§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 31 (Inclosure Commissioners to appoint Assistant Commissioners to examine Boundaries of new Boroughs, and report of Enlargement necessary.)
I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that we should come to the consideration of this; clause with greater advantage if it were postponed. It could then take its turn sit some later period of the discussion upon 270 this Bill: that is to say, after such of the new clauses as would naturally take their place before this clause is determined. On a point of this nature it is desirable to avoid controversy, and to keep free from all those political considerations which naturally divide us more or less upon many points comprised in this Bill; and for that purpose time should be given to Members of this House and the country to consider the terms of the clause, and the names of the Commissioners. When I remind the Committee that this clause was only printed for the first time yesterday, and the names of the Commissioners, forming part of the clause, were only made known to the House yesterday, and put into print this morning, they will, I think, see that this is a matter which requires more time for consideration. Judging by what has reached me I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that if we proceed after so short a notice to discuss these matters, they are likely to occupy an undue period of time; and I am not without hope that that time may be abridged if the right hon. Gentleman is willing to accede to the suggestion which I now make, that the clause should be postponed. I found this suggestion not only upon policy but upon obvious considerations of propriety, that a clause of so much importance which has been only in print for a single day is hardly in a condition to be discussed with advantage by hon. Members. I will not make a Motion on the subject, but merely express a hope that this may be the view of the Government.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I must say I think at this season of the year, and when there is so much business before the House, that the request of the right hon. Gentleman is rather unreasonable. The clause is one of a very simple character. I would also remind the Committee that the placing of these names at the disposition of the House is a voluntary act on the part of the Government. In 1832 nothing of this kind was done. Commissioners were appointed by the Government of the day on their own responsibility, and the boundaries were arranged under their instructions. We thought, on the contrary, that if the House joined with us in appointing these Commissioners, it would create a degree of confidence between the House and the Government which was very desirable, and which, reflected out of doors, would contribute much to promote the satisfactory 271 settlement of this question. Now, the names of these Commissioners have been selected with the greatest care, and I can safely say, on behalf of my Colleagues and myself, that we had no object in view but to place the arrangement of this matter in the hands of gentlemen who would command the confidence of the House and of the country. There is nothing complex or complicated in the character of the duties which are expressed in this clause, and, though I should be sorry under any circumstances to precipitate the decision of the Committee, yet I do not see what advantage is to be derived from delaying the consideration of this clause until after the new clauses have been disposed of. As, however, I am anxious to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman, I have no objection to postpone this clause until after the remaining clauses in the Bill, have been disposed of; but I cannot consent to postpone it so indefinitely as to the end of the new clauses also. [Mr. GLADSTONE: That would be any day after to-day.] It would come on on Monday.
§ On Question, "That the Clause be postponed,"
I wish to make a few observations on this clause before it is postponed. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated the remarkable impartiality of the Commission, but I beg to say that I entirely differ from him. I think he has failed in arriving at the point at which he aimed. There is not a single name on this Commission which may be said to represent in any degree the party which in this House has been most prominent in urging the question of Reform. I having nothing to say against the Chairman of the Commission. Lord Eversley is too well known to us to make it possible for any man to suspect that he would do anything that he did not conscientiously believe to be fair and honourable in the matters intrusted to him. But Lord Eversley will only be the Chairman, and probably will not himself go into the country to listen to the evidence and make the inquiry. Well, then, you come to other Gentlemen whose names I do not wish to read over, nor do I wish to comment upon each particular name; but I venture to say this—that of the two Gentlemen whom the right hon. Gentleman would say were not of his party in politics, one of them, I believe, never was known to do anything on behalf of 272 Reform, and the right hon. Gentleman who sits on this back Bench, I am bound to say during last Session and during this Session has not manifested any hearty enthusiasm in the cause. I do not mean to say that it is necessary that only persons who have manifested this hearty enthusiasm should be on this Commission, but when the House is engaged in the settlement of a great question, which has been most urged on by one section of the House—I mean by the Gentlemen who sit at this end of the House—it is an unheard-of proposition that there should not be on the Commission a single name which represents that section or that party. Therefore, I protest against the Commission as it is, and I venture to say that its conclusions will be liable to be called in question, whatever they may be, where any part of the population of the boroughs may think themselves aggrieved by the determination to which they may come. Now, let the Committee bear in mind that although the House, I presume, will have the power hereafter, when the Report of the Commission is brought before it, to make any change which it may please to make—I am not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman's proposition with regard to that is; I think that at the time of the Reform Act of 1832 a very bad system was adopted, by which the Privy Council, if I mistake not, had the right of making changes, and I believe they made some changes that were very unfair, and rather in the interest of the then ruling party than in the interest of the public—yet this, I think, is clear to all of us, that whatever is the recommendation with regard to any particular borough made by the Commission, it will necessarily have great weight in this House, and it will be very difficult to obtain any change. Therefore, the more difficult it may be, the more it is necessary to see that the Commission shall be one which shall give unlimited confidence to all sections of politicians in the country; and I maintain that if there be no gentleman upon this Commission, whose devotion to the question of Reform has been manifested before the present Session, that confidence will not be placed in it which ought to be, and the Government will have no right to expect it. So much with regard to the names. There is another point to which I wish to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it relates to the second portion of the clause. It is this—that I 273 think some attention ought to be paid to a suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire last year, with regard to the propriety of making the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs conterminous with the boundaries of municipal boroughs.
I did not suggest that the boundaries should be absolutely identical, but that wherever the boundary of the municipal borough was more extensive than the boundary of the Parliamentary borough, the latter should be made the same as the municipal borough.
I knew that it had reference to the municipal boroughs. I will take the borough in which I live, which I presume is a sample of a great many others. That borough is a mile and a half in diameter. It is a circle, and the municipal borough centre is only a few yards removed from the Parliamentary borough centre, and therefore the boundaries are very nearly the same. Now, if these Commissioners were to go down to the town of Rochdale as one of the boroughs, and propose to enlarge it, they might enlarge the Parliamentary borough; but they would have no power whatever under the Commission, nor is it right that they should have, to enlarge the municipal borough. The mayor, or the chief officer of the corporation, is the returning officer, and he has to determine the functions of those who are outside his municipal boundary. Well, then, again you bring into action, as a sort of corporate body in returning a Member to Parliament, those who are not united in local affairs and in local taxation, which I think of itself is an undesirable thing, and therefore I should be glad to propose, and I shall probably do so, when we come to that part of the clause, that some words should be introduced providing that there shall be a reference in the whole of this examination by the Commission to the question, what are the present municipal boundaries? and that there should not be, except under extraordinary circumstances—and I doubt whether it would be advisable anywhere—an extension of the boundaries of the Parliamentary boroughs wider than the present extent of the municipal boundaries. While you send these seven gentlemen, who are practically nearly all of one political party—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—indeed I know as much about these gentlemen as anybody in the House—while you send these gentlemen, who are nearly all practically of one political 274 party, with a roving commission to examine into the maps and boundaries of all the boroughs of the kingdom, they have no power to contract the boundaries, and they have no power whatever to shut out great portions of land which have no business whatever in fifty boroughs. These Commissioners have no power to contract; they only have power to enlarge; they may go down to hear such evidence and to make such Report as they please; and when their Report is made the House may then feel it is almost hopeless to deal with the subject. I say then, first, that the Commission should be so constituted as to command the confidence of all parties; and, secondly, there ought to be words in this clause more clearly defining what are the powers of the Commission. The House ought not to commit to any Commission, I will say, however chosen, powers so great and so undefined as those which are included in this clause. I make these observations merely for the purpose of introducing the question to the Committee. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has consented to postpone the clause for a time; and I hope in the meanwhile he will not render it necessary that there should be a Motion made in the House for the substitution of another name for any of those contained in the clause. I do, however, urge on him, in the interest of his own Bill, and in order to give satisfaction to the country, the importance of at least placing upon the Commission one gentleman who is and has been known both in this House and in the country as honestly and earnestly in favour of a real representation of the people.
COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, that he did not quite understand the object of the hon. Member for Birmingham. The hon. Member objected to the composition of the Commission on the ground that the Members of it were too impartial. Was it the hon. Gentleman's wish to have the Members of the Reform League put upon it—the men who had been parties to the late Reform row in St. James's Hall? Or would the hon. Gentleman put on the Commission those friends of his who had signed the Fenian Petition, of which he would say that it was received with contempt and disgust by the House, although the hon. Gentleman contrived to have it placed on the table? Perhaps it was Mr. Beales, or others like him, that the hon. Gentleman wished to have placed on the Commission?
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that, as the 275 right hon. Gentleman had consented to postpone this clause, he hoped the Committee would not then enter into a discussion as to the names of the Gentlemen who were to compose the Commission, or as to the powers that were to be entrusted to them. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the proposal of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) was unreasonable, and that it would involve delay. But it need not involve any delay, because if they entered upon the discussion of the clause it might occupy the whole day, and they might, after all, come to no conclusion upon it. Then the right hon. Gentleman had talked of taking the House into his confidence. But it had been shown that it was absolutely necessary that full time should be given to consider the names proposed, because the House was now asked to assume a share of the responsibility for those names. The Committee ought also to be able to form an opinion as to the principles upon which the Commissioners were to act. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had no objection to lay on the table the instructions under which the Commissioners were to proceed. It was quite necessary that they should have definite instructions. In 1832, the Commissioners were instructed, among other things, to ascertain whether there was any local Act of Parliament under which definite limits were assigned to the towns; and letters were addressed to the town clerks to ascertain the facts. At that time the Municipal Reform Act was not passed, and therefore reference was necessarily made to local Acts. Now, without tying up the hands of the Commissioners, it would be quite necessary that they should be provided on the present occasion with Instructions laying down principles for their guidance beyond those laid down in the clause. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he would have no objection to lay such Instructions upon the table, and he thought it would be very desirable if that course were taken before the clause came on for discussion.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he wished to remind the Committee, with reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Birmingham as to the boundaries of boroughs, that he had brought the subject before the House last year. The fact was that at the time of the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act the boundaries of boroughs, the limits of which required to be altered or extended, eighty-one in 276 number, were left untouched, for this reason—that the House was very jealous of permitting the Commissioners to deal with the boundaries, and deferred the matter in order that Parliament might deal with it by some future measure. That time never arrived, and the consequence was that nothing had been done with respect to these eighty-one boroughs for a period of more than thirty years. Taking the case of York, for example, there was one portion of the borough which was wholly excluded from representation. Now, he thought it was very desirable that the Parliamentary and municipal boundaries should, to a certain extent, be identical; and if the Government were going to frame any definite Instructions, as had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the case of the eighty-one boroughs to which he had called attention ought not to be forgotten.
§ SIR EDWARD DERING
said, he remembered the discussion which took place in 1832, and which was exactly of the same nature as that which was now going on, as to any Instructions which were to be given to the Commissioners. He recollected that on that occasion Lord Althorpe made use of words which gave very general satisfaction to the House when he said that it would be the duty of the Commissioners to include within the limits of the borough all such places as were so closely interwoven and intermixed with the borough as to form a natural part of it. The hon. Member for Birmingham was hardly correct in saying that the decisions of the Commissioners were not on that occasion subject to the revision of the House. A considerable amount of discussion took place at the time when the Commissioners were appointed, and odjections were taken to the very large powers which were given to them. A great part however of those objections was obviated by the stress which was laid on the fact that all decisions of the Commission were to be subject to the revision of the House.
§ MR. DENMAN
said he had very great doubt as to whether it would give satisfaction to the country generally that any person should be appointed a member of a Commission with such large powers who had any personal interest in the matters to be enquired into. It was contrary to all ordinary principles of justice that any person should exercise an office, in its nature judicial, who might have any interest in the question into which he 277 was about to inquire. Two of the Gentlemen named were actually Members of the House, and another was a Gentleman who had been a Member for some time and might probably again be a candidate for a seat—he meant the late Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter). He did not mean to throw any imputation upon those gentlemen that they would be unfairly influenced; if they had any bias, he had so much respect for their characters that he thought it highly probable that that bias would be in the direction contrary to their own interests; but he thought that that very argument was strong against the appointment of Members of the House, who might become personally interested and affected at any moment by the proceedings of the Commission. He had so much confidence in his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Russell Gurney) as to believe that if a question arose affecting his interests he would, in a case of doubt, decide against himself. That would be his hon. and learned Friend's ratio decidendi. But it was a rule which prevailed in all Courts of Justice, that no person who had any interest in a matter should be a party to a decision by which he might be affected. If however they were to have members of the House on the Commission, he entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Birmingham that they ought to have men of pronounced opinions upon it—a thoroughgoing Liberal on the one side and a thoroughgoing Tory on the other, and not attempt to choose men of no strongly pronounced opinions, from a notion that they would thereby obtain perfect impartiality. One thing was quite certain, that in this Commission the urban distinguished from the county interest was not sufficiently represented. Most of the Gentlemen named were in the main connected with the agricultural interest, thus giving a preponderance to county interests where county and borough interests did not run together. He hoped that before the clause came on for discussion the Government would consider these points, with a view to making such alterations in the composition of the Committee as would obviate objections which were otherwise sure to be raised.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he could not agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham that it was desirable that the boundaries of the parliamentary boroughs 278 should always be conterminous with those of the municipal boroughs. There were many large and growing towns situated outside of the municipal boroughs to which the franchise ought, in his opinion, to be extended, though the inhabitants would not desire to be incorporated with the municipalities, and he did not think it would be advisable to lay down any strict rule which would limit the discretion of the Commissioners in the matter. The borough which he represented (Oldham) was an instance of this, and he thought it was a fortunate thing that the Parliamentary area was made so wide in 1832, for otherwise those townships would virtually have had no representation.
§ COLONEL DYOTT
said, he thought it would on that occasion be altogether out of place to attempt to criticise the mode in which the Commissioners should discharge their duties. There was one observation in the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, in which he entirely concurred, namely, that the Commissioners should have power to curtail as well as to enlarge the boundaries of boroughs. A recent Return showed that there were eight boroughs containing within their present area less than 10,000 inhabitants each, but which, if the whole parish were included within the Parliamentary boundary, would exceed that number. The borough of Bridport, for instance, contained only little less than 10,000 inhabitants within a space of one square mile; that of Chichester, 1 1–10th, of Guildford 9–10ths, of Lewes 1 3–10ths, and Lichfield, Newport, Poole, and Windsor were similarly circumstanced. Windsor, with an area of four square miles, had a little under 10,000 inhabitants; but if the whole parish were taken in its population would be 12,454. Tiverton, on the other hand, had an area of twenty-seven square miles, and just over 10,000 people. Now, it was manifestly unjust to take one Member from Windsor and leave Tiverton two. These anomalies were not entitled to respect as being the growth of ages, for they dated only from 1832. The question was whether they would adopt the Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which proposed to curtail the discretion of the Commissioners in this matter, empowering them only to enlarge boroughs, or whether they would also invest them with the discretionary power of diminishing the borough areas. In his opinion it would be better to pursue the latter course on an occasion like the present, when they were 279 reviewing and re-constituting our whole Parliamentary system.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, there were a few points with respect to which he wished to obtain some further information from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The clause as originally framed provided that the Report of the Commissioners should have no validity until it was confirmed by Parliament; but he observed that that proviso was not repeated in the new clause which the right hon. Gentleman at present proposed to postpone. That was, he supposed, a mere accidental omission; but he was anxious to know whether he was right in entertaining that impression. The original clause also contemplated the appointment of assistant Commissioners. The present clause, however, said nothing upon that subject, and he begged leave to ask whether the Government had made any change in their first determination upon that matter? He had also to express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman would lay upon the table a copy of the Letter of Instructions to be issued to the Commissioners before he asked the Committee to sanction their appointment.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
wished to know whether the Government intended to issue a separate Commission for Scotland, or whether the same Commissioners would act for the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that the discussion on which the Committee was engaged seemed to him to open out the wider question whether it would not have been better policy to have made the boundary examination antecedent to the re-distribution of seats. In his opinion it would be desirable before they partially disfranchised any borough, to know what were the area and the circumstances under which the amount of the population was determined, both in case of the boroughs which were partially disfranchised, and of those which were wholly retained. Certain boroughs had been deprived of one Member and had been otherwise hard hit in debate, because their population was less than 10,000; would it not then be natural for the Commissioners to prop them up by giving them as large an one as possible? But if that were done they would find next Session, when they were giving the finishing stroke to Reform, that certain constituencies of from 10,000 to 15,000 inhabitants, returned two Members, while other constituencies with a larger 280 population and greater area, returned only one Member. Now, could any man of sense believe that that would be a satisfactory settlement of the Reform question, and that it would not, on the contrary, be a nest-egg of future agitation? At present it was understood that we had only two classes of representative areas — namely, counties and boroughs. But henceforward we should have three classes—namely, counties, boroughs, and quasi-counties with a borough franchise. He did not believe this would be a good or desirable settlement of the question, for the existence of such constituencies would be a direct invitation to the residuum of the counties—more limited constituencies, though larger areas—to claim that the counties themselves should be reduced to a condition of household suffrage. He knew it was generally considered that those rural boroughs were Conservative institutions, because it was calculated that the peasant householders would vote as their landlords wished; but he thought it would be a most fallacious and unfortunate position for the Conservative party to base itself upon the ignorance and subserviency of the country population. He believed that Conservatism was an intelligent and discriminative political system, and he flattered himself that Conservative politics stood the test of reason and examination; so he should be sorry to find that their supporters depended upon mere passion and the influence of landlords. He did not attach much belief to the opinion which was fashionable on that side of the House that these boroughs would be useful for the future, as the means of introducing young talent into the House. He feared that with the new household suffrage those boroughs would be perfectly altered and spoilt for that purpose. The institutions which were once really useful in introducing young talent, were the old nomination boroughs; but in the case of nomination boroughs, there was no corruption, or subserviency, or tampering with ignorance. The system which led to a seat in the House being procurable by an agreement with the patron of Gatton or old Sarum may have been unjustifiable in the abstract, but it was not degrading nor yet corrupt, for the patron of such a borough was a man of the same social standing and education as the candidate, and the bargain was openly made. But with these rural householder boroughs, intelligence would go for much less than money, and the 281 candidate would have to pay his way through a dense phalanx of chawbacons. He feared that the course which they were adopting in that matter, creating, as it probably would, some twenty or thirty such constituencies, would only lead in a very short time to another democratic agitation for another Radical Reform Bill.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he wished to offer a few words of explanation in reference to the observations made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Colonel Dyott) with respect to the case of Tiverton. He dared say he could do as well without his hon. Colleague as his hon. Colleague could do without him. But he did not think the hon. and gallant Member was right in supposing that the borough of Tiverton was the creation of the Act of 1832. The fact was that Tiverton was an old borough, the boundaries of which were formerly conterminous with those of the parish, and the only difference between its past and its present condition was that its two Members were now returned by 600 electors, which number that Bill would nearly double, whereas before the Reform Act twenty-four persons sent two Members to that House.
said, he hoped that justice would be done to boroughs like Windsor, which he had the honour of representing, and which possessed a population just under 10,000. The fact, with respect to Windsor, was that many persons who really formed a portion of the population lived within the parish, but just outside the boundaries of the borough.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I hoped that as it has been generally agreed to postpone the consideration of the clause, this discussion upon it would also be closed, and I should not have risen but for the appeals made to me, and the questions which have been put. With regard to the composition of the Commission, with which the hon. Member for Birmingham finds fault, I can only say that we start from different principles as to the elements of a Commission of this kind. The hon. Member for Birmingham thinks that the Commission ought to consist of men of decided political opinions. [Mr. BRIGHT: I did not say anything of the kind.] We have endeavoured, on the contrary, to exclude gentlemen of very strong political opinions, and it will be found that I have not recommended that any Friend of mine of very decided opinions should be placed upon the Commission. 282 I admit that it was the wish of the Government originally that no Member of Parliament should be put upon the Commission; but it was urged upon us by persons in authority in a most impressive manner, that it would be extremely desirable that the Commission should be represented by Members of this House, so that if discussions should arise on their decisions they should be represented by Members of the Commission, and not by friends in this House, or by the Government as a mere public duty. I should have been very glad to select an individual from either side of the House to perform this duty, but in a matter of this kind you have to consider not merely your own convictions, but the popular feeling of the country, which would not be satisfied unless both sides are represented. On the part of this side of the House I recommended the name of a right hon. Gentleman who, I think, the House will agree with me, is a man of high judicial qualities, and will be generally acceptable on both sides of the House. On the other side of the House I ventured to recommend the name of another right hon. Gentleman whose feelings and opinions are in accord with those of hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side of the House, and who, from his experience and high character, is also well qualified for the office. It was thought advisable to place upon the Commission two Members of the other House as well as of this House, and accordingly I recommended Lord Eversley and Lord Penrhyn, with whom as Colonel Douglas Pennant, hon. Gentlemen have all been long familiar. We know his talents for business, his high character, and temperate opinions, and I believe that to be on the whole a very judicious recommendation. With regard to the other Gentlemen whose names I mentioned there is Sir John Duckworth. He was a Member of this House, and I think it very advisable that if the Members of the Commission are not actually Members of this House they should be men thoroughly acquainted with Parliamentary functions. Sir John was a Member of this House. He was a very able and competent man of business, and of very temperate views. The late Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) is a man of very decided Liberal opinions. Mr. Bramston is a man known for his habits of business, and distinguished for his independent political views. He sat on this side of the House, but I used to see him very seldom 283 in the same lobby as myself, he being one of the most valuable supporters of the Government of Lord Palmerston. At the same time, every one who knows him knows his acquaintance with all the matters likely to be brought under the consideration of the Commission. I really believe that Her Majesty's Government have recommended to Parliament the names of those who will obtain the confidence of the country. As I have said, I look at this matter from a different standpoint from the hon. Member for Birmingham, and I say that no individual, with strong political or party opinion, or who is very much mixed up with our party struggles, ought to be appointed on this Commission. With regard to County Members, there is not a single County Member on the Commission, but there are two Members for boroughs. It was important if possible to select some Members from the North of England, but it is in the nature of things that the distribution of Parliamentary power should be towards the North of England; and therefore, although I could have named Gentlemen on both sides in whom we should feel great confidence, we could not but feel that these Gentlemen would have been called upon to decide questions in which they are personally interested. I am surprised that a Gentleman of such experience as the hon. Member for Bradford should make the inquiry he has made as to whether the decisions of the Committee are to be valid without the sanction of Parliament. It is, of course, impossible that the laws of this country can be changed by any body of men without the consent of Parliament. But the words of the original clause appearing to be ill drawn we have substituted words which will be much more satisfactory. The Reports of the Commissioners must be the foundation of legislation; and when the Boundary Bill is before the House, there will be no detail in it which it will not be open to every hon. Member to criticise or propose to alter. The hon. Gemtleman also asked me whether there will be assistant Commissioners. To a large extent the duties of the Commission can be performed without subordinate assistance, but it is impossible to say now how far that will be the case. If we were to attempt to decide that now, we should be embarking on the question of a large and, perhaps, unnecessarily expensive staff. When the Commissioners are appointed they will meet to consult together and form some estimate 284 of the duties which will have to be performed; and although I do not contemplate that the Commission will itself visit all these various localities, yet I have no doubt they will avail themselves of their right to do so when that is expedient; and, of course, they will require some subordinate assistance. The House of Commons is not to be troubled with all the details, and at the present moment it is impossible for me to form an opinion as to their exact character. When, however, the Commissioners have met and considered the extent of the duties to be fulfilled, they will communicate with the Government as to what assistance may be requisite. With respect to laying the instructions to be issued to the Commission on the table before this clause is passed, I cannot undertake to do that. We wish the Commission to be appointed by Parliament; and of course, whenever the instructions are given, they will be laid on the table of the House. I do not think those instructions will be of so elaborate a character as on the previous occasion of 1832, because, since that time, the Municipal Reform Act and other important Acts bearing on these matters have been passed. But in the fair discussion which we shall have on this clause I hope on Monday that both sides of the House will come to a clear understanding as to what the functions of the Commissioners will be. I trust the clause respecting the appointment and the duties of this Commission will not be allowed to enter into the elements of party conflict. I do not myself take the exaggerated view which some hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to take of the duties which the Commissioners will have to discharge. I believe they will fulfil those duties discreetly, and will contribute very much to the beneficial working of this Bill; but it will be our own fault if we do not come to a clear understanding as to what we wish them to do. I have been asked whether it will not be necessary to have a Boundary Commission for Scotland also. Well, as far as I am informed at present, I do not see any necessity for that; but really until the House has come to a conclusion on the details of the Scotch Reform Bill, it would be premature to speak positively one way or the other on that point. I hope it may not be requisite to have recourse to that expedient, the circumstances of Scotland being rather different from those of England; but, if it cannot be avoided, of course it will be 285 adopted. I hope the Committee will now proceed with the next clause and make some progress with this measure.
In the observations I made a little earlier I did not pretend to discuss the names of the proposed Members of this Commission. But the right hon. Gentleman has brought them out and given his opinion of the Commissioners, dividing them into those connected with counties and those connected with boroughs. Now, I take it to be a very important circumstance that there should be any separate interest between counties and boroughs in this matter. I would not myself vote for any man to be placed on this Commission who, in the discussion of the boundary of any borough, would be influenced by the consideration that this or that boundary would be more likely to make a county more Liberal or more Conservative than another boundary would do. Any man who could be actuated by such a feeling as that would in my opinion be altogether unfit to be placed on this Commission. But assuming, if you like, that these Gentlemen will be as impartial as any others who could be named, I believe the public will not entertain that opinion as regards the list which is before us. Setting aside the Chairman (Lord Eversley), my own opinion is that the House of Commons would have done wisely to commit the whole of this matter to men who are not Members of the House of Peers. I do not understand why Lord Penrhyn should be a Member of the Commission. He is a great landowner and a man of enormous wealth, to which none of us can object, but he was very recently a county Member. The right hon. Member for Southampton is the Recorder for the city of London, and he has his business in Parliament as well as his recordership to occupy him. I am bound to say that if the Members of this Commission are to pay much attention to their duties, a better selection—I am not now complaining of it in other respects—might have been made than of a Gentleman whose judicial, professional, and other duties must take up so much of his daily time. Sir J. Duckworth was not, I admit, a county Member; he was a borough Member, and was once Member for Exeter, but his connections are all with that class to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. But Mr. Walter was a county Member, and, I may say, looks to be a county Member again. 286 He is connected with a powerful journal, and I do not know how it is, but one sees a great deal of court paid by Ministers to that journal. This I can speak positively of Mr. Walter, that I have never come into personal communication or discussion with any man while I have been in Parliament who has, as I should call it, a more fanatical admiration of what is termed the territorial interest of this country. On grounds therefore on which this Commission may properly be attacked or defended, I say that Mr. Walter is not a person free from strong opinion on a matter of this kind, although I would not insinuate for a moment that there is a doubt in my mind that he would intentionally do anything which he did not believe to be quite fair and honourable. The right hon. Gentleman says that Mr. Bramston was an independent Member of this House. Of course, we are all independent Members in a sense, but Mr. Bramston was a Member of the party opposite and the Member for a county. So that, looking at the whole of these names—and I would not have mentioned them but that the right hon. Gentleman himself has done so—I say this Commission is not one such as will give perfect satisfaction to the country. I do not believe that the most impartial men in this House are those who never open their mouths. I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, or even I who now address the House, would be quite as impartial in a matter of this kind as any of the silent Members who sit and so patiently and so frequently listen to us. Therefore because Gentlemen do not take an active part in the debates of this House, that is no reason for supposing they have not strong opinions and strong party opinions. Why, it requires twice the strength of party opinion to induce Gentlemen to come here every night to vote incessantly and listen to long speeches that it does for Gentlemen who have the excitement of addressing the House, as some of us do so often. But the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in telling us that these Gentlemen have a sort of neutral tint which will make them do everything that is fair. Probably they will; but let us have a Commission such as the country will believe to be fair. The first thing these Commissioners will do when they meet will be to appoint the real Commission—that is, the Assistant Commissioners. The men whom we have had named 287 to us are the Gentlemen Commissioners who will look over the working Commissioners, and give their sanction to their labours. We shall have no real superintendence over that assistant Commission. I do not know that even the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have anything to say in the appointment of these Gentlemen, though his recommendation will of course have some effect. But the House will have no power in the matter. The Assistant Commissioners will go down to all these places and will make their reports to these Gentlemen Commissioners, who will naturally be guided very much by the views of the majority of those whom they have themselves appointed. I say, therefore, that the constitution of this Commission is not such as gives me a perfect confidence—and I do not believe it will give confidence at all to the country—that their judgments may be relied on. You should appoint men of whom the country on looking at their names will say, "This is a perfectly fair Commission; if some one upon it be of strong opinions on one side, there is another member who is of strong opinions on the other side; and, by their joint decisions, we may believe that common justice will be done." I do not wish to suggest that any of these names should be left out in order that some others may be included; but I wish to leave it open for myself hereafter either to move to omit some of the names, and put others in their place, or to add to the list. I do not know why the number should be rigidly fixed at seven. It might be increased to nine, and its composition may be greatly changed. I give this notice in the hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may consider the matter before we resume the discussion of the clause.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he was at a loss to know how the hon. Member for Birmingham would really like to have the Commission constituted. He understood him, in the first place, to say there should be no Peer upon it. [Mr. BRIGHT: No]; and, next, that no county Member should be selected. [Mr. BRIGHT again expressed his dissent.] Whom then would the hon. Gentleman have upon the Commission? Were the Commissioners to be men of no experience, no profession, and no employment? But the hon. Member even went further, and seemed to object to a man who wished to stand as a candidate at another election. The hon. Gentleman did not tell them what description 288 of person he desired to see appointed.
It is evident the hon. Gentleman is not one of those to whom I just referred as coming down to the House and paying attention to the speeches which are made.
I can hardly regret that this preliminary discussion, though it has occupied an hour of our time, has taken place, as I think it will be of use when we come to consider the clause. I confess I think that very great credit is due to the Government for proposing to submit to the House the names of the Commissioners. I at the same time very much doubt whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken a perfectly just measure of the consequences which are likely to arise from the decision to admit the House into his confidence at which he has arrived, instead of appointing, as in 1832, the Commission on the responsibility of the Executive Government. I do not intend to enter into the various points to which the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech referred, because it is better, in my opinion, that the discussion of them should be deferred to the proper time. There is, however, one point to which I would now wish briefly to advert. An appeal has been made to the right hon. Gentleman to the effect, that if the Government should propose to issue instructions to the Commissioners those instructions should be laid on the table; and the right hon. Gentleman has promised that this shall be done. But the point I wish to suggest is, that if the Commissioners are to be Parliamentary officers, it is impossible to say from what source is to be derived the authority of the Executive Government to instruct them at all. If they are to be the officers of the Government, then let it by all means issue to them such instructions as it may deem fit. If, however, they are to be affected by this Statute, then I say, without hesitation, that the right hon. Gentleman will have no more authority to instruct them than myself, and I need not say that that is very little indeed.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, it is quite clear if we are to act upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that it would be wise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to withdraw those names and to appoint the Commissioners himself.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that he felt delicacy in referring to individual Members, but as the matter had been discussed, 289 he thought hon. Gentlemen might express an opinion whether hon. Members of that House were the fittest persons to be placed upon the Commission, and for his part he thought they were not. Another of the proposed Members was connected with a potent journal, and was placed in a position of peculiar delicacy; and he thought they might make a better selection than that particular Gentleman. He said that with the most perfect regard and respect for that Gentleman, whom he hoped to see again a Member of the House.
§ Clause postponed.
§ Clause 32 (Polling Booths, at which certain Voters are to poll) struck out.
§ Clause 33 (Repeal of Proviso to 6 Vict. c. 18).
§ MR. DENMAN
said, that, under the Act of William IV., a voter might be placed on the register and might be enabled to vote at an election, although for eleven months previously he might have ceased to reside in the borough for which he was registered. That state of things was found to cause much inconvenience, and as a consequence that provision of the 6th of Victoria, which it was now proposed to repeal, was passed. All that he proposed to do was to leave the law exactly as it stood with regard to the old voters, and to extend to the new voters precisely the same safeguards applicable to those now on the register. The Government might at one time have said they were about to introduce voting by voting papers, and that that would save expense, and render it possible to repeal this enactment without ruining candidates by travelling expenses of non-resident voters; but they were now deprived of that argument, and, indeed, even it would not have met the opinion maintained by Sir James Graham, in the discussion on the clause now sought to be repealed, that when a person had ceased to reside in a place ten or eleven months he had ceased to have that interest in it which was some security for the due performance of his duty as an elector. He concluded by moving the omission of the words, "There shall be repealed," and the insertion of the words, "From and after the passing of this Act," with a view to making the clause read, by further amendment, that so much of the 79th section of 6 Vict. c. 18, as related to the residence of voters at the time they gave their votes should extend and apply to all new voters.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it would be best to omit the clause altogether, as the object in view would be attained by Clause 40.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he had looked into Clause 40, and thought the desired end would not be attained without the insertion of words especially applying to the new voters.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that if they were to adopt the amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman they would get into the greatest possible confusion. The proviso referred to in the clause was part of an Act regulating the registration of voters, and if the words were not sufficiently extensive to apply to new voters under £10, they must be made so. It was best to strike out the clause and bring up a new and comprehensive one.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he thought it would be desirable that it should be left to the returning officer to inquire of a voter whether he retained the qualification under which he presumed to give his vote.
§ MR. JAMES
said, he thought that the clauses referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were so uncertain in their language that they would be sure to lead to litigation, and that the Committee would do well to accept the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend, as it would extend a very useful principle of the 6 & 7 Vict. c. 18, to the new class of voters to be created under this Bill.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he thought that the proposal of the hon. and learned Member would lead to endless discussions before the returning officer.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that if the words in the 40th clause were not sufficient to meet the case, there would be no difficulty in adding to them. The Amendment, if adopted, would lead to doubt and difficulty.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 34 and 35 struck out.
§ Clause 36 (Corrupt Payment of Rates to be punishable as Bribery).
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
proposed to leave out the words "for the purpose of enabling him to be registered as a voter;" and observed that the payment of an elector's rate by a third party was bribery, and that this might be made to apply to the poorer class of occupiers who were relieved from the payment of their rates by reason of their poverty. This poorer 291 class of occupiers was numerous in the boroughs, and if the landlord or election agent were to pay their rates they would not derive a farthing of profit from it. He did not see what practical difference there was between the payment of £4 or £5 to a railway company for the travelling expenses of a voter, in order that he might exercise the franchise, and the payment of 2s. or 3s. to a parish for enabling a man to do exactly the same thing. He was anxious that these rates should not be paid by candidates; but in order to attain that object you must have some different machinery from that suggested by the Government.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he would ask whether it was desirable that the Committee should give facilities for the creation of fagot votes; they had already laid down the principle, that a man who was relieved by the parish from the payment of rates should not vote, so that the effect of paying a man's rates was to put on the register one who otherwise would not be there because he had not fulfilled the duties required by law. What was the payment of a man's rates but to enable him to be put on the roll of electors? To omit these words, therefore, was to go against the whole spirit of the Act, and to allow the payment of a man's rates was to sanction bribery, and he should therefore oppose the Amendment.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
asked what was to constitute the "corrupt" payment of rates? If a man's rate came to 2s. and a third party gave him 2s. 6d. to pay it with, would that be a corrupt payment? It would be a very easy thing to evade the operation of the clause. Was it intended that nothing should be given by way of gratuity to any ratepayer a certain time before the registration? He suggested the propriety of referring this particular clause to the consideration of the Committee on Bribery at Elections, instead of attempting to introduce into this Bill a single clause dealing with a single kind of bribery.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that as the clause stood, instead of making the law relating to bribery clearer, it only made it more puzzling and obscure. If the payment of rates were corrupt, it was bribery under the existing law; and if it were not corrupt, it was not made so by this clause. If the clause were agreed to as proposed, it would follow that there might be payments made under certain circumstances 292 on behalf of voters for the purpose of keeping their names on the register, that would not be corrupt. It would be much better to strike out the clause altogether. As to the Amendment, he was astonished that the hon. Baronet should make such a proposal.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he had given notice of an Amendment to omit this clause, on two grounds — first that it was objectionable to multiply penal enactments when the law was sufficient as it stood; and, secondly, that there was a Committee now sitting on the subject of bribery, There would be very great difficulty in knowing the effect of the first three lines of the clause—That any candidate or other person corruptly paying any rates for the purpose of endeavouring to have any person placed on the register as a voter.According to the decision of the Courts of Law in a similar case, the word "corruptly" here would mean nothing at all, being quite otiose. Any act of the kind described, done wilfully, being contrary to the law, would, he believed, be held to be done "corruptly." As the effect would be very perplexing, it would be better to omit the clause, and he would therefore support the Amendment.
said, he had no doubt that the clause would be valuable, because it would enable a candidate to refuse wholesale applications which might be made to him for the payment of rates.
I may remind the Committee that we have some experience from the action of the law telling us what we should do in this case. The custom in the borough with which I am acquainted is, that when the time for making out the lists for the new registration approaches, about the end of July, any active politician who may have reasons for taking an interest in the matter, goes to the overseer's office and looks over the list, where he sees the names of the persons who have a right to be put on the register, and whether any of them have omitted to pay their rates. Perhaps he finds a dozen whose rates have not been paid. He will pay the rates and clear the account, and he then goes to his friends and obtains the money from them. In such cases as those to which I refer, it is never done for bribery or any corrupt purpose, but to see whether anyone has been left out through inadvertence or neglect to pay the rate, and in the majority of cases the money is re-paid by the voter. [Ironical cheers from 293 the Ministerial side.] Well, I am sorry to find that hon. Gentlemen do not appear to live in towns so respectable. There will no doubt be many more cases in which this will happen with the poorer class of voters; and I think it quite possible that in their case, too, a similar practice may take place, and that the rates may be paid to avoid the deprivation of the franchise, without anything being corruptly meant The clause will not be of much avail, and I think may be applicable to cases where no corrupt practice is intended. I should be inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth, that it would be better to have the matter considered in connection with a general Bill referring to bribery. In large towns there will be much less temptation to bribe for the purpose of getting hold of a few votes, as a few votes will be of much less value with the increased constituencies, and therefore the evil maybe of less dimensions than some apprehend.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that for the purpose of getting on the register it was necessary that a man should pay his rates; and the question was, whether a candidate who paid the rates for a number of voters for the purpose of getting them on the register was paying corruptly. But if it were fair that a man should be punished for giving a small sum of money to a voter to induce him to poll, it could hardly be proper that he should be allowed to pay money for the purpose of putting a number of persons on the register.
It would be great presumption in me to question the interpretation of the clause by the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I am not able, as at present advised, to read it in the sense in which he has described it. The hon. and learned Gentleman says the effect of this clause is to provide that no candidate who pays the rate on behalf of a number of voters shall be understood to have corruptly paid that rate. If that be so, it is quite clear that the word "corruptly" should be struck out from its present position, and inserted in a later part of the clause. We say that any candidate corruptly paying on behalf of a voter shall be guilty of bribery, implying directly, by the very same argument that the Attorney General used, that a man may pay the rate without paying it corruptly. I think some change in the wording of the clause is necessary, and should be very glad to 294 know the precise addition which may be requisite to give force to the provision in cases where bribery is intended.
§ MR. BRETT
said, he thought that the clause was necessary, and that it was also necessary that the word "corruptly" should be in it. The clause was necessary, because a person might pay the rates for the purpose of getting an occupier on the register without any intention of being repaid. They would all agree that such a payment would be corrupt. On the other hand, a person might pay a friend's rate in his absence, well knowing that his omission to do it himself was a pure inadvertence, and well knowing also that the money would be repaid him. It would be absurd to call that a corrupt payment, and yet if the clause or the word were omitted, it might be seriously called in question.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that if they were agreed in their object, it should be expressed plainly and without ambiguity. They wanted to say that if any candidate came forward and paid rates for the purpose of securing the registration of a voter, the act should be considered corrupt. The clause as it stood did not express that by putting the word "corruptly" at the commencement, the clause encumbered the proof of the indictment with the proof of all that the word "corruptly" implied. The clause not only did not say what it meant, but said the very opposite of what it meant. He would, therefore, suggest the insertion of words providing that any candidate directly or indirectly paying any rate for the purpose of influencing the voter should be deemed guilty of corruption.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, there were many things argued which, nevertheless, were perfectly clear, and this, he thought, was a case of that kind. The words suggested by the right hon. Gentle man could not be adopted, because a person might pay a rate for another as a friendly act, and in perfect good faith, knowing that he would be repaid. A judge or jury would have no difficulty in finding whether an act had been corruptly done or not, and although the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) had asked for a definition of the term "corruptly," to introduce any such definition would only obscure what was otherwise perfectly clear. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Brett) had stated the reasons why such a clause was necessary, and he hoped the Committee would retain the clause in its present shape.
said, he thought that the discussion which had taken place was proof sufficient that the meaning of the clause was not plain, and he thought it needed alteration. His hon. and learned Friend appeared to think that if the money were repaid it would not be corrupt, but that if it were not repaid it would be corrupt; but this seemed a singular distinction, as it would be absurd to hold that a person was guilty of bribery because he had given a poor neighbour half-a-crown to enable him to avoid a distress. He could not, however, vote for the Amendment, which would, he thought, open a wide door to corruption.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he could see no difficulty in the registration. The question of corrupt intention was in every case of bribery a matter of evidence, and for that reason it was absolutely necessary to insert the word "corruptly" in the present clause. There was no harm in the father or brother of a voter paying the rates for him; but there was the greatest possible harm in the case of a man paying a voter's rates under the pretence of lending him money, and in order to enable him to be put on the register. There was no Committee and no jury who would not say that such a proceeding was corrupt. Such a case, however, was one for a jury, and not for that House.
§ MR. BONHAM - CARTER
said, that the clause required a greater amount of consideration than in Committee of the whole House could be given to it. He thought that they should be careful that innocent payments were not brought within the operation of the clause; and that the clause, indeed, had better be withdrawn for the present and re-considered.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
wanted to know what mischief would happen if they left out the word "corruptly," and made it an offence for any person to pay the rates for another person in order that he might be put on the register. If the word "corruptly" were left out no one would be enabled to pay the rates of another.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the decision of the Judges in the case of "Cooper v. Slade," which showed that the word "corruptly" had no legal force.
said, that the case referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman had no application to the present matter. The word "corruptly" was not otiose, for there were cases where the rate 296 might be legitimately paid for the purpose of enabling a voter to be on the register, such as cases where a man knowing that his friend had inadvertently omitted to pay, paid for him. This would surely not be corruption.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he hoped the Government would adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey).
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he thought the first part of the clause would be evaded by persons lending voters small sums to pay their rates with, while professing ignorance of what the money was wanted for. If the object of the Committee were to make it an offence to assist a man in getting on the register, they must adopt distinct words to that effect. The second part of the clause, declaring that to pay a rate for a voter to induce him to vote was bribery, was quite unnecessary, that being bribery already. He thought the best course was to strike the clause out.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, he must also concur in the opinion that the mere word "corruptly" was not sufficiently explicit.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he hoped that the Government would adhere to the clause, and not allow it to get into the hands of the Committee, as it was designed to insure the personal payment of rates, and also to protect candidates from being called on to pay rates. He thought also that it was advisable that the word "corruptly" should be retained.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, he did not suppose that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield intended to prohibit the payment of rates by a landlord where there was an agreement between him and his tenant to that effect.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I would prohibit that, if it were for the purpose of putting the tenant on the Parliamentary register.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, that while he thought it was a fit and proper thing to prohibit the payment of a man's rates by a stranger, for the purpose of enabling him to be put upon the register, he could see no objection to an arrangement on the part of a landlord to pay his tenant's rates, even although it was contemplated that by such payment the tenant would be put upon the list of voters. He would therefore suggest the omission of the word "corruptly," and the adding of a proviso, thatNothing herein contained shall be held to prohibit the payment of rates by the landlord on 297 behalf of his tenant pursuant to any agreement between them for that purpose.
§ MR. BANKS STANHOPE
said, he thought that the clause should provide that the rates should not be paid by any person but the actual voter. In his opinion it would be difficult to say what was meant by the word "stranger."
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, he did not wish to take any division on the word "corruptly," although it appeared to him to be the only valuable word in the clause. He should request the Chairman to put his Amendment, but he would not give the House the trouble of dividing.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he agreed with his hon. Friend that it would be undesirable to take the issue on the word "corruptly." He wished to know what was the meaning of the words "directly or indirectly?" If a man gave another money to pay his rate, it seemed to him that was directly paying the rate. To prevent the possibility of such a thing altogether was an absolute prohibition of every kind of charity.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
Were they going to limit the clause to those cases where it could be absolutely proved that money was paid for the express purpose of putting the man on the register? They knew that such a clause would be mere nonsense, and they had better strike it out of the Bill altogether. Candidates and electioneering agents were not born fools. If they intended to do a corrupt act, they would take care to do it in such a way as to evade the clause. He did not wish to make an Act of Parliament a laughingstock, and after the explanation of his hon. Friend opposite he was still more inclined to object to his Amendment.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he should regret if the Amendment of the hon. Baronet (Sir Rainald Knightley) were withdrawn, as in that case the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield could not be put to the House.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I do not know, Sir, but that I may be a born fool—nevertheless, I have known cases in which people have been found out who have thought they have crept through Acts of Parliament. It seems to me that my proposition would make it clearly a matter of evidence whether a man's rates were paid for the purpose of putting him on the register, or 298 whether it was merely for his own convenience. If a landlord in paying a tenant's rates tells him he does it to put the tenant on the register, it is quite clear what he does it for. I think the matter is quite clear, and that no one but a born fool could see any difficulty in it.
said, he was sorry that in consequence of the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire, the Committee was precluded from voting for the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, because he (Mr. Gladstone) believed that that Amendment, coupled with such a proviso as had been suggested by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, would bring the clause into a useful and practicable shape. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite said the object of the clause was perfectly clear; but it was not at all clear to Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side. He had previously put, and now repeated, this question:—What was the object of the Government in proposing that clause, and what was the Act that the present laws respecting bribery and corruption did not reach which was not now an offence, and which it was intended to constitute an offence by that Bill?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that that question had already been distinctly answered by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Helston. The introduction of the word "corruptly" into the clause was perfectly intelligible and capable of a definite application; but if it was desired to make the payment of a man's rates by a stranger, whether an election was or was not imminent at the time, for the purpose of getting his name on the electoral register, a punishable act, the word "corruptly" might as well in that case be omitted.
said, he thought that if the clause passed in its present shape it would include within it a good deal that was not intended. If it was meant by the word "corruptly" that certain persons paid a man's rates not only to get his name put upon the register, but that he might thereby vote for those persons or according to their wishes, he could understand the corruption in that; but he confessed he could not clearly make out what was meant by the word "corruptly" if the rates were paid merely to get the man's name on the register, without any reference to what he was to do with his vote. All sorts of expenses were now undertaken to be paid by 299 persons in order to get people upon the register; but he did not know that any charge of corruption had hitherto been alleged against that simple Act.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he would give an illustration in order to put the case clearly to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It was said that payment of the man's rates had nothing to do with how he was to vote, but was only intended to get him put on the register. Now, suppose he wanted to blow up a man, and gave another man a shilling to buy gunpowder for the purpose of doing it; there were two steps to one end, and that was exactly a parallel case to the one they were considering.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, it appeared that the hon. Baronet (Sir Rainald Knightley) would not withdraw his Amendment in order that he might prevent that of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield from being put. He would ask whether that was a usual or a Parliamentary course to take?
§ VISCOUNT MILTON
said, that the whole gist of the matter turned upon the word "corruptly," and he would ask the Government why they so persistently stood by the word? Was the law inadequate to deal with corrupt practices, and was there any difficulty in finding them out? After the remarks of the Solicitor General he had come to the conclusion, that it was the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman to do a good turn to solicitors in general, by leaving the word "corruptly" in the clause. Unless there was some private political reason for its retention he (Viscount Milton) did not see why it should not be struck out.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
proposed, at page 12, line 19, to omit the word "or," and insert "and any candidate or other person either directly or indirectly paying any rate on behalf of any voter." He said his object was to prevent such payments, or in case they were made, to render the parties making them liable to punishment.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he had no objection to the Amendment. The Clause would stand thus: "By a candidate or other person directly or indirectly paying any rate for the purpose of inducing him to vote."
§ Amendment agreed to.300
§ On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he thought that, after the discussion which had taken place, he ought to press the Amendment of which he had given nptice—namely, "that the Clause do not stand part of the Bill." Every line of the clause raised a doubt as to what its effect would be, and no satisfactory answers had been given to the questions put by hon. Members as to its meaning. He therefore begged to move that the clause be struck out.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 250; Noes 196: Majority 54.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 37 (Members holding Offices of Profit from the Crown are not required to vacate their seats on Acceptance of other Offices).
§ VISCOUNT AMBERLEY
said, he rose to move a series of Amendments, verbal and otherwise, of which he had given notice—namely, in line 26 to leave out "thereafter duly elected as," and insert "being." In line 28, to leave out "any other," and insert "such," and also to leave out "of profit under the Crown." In line 30, to leave out "appointed to any office of profit under the Crown, and thereafter duly returned as," and insert "being;" and in lines 33 and 35, to leave out the word "other." The object of those Amendments was to abolish the practice of requiring the re-election of Members of that House, when they accepted office under the Crown.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he had never heard a more mischievous proposition than that now proposed by the noble Lord, and he was sure the Committee would not assent to it. The ancient law was one of a most wholesome character, and was an admirable check on those Members of the House who accepted office by making them responsible to their constituencies. It prevented Gentlemen when they found themselves face to face with the Treasury bench from forgetting the conditions under which they came into the House. It was but right that when a Gentleman became a Member of the Government that he should go to his constituency and in the face of the country have his conduct ratified. The clause proposed by the Government 301 was of a totally different character. It was immaterial after a man had joined a Government what office he held, and he (Mr. Ayrton) thought he might be able to change from one office to another without the trouble and inconvenience to the discharge of public business of his having to go down for re-election. If the words of the clause were limited to the object of relieving a Minister from this liability, it was not open to objection; but a proposal to free Members from vacating their seats on first taking office was a very different thing.
§ VISCOUNT AMBERLEY
said, he hoped some Member of the Government would state what course they intended to take with reference to the Amendments?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that it was not through want of respect to the noble Lord that he had remained silent; but he thought some other Member was going to address the Committee. He regretted to be obliged to say that he was totally opposed to the proposition of the noble Lord. Even the limited proposal contained in the clause was not one to be adopted without hesitation. But, after consideration, the Committee would probably think that, upon the whole, those who were already in office, after receiving the favour of their Sovereign and the sanction of their constituents, should be allowed to exchange from one post to the other without interrupting the course of public business. That relaxation of the ancient rule had for some time been under the consideration of Parliament. There was a provision to that effect in the Bill of 1859; he rather thought it was also contained in the Bill of 1854, which had been brought in by an eminent relative of the noble Lord's, and after being long canvassed and considered it was now finally adopted, he believed, by public opinion. But he could not support any further extension of the principle.
said, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken on this subject in terms which were very considerate, and which at the same time expressed the true view of the case. The necessity of vacating a seat upon any interchange of offices was often inconvenient, and conferred no corresponding public advantage. As far as any check upon the Administration by the public was concerned, these changes were for the most part purely casual and accidental. The case, however, was entirely different at the 302 time when an Administration first entered office. At such a time it was highly desirable that the public, through the medium of the constituencies, should have something to say as to the formation of that Government. But at other times these appeals to the constituencies were matter of accident, and were not governed by any principle. He knew that considerable difference of opinion prevailed upon the subject. In the first Session of the Reformed Parliament, he believed an effort was made by an hon. Gentleman much respected by the Whig party to give effect to the proposition of his noble Friend (Viscount Amberley), which was not viewed altogether with disfavour by the Administration of the day. Undoubtedly, however, the manifestation of Parliamentary feeling against the proposal was strong, and he agreed with those who thought that the check was a constitutional and a valuable check—one which, without vitally impeding the action of the executive, allowed the voice of the people to be heard at a time when it was eminently important that it should be heard. He trusted that his noble Friend would not think it necessary to invite the formal judgment of the Committee on his Amendment.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he must express his surprise, that a clause embodying a principle of such vast importance should be consented to without discussion or question. The clause of the Bill of 1859 was not reached, and consequently not discussed; but when the proposition had been brought forward as a specific measure it had always been rejected by the House.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the clause required some Amendments, As it was then drawn it might be construed that a defeated Government could again take office without re-election, It should be clearly limited to changes in the existing Government after the Members had been once re-elected.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he concurred in the view that the clause required alteration, and he would therefore propose the postponement of the clause with the view of introducing a new one.
§ Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause postponed.
§ Clause 38 (Provision in case of Separate Registers) postponed.303
§ Clause 39 (Temporary Provisions consequent on Formation of new Boroughs) agreed to.
§ Clause 40 (General Saving Clause).
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there were several Amendments intended to be moved on this clause, and, therefore, he should now move that the Chairman report progress.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, it might be useful with respect to the labours of the Committee when they resumed, if he pointed out to the Government that this clause as it stood, and especially the latter part of it which applied to the preservation of all existing laws, customs, and enactments, merely applied to the new constituencies, which were now for the first time to receive Members under this Act, and that if they were intended to apply to new voters generally, the words were wholly inefficient for that purpose. He also observed in the Bill a singular omission, which it was probably thought would be covered by this clause, but that certainly would not be the case. The Bill did not repeat the provision contained in the first Reform Bill, that persons in the receipt of Poor Law relief should not be entitled to vote.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he also noticed an omission which he had pointed out to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, and which he believed it was intended to remedy. Clause 78 of the Reform Act provided that nothing contained in it should extend to or affect Members for the Universities, or should entitle any one to vote for the City of Oxford or the town of Cambridge in respect of a qualification connected with the Universities. He supposed it was intended to extend that provision to the new voters, but it was not so as the Bill now stood.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.