§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Gathorne Hardy.)
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, that he did not wish to retard the progress of the Bill; but he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department a Question touching a decision given by the Court of Common Pleas on Saturday last. It would be in the remembrance of the House, that the 721 Representation of the People Bill was intended to enfranchise a very large class of persons who occupied parts of dwelling houses. By the decision which had been come to, it now appeared that a great number of those people were not liable to be rated nor entitled to the franchise. The effect of the decision would be to disfranchise not fewer than from 100,000 to 200,000 persons whom it was intended to enfranchise by the Act. In the borough which he represented, from 3,000 to 4,000 persons who had been rated, but who the decision stated had been illegally rated, would be disfranchised; and at Newcastle-on-Tyne, he believed, from 5,000 to 6,000 would be disfranchised in this way. Probably not more than half those who were to be enfranchised by the Act of last year would get the franchise within these boroughs. He presumed that it would be impossible to deal with the matter by the Bill now before the House, but to-morrow he would ask whether the Government would introduce a short Bill to give effect to what was undoubtedly the intention of the House when they passed the Reform Act last year, namely, to confer the franchise on the occupiers of parts of houses when separately occupied.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
asked whether there was any limit to the number of persons resident in one house who might be enfranchised under the provisions of the Reform Act of last year relating to lodgers? He was informed that in some places attempts were made unnaturally to crowd houses with a number of families which the houses were quite unable to contain properly, and this was supposed to be done with the view of giving the franchise to the residents in those houses.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he conceived that the question to be decided would not be how many persons were in a house, but whether the persons in it were or were not bonâ fide lodgers, and the only limitation was that each occupancy must be of the value of £10 a year.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he regretted that the Select Committee on this Bill, of which he was a Member, had not taken evidence as to the possibility of it being carried into execution without great inconvenience. He had suggested that some Revising Banisters, election agents, and other persons officially connected with the matter, should be examined; but this was negatived, and they had to proceed with very imperfect in- 722 formation. The question was whether this Bill would work properly. If it did not they would have a House returned that did not represent the country; and this would probably lead to there being an early dissolution. There would be an enormous crop of Election Petitions. He had heard Revising Barristers, returning officers, and election agents say that the system contained in this Bill would break down. A few nights ago he had a conversation with the town clerk of one of the great towns, and he said that the list could be prepared, no doubt, but it could not be done properly. He (Sir George Bowyer) also thought that it should be fully considered whether time should not be given for appeal to the Court of Common Pleas before the elections took place. November was the time for Municipal Elections all over the country; and the two kinds of elections taking place about the same time would produce much inconvenience and disturbance. The Municipal Elections would no doubt all be party fights, and the Parliamentary Elections would most probably be conducted with more than the usual bitterness. He should not, however, vote against the third reading of the Bill.
§ Bill read a third time, and passed.