§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ New Clause (Payment of expenses of conveying voters to the poll illegal).
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Before we proceed further with the discussion of the clause moved the other day by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert), I would take the liberty of calling the attention of the Committee generally to the position in which this measure is placed; and I will conclude with a Motion, so that any hon. Gentleman may be enabled to favour us with his opinion on the subject. Although the Government, I hope, have at no time unreasonably pressed the Committee to prosecute their labours in regard to this Bill, I am quite sure there must be a general wish on the part of the House that the other House of Parliament should have ample time afforded it for giving it their 991 calm and deliberate consideration. Her Majesty's Government, after having taken into their consideration the opinions expressed on the subject of re-distribution by the Committee through the divisions which have occurred, think they are justified in placing this interpretation upon them—that, subject to the modified clause of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), the feeling of the House is in favour of the general scheme for the redistribution of seats which we have proposed. If that be the general feeling of the Committee I would suggest—and of course it is a line which we can take only with the general concurrence of the Committee—I would, I say, suggest that, after settling the clause of the hon. Member for Oldham, we should be permitted to go into the consideration of the Schedules. I do not myself anticipate that the consideration of the Schedules need be of that lengthened and laborious character which some hon. Members have supposed. But, until the Schedules are concluded, I feel that there is a vagueness as to the time when we may reach the close of our labours which is very detrimental. I think that, after discussing and settling the Schedules, we might consider — perhaps even with more advantage — the clauses which hon. Gentlemen have still on the Paper, and which they could then bring up on the Report. I invite the views of hon. Members on this suggestion. It is one, of course, which Her Majesty's Government could not think for a moment of endeavouring to force upon the Committee. Indeed, they would wish that it should meet with very general concurrence. But it is our opinion that, under all the circumstances, this is a course it would be desirable to follow. It is necessary that there should be a clear understanding that, with regard to these Schedules, we do not in any way put them on the table of the House as being so perfect and mature that the Government are of opinion they should be treated by the House as measures which we wish to have passed unmodified. The House will recollect the circumstances under which the Schedules were prepared. The period allowed the Government was very brief. It was only during the Whitsuntide recess. They were prepared with great care, from information existing in the Government offices, by persons who were competent for the duty, and who were not under the influence of party opinions in 992 politics. But no doubt there was not necessarily that most recent local knowledge in reference to these Schedules which might have been of advantage. All I can say is that they were framed with an anxious desire to place before the House the best scheme which could be laid before them, and one which was necessary to complete the Bill. Besides our general confidence in the machinery we have proposed to the House, we have submitted to the Committee, and the Committee have adopted provisions, granting large powers to the Boundary Commissioners. It seems to me, then, that if the House generally approve, which they appear to have done, the scheme of the Government with respect to re-distribution, we may leave, with perfect confidence to the Commissioners, many points of detail which properly qualified persons will be able to urge before them with much greater advantage than could be done in Committee of the whole House. I do not therefore apprehend that any great period of time need be expended here in settling the Schedules as far as we can. It is only a provisional settlement. All of these Schedules will be immediately submitted to the consideration of men who will have every means of forming a correct opinion. Therefore, I trust the House will not require much time to consider them. Thus far as regards the county Schedules. As to those for the boroughs, it will be found that a moiety or more than a moiety of these seats are for places which are already represented; so that there will be no probability of any great question arising in respect to these boroughs. There then remain the thirteen new seats which we proposed to give to boroughs, but which must now be reduced to nine. So that we should have before us only nine new seats to consider. The four new places that to which, after due deliberation, we find that we cannot recommend, under the altered circumstances in which we are placed by the votes of the Committee, that representation should be granted, would be St. Helen's, Keighley, Luton, and Barnsley. In respect to the nine remaining places I hope there will not be found to be any important elements of controversy. The Committee will bear in mind that it will be open to the Boundary Commissioners to examine these places exactly as in the case of the counties. None of us may be prepared to relinquish our right ultimately to form a judgment on these subjects, 993 though, generally speaking, I believe the decision of the Boundary Commissioners will give satisfaction. Under these circumstances, I beg to move that you, Sir, report Progress, in order that any hon. Gentleman who desires to do so may favour the House with his views as to whether we should proceed to the Schedules in the manner I have indicated.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair." — (Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he had a new clause to propose, and he feared he would propose it at a disadvantage on the bringing up of the Report. It appeared to him that Members having new clauses would labour under great disadvantage if the only opportunity they were to have for discussion were to be the occasion to which he had referred. He did not know that it was the custom of the House to postpone new clauses until after the Schedules had been disposed of, but if that was to be the course he would respectfully suggest to the Committee to take the Schedules then, on the understanding that the clauses were merely postponed. The clause he had to propose was of great interest to his own constituency, and he should be sorry if by any chance it fell through. At the same time he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in wishing to facilitate the progress of the Bill as much as possible.
I beg to say that I think there is a great deal of reason in the proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just submitted to the notice of the Committee. Everybody who knows anything about the question of Reform must be aware that hon. Members might go on proposing clauses for several weeks, and that points would still remain which would not be satisfactorily adjusted. I would therefore recommend the Committee to take the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer advises us to adopt, and to proceed with that which is really the great question before us, because it is impossible for us to settle every point which may suggest itself to Members of this House. But while I say this, I feel extremely dissatisfied, and I am sure the Committee must feel dissatisfied, with the course which the Government propose to take with regard to those four seats which are to be given to the four large towns. When this question was first brought before 994 the House by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), it was with the distinct understanding that in order to provide six seats for six large towns, as he suggested, certain small boroughs should be disfranchised or grouped together. That proposal was negatived. After that there was much discussion among Members on both sides of the House, and I think the general feeling was that a greater number of Members ought to be allotted to the large towns. A proposal with that object was accordingly submitted to the Committee, not by a Member sitting on these Benches, but by a devoted and intelligent adherent of the Government—the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall)—who was supported by his Colleague, as well as by one of the hon. Members for Leeds (Mr. Beecroft), both followers of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The proposal; was entirely in accordance with our views, and we were almost unanimous in concurring in its adoption. But then arises the question where the four seats are to be I found which it was decided should be given to the four large towns in the North. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to strike out of the Schedules for the purpose four towns which he has acknowledged, I by the fact that he has placed them in the Schedules, to have a claim to be represented. The right hon. Gentleman has laid down this principle—I do not agree I with it, but it may for this case be accepted—that you should proceed in any scheme of re-distribution on the rule of discovering places that have claims to be, and require to be, enfranchised, and that having found them you should enfranchise them, and supply them with Members by taking those Members from smaller be roughs which have not the same claims to be represented which the others possess. Having applied that rule, the right hon. Gentleman came, after careful consideration, to the conclusion that St. Helen's, in Lancashire, Keighley, in Yorkshire, Barnsley, in Yorkshire, and Luton, in Bedfordshire, ought to be enfranchised. They were precisely the class of towns he has always spoken of in his speeches, and he knows perfectly well where—in accordance with the principle he has laid down in a dozen speeches both in the present and in former Sessions—it is the duty of the House to look for those four seats, and that is in some of the small boroughs which it would be a great advantage to the country to have disfranchised. I beg to 995 tell the Committee that, as I have repeatedly heard from Members for those extremely little boroughs, and from respectable and intelligent persons living in them, they could scarcely confer a greater benefit on any one of them than to disfranchise it. I referred the other day to a little borough—I mean Dartmouth, and to a letter which I received from one of its constituency. I was sorry I had not the letter by me at the time, because I know the hon. Member (Mr. John Hardy) who represents that constituency would like to hear what it contains. I have, however, brought it down with me this evening. A gentleman writes to me from Dartmouth, and says—I am an old Reformer, and have resided in this borough more than twenty years. Let me entreat you, as a true foe to corruption, to make an effort to prevent this borough retaining its Parliamentary importance, as proposed by Mr. Disraeli. The place is as corrupt as Totnes, and if Government would send a commission on inquiry here, startling confirmatory facts could be elicited.As to those facts I can say nothing, except what I am told in this letter—The first time Mr. Hardy was returned here about £6,000 was spent in bribery.I hope this is an exaggeration. For ought I know it might have been spent as much by one side as by the other.And the last time he was returned, although unopposed, it is well known that it was by means most disgraceful. At one election here one man was paid £300 for his vote about three o'clock in the afternoon, and tenants have been evicted by the score for daring to vote as they wished. The boundary of the borough extends in one direction nearly four miles; no extension or rectification will ever cure our corruption. In conclusion, let me ask the Liberal party in the House of Commons to use every effort to extinguish this place as a separate borough.["Name, name."] The name of the writer is W. H. Rees. I asked him if he had any objection to my making this use of his letter, and he said, "No; I am perfectly satisfied that what I have stated is true, and if a Commission of Inquiry should be issued I have no doubt they would find that the facts of the case are as I have represented them to be." I feel no pleasure in bringing forward a matter of this nature, which may give pain to any hon. Member in this House; but I recollect having had my attention Repeatedly drawn to those small boroughs by those by whom they were represented. One Gentleman, who occupied the position of Lord Mayor of London, and who, not very long since, sat 996 for a small borough in the West, once said to me, "If you go to my borough and hold a meeting there, I believe you may get an almost unanimous vote in favour of its disfranchisement." There is no doubt that the truly respectable and thoughtful, the moral and religious men of both parties, concur in the opinion that throughout the whole of those small boroughs, where, I undertake to say, there can be no freedom of election, the representation as it now exists is demoralizing to the towns, and injurious to them in every respect. If that be true—and I think I have never said anything more true in this House—I cannot help expressing my regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not taken, the four Members to be given to the large towns from those small boroughs which it would be a blessing to disfranchise, leaving Keighley, St. Helen's, Barnsley, and Luton to be represented in the House of Commons as he originally proposed. I do not wish to bring forward any proposal which might be calculated to retard the progress of this Bill. I am as anxious as any other hon. Member that no obstacles should be thrown in its way. For that reason I have abstained from moving any Amendments in it. It is true I made a suggestion with respect to the Clause relating to the Boundary Commission, but it consisted of only a few words. I abstained from proposing Amendments myself, and have addressed the Committee only with respect to Amendments proposed by others. But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would deal with those four seats as I have suggested, he would give great satisfaction to the country. So far as I am concerned, I have discountenanced and discouraged any attempt at interposing Amendments of any kind which would be likely to delay the progress of this measure, and even though the right hon. Gentleman should not think fit to take the course I have indicated I shall be glad to see the Bill pushed forward as rapidly as the rules and practice of the House will permit.
§ MR. JOHN HARDY
said, he regretted that the hon. Member for Birmingham had chosen to become a receptacle for—he would not say anonymous letters. He was sure, however, that the Committee would not attach much importance to the document which the hon. Gentleman had just read, when they learnt that it emanated from one of those pure-minded Nonconformists who qualified for Totnes, and was 997 a voter for that immaculate borough. It appeared from the evidence which had been taken before the Totnes Committee, that that gentleman and some others went down to Totnes once a year and cut a cabbage to show that they had property within its limits. He did not mean to contend that Dartmouth was immaculate, but something like those occurrences to which the hon. Gentleman referred would, he apprehended, take place in Birmingham if a Conservative went down there and tried to get returned. If the hon. Gentleman presented himself at Dartmouth, and sought to turn him out, he would have to bribe like a Whig. It was the old story — the bad habits of boroughs—large and small. Bribery was not confined to the small boroughs. Witness the queer proceedings at Huddersfield and Wakefield. In comparison with those places Dartmouth deserved to have another Member, and he would recommend the Committee—following the advice given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) with regard to Sheffield—to try that mode of dealing with it rather than to take away the Member it had, It was true a man had received £300, a man who had supported the Conservative party for years. At the last moment his principles gave way before the tremendous prize offered him. But the temptation came from the Whig side. Since he (Mr. Hardy) had become connected with the borough there had, in those respects, been a great improvement. The gentleman whose name the hon Member had mentioned had come to him, and had expressed himself very handsomely, and they sat down to luncheon together in the most friendly manner possible. They said, "We wont oppose you because, if a Liberal comes forward, he must bribe." The fact was, the Conservative feeling was strong in the borough, and if the Whigs thought fit to go there with the view of turning out the Conservative Member, they could not expect to do that without having recourse to bribery. They it was who caused all the mischief, and if they would only let the borough alone there would be no bribery. The things to which the hon. Gentleman alluded might happen anywhere. Our first parents fell, being tempted by a gentleman who was, he believed, described by a great authority as the first Whig. Dartmouth was a seaport, and was once a much more important place than Birmingham. He could not understand 998 how any good Liberal could find it in his heart to disfranchise a borough which was so near Torbay, the spot oil which our great deliverer (William III.) landed.
said, he hoped to be allowed shortly to state why Luton, which was in the county he represented, had claims to be represented. Luton was one of the largest and most improving towns in the South of England. The population at the last Census was upwards of 17,000, and at the present time it was 20,000. The rental was £59,475 annually. Upwards of £1,500,000 was turned over annually in the straw trade, which extended over all the surrounding district. There was one firm alone in Luton which turned over £160,000 annually, and which had establishments in London, New York, and Florence. Within the last six years thirty-six new streets had been built. The rateable value of the property in 1859 was £45,520. It was now £69,479. Lord Russell, in the Aberdeen Government, proposed to give a third Member to Bedfordshire on account of the various interests to be represented. The case had not been fairly stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though of course he did not charge the right hon. Gentleman with intentional unfairness. When an Act of Parliament was being drawn up which should regulate the Representation of the People, care should be taken that all the great interests of the country should be fairly included, it was not fair that these boroughs should be deprived of the prospect of representation in order that certain large towns should have three Members. But did the right hon. Gentleman think that the large towns would be satisfied with this concession? He wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer had adhered to the decision of the House of Commons. If he had done so he would have shown proper consideration to those Gentlemen who had done much to sacrifice their own opinions in order to give the Government a constant support. He hoped that even yet the right hon. Gentleman might be induced to re-consider his decision.
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, he approved of the withdrawal of the claims of the smaller boroughs in favour of the more eminent claims of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Birmingham. He thought that this sealed the contract between the friends of this Bill and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 999 and he had no doubt that by this course the passing of the Bill would be much expedited. He would therefore postpone for the present moving the new clause of which he had given notice.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he was no more favourable to the proposal to take away the four Members from the towns which had been promised them than the hon. Member for Birmingham, and he could not concur with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in believing that the Government scheme of re-distribution would be a permanent settlement, or satisfactory to the country. At the same time he was so desirous for the passing of this great measure of enfranchisement that he most cordially concurred in the present suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was now the 4th of July, and it would be impossible, if they went on discussing all the new clauses standing on the paper, that the Bill could be sent up to the House of Lords in reasonable time.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, the course which the Member for Stockport (Mr. J. B. Smith) had adopted in his own case was the rule of action that Members should follow. Any one who felt that the point which he wished to bring under the notice of the Committee was not of that extreme importance that made it necessary to press it forward, would do wisely to abstain from proposing it, but he deprecated any interference with the ordinary forms adopted by the House. There never was a case in which it was necessary that all the forms provided to ensure mature deliberation should be so carefully observed as with regard to this Bill. He was not speaking merely in reference to its great importance, altering, as it did, the Constitution of the country; but the origin of the Bill, the way it had been altered from day to day and from week to week, the way in which it had sprung suddenly into new features in the brain of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as each emergency arose, warned them of the danger of being hustled into the assent of principles of which they did not approve. Let them look at the way the proceeding suggested would bear upon the feelings of the populations with whom they were proposing to deal. They had a sudden proposal to deprive of the enfranchisement intended for them four boroughs which had been nursing themselves with the expectation of what was in store for them, and surely it was only common justice to 1000 allow a sufficient interval to pass to enable them to express an opinion upon the harsh measure now proposed in their case. Some of the Amendments on the paper might be fairly withdrawn, but there were others which must be decided before the Schedule could be discussed. Amongst these were the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) to give another Member to his division of the county, the proposals to give two Members to certain boroughs, and the two proposals with respect to cumulative voting. The usual course in these cases was to act by consent, trusting to the patriotism of the House of Commons. Those who felt that their proposals might fairly be deferred to another Session would not stand in the way of the Government; while those who felt that their proposals ought to be decided upon before the Committee went into the Schedules would no doubt persist. The House would be guilty of great temerity if they set aside the forms which had been so long established, and thrust Members violently out of the way that they might hasten by a few days the passing of this Bill.
said, it must be remembered that they were dealing with a measure of gigantic proportions. He was very desirous to put forward that measure, and a great disposition had been shown on both sides of the House to put it forward. Considering the importance, the variety, and the necessary complexity of the subjects they had discussed, he thought the measure had proceeded with remarkable rapidity. If it were true that they were far advanced in the Session, the position in which they were was due to any or all causes rather than a disinclination on the part of the House to make reasonable progress with the measure. What had happened? They had gone into Committee, they had discussed the clauses of the Bill, they had disposed of all the new clauses proposed by the Government, and some three or four proposed by private Members, and they were asked now to waive the right of proposing clauses in Committee. He quite agreed that any clause that could be proposed as an Amendment upon the Schedule ought to be so proposed, instead of being brought forward as a separate clause. He had proposed no Motion since April relating to the Bill, being content to take his part in supporting or opposing the Amendments of others. The only proposal he had to make was as 1001 to the representation of South Lancashire, and he took that course because he certainly did not feel, considering the political relations between them, that he could apply to either of his Colleagues to undertake the duty. He must altogether abandon that proposal unless he brought it forward before they came to the Schedules. The Schedule relating to counties was to be filled up by counties and divisions of counties to be represented by two Members each. As his proposal was that two divisions of South Lancashire should be represented by three Members each, it would be inconsistent with that Schedule. He had every desire to assist the progress of the Bill, but he was sorry to say he could not possibly accede to this proposal.
§ SIR THOMAS LLOYD
said, that as one of the Members in charge of a clause, he rose to state, in consequence of what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that his desire was to consult the convenience of the House. As he had from the commencement of the Session done all in his power to facilitate the passing of the Bill, he would act consistently to the end, and in deference to the House postpone his clause, which he considered a very important one, until the Report.
§ MR. LOWE
said, had the Government brought in early this Session a Bill founded on clear and broad principles, and stuck to it during the Session, they might then with great justice have appealed to hon. Gentlemen at this advanced period of the Session, and requested them to withdraw their own private views in order to facilitate the passing of the measure. It is not our fault that we have not made greater progress. The Government begun with Resolutions, of which most of us appear to have forgotten every thing except the two leading ones—the double vote and giving no one class a predominance over the rest. That was not much in a direction to help us to make up our minds. The next thing was to bring forward a £6 rating qualification. That also was abandoned. That did not help us to make up our minds. Then they took a fortnight or three weeks to make a new Bill which they brought forward. That Bill had no difficulty in being read a second time and getting into Committee. But since it has been in Committee it has exhibited one uninterrupted course of Protean change, so that hardly anything originally proposed is left. That, Sir, is not all. The Bill contained a new, violent, startling, 1002 and, as I think, a revolutionary change, reducing the borough franchise to household suffrage. That was sheltered by a number of safeguards, every one of which has been abandoned. After their abandonment private Members, as for instance the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Poulett Scrope) and others tried to introduce safeguards, all of which have been rejected. We have now the principle of household suffrage pure and simple. Everything that tended to mitigate or moderate it has been swept away. Hon. Gentlemen opposite scarcely realize the state of affairs. They go on looking at the matter as if they could now treat the measure in the same way as they could before this enormous stride was made. The truth is that this measure must be brought in some degree into conformity with the state to which we have reduced the borough franchise. Never was there an occasion when there was more necessity to consider the state of things which this borough franchise has created, and to introduce measures calculated to mitigate the extreme violence and rashness of the change. We have to bring the rest of the measure into accordance with what has been already done. The measure was framed under very different circumstances to those which now exist, and before we dismiss it so changed from our hands, it is our duty to consider how we are to bring the re-distribution part of the measure into harmony with what has been already done, and if we can at this eleventh hour mitigate the fearful consequences some of us apprehend. The Government erred not only in the frequent changes they had proposed, they also erred in the order of their business. The first step for the Government to take, and which they probably would have taken had they known what they meant to do, would have been to issue the Boundary Commission to ascertain the population and the constituency within certain boundaries. The next step should have been to re-distribute upon the data so obtained. The third step should have been, having before them the electoral chart of the country, to settle what franchises should be given. The Government have inverted that procedure, they have turned things upside down; and now we are told we must forego every chance of amending the Bill, in order to extricate the Government from its difficulties. My own Motion is for cumulative voting — the last and only chance, a very small one, I fear, of mitigating 1003 the violent change the Conservative Government have brought upon the country. I will be no party to abandon the country to this strange and violent measure forced upon us, as I say, by hon. Gentlemen opposite, without making one effort to introduce something to mitigate its evils. I should feel that I was deserting my duty if I did so. ["No, no!"] If hon. Gentlemen say "No," I ask them to consider what the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has declared. Does he approve this change? After agitating the country the whole autumn for household suffrage, now it is given, how does he like it? I am reminded of the landlord in Lord Lytton's Pelham, who gives a bad dinner to a number of persons who are not very good judges of gastronomy, and who, being called, is forced to drink up a glass of his own wine, which nearly kills him. I say it is Gentlemen opposite that are to blame for the present state of things, not we; not even those who would have been well content, delighted to have a fixed fast line of £5 rating. You have forced this on us, and thrown on us the duty of Conservatives, which you yourselves have abandoned. I accept it as far as I am myself concerned, and I will not abandon cumulative voting till I have taken the opinion of the Committee upon it.
§ MR. LAING
said, he was content to adopt the course suggested by the Government with regard to the Amendment for grouping boroughs of which he had given notice. He did so, not because he had changed his opinion, but because the proposal of the Government was the best that could be made with reference to the situation in which they stood. They had now arrived at a period when it was impossible to doubt a very little additional delay would seriously imperil the fate of the measure. He did not pretend that the Bill was all he could desire, or that it arrived at the end proposed in the way he could most have wished. But taking things as they stood, as practical men, they ought not to run the risk of throwing the measure over the Session. That would not be a Conservative solution, but a national calamity. On these grounds, he was perfectly satisfied to adopt the course suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and hold over his Motion respecting grouping till the Report, so that the Committee might proceed without further delay to the Schedules.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, 1004 he must complain very strongly of the manner in which the Government had dealt with one of the most prosperous and thriving districts in the country—the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Bill had disfranchised two boroughs in that division, Ripon and Knaresborough, but it had promised to give a Member to both Keighley and Barnsley. That promise was now withdrawn, and while the division lost two Members it received in turn only one—namely, the additional Member for Leeds. He repeated that that was not the manner in which a district of such great and growing wealth and importance should be treated. The step had been taken by the Government without giving the division he represented any time to consider the position in which it was placed.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he had a suggestion on the Paper, which would not take many minutes to discuss; but he would consult the convenience of the Government as to the time when it should be brought forward. He thought the Bill much too valuable to be imperilled by the delay occasioned by discussions which did not directly affect it. The difficulty had arisen from attempting to unite re-distribution with an extension of the franchise. He should still be content to pass this excellent Bill in relation to the franchise only, and to leave the re-distribution of seats till next Session. He was afraid that if they passed this scheme of re-distribution they would have inequalities almost as great as those which they were seeking to remove.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Assuming, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a right to do, that the great body of the House are really anxious to pass the measure this Session, the proposal he has made is a fair and reasonable one. Of course, we all understand the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. He objects altogether to proceed with the Bill. He has avowed his hostility to anything of the kind, and wishes to delay the measure altogether. [Mr. LOWE: Not in the least.] Then he must have altered his opinions. He has, at all events, denounced Reform from both sides of the House. The proposal of the Government is not an unreasonable one, nor is it unusual. It can, however, only be carried out by consent of those who have Amendments on the Paper. Out of the thirty-eight or forty clauses that might be moved before we come to the Schedules, thirty-two might as well be 1005 moved on the Report as at a previous stage. Then there are proposals for giving additional Members to particular places. If we are to take these all in succession we may remain here till the end of September. But the common sense of the House is against taking all the Motions at present in detail, and the right hon. Gentleman has given expression to the feeling of the House by the proposal he has made. Therefore I would suggest as to these clauses, that hon. Members would exercise a wise discretion were they to tell their constituents when they see them again, that they found the temper of the House was not favourable to these clauses, and that there was no chance of their receiving any substantial support; therefore they did not think it desirable to press them. If that class of clauses be withdrawn, the other new clauses could be discussed just as well upon the bringing up of the Report as in Committee. I do not see why even the very important proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne in favour of cumulative voting cannot be discussed by the House when Mr. Speaker is in the Chair, when doubtless the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make out a case in its favour. I think that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a reasonable one; that its acceptance will really facilitate the despatch of public business, and enable us to look forward to a period not very long deferred when we may get out of Committee.
§ MR. HENRY BEAUMONT
said, he had been greatly surprised on coming down to the House that evening to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to take the promised seat from Barnsley. Against that proposal he begged, on behalf of Yorkshire, to tender his humble protest. They should rather consider the claims to additional seats of such places as Doncaster and Rotherham.
§ MR. J. HARDY
said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Beaumont) that three or four years ago an additional Member was given to the West Riding of Yorkshire.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer having announced his scheme for obtaining the four additional seats required, had proposed that the Committee should at once proceed to the consideration of the Schedules. Were the Committee to agree to these 1006 Schedules they would be bound to accept the plan of the right hon. Gentleman for taking the four Members from the four boroughs he had named. It was never thought that Members would not be given to three of the largest of the new boroughs, and time should be given to the inhabitants of those towns to have their opinion on the subject represented to the House. He considered that even the best proposal of the right hon. Gentleman for the re-distribution of seats was unsatisfactory, and he was not very sorry that it should be more so, because they might then expect that they should re-open the question in a year or two. He appealed to the Committee and to the right hon. Gentleman himself whether such a proposal was a reasonable one. The right hon. Gentleman had not given them satisfactory information as to the area of the boroughs from which he proposed to take the four seats. In the absence of such information it was unreasonable to ask those who felt an interest in those places to assent at once to a proposal to deprive them of the promised representation. To adopt the course indicated by the right hon. Gentleman would be to betray the Committee to commit themselves to a decision that night, which would be a most undesirable proceeding.
said, that without some such concession on the part of private Members as was asked for by the right hon. Gentleman, it was obvious the Bill could not be passed within a reasonable time. Holding that opinion, he was prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. They could not expect that this contemptible scheme of re-distribution would be satisfactory. They should not, however, interfere with the good work in which they were engaged, but hasten this Bill through, and it would be the first study of the new reformed Parliament to correct what was objectionable. Then they would have a re-distribution of seats that would make the Members of the House of Commons really the representatives of the people of England.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The Government felt it to be their duty to submit the proposal I have made to the Committee, and I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the manner in which the Committee have received that proposal. I trust to the good sense and to the good temper of the Committee to settle this question. I have not the 1007 slightest wish to interfere in any way with the rights of private Members. I do not think that the general feeling of the Committee is at all opposed to the suggestion I threw out. Of course, if the proposal be adopted, such a line of conduct must be pursued as will be consistent with the rights of hon. Members who may have Motions to bring forward which will really affect the re-distribution of seats, and which are not merely introduced for show or at the request of constituents. It is not necessary that the Committee should come to a decision on the subject to-night. I hope, however, that hon. Members will think over the proposal, and will give it their best consideration. I will not now discuss the points which have been raised by various hon. Gentlemen, as there will be ample opportunity for Her Majesty's Government to meet any objections to the course they propose on a future occasion. I will merely advert to what has fallen from the noble Lord (Lord Frederick Cavendish), from which it would appear that he thinks I have treated the county of York with great injustice in withholding seats from certain boroughs. In reply to his remarks, I can only say that out of the forty-five seats at our disposal, we have given five to that county, four of which have been given to that division of the county which he represents. I beg to withdraw the Motion to report Progress.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he supported the clause. The case of counties, no doubt, was different from that of boroughs, and there were difficulties in the way of applying the clause to them. But he could not see that it was a very great tax upon persons if once in three or four years they were to pay half-a-crown for a vehicle or walk half-a-dozen miles to record their votes. If there were no questions of bribery involved in the matter he would be still opposed to the present system on the ground of excessive expense. He had heard of £230,000 being spent in fourteen county elections, and in one case in Yorkshire the sum had been as high as £27,000. Generally a county contest cost between £4,000 and £5,000. The consequence of this was that not the best men but the richest men were put forward. He was opposed to the present system upon the ground that the expenses of elections ought to be lessened, so as to allow men of moderate means to give the 1008 benefit of their experience to the country. The candidate who engaged a number of carriages to bring his voters to the poll, no doubt offered an incentive to the persons from whom he obtained them to vote for their employer. But in boroughs no persons could think of bringing voters to the poll in carriages except out-voters. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) said the other night that it would be looked upon as a very dirty thing if they were to throw upon other people the expenses which are now borne by the candidates, and the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) replied that if such were public opinion, the sooner it was changed the better. He did not believe that such was public opinion. Public opinion, on the contrary, was this — that if that House were to continue the present system they would be legislating in their own favour. The greater number of Members were rich men, and people believed that they wished to keep that House a close borough. He would vote, therefore, not only for the present proposal, but for any other which would tend to diminish the present excessive expenditure.
said, he was sorry it had been determined not to apply this clause to counties, though it was the more obvious and easier course. There were no doubt difficulties in the way, but he regretted the Committee quitting this subject without making any attempt to diminish county election expenses. There were two classes of county electors who would scarcely be able to give their votes at all if they were not allowed to be conveyed to the poll—namely, those who resided outside the counties, and those who, though living within them, were at a considerable distance from a polling booth. He was aware of an instance in which one-sixth of the constituency lived outside the county. When non-residents or voters at a distance were canvassed, one of the first questions they asked was, whether they would have their travelling expenses paid? He admitted the difficulty, but he did not see the remedy. Voting papers might have provided a remedy. When the subject of voting papers was under discussion he had come down to the House greatly divided in mind as to how he should vote. He was inclined to think now that they had come to a wrong decision on that matter. At all events, if they did not adopt voting papers to the full extent, 1009 they ought to have adopted them so far as related to non-resident voters who had to be brought from distances, a thing which mainly contributed to swell the election expenses. He remembered an instance in which the travelling expenses of voters had amounted to nearly £1 a-head, which was about one-half or two-fifths of the whole expenses. Another remedy was additional polling places. If hon. Gentlemen would only put their shoulders to the wheel in this matter they might make one of the most useful reforms. A circle with a radius of six miles would probably contain twenty parishes, or one of seven miles twenty-five or thirty parishes, and he thought there might be a polling place for every such district. He would not leave the matter to the discretion of Quarter Sessions — a tribunal excellent for many purposes and composed of high-minded English gentlemen; but being composed almost entirely of landowners it could not be expected to show perfect impartiality in political questions. It might be thought that to keep up the expense of elections had a Conservative tendency, as keeping the representation in the hands of men of large fortunes; but even if this were the case, how many ancient and wealthy families had been ruined by the expenses of contested elections? The present state of things was eminently unsatisfactory. With regard to the Bill itself, he looked upon it as in some degree imperilled by the length of time its discussion had occupied, and he fully concurred with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the clauses to which he had referred should be postponed until after the Schedules. He hoped that election expenditure would — if not now—on a future occasion be placed on a satisfactory footing.
§ MR. ALGERNON EGERTON
said, he objected to the application of the clause to counties where the poor could not walk the long distances. The result would be to give an advantage to rich landowners, whose tenants would be glad to oblige them by lending all their carts and conveyances. But he would join cordially in support of any proposal for diminishing the expense of elections, which was felt as a heavy tax, and often an intolerable one.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, that though prepared on principle to apply the clause universally, he hoped the hon. Member for Oldham would consent, as a compromise, to exclude counties and the 1010 four boroughs which were in the nature of counties. The expense of conveyances in some boroughs were the heaviest items of charge, and had virtually revived the property qualification. It being in some boroughs looked upon as almost un-English to walk to the poll, the expense, with an enlarged franchise, would be alarming. Possibly, the greatest danger of all was the increasing power of the purse, which appeared to be far too great already. It was said that the voters would be practically disfranchised if the proposal were carried, but the candidate was not to enfranchise the voter with his money. If the vote was regarded as a favour conferred upon the candidate, it led directly to the conclusion that the candidate was to pay the voter's rates, and whatever was necessary to enable him to vote, and this principle led directly to bribery. A vote was not a favour conferred upon the candidate — at least it ought not to be so. Were that the right view to take of it the voter was logically entitled to recompense for loss of time, and, in fact, to sell his vote on the best terms he could. The Constitution did not so regard it, It was no part of the duty of the candidate to enable a man to vote, and on the principle of selection the man who would take the trouble to go to the poll, and would not mind incurring a little expense for conveyance, showed his fitness for the franchise. If, as had been said by the hon. Member for Rochester, nobody in his borough would walk half a mile to vote for him—[Mr. WYKEHAM MARTIN said he had not made such a remark]—it only showed that persons of that kind were not entitled to the suffrage.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he could not understand why, if there was a principle involved, the hon. and learned Gentleman could consent to exempt counties and four boroughs from its application. [Sir ROBERT COLLIER said he had only suggested this as a compromise.] But was he prepared to conduct legislation upon the principle of compromising his opinions? A more immoral doctrine he had never heard. He protested against counties and boroughs being treated differently, Many of his constituents were seven miles distant from the poll, and it would be unfair to prohibit the conveyance of these while allowing more well-to-do persons to be brought up from a distance to county elections. As for the multiplication of polling-places proposed by the noble Lord (Lord Henley) 1011 this would involve greater expense to the candidate than the conveyance of voters. The observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were specially applicable to this clause, which was more fit for a Select Committee.
§ MR. PAULL
said, it was impossible for the Committee to entertain such a variety of proposals as were submitted to them. He understood that the Select Committee on Corrupt Practices were in favour of an alteration of the present law permitting the conveyance of voters to the poll. The hon. Gentleman's object would not be accomplished by the clause proposed, and it was only a waste of time to discuss it. What was to prevent a candidate from hiring carriages for himself? Any gentleman might hire two or three carriages for himself and his private friends, and cause them to enter the town where they were wanted. He would then be using his own carriages, and the law could not touch him. But a jobmaster would come under penalties if he allowed a candidate to hire his carriages for the purposes of his election. He recommended the withdrawal of the clause, with a view to the discussion of the subject at a future period.
§ MR. P. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, he must deny that he had stated on a former occasion that no constituent of his would go half a mile to vote for him. He thought in many cases the clause would prove a great hardship to many working men whose time was very limited. He hoped, therefore, the Committee would negative it. It was very hard in large boroughs, on men who had only an hour for dinner, to have to walk a distance to the poll. In the case of the dockyards the men got a half-holiday.
said, he thought it would be wise to withdraw this clause. If the Committee settled all the questions relating to enfranchisement and the distribution of seats, these two great matters would be quite as much as they could get through this year. Such matters as were provided for by the clause would be much better considered next February or March than now. Whatever was done now would be done in a hurried manner. Next year, too, they would know more about boundaries, and how the voters were distributed in the boroughs, and they would have an opportunity of seeing whether any fresh machinery would be introduced with respect to polling-places and voting papers. 1012 He had not hitherto seen his way clearly as to the machinery for voting papers, but he had seen a proposal which obviated some of the objections, and under which every man would, at some period before voting, give in his assertion that he meant to vote by polling-papers. There would thus be no difficulty about his identity.
said, that the suggestion that the Committee should confine itself to matters relating either to enfranchisement or disfranchisement came rather late. It would be a left-handed way of saving time, because the Committee had been recently dealing with other matters relating to expenses at elections. They had refused to pass a clause charging certain expenses on the county, and they had also had before them the proposal of the hon. Member for Sunderland. With respect to boroughs, the difficulties in carrying out this clause were altogether very slight, and as a great practical good was now within their grasp he hoped they would affirm the clause.
said, that the suggestion he had thrown out was in answer to the appeal made to the Committee by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that one reason why the clause ought to be postponed was that it was mixed up with the expenses chargeable for polling-places. If the conveyance of voters to the poll was declared illegal, the authorities would in all probability increase the number of polling-places very considerably. It would then be necessary to employ an increased number of sheriffs' deputies and polling clerks. The proper charge for such services required to be regulated by law. At present the candidate paid everything that was demanded of him, and if there were to be an enormous number of polling-places, what might be termed the legitimate expenses of candidates would be considerably increased. To pass the present clause would only be dealing with one branch of the subject. He thought that the whole matter ought to be referred to a Select Committee, and he hoped, therefore, that the suggestion of his right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Henley) would be adopted.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that there would be considerable force in the observations of the Secretary to the Treasury if the evil with which they were proposing to deal would not be intensified by the present Bill. But the Bill would at least double the number of electors in every 1013 borough, and in the large towns they would be increased three-fold. If the present system of conveying electors to the poll were to be continued, it followed that the expenses of conveying them would be proportionately increased two or three-fold. Their object should be not so much to cut down expenses as to prevent them from increasing three-fold in amount. From a Return printed last year of the expense of conveying voters to the poll, he found that in Liverpool one set of candidates paid £592 for conveying voters to the poll, and the others £431, making a total of £1,023. By this Bill the voters in Liverpool would be increased more than threefold. Why, therefore, should the candidates be expected in future to pay £3,000 for the conveyance of voters to the poll? In Manchester £738 was paid for a similar purpose. The burgh of Glasgow contained only seven square miles, and there were about fifteen polling-places at the elections there, so that there could be no real difficulty in any man walking to the poll. Yet the expenses of conveyance at Glasgow amounted to £686. Again, Edinburgh contained only six square miles, and it had thirteen polling-places, or one in each ward. Yet the amount paid for conveyance there was £330, which was equally divided between the two parties, showing that no advantage could be derived by the one party over the other. It was therefore plain that conveyances for voters to the poll were not needed, but it would appear as if voters expected to be waited on by candidates and driven by them to the poll. Such a system from its great expense must increase the difficulty of getting candidates to come forward for great constituencies, unless they had some other object in view than the good of the people.
§ SIR T. F. BUXTON
said, there was another evil really worth consideration, namely, the great risk which attached to candidates in having some illegality done at a distance in their name without having the power of checking it. An agent might be authorised to procure a ticket and conveyance for a voter who resided a great distance from the polling-place, but from some neglect might give the voter money to buy his own ticket or provide his conveyance, instead of doing it for him. The result of such a proceeding was that the candidate unknowingly was guilty of a crime under the bribery laws, and he was pointed out as a person who had recourse to corrupt and illegal practices.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he concurred in the views which had been expressed on the other side of the House on this clause, and concurred in the sentiment of regret that had been expressed that it should not be extended to counties. He confessed he could only see one practical difficulty against it, namely, that they must either increase the polling-places or permit the use of voting papers. If they increased the polling-places the town voters would have an advantage over those residing in the rural parts. That might be obviated by having a polling-place in every parish, the votes to be taken by the overseer, who should be a sworn agent for the purpose. By that means they would also get rid of much drunkenness and many disgraceful scenes.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, the expenses of the polling-places ought not to be paid by the candidates, but by the borough or county. The appointment of polling-places in every parish and the officers to take the votes might be left to the Lord-lieutenant; and he rather concurred in the suggestion that the agency of some parish officer should be employed.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said he felt bound to avail himself of that opportunity of pressing his proposal. He was prepared to restrict the clause to boroughs and also to except from it the four boroughs mentioned in the discussion the other evening, although he should have been glad to see them all included. He hoped that if the clause were passed some hon. Member would bring up a clause which would meet the difficulties respecting counties.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 101: Majority 65.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he would move to insert, after the word "election," in the second line, the words, "for any borough except Aylesbury, Cricklade, East Retford, and New Shoreham," thereby restricting the clause prohibiting the payment of expenses for the conveyance of voters to boroughs, with the exception of the four named.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he thought it unfair to confine the exception to these four boroughs, 1015 as it was well known there were many others where non - resident voters would have to be conveyed considerable distances to the poll. He could not understand why in these instances voters were to be excluded from benefits which it was proposed to confer in practically analogous cases. Every borough had its own specialty, and in many there were poor men periodically absent under varying circumstances, who would be virtually disfranchised if they could not be conveyed to the poll. He thought that to allow a man's railway fare to be paid where there was no possibility of a corrupt motive being involved in the payment was a very reasonable proposal. The present law operated very fairly, was uniform in boroughs and counties, and ought not to be altered as proposed.
§ GENERAL FORESTER
said, he moved that Much Wenlock be included with the other four boroughs named, as its area was very extensive.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he did not think that voters in counties, if purity of election was to be fully maintained, ought to have their expenses of going to the poll paid any more than voters in boroughs.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, that the whole matter had in 1860 been referred to the Committee which sat on the subject of Corrupt Practices at Elections, and that they made a report with which the present clause was in conformity. The four boroughs of East Retford, Cricklade, Shoreham, and Aylesbury were excepted in the Reform Bill of 1832, because they were connected with the counties, and he would recommend the Committee not to except any more.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
said, that the area of the borough of Greenwich was very extensive. The case might be met by providing that no voter should be carried to the poll who resided within one mile of the polling place.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY
said, that the House had distinctly come to an agreement that these four boroughs should be exempted, and be considered as counties, and he hoped that no others would be added.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he should support the Motion of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wenlock, and should afterwards move that Maldon be included in the clause, as it covered an area of over forty square miles.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, it seemed likely that they would go on discussing the merits of every borough. Very good reasons had been shown for omitting counties from the operation of the clause, and it would be only fair to include in the exception those boroughs in which freeholders would have a right to vote. He suggested that a schedule of places to be excluded should be prepared, and then the matter might be settled when the Schedule came on for discussion.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
wished to point out the inconsistent position in which the House had placed itself by refusing a few nights before, to accept the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Colonel Dyott), giving borough freeholders their votes in the boroughs. This Amendment had brought them face to face with the sham counties—as the hon. Member for Westminster had so truly called them elsewhere — made up as they were of constituencies of purely borough voters of the lowest class. He objected to leave being given to take persons to the poll, of a condition of life in which conveyance in a market cart would be as thorough bribery as the pretentious cab is to the town voter. As to what conveyance to the poll meant, and what it was in the metropolitan boroughs, he referred them to the revelations of former debates. All he would now say was that conveyance meant bribing two men by one and the same process, the fellow who drove on the box, and the fellow who went inside.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he regretted that he could not agree to the suggestions that Wenlock and Maldon should be included in the clause. To do so would be only to invite the assertion of similar claims on behalf of other places. With respect to the other four boroughs, it was certainly understood the other evening that they were to be excepted from the general rule.
§ MR. MONTAGU CHAMBERS
said, he did not agree in the propriety of making any exceptions whatever. The principle was a good one, and applicable to all cases. Candidates ought not to be put to any expense with regard to the conveyance of voters.
§ Motion negatived.
§ MR. WARNER
said, it would be more convenient if the words of the clause relating 1017 to "any borough" were first decided, and that the Committee should afterwards divide on the question as to the exception of any particular boroughs.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he hoped the House would not assent to exceptional legislation of this kind. He should oppose the introduction of the Amendment, being of opinion that the same justice should be meted out to counties as to boroughs.
§ MR. VANCE
said, that counties of cities had as much claim to be excluded as ordinary counties. It would be hard, for instance, if the freeholders of Dublin city could not be carried to the poll as well as the freeholders of Dublin county. He therefore begged to add to the Amendment the words, "and those boroughs which are counties of cities or towns."
§ Motion for the addition of the words agreed to.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he proposed to omit from the clause the words, "or for any person to receive from the candidate or anyone on his behalf," and also the words, "and any such person shall receive." If those words were retained, the clause might act harshly on innocent persons. A man going with a voter to the poll might hire a cab and then refuse to pay the driver, on the ground that the payment would be illegal.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
, said that if the Committee did not agree to the proposed Amendment, they would pass a clause which they might not have cause to look back upon with any satisfaction. Under the clause as it stood, a cabman who accepted payment for taking a voter to the poll would be guilty of a misdemeanour.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he thought the Committee ought to agree to the Amendment, for if they did not, it would be very doubtful whether a cabman ought to take his fare from a man who might himself hire a cab to take him to the poll.
§ Words omitted.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he moved to add after the words, "such payment shall be deemed to be an illegal payment" the words "and to be bribery." The clause would not be effectual for the object in view without the addition of the words he proposed. In all probability future Election Committees, acting upon a precedent established some years ago by a Committee on a Huddersfield election, might declare the Acts mentioned in the clause to be simply illegal, without declaring them to amount to bribery. They decided that it was illegal, and that the Member could be prosecuted, but that it did not affect his seat.
§ MR. VANCE
said, that he had been a member of the Committee alluded to, and the opinion of the Committee was that the payments were of a very trivial character, in no way affecting the votes of the persons who had received the sum. He thought that there was no necessity for a change in the clause, which was already sufficiently stringent.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
said, he proposed enabling the votes for the London University to be recorded by means of voting papers, to which he understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no objection. He moved that after Clause 28 the following words be inserted:—All the provisions of an Act passed in the 24th and 25th years of Her present Majesty, entitled 'An Act to provide that votes at elections for the Universities may be recorded by means of voting papers.'It was unnecessary that he should say anything in support of the clause, to which the Government had assented.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ MR. POWELL
moved the latter part of the clause he had given notice of—And when by virtue conferred by any other Act of Parliament, polling-places or polling districts are altered or additional polling-places or districts are created, it shall not be necessary that any declaration, direction, or order made, as therein provided, be published in The London Gazette, but the same shall be advertised by the 1019 justices in such manner as they shall think fit, and when so advertised shall have the same force and effect as if the same had been published in The London Gazette.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ SIR THOMAS LLOYD
said, that he thought the measure a most excellent one, and such a clause as this was necessary to give it a beneficent operation. His last election had cost £4,000, principally for public-houses, and with the increase of Members which the present Bill contemplated, the next, without some change in the law, would probably reach ten times that amount.
(No committee of any candidate to meet in any hotel, &c.) That no committee of any candidate for the representation of any County, City, or Borough shall sit, or hold any meeting, or transact any business as such committee in any hotel, tavern, public-house, or other building licensed or used for the sale or consumption of wine, spirits, beer, porter, or other intoxicating liquors; and if any such candidate shall, by himself or his agents, cause or permit any breach of this enactment, the Return of such candidate shall be null and void, and no expenses incurred by such committee in any such hotel, tavern, public-house, or other building shall be recoverable by law from such committee or any of the members thereof, or from any such candidate, or his agent, or any person whomsoever,—(Sir Thomas Lloyd,)
—brought up, and read the first and second time.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
was very glad that the hon. Baronet had had the courage to bring forward this clause, and he invited the House, all of whom must in their heart wish well to it, to adopt it unanimously, and thus save those, who would otherwise feel it their duty to vote for it, from the certain vengeance of the corrupt classes against whose practices it was directed. This system of holding committees at public-houses was one of the evils of electioneering, to which he hoped no one who had gone through the trial could look back without shame. The way the system had worked in boroughs was this. No one could open a beer-house except in a £10 house. As far as the interests of the excise and of a certain varnish of decency went, this limitation was well enough; but it produced a state of things of which the authors of the regulation had not thought. By this law every publican was of necessity a voter under the old franchise; and so in boroughs where rents ran low the publicans ruled the election. They held the key of the borough as really as the key of their own 1020 cellars, and they insisted on having committees jovial and plenty to meet at their houses. The candidate, however strongly he might disapprove of this system, was absolutely powerless in the hands of his supporters. He was the last man to be consulted on such arrangements. His managers found the publicans holding back, and so without telling him anything they would open an indefinite number of committee rooms. Sometimes there were several in one street; occasionally the same publican divided his house between the rival candidates. Of course no business was really done at those places. What was intended was to buy the publican by the liquor he sold, and the sots who went there by the liquor they drunk. Non-electors, too (now they would be electors), had to be conciliated, and so-called committees of these people were created to booze at the candidate's cost. It was, in plain language, bribery, and bribery of the worst description. Bribery by the absolute payment of hard cash was after all the most respectable form, for some of it might find its way to the innocent wife and family, while the bribes served out in public-houses only went down the throats of the drunkards. If the House would adopt this clause, he was certain that the moral sense of England would support it, and that all the army of tapsters would not be able to scratch it out of the statute book.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he believed that the clause would be received with satisfaction by the House generally. But he could not help thinking that in some cities or boroughs—and among them the City of London—it would be very difficult to find places for the meeting of committees if the public-houses were not to be open to them. He believed, however, that the clause would contribute to remove a great opprobrium from our electoral system, and he was therefore prepared to support it. He supported the clause because it would relieve voters from the temptation of keeping back their votes until the last moment. At present those who got most houses stood the best chance of gaining the election. Hotel-keepers and other proprietors of refreshment houses and beer-houses kept back their votes to the last moment, and the removal of temptation to persons of that kind to have their houses taken at an exorbitant rate would remove a great opprobrium from their election proceedings.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he could not concur in the allegation that corruption was universal at borough elections, many of which were perfectly pure. Corruption was the exception, not the rule. As for the proposed clause, it would be simply impossible to obey it. In many towns rooms for meetings could be obtained nowhere except in public-houses, and how were they to define "committee?" If a few of the candidate's friends were to meet him at an hotel and discuss the chance of election, all the penalties of the clause would fall upon him, and the same would happen if he engaged in a friendly chat on the subject while taking refreshment.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, that not a single pound had been spent in any questionable way in the borough of Buckingham during the time he had represented it, since 1832. Little boroughs were not all corrupt. Some of them were as pure as any constituency in the kingdom. With regard to the clause, he approved it, but it needed some amendment.
§ MR. WYLD
said, that an opening for bribery was created by allowing candidates to hire private residences as well as by permitting them to hire public-houses. He trusted that if that clause were carried, a further provision would be adopted to the effect, that no person who had let his house for the use of a committee should be entitled to vote at the election.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he regretted that when engaged in passing a Reform Bill they should undertake the task of correcting corrupt practices. Already they had passed two clauses to prevent bribery. The first would lead to corruption. The second was unintelligible, and would lead to confusion. The clause under discussion was better than the others. Whether they could protect the candidate from being called on to pay he did not know. It was very difficult to amend a clause of this description in Committee so as to render it intelligible. The best course to adopt would be for the hon. Baronet to withdraw the clause, and to bring in another to be added to the Bill for the Prevention of Corrupt Practices at Elections, which would shortly be before the House. He was entirely in favour of the principle of the clause. He had, perhaps, been the 1022 only person who had carried a clause having a similar object.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he considered that the clause as it stood was sufficient without any amendment; but if an Amendment should be necessary it could be moved on the bringing up of the Report. No one could call in question the object of it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was anxious to economize time, and therefore he hoped that the Committee would at once divide, so as to prevent a recurrence of what took place the other night, when, in consequence of a fresh brigade of Members entering the House at a late hour, a clause had to be re-discussed from the commencement.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. Member for Edinburgh is quite right in saying that I am anxious to economize time as much us possible. But there is another point that should be kept in view, and that is that the Committee should not be called upon to pass clauses with a precipitation they may afterwards regret. This is a very important subject, and as far as the object of the clause is concerned I am entirely in its favour, and I suppose that every hon. Member in this House would be exceedingly glad if such an object could be secured. If we could strike at indirect corruption through the lavish expenditure caused at elections by tavern expenses we should be glad, but we should not strike without wounding, and I am afraid if we pass clauses of this kind without well considering them we shall regret our haste. The hon. Baronet who brought this question forward appears to have been in very unfortunate circumstances, because, while he represents a constituency of 3,000 electors, the travelling expenses at his election amounted to £4,000. [Sir THOMAS LLOYD: They only amounted to £500.] And quite enough too. We ought, in the first place, to consider whether or not the clause does not propose to go a little too far. I am sorry that the hon. Baronet did not confine the operation of the clause to boroughs, as was done in a somewhat analogous case the other day, because I can conceive that in boroughs it might be possible to avoid meeting at public-houses, whereas all who represent large districts know from experience that it is impossible to get the required accommodation except at an hotel or public-house. It would be scarcely just to pass a clause which should compel the committees 1023 at an election to stand all day in the market-place and get wet through because they were not allowed to go to places where they could obtain shelter. It further strikes me that the clause as now worded would not so much put an end to meetings at a public-house, as it would put an end to committees. If you pass a severe clause of this kind by which committees are forbidden to obtain proper accommodation, what will happen? You will doubtless prevent committees from going to public-houses, but there will be sympathizing friends who will go to public-houses, and who will do all the work of committees. It, therefore, appears to me that the clause will not accomplish the desired object, while it will lead to public inconvenience. Let me remind the Committee that time is valuable. This is the twenty-second day upon which the Committee has sat. The labours of the Committee are directed to the improvement of the representation of the people in Parliament. This subject resolves itself into two great branches—first, the re-distribution of seats, and secondly, an enlargement of the franchise. The subject of the clause now before us can scarcely be classed under either of these heads. I therefore am disposed to agree with the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) that this clause might be brought up with propriety upon the Report or upon the third reading of the Bill which is about to come down to us from the Select Committee appointed to inquire into Corrupt Practices at Elections, when we should have an opportunity of considering the whole question and of passing such a clause as would touch the evil sought to be eradicated. I have no objection to the principle of the clause, which is to protect candidates from unnecessary expense.
§ SIR THOMAS LLOYD
said, that, as every one was in favour of the clause, he should persist in his Motion.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he would suggest that some words should be introduced which should make it plain that it was an authorised committee.
§ The Clause was read a second time.
§ On Motion, "That the Clause be added to the Bill,"
said, that for the safety of candidates the wording of the first line of the clause should be altered by the insertion of the words "appointed by any 1024 candidate" after the word "committee," and leaving out the word "of." As the clause was now worded any two or three fellows might go into a public-house and call themselves committeemen, and so imperil the seat of the candidate whom they professed to represent. He begged to move the Amendment he had suggested.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the first word "of," in order to insert the words "appointed by."—(Mr. Henley.)
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that committees were never appointed by candidates, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment would be of no effect.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman would destroy the effect of the clause. He wished that hon. Gentlemen would either not introduce clauses, or, if they did so, would have the pluck to stand by them.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he wished to know what there was in the clause to prevent persons from constituting themselves committeemen. The hon. Member for Birmingham had, some time since, proved to demonstration that a stranger had been guilty of bribery in order to secure the return of a particular candidate, who was totally unknown to him, in order to win a bet. Was a candidate to lose his election because some persons who chose to represent him went into a public-house? The clause should be postponed until the Bill for the Prevention of Corrupt Practices at Elections came before the House.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
said, he thought the object which the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, as well as that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire had in view, was a legitimate one. He would suggest that if some such word as "sanction" were substituted for the word "permit," the clause would be made efficient for its purpose.
§ MR. LOWE
said, that the objection which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire had urged would not apply. The first part of the clause prohibited the practices referred to, and rendered liable the persons implicated; but it did not touch the candidate at all. It was only by the second part that the candidate was touched, because by that portion he was made responsible if the practices were engaged in with his permission. 1025 It was not necessary that committees should be appointed by the candidate; they might be appointed anyhow.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, that the case referred to by the hon. Member for Chippenham was not in point. It was not decided that bribery had been committed by the committee, though particular individuals had been guilty of corrupt practices. The insertion of the words would defeat the object of the clause.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, he concurred in the objections urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire.
said, that what rendered it necessary to make the wording of the clause exact, was the fearful penalties imposed. It was not that the expenses incurred were not to be paid, but the election was to be absolutely void. Therefore it was necessary that the acts of these committees should not make any candidate responsible, unless he was aware that they were acting for him. What was meant by an agent? Anybody who had experience of Election Committees knew how wide was the construction put upon the word "agent." Again, what was meant by the word "permit?" These were questions on which their elections would hang. These acts might be done in bad faith. The practices referred to in the clause might be indulged in by persons who constituted themselves into a committee simply with the view of unseating the Member whose cause they were pretending to serve.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he could not see why committees should be prohibited from meeting in the only places which in certain cases such as, for instance, where the members of the committee were very numerous, would be at their service. If such places were corruptly used the law 1026 already provided a remedy. An hotel might be the only place where a room sufficiently large could be obtained; but if they met at an hotel and paid their own expenses, the election would be null and void. If rooms were corruptly used, there was a sufficient remedy by the action of an Election Committee. If the remedy was not now applied, it was simply owing to the fact that the Committees did not look sufficiently about them. It appeared to be a most proposterous proposal to render candidates liable for practices over which they oftentimes could not possibly have any control.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the first part of the clause did not touch the candidate. He also proposed to insert the word "sanction" instead of "permit," as to the second part.
said, he wanted to know how many persons constituted a committee; whether a meeting of two or three persons to talk over the business of the election would come within the meaning of the clause?
§ MAJOR WINDSOR PARKER
said, he hoped the Committee would pause before passing a clause which would occasion great inconvenience to a large portion of those who represented the agricultural interest of England.
§ Question put, "That the word 'of' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 60; Noes 74: Majority 14.
said, that his motive in moving the Amendment which had been adopted was, that the candidate should not be responsible for the acts of men about whom he knew nothing.
§ MR. BRADY
said, it was a well-known fact that a certain number of gentlemen, in every county or borough, constituted themselves a committee, and that the candidate took good care not to repudiate their acts. If they incurred expenses in that position, the candidate always refunded 1027 them; and therefore it was absolutely necessary that the committee and the candidate should be regarded as one, if the House really meant to secure purity of election.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, that the clause in its present form was reduced to a nullity, and unless some words were added, it would be better to withdraw it altogether.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he thought that the latter part of the clause was too stringent, and that instead of the election being declared null and void, a slight penalty would be quite sufficient. He appealed to the hon. and learned Member for Richmond, as a legal authority, whether a committee appointed for or acting on behalf of a candidate would be held in law to be appointed by him. [Sir ROUNDELL PALMER: No, I think not.] Then the alteration as it stands at present makes the clause nonsense.
§ MR. J. GOLDSMID
said, that, if that alteration were allowed to stand, all that a candidate would have to do when any question touching his committee was raised would be to say, "I never appointed it."
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, that the Amendment now proposed (Mr. Monk's) would restore the clause to its original bad form. As so many varieties of view prevailed on the subject, he would ask hon. Gentlemen what a committee was, and how it was constituted?
§ MR. MONTAGU CHAMBERS
said, he had no idea that any Member of the House who had stood a contest could have found it necessary to ask what an Election Committee was. He had thought it was perfectly clear. At an election there were certain persons who established committees of the candidates, and appointed the places where they should meet, the committee of A. B. meeting at the Crown and Sceptre, and that of C. D. at the Pig and Whistle. An ingenious effort, or rather a disingenuous effort, had been made here not to understand what was plain to the understanding of every Member on both sides of the House. It was very desirable that they should prevent election committees from meeting at public-houses; and rooms that did not belong to public-houses could always be obtained for the purpose of holding committees. In the borough which he represented (Devonport) the principle of having no committees sitting in public-houses was tried on both sides, Liberal and Conservative. It succeeded, and he hoped 1028 it might find general adoption throughout the kingdom.
said, he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Montagu Chambers) had justified the Amendment which he (Mr. Henley) proposed. He should like to hear any hon. Member point out an instance in which an Election Committee did not make the Member responsible for the acts of his central committee. If elections were to be made void on account of committee meetings in public-houses, care must be taken that the candidates should not be compromised by self-constituted committees set up during the turmoil of an election, and acting, perhaps malâ fide, with the express object of unseating the Member. He was willing to accept any words that would prevent this.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he admitted that there was no clearer head or more judicial intellect in the House than that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley); but if the words of the right hon. Gentleman were not qualified by some others, the clause could not be violated except by a committee specially appointed by the candidate, and would, therefore, be entirely inoperative. It would only be necessary for the candidate to appoint no committee, and then his committees might meet where they pleased.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he thought there could be no difficulty in finding words which would meet the requirements of the right hon. Gentleman. He suggested the addition of the words "acting on behalf and with the consent of" any candidate.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, the candidates accepted the agency of committees, but did not appoint them. Unless they were supplemented by other words, the words introduced would reduce the clause to a dead letter.
said, he would ask his hon. and learned Friend to remember how far the law of agency had been strained by election committees. Unless a candidate almost spat in a man's face during an election the committee would infer agency. That was, perhaps, an extreme illustration, but it was necessary to bear the point in mind. He was willing to accept the words suggested by the noble Lord.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, it would be extremely hard to enact that a candidate should lose his seat in the case provided for by the clause. The discussion 1029 had shown that the first part of the clause was likely to prove very inconvenient, especially if it was followed by the second. He trusted that if the one was adopted the other would be abandoned. It would be very difficult to deal with this clause without dealing with that which followed. The words "no committee appointed by or with the consent of any candidate" might meet the case.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
said, that in that case the committee might be appointed first and sanctioned afterwards.
§ MR. WARNER
said, he would suggest that the return of the candidate should not be made void because his committee met at a public-house, but only if he paid the expenses connected with that meeting.
§ MR. CLAY
said, that if a candidate did not appoint committees his agent did, and qui facit per alium facit per se. He trusted the hon. Member for Gloucester would withdraw the words "or on behalf of." In his own case the non-electors formed themselves into a committee entirely without his knowledge to promote his election. That committee did not cost him sixpence, and they rendered him good service; but they, no doubt, met in a public-house, as the only convenient place. He preferred the words proposed by the noble Lord (Viscount Cranborne), although he was not quite sure they were the best.
§ Amendment to insert the words "or on behalf of," put, and negatived.
§ Amendment to insert the words "appointed by," withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he thought that this would be a matter for the Gentlemen of the long robe.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he understood the hon. Baronet was willing to leave out the word "county," so as to make the clause applicable only to elections for cities and boroughs.
§ Sir THOMAS LLOYD assented.
§ The word "county" struck out.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he moved that the words "or transact any business" should be struck out. These were words of an ensnaring character and might imperil many seats.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he thought that the words were rather in the nature of surplusage, but if they were omitted there might be room for evasion. If the principle of the clause was sound, these words might do good, and could do no harm.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL - HUGESSEN
said, that a candidate might be staying at an hotel, and a deputation of the electors might come to him to ask if he would coalesce with some other candidate. It might be held that this was transacting business under the clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he moved the omission of the words "or any house used for the sale or consumption of wine." Under these words, every dwelling-house in England, except such as was occupied by teetotallers, would be prevented from having an election committee sitting in it.
§ Words omitted.
§ MR. WARNER
moved the omission of the words—And if any such candidate shall by himself or his agents cause or permit any breach of this enactment, the return of such candidate shall be null and void.
§ Motion agreed to.
At the end of the clause, to add the words "and if any candidate shall, by himself or his agents, at any time before, during, or after such Election, pay any money on account of any such expenses, the return of such candidate shall be null and void."—(Mr. Warner.)
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he would request the hon. Member for Norwich to postpone his Amendment in order to enable him to move the insertion after the word "building" of the words "licensed as aforesaid." Without those words the clause would prohibit the payment of any money for the use of any building whatever.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 159: Majority 56.
§ On Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill,"
§ MR. HUNT
said, he doubted whether, as it stood, it would carry out the wishes of the Committee, which were to prevent the colourable hiring of rooms at public-houses as committee-rooms, when the real object was to supply drink. No doubt the object was a desirable one, but the clause would not attain it. The objection was not to the taking of rooms for the transaction of public business, but to the supplying of drink. During the election for the University of Oxford he had occasion to meet the committee of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) and found it at the Ship Hotel. No liquor or refreshment was supplied, and the transaction of business was what workmen would call a "dry job." There were present there the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, and the hon. Member who was then in the Chair. The clause would meet such a case as that; but it was not intended to apply to the transaction of such business, but to the display of placards announcing that a committee sat where none did, when the fact was that men were entertained at the candidate's expense. Did the clause meet such a case? It said that no committee of the candidate should sit or hold any meeting at an hotel or tavern. That did not prevent the hiring of a room at an hotel or tavern; it only forbade sitting or holding a meeting there. You might take any number of rooms in a public-house, but as long as you did not sit there, or hold meetings there, you evaded this clause. This was hardly what the Committee desired to do. It would be better that a committee should sit or meet than that rooms should be hired for drinking purposes. As it stood the clause was wholly useless.
§ MR. LAING
said, that the result of the long discussion had been to convince him, even before the last division, that the clause was an unwise one; and since the concluding words had been rejected, the matter did not admit of question. As the clause stood it would infringe the liberty of the subject; for it would say that a committee of independent electors, willing to pay their own expenses, should not be allowed to hold a meeting. By far the best way of determining the discussion was to reject the clause.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that the exhibiting of a placard, intimating that a committee-room was in a public-house, constituted a sitting or meeting, and the presumption was that those who entered the room did so for the transaction of business. The clause could hardly be inoperative while it made an offence a misdemeanour, and the adoption of it would be the first step towards rousing public opinion against a bad practice.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he had contested Southwark and had never spent a penny in giving either voters or committee men drink, nor had he known it to be done by any of the candidates who had opposed him. If public-houses were to be entirely closed to candidates, it would entail great inconvenience and expense. In every town there were a number of public-houses, most of which had rooms to let for the purpose of committee-rooms, and competition kept down the prices. But if all the public-houses were shut against a candidate, where was he, especially if he was a stranger, to get rooms? He thought their only course was to reject the clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 98; Noes 197: Majority 99.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he had to move a clause to enable public officers connected with the collection of the revenue to vote at elections. The exclusion of those men from the franchise was invidious. There was no good ground for making any distinction between collectors of the revenue and other portions of Her Majesty's 1033 subjects with respect to the exercise of the elective franchise. The collectors of the revenue bore a high character, and their qualifications enabled them to form a much better opinion than other persons of public measures and the merits of candidates. They executed the trust reposed in them in a most praiseworthy manner, whether the political party that appointed them was in office or not. He therefore moved—That no person shall by reason of his being in anywise employed in the charging, collecting, receiving, levying, or managing of any of Her Majesty's revenues, be incapable of giving his vote for the election of any person to serve in Parliament, or be subject to any disability or penalty for giving any such vote, or endeavouring to persuade any elector to give, or to dissuade any elector from giving, his vote for the election of any person to serve in Parliament.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he trusted that the Committee would hesitate before they acceded to the Motion. The persons to whom the hon. Baronet had referred were, as a body, distinguished by the effective manner in which they performed their duties, and by the energy with which they fulfilled a public trust. He should therefore be sorry to see anything like political intrigue or subserviency mixed up with the discharge of those duties. It was part of their duty to inform against those who violated the law, and it would be a great disadvantage if these persons were to be subject even to the imputation of exercising their influence for political purposes. As they were at present placed in regard to the franchise, those imputations did not exist. He wished also to recall to the recollection of the Committee a Treasury Minute which had been placed on the table, in which Minute the Government had drawn attention to the impropriety and impolicy of officers in those branches of the public service to which the hon. Baronet had referred exercising their influence over Members of Parliament, in order to urge upon the Government an increase of their salaries. Even at the present time an influence was exerted which must be viewed with great jealousy, and every Government, however constituted, would find it necessary to use its utmost influence in resisting overtures of that description. But what would be the position of affairs if these persons—so numerous a body—were invested with the franchise? From the experience of what was passing in this city—and he wished merely to intimate, and not to dwell upon 1034 the circumstance—he was led to believe the result would be that there would be an organization illegitimately to increase the remuneration they received for their services—a remuneration which, in his opinion, was based upon a just estimate. He did not deny that the class referred to by the hon. Baronet were entirely worthy of public confidence; but the conferring the franchise upon them would place them in a new position, and would introduce into public life new influences which might not be of a beneficial character. He trusted therefore that the Committee would not sanction the proposal of the hon. Baronet.
said, he was sure that the light hon. Gentleman and Her Majesty's Government had been animated by a sense of public duty in adopting the course which had been just announced. Whether the right hon. Gentleman was right or wrong in his opinions, he thought the Committee would feel any secondary motive that could have acted upon his mind would undoubtedly lead him to act in the sense of enfranchisement, and to give way to the primâ facie case which they must admit existed. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in endeavouring to dissuade the Committee from deciding by a single vote a subject of this magnitude and complexity, and from changing the system which had hitherto prevailed in our revenue departments. Circumstances existed of so grave and peculiar a character that it was quite impossible to deal satisfactorily with this matter on a Motion like that brought forward by his hon. Friend. He must, however, guard himself against seeming to censure his hon. Friend, because he fully admitted that, when a very large measure of enfranchisement was proposed, there must be a tendency in the minds of all to abolish any remaining incapacities. But what was the case: One-eighth part of the revenue of every Gentleman in that House was not in reality his own, although it appeared to be so. It belonged to the Government, and the Government obtained it by channels very diversified and very difficult to keep in a state of purity and efficiency. The officers of the Revenue Department were the persons charged with this peculiar trust. They were appointed generally, and, indeed, almost universally, at the instance of Members of Parliament. If a system should be ever established, as possibly it might, under which the appointments should be completely 1035 detached from political influence, this question might be discussed much more freely than it could be at the present moment. At the commencement of their career nearly all these officers were under a kind of political influence; they then only attained the first step of the ladder and their subsequent advancement was a matter of infinite delicacy and difficulty. It was difficult even now to exclude political influences from promotion in the Revenue Departments. It was due to the late Lord Liverpool to say that he first placed promotion in the hands of the permanent heads of the departments. But still there was always a tendency to bring in that element; and it was a matter for most careful consideration whether, if this power was restored, they would be assured of the services of those gentlemen being performed with efficiency. It was impossible to exaggerate the importance of the question. He was willing to admit that there might be a public inquiry. Their practice was not consistent, inasmuch as they excluded from the franchise at present a large proportion of those engaged in the public service. They excluded from the franchise the officers of the Post Office, as well as those engaged in the Inland Revenue, while those who were in the West-end Departments were not, he believed, disqualified. They did not withhold the franchise from persons employed in the offices of the Secretary of State, the Admiralty, and the War Department. It was worthy of grave consideration whether the disqualification which prevailed in respect to the Revenue Departments should be extended to those other officers, or whether such disqualifications might not be altogether dispensed with. There was another element to take into view—namely, the services of those who were not directly under the control of the Government, such as the police. He hoped, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, that his hon. Friend would be content with the discussion, and refrain from pressing the subject at present on the Committee. If the question were to be raised at all, it ought to be after a careful preliminary inquiry. In that inquiry they might obtain evidence from the heads of departments as to what effect the enfranchisement of those gentlemen, would have upon the departments and their duties. Those departments were at present in a state of high efficiency. He did not believe there was 1036 a country on the face of the globe where the collection of such an enormous revenue was as honestly and ably performed as in this kingdom. He did not want the Committee to say that no such change as that proposed should be introduced; but only to observe that, before they approached that question, there ought to be a full inquiry into all the facts of the case.
§ MR. MONK
said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire should have advised the Committee to pause before they granted this slight concession to a large body of deserving men who were selected, for the most part, by a competitive examination, and on account of their general ability. He could not see that their being in a Government employment wa3 a reason for their exclusion from the franchise. If it were, the same reason would apply to all the officers of State, including even the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he did not see why these gentlemen were not as much entitled to vote as the officers of the army and navy. He did not believe that the gentlemen to whom the clause referred exercised an undue influence on Members; but, if they did, why were they not as much entitled to do so as attorneys, who pressed Members to vote for the repeal of the Attorneys' Certificate Duty?
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, the proposal next to be moved was of an interesting character, likely to lead to some discussion, and was to be proposed by a right hon. Gentleman of great eminence. He therefore moved at that hour (half-past eleven) that the Chairman report Progress.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was now the hour when, generally speaking, distinguished orators rose to address the House. Remembering the observations he ventured to make at the commencement of the evening, he thought the Committee might combine both objects, of proceeding with the Schedules and listening to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe), with the attention to which they were always so justly entitled.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ Mr. LOWE
I do not wish to ask the Committee to adjourn or to go on, but I really have no wish to delay the measure. I move that— 1037At any contested election for a county or borough represented by more than two Members, and having more than one seat vacant, every voter shall be entitled to a number of votes equal to the number of vacant seats, and may give all such votes to one candidate, or may distribute them among the candidates as he thinks fit.I am afraid that I am about to add one more to the large number of unsuccessful attempts made during the course of the present measure to break into the monotonous nature of the franchise, to introduce some variety into it, and to give to the minority of a constituency an opportunity of being better heard at an election. I approach the subject with no great confidence of success, but I will lay the reasons for my proposal before the House as shortly as I can. One reason why I ask the favourable consideration of the House to the proposal is because this is the last opportunity for giving variety to the franchise. This is the last on the list. All our other arrows have been shot; not one remains in the quiver; so that if this does not hit, there will be nothing left but one simple uniform franchise to be entrusted to, and left in, the hands of the lowest class in society. I must not be understood as coming forward to argue for any protection for the minority; but I cannot allow that there is any right in the majority to coerce the minority. When we form an organized body, such as a constituency, convenience dictates that the majority should bind the minority. But between the members of the constituency there should be absolute equality; the majority should have nothing given to it because it is a majority; the minority should have nothing taken away from it because it is a minority. In the case of an election where there are two opposing candidates, or four candidates, two on each side, the voters give their votes equally to one side or other, and the candidates receiving the greater number of votes are elected. In that instance the majority gains nothing because it is a majority, and nothing is taken away from the minority because it is a minority. That is the type of a fair election. But go further, and take the case embraced by the clause I propose. Suppose that in a three-cornered borough there are three vacancies. How stands the case then? One side, knowing itself to be the majority, proposes three candidates. The other side, knowing that it is in the minority, propose only one candidate, hoping by split votes and other means to carry the election of that one. Thus, the members of the majority, 1038 bringing forward three candidates, have three separate votes each; the members of the minority, on the other hand, which bring forward only one candidate, lose two-thirds of their electoral power, because, being a minority, they bring forward only one candidate. Is this treating the majority and minority equally? I demand no protection for the minority; but I demand that a man should not be placed in a worse position because he is in the minority; that nothing should be taken from him, and that he should be treated on an equality with other voters. The only way of effecting this object is to give to each voter an equal number of votes independently of the use he may make of them. What we now say to a voter is—"You have a certain number of votes, but your power depends on the use you make of them. If you give them with the majority you have three votes; but if you go with the minority you have only one." Thus two-thirds of his power is taken away if he goes with the weaker side. These may seem obvious arguments, but I am not aware that this argument has ever been presented to the public before. There may be an answer to it, but I confess it commends itself to my mind, and appears to show that in seeking what I do, I am not asking the House to surround the minority with any artificial protection, but merely to concede to it simple justice; in the proposal I make I am not desiring to give the minority protection, but equality. Let each voter have an equal number of votes, not dependent on the use he makes of them; let him be at liberty to dispose of them as he likes. Suppose the usage to be the contrary way to the present; in the three-cornered constituency each elector would have three votes, and would be allowed to dispose of them as he wished. Suppose some hon. Gentleman should interpose and say that this ought not to be, I maintain that if the voter does not distribute, but consolidate, he should only have one vote. The present system works fairly where there is only one vacancy; but it does not work fairly where there is more than one vacancy. The tendency of the present system is to make that stronger which is already strong, and that weaker which is already weak. By an arbitrary and unreasonable rule it strengthens the majority. By the same arbitrary and unreasonable rule it weakens the minority. On abstract justice; therefore the present rule cannot be 1039 maintained. The proper way to alter it is to give each elector as many votes as there are vacancies, and leave him absolutely free to dispose of them as he pleases—to give all to one person—one to each of the three, or two to one and one to another. By that means you would be doing nothing unjust or unfair to the majority or to the minority. You would be merely putting them on a level, and leaving them on perfectly fair ground. That is the abstract argument. There are different ways by which the end might be accomplished; Some propose to give only a single vote to each elector; others recommend that when there are three candidates each elector shall have two votes, I prefer to give each elector three votes, and allow him to dispose of them as he pleases. The objection to the two first proposals is that they would operate in the way of disfranchisement, and would take away something people already possessed; because on the supposition that there are three candidates they have already three votes. The system I propose has greater flexibility and better adapts itself to the general purposes of elections. So much for the abstract right of the question. Now, secondly, as to its expediency; I do not put this proposal to the House so much as a means of balancing a party who is in the minority against that that is in the majority, or of compensating or redressing the inequality; because I am of opinion that the days of party are numbered. I do not believe you can, by any contrivance whatever, so manipulate matters that, with the franchise now really in the hands of the poorer class of householders, you can raise up any party for a moment successfully to resist the will of that class in whatever they may set their mind upon. That would be a delusion. The question has been ably discussed in the public press; there is nothing new to be said on it. I do not put this proposal forward with any such ambitious notion as that it will supply a curb to the excesses of democracy, still, I think it is one of no ordinary advantage. It will, at all events, procure some variety of Members, and will give some degree of representation, in danger of disappearing by the low level we have adopted. In a constituency such as I am supposing, those who can command one-third or one-fourth of the whole constituency will be able to return a Member. It will therefore have the advantage in a smaller degree of the measure advocated by my hon. Friend the 1040 Member for Westminster (Mr. Mill)—the plan of Mr. Hare—with the advantage that it must necessarily be a local one, not gathered from the four winds, but in the same electoral district. It would be a great advantage in a borough if all the property and intelligence combined together. With such influence as they could exert they might never be able to make head against the democracy you are creating; but with the greatest advantage to themselves and the nation they might return persons of a different stamp and class of character from that purely democratic class who will be returned in the greatest numbers—all much alike—as Virgil's heroes,—Fortemque Gyan, fortemque Cloanthum.It would be "refreshing," as people say in novels, to have a little difference, even if the persons selected had not the courage or eccentricity to depart from the level way of treating matters characteristic of democracy; it would be an advantage to put such a thing in the power of the intelligence and property represented by the minority in a borough. We shall do wisely not to pass by an opportunity of infusing variety into the dead level of democracies. Changes are described in the most simple words as conversions of a minority into a majority. [An hon. MEMBER: As last year.] No, that was per satum. I do not want that. The point I want to put is that it should not be as it is in some degree now, and as it will be much more hereafter. Opinion may go on growing and growing in a particular direction; but things may be so manipulated that the majority will have all the power and the minority nothing. What I desire is that this process should be gradual, that if a particular class of views, as Free Trade or any other right principle, should attract the attention of, and gain more and more upon, the intelligent constituents; that they should have the opportunity to give to the candidate who expresses their views, two votes, to another one, and to pass by another. You will find that in this way opinion in constituencies will ripen. Opinion in this House will ripen to changes, and the House will become a more delicate reflex of the opinion of the constituencies. The existence of a such system of gradual growth, not only of opinion, but in the representation of opinion, will to a great extent prevent the necessity of external agitation, and be a great discouragement to it. There 1041 is nothing more worthy of the attention of statesmen in the new state of affairs than any thing which will have a tendency to prevent that violent oscillation from one side to another, which we now witness. What happens in the United States? The minority of thousands might as well not exist at all. It is absolutely ignored. Is this country, in like manner, to be formed into two hostile camps — debarred from each other in two solid and compact bodies? Or are we to have that shading off of opinion, that modulation of extremes, and mellowing and ripening of right principles, which are among the surest characteristics of a free country, the true secrets of political dynamics, and the true preservatives of a great nation? I say, first, then, that what I propose to the House is in itself just, equal, and fair, founded on no undue or unfair attempt to give a minority an advantage they are not entitled to exercise; and, secondly, that it is peculiarly applicable to the state of things on which we are entering. It appears, indeed, our only hope. Nothing remains behind. This is the last offer that can be made before you put it out of your power to do anything to remedy the violence of the changes you are making. Woe to us if we refuse it our thoughtful attention. I do not imagine that anything I can say will commend a matter at once so new, so abstract, and perhaps so difficult, certainly so contrary to all previous associations, to the favour of the House. But I trust that the House will, give it a fair and candid consideration, will have regard to the immense value of the result to be attained, and will not repudiate the means unless perfectly satisfied that they are not adequate to obtain it. It is no objection that the plan is new; I should not have proposed it if things had been left as they were. But we are about to enter upon a new and untried state of things, a state of things the effects of which in this country no one can predict; but the effect of which in all other countries where they exist, tend in the direction this change is calculated to remedy. I may justly add that the principle of the clause is large enough to include boroughs returning two Members as well as those which have three, and, if it were worth while, I am prepared to contend that upon abstract principle it ought to be applied to both classes of boroughs But I am not aiming at all I think advantageous, but at what is possible. I will not say how much I wish 1042 that I could express with more clearness and effect, my desire that the House will give this matter that careful consideration which will, I am sure, lead them to a right and sound conclusion.
(Power to distribute votes.) At any contested Election for a County or Borough represented by more than two Members, and having more than one seat vacant, every voter shall be entitled to a number of votes equal to the number of vacant seats, and may give all such votes to one candidate, or may distribute them among the candidates as he thinks fit,—(Mr. Lowe,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, that throughout the debates on the Reform Bill one thing had particularly struck him—namely, the disposition on the part of the House to reject anything novel in a rather unceremonious manner. He had observed extraordinary Toryism in that respect coming from quarters where he should have least expected it. The embodiment of that description of Toryism appeared to him to be found in the hon. Member for Birmingham. But he rejected the contribution of so-called Constitutionalism from that quarter. He was generally rather inclined to reject contributions to the Reform of the Constitution from the manufacturing districts; and when he saw the antipathy of the hon. Member for Birmingham to a measure of this kind, he was inclined to think there must be something good in it. After the very able and interesting speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, he should not detain the House at that hour, but he must express his opinion that this was a very grave moment in our political history, and that after what the House had already done, they ought to at least pause before they consigned the minority of political opinion in this country to extinction. Before they decided on such a course they ought to gravely consider the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman. The leader of the Opposition, for whose opinion he and every other Member of that House entertained the greatest respect, had said on a former occasion that he should like to hear this question discussed, in order that he might form an opinion on it. As it had now been regularly raised for the first time, he hoped it would receive a careful consideration, and with the view of securing for it such a consideration 1043 he begged to move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, he felt as many hon. Members in that House must feel—that the great drawback to representing a large constituency, such as his, was that you did not represent it. The borough which he represented contained upwards of 26,000 voters, but of those scarcely more than 16,000 ever came to the poll. Why did not the remaining 10,000 come to the poll? Because they felt there was little use in their doing so, as there was little or no chance of their finding any one likely to represent them standing for that borough. Accordingly the political opinion of the great remainder who did not vote never found expression in their own borough. He was not departing from the question in illustrating the effect of the present system by showing how that system worked in his own borough. Whenever great questions arose in that House, the active portion of his constituency who refrained from voting for the reason he had stated disapproved of the course he took, and gave him constantly to understand that they objected to his principles and his conduct as M.P. for their borough. Of course he was glad of that, because his principles were of an opposite character to their; he did not represent them. But it was monstrous to say that they ought not to have a chance of having their opinions represented in some way. The present proposal afforded that chance. Some method of the kind proposed was the only way to give a representation to minorities and give them an active part in the political life of their country. He thought it was quite as important to rouse that portion of the community who had the franchise and did not exercise it into political activity, as to extend it to those who had not got it at present. He believed that the Englishman who did not take an interest in public affairs was, as a rule, a useless member of the community. If an Englishman did not take that interest by his nature, he required some outlet for his superfluous energy, and he was sure to throw a great amount of it into pursuits not beneficial to his country. If among the upper classes, he took to the turf, or game preserving, which ought to be an amusement, but of which he made a profession; if in the middle class he probably took to some form of money making; if in the lower class to gin drinking. It was monstrous for this 1044 House of all bodies to refuse to represent minorities. It was the regular practice in the House when it was decided to legislate on a subject to send it to a Committee composed, with the exception of the Chairman, of as many of the minority as of the majority. The House recognized in its own practice this very system of the representation of minorities. He had been told there were objections to this measure because it was a Conservative measure in disguise. He was not afraid of a Conservative measure in disguise, because the franchise part of the present measure was said to be a Conservative measure in disguise, and it was not a part that he at least was afraid of. But supposing it was a Conservative measure, he wanted to ask Gentlemen on this side of the House whether they had so little faith in their principles that they would not do a just thing for fear of the risk that the cumulative vote in these three-cornered constituencies would throw a few more votes on the other side of the House? Could they not believe that their principles would succeed whatever might be the change brought about by accepting this proposal? He did not think any man on the Liberal side need have so little faith in his principles as to fear either the franchise bestowed by the Bill or three-cornered constituencies. He believed that Liberal principles would go on and succeed until they became those on which this country would permanently be governed. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne was correct in saying that this was the only chance the House would have during the progress of the Bill of giving any representation to minorities. He therefore hoped the House would consider the matter maturely before they threw away this last chance.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 88; Noes 213: Majority 125.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again at Two of the clock To-morrow.