he pleased. This was the only court in the country where there was no power in the Judge to enforce order. In Ireland the revising barrister had the power.


was opposed to the clause, and considered that the Committee should pause before they gave the power. The revising barristers in Ireland exercised other judicial functions. English revising barristers, though they generally discharged their duties well, were young and inexperienced, and the Committee should be careful in giving them the power of committal. A revising barrister would now be perfectly justified in giving a man into custody who obstructed the proceedings in his court. With regard to making long speeches, he was afraid that was a complaint that was often made of persons who made them other than in revising barristers' courts, and he thought that could hardly be made a ground for committal.


reminded the Committee that this clause would give the revising barrister greater power in this respect than was possessed by the magistrates. The only power the latter had was to order a constable to remove from the court any person who obstructed the proceedings. Revising barristers were many of them only of three years' standing, and he objected to their having a larger power in this respect than was possessed by the magistrates, who were generally sober-minded men of greater experience.


said, the Select Committee had made no recommendation upon the subject, and if the clause was to be retained in the Bill it must first be altered. He thought that power to clear the court would be sufficient for all practical purposes.


said, that the clause gave authority generally to the revising barrister, and was not confined to disturbances in his court.


said, that the revising barrister had no power to order a policeman to remove a person creating disturbance in his court. He should be satisfied if this Bill should give the barristers such a power. He should bring up a clause for that object.


said, disturbance was, no doubt, often caused by the inadequate accommodation provided for the revising barrister in holding his sittings. The sheriff should be empowered to provide proper accommodation for the revising barrister while revising the list of voters.

MR. HOWES moved the rejection of the clause on the ground that it was objectionable in principle, and would be practically inconvenient. The expense of registration was defrayed partly by the Consolidated Fund and partly by the local authorities, and no expense should be incurred beyond what was necessary for the protection of the public against abuse in the registration. The registry was not established for the convenience of agents and canvassers.

Clause struck out.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 struck out.

On Motion of Mr. HUNT, after Clause 3, clauses inserted.

Clause A (20th August last Day for giving Notices of Objection.)

Clause B (1st September last day for Delivery of Papers to Clerk of Peace.)

MR. HUNT moved to insert, in lieu of Clause 7, clause (Persons claiming and omitted from the List, persons objected to, and persons changing their place of abode may make declarations.)

Clause (Persons claiming and omitted from the list, persons objected to, and persons changing their place of abode, may make declarations,)—(Mr. Hunt,)—brought up, and read 1°; 2°; and amended.


objected to the clause, and moved its rejection.


supported the Clause, observing that its provisions were founded on the recommendation of the Committee.


also supported the clause.


thought the clause ought to be omitted.


said, the clause, as it stood at present, did not give the objector the power of substantiating his objections by cross-examining the voters.


said, many voters were objected to simply on the strength of their living at a great distance from the Registration Court, in the hope that they would not take the trouble to assert their rights. He proposed by the clause to give the voters power to make the necessary declaration before the nearest magistrate.


said, the clause was very one-sided, and was not in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.


said, there was a great difference between a mere statutory declaration, and the proposed ex parte declaration which was to be received as evidence in a court. It was not fair to allow one side to put in such a declaration without allowing the other to deal with the matter in the same way. The clause would "sell" a good many people, who would get their declarations as to their right of voting drawn up in a light and careless manner, and when they came into court they would find them not worth the paper they were written on. On the whole, he rather disliked the clause. He should be sorry if these declarations were in any way made to resemble the affidavits of the Court of Chancery.


said, his recollection, as a Member of the Committee, coincided with that of the Under Secretary. There was a great difference between treating the matter as an abstract question and dealing with it practically. The desire of the Committee was to throw difficulties in the way of unscrupulous objectors, but they had not drawn up any formal clause like that now proposed. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire that any proposal to assimilate the declarations with the affidavits of the Court of Chancery would at once condemn the clause.


was of opinion that it would be extremely difficult to render the clause operative even if it were included in the Act.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 99: Majority 11.

In reply to Mr. HIBBERT,


said, that he did not purpose extending the provisions of the Bill to voters in boroughs as well as in counties. He was desirous that the Bill should become law by the next registration, and he was afraid that great delay would be caused unless they confined the measure to voters in counties.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 135.]