HC Deb 15 May 1868 vol 192 cc371-87

said, he wished to call attention to the Registration of Voters Act, 6 Vict. c. 18, and the other legal provisions for the registering of Voters, and to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, What steps Her Majesty's Government propose to take to shorten such proceedings so as to enable Parliament to be dissolved in the autumn? About a week ago they were told that Her Majesty's Ministers had been advised that the House of Commons should have its existence terminated at as early a period as the state of Public Business would admit, with a view to the opinion of the new constituencies being taken as to the conduct of public affairs. The First Minister of the Crown stated that he had been advised that certain steps might be taken with the co-operation of Parliament to enable the opinion of the constituencies to be taken in the course of November in the present year. Now, the House was probably generally aware that by a provision in the Act of last year no Election could be held previous to January 1, 1869, under the arrangements made by that Act. There was also a clause introduced into that Act having reference to the Reform Acts already in existence, providing that the registration of voters should come into operation a month later than usual—namely, that the registration of voters of the new constituencies should come into operation on the 1st of January, 1869, instead of as usual on the 1st December. Therefore, as the law existed, it was illegal to have a dissolution and an appeal to the new constituencies until the beginning of next year. It might be said that these were mere paper impediments, which were created by Act of Parliament, upon consideration more or less deliberate and wise with reference to the circumstance of the case, but which Parliament might in its wisdom think proper to remove. But the question behind that was one of considerable im- portance—namely, whether these constituencies could be formed so as to take their opinion at a much earlier period than that so arranged. The existing Act of Parliament regulating the registration of voters had been framed after very considerable deliberation and experience, and after the matter had been considered both in the House and upstairs. The First Minister of the Crown conveyed to the House that it was necessary, in order to facilitate these arrangements, that the Government should abandon a great part of the Business now before them; and before he went to the Registration Acts he wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman and the House that, unless the existence of the House of Commons could be terminated at a very much earlier period than anyone supposed, the abandonment of the Business before the House would not, in the least, contribute to the object at which the right hon. Gentleman aimed. By no conceivable pressure that had been suggested in any quarter could a dissolution occur much earlier than the end of October or the beginning of November, and no one could contemplate that the Session of Parliament for the completion of the various matters submitted for the consideration of both Houses would be prolonged until the end of September or the beginning of October. It was therefore clear that the mere abandonment of the Business before the House had nothing to do with the appeal to the new constituencies, but that, as far as the continuance of the Session was concerned, the length or brevity of the proceedings alloted to the current Session had nothing to do with the facilitation of the dissolution or taking the opinion of the new constituencies. He must, therefore, express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary to introduce so wholly irrelevant a topic. The main question was, whether it was practicable or not, by any arrangement, so to abbreviate the present process of registration and of getting a perfect list of voters as to enable Parliament to be dissolved before November, and arrive at a decision on the questions of policy to be submitted to it before Christmas? He did not wish to commit himself to a decided opinion on the subject, but he had acquired information, as he supposed, in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman—by conversation with gentlemen conversant with the subject—and he was told it was nearly impossible successfully to abbreviate the process of regis- tration so as to get a dissolution early in the autumn, and to arrive at a decision on the course of public policy before Christmas. He would refer the House to the provisions of the Registration Acts, which were the 6 Vict. c. 18, amended by, the 28 & 29 Vict. c. 36. The House must bear in mind that the starting point of the registration proceeding was at the end of July, because the qualification of voters by occupation by residence depended upon a complete residence for a year terminating on the 31st of July. They could not get under way, therefore, before that period, and, practically, from that date the process of registration started. The formal; beginning was the letter addressed by the clerk of the peace, for counties, and the town clerk, for boroughs, to the overseers of parishes, which was to be sent to them on or before June 10, drawing their attention to what they had to do, and calling upon them to do it. Overseers, though very respectable people, were not always gifted with the highest intelligence, and required to be coached in the duties they had to perform. He proposed to deal with the proceedings of town clerks in boroughs, and would not complicate matters by referring to the counties; the proceedings there were practically the same, varying in form more than in actual substance. In accordance with this precept the overseer had to make out the list of voters on or before the 31st of July; and, apart from the question of twelve months, residence, the law gave the voter to the 20th of July to pay his rates and taxes, so that they could not possibly abbreviate the period up to the 31st of July for making out the primâ facie list of voters—those who had resided for twelve months and paid their rates. This was to be published on the 1st of August. That was the first public step. It was requisite that a certain period of notice should be given of this list—to those omitted who thought themselves entitled to be on it, and to objectors who thought others should be struck off. That notice was to be given within twenty-five days. By the 25th of August any fresh claims were to be made, and within that time objections were to be sent in. It was possible, he was informed, by great squeezing, to get perhaps a few days out of these twenty-five in this way—The notice was given by placing the list of voters on the church doors, and it was necessary that it, should be there for two Sundays, so as to afford time for inspection to those who had to make claims and objections. Now it so happened that this year the 1st of August was Sunday, and the second Sunday in August being the 8th, five or six days more must be allowed for making the claims and objections. That brought them to the 14th or 15th of August to complete the time for claiming, objecting, and making up the list. In this way therefore they might possibly squeeze a week or ten days out of the present time for notice. The overseer, then, having received the list of claims and objections, must make up and complete the list, and so made up it must be published on the 1st of September. The Act provided a reasonable period not capable of reduction—fourteen days—during which the list was open to inspection. Nothing could be got out of that. The preliminary process of making up the lists being so far complete, now came the operation of the Revising Barrister's Court, of which ten days' notice must be given. His circuit commenced on September 15, and lasted to October 31, nearly six weeks. Here it I might be said was a large period of time which admitted of considerable reduction. The Revising Barrister was a being who did not take an enormous amount of work; he was capable of doing more; and the time in which he performed it might be reduced—here at least they might cut off a little from the time allowed by the existing Act. Now, he had consulted some gentlemen who had considerable experience in this matter, and he was assured that it was exceedingly doubtful whether the period allowed could be reduced. And this further circumstance must be taken into consideration, that on the present occasion the duty imposed on the Revising Barrister was not the ordinary one of revising the ordinary list—it was revising and completing the register of a totally new constituency, involving an addition of hundreds of thousands of claimants, the litigation of many; questions which had not been decided by the Revising Barristers themselves or the Court of Law to which appeals lay, and an amount of toil and patience far in excess of any yet imposed on them since the Reform Act. Yet it was contended that where Parliament had anxiously, and with reference to past experience, examined all these points and fixed them with great care, having reference to the ordinary course of business, when that business had enormously and abnormally increased, the time for accomplishing it should be reduced and a shorter period allowed than was given to it in ordinary circumstances. He would not undertake to say that could not be; but he must say it appeared to him a paradox, which would require a considerable degree of authority and proof to satisfy him of its accuracy. Well, they thus got to the 3lst of October; and now came the question of the final completion of the register, which was no ordinary matter. It seemed to be supposed that when the Revising Barrister had completed his functions there was an end of the matter, and they could have a General Election the next day; but that was far from being the case. He would not go into the case of appeals to the Common Pleas, but he was told that under the existing Act the notices of appeal must be given within the first four days of Michaelmas Term—that was to say, between the 2nd of November and the 4th of November. That would make appeals an impossibility. But even at present the appeals in the Common Pleas had often to be deferred till the following Term, from want of time to deal with them. Appeals, therefore, must be left out of the question. The clerk of the peace now came in, and he had finally to make up the register. He was required to arrange all the names alphabetically in the different parishes, with their separate numbers, involving an enormous amount of mechanical labour—at all times very considerable, and on the present occasion immensely increased—which could not well be disposed of under three weeks or a month. Indeed, he was told that as things now stood the clerks of the peace had often the greatest difficulty in making up the register by the legal term; but the mechanical difficulty of making it up would now be greatly increased. Allowing only a fortnight, however, that brought them to the middle of November. The ten days he had previously named were the only period by which the work of registration could be condensed. But the right hon. Gentleman forgot the period which the law required to elapse between the proclamation of dissolution and the meeting of the new Parliament. The 15 & 16 Vict. c. 23, provided that thirty-five days should elapse between the proclamation of dissolution and the meeting of the new Parliament. Of course Parliament could undo what it had done; but if there was to be a General Election in the most inclement season of the year, that period could not practically be reduced, considering that it would be requisite to provide for polling in the Hebrides and the Orkneys, and that they would afterwards have to get together the representatives of the people from all parts of the country. This period of thirty-five days, as far as he had been able to make out, making all the possible reductions in time, would carry one on to the 10th of December; and all that could be thus done was to reduce, perhaps by forty or fifty, the number of days within which under the existing laws the new Parliament might be summoned at the earliest possible period—that Parliament might meet in the middle of December instead of early in February, as it might according to the present Act. He therefore wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, after all the consultations on the subject, the whole difference was that, instead of Parliament under the Act of last year meeting early in February, it might meet on the 10th of December? Was that the result of all the deliberations in the Cabinet, and of the conference with the highest Personage in the realm? If so it was not worth the right hon. Gentleman's while to have taken the trouble, for the sake of those two miserable months, to have gone down to Osborne and tendered advice to the Sovereign. He had left out of his observations any consideration of the Scotch requirements with respect to registration. There were in Scotland analogous requirements as to proper notice of claims to vote and of objections; and there would be arguments before the Sheriffs in Scotland, who stood in the position of Revising Barristers. Time must be allowed for the completion of correct lists of voters. He wished, then, to know what steps the right hon. Gentleman intended to take to accelerate the dissolution of Parliament? Was it merely the case that he contemplated dissolving Parliament late in the autumn instead of in January? The right hon. Gentleman had informed the House that he had the authority of the Crown to dissolve, and the House was entitled to know what steps were to be taken to abbreviate those proceedings, rendered necessary under existing Acts, be that at the new Election the new constituency would be able to exercise their suffrage. Without wishing to pry into Cabinet secrets, he should also like to know who were the advisers, of legal knowledge and experience, to whom the right hon. Gentleman had recourse before he gave the advice which he tendered to the Sovereign. People were accustomed to believe that there were certain legal advisers to whom the great authorities of the State had recourse on various occasions. There was the Lord Chancellor, the chief adviser of the Cabinet in all matters connected with the law, and, in the next place, there were the usual Law Officers of the Crown, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. Now, he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman took counsel with the Law Advisers of the Crown; and, if so, whether he was satisfied that the advice given by them was sound in law and fact?


said, that, while giving the right hon. Gentleman credit for extreme anxiety to hasten the dissolution of Parliament, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman conceived there were so many difficulties in the way of arriving at that result. Though it might not be easy to hasten the dissolution of Parliament, yet he was not prepared to flinch from the responsibility cast upon the Government; and he desired to state that he believed that, if a general effort were made, the result could be attained sooner than the right hon. Gentleman had supposed. It was quite true, that the first date, on which the whole matter really turned, was the 31st of July, by which day the overseers in boroughs were bound to make out and publish the lists of occupiers of £10 houses entitled to vote, and by which day all those persons who desired to claim as lodgers under the late Act must have sent in their claims to the town clerks. According to the Registration Acts nothing further was done until the 25th of August, but on or before that day all persons who thought that they ought to be on the overseers' lists might send in their claims, and objections might be taken to names allowed to be improperly inserted in the lists. The right hon. Gentleman stated that those twenty-five days could not be greatly diminished, and that he had been informed there must be publication on the church door for two Sundays. Having had some experience in registration matters, he must say that he could not tell the reason why it was necessary that the lists should he kept up for two Sundays. Considering the limited area involved, namely, the parish, a very short time would be sufficient for the people to make up their minds. An active politician in the district would soon find out whether there were on the lists persons who ought not to be there; and he would go round to those persons who were entitled to claim a vote, and draw out a form of claim for them. He could not therefore see on what ground the right hon. Gentleman founded his assertion that; so much time would be indispensable. He believed that it was not required by law that two Sundays should elapse. From his own experience, and also from the consultation he had had with those who were more competent to judge of the matter, he thought they could insist that the now claims and objections should be sent in by the 10th of August instead of on the 25th, and that the earlier period would afford ample time for necessary inquiries. Between the 25th of August and the 1st of September, according to the present law, the town clerks in the boroughs were occupied in getting the notices of objection made into one list, and the notices of claim into another, and by the latter date they had to publish all those lists, and have them ready for the Revising Barristers. But, when the notices of claim and objection were sent in on the 25th of August, there was nothing to be done but the manual labour of making up those lists by the 1st of September. If the claims and objections were this year sent in by the 10th of August—although there were more of them this year, and the town clerk would therefore be entitled to some more time, still he thought the lists could easily be made up and published by the 20th of August, so that everything should be ready for the Revising Barrister by that day instead of on the 1st of September. From the 1st to the 15th of September nothing now seemed; to be done, the Revising Barrister, however, not being able to begin his work till the middle of September, and being allowed till the 31st of October to do his duty. [Mr. BOUVERIE said the lists had to be open for inspection fifteen days.] He I could see no real necessity for that. The persons who had claimed must go before the Revising Barrister to prove their claims, while those who were objected to would have had notice of the objection. When they recollected the small-ness of the area in which the operation was occurring, and the thorough local knowledge possessed by both sides, what use was there in the lists lying fifteen days for inspection? The persons who were objected to had notice, and the persons who had claimed knew they must appear to support their claim. [Mr. BOUVERIE] asked how the opponents of the new claims were to know that the new claims on the list were unobjectionable unless time was given for inquiry?] They would know it really in the parish within the shortest time. The list would have been published, and he could not see how the fifteen days were practically required. Of course it was open to anybody to say it would take fifteen days for a solicitor to get ready his opposition to or support of a claim; but, as he had been assured by experienced authorities and as he himself believed, that time was, practically, not necessary. Consequently, instead of the Revising Barristers' Courts commencing on the 15th of September, they might practically begin on the 21st or 22nd of August. [Mr. BOUVERIE: How are you to get your Barristers then?] The time now allowed the Revising Barristers for their work was from the 15th of September to the 31st of October, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) said he had been informed by men of experience that it could not be done in less time. For himself, however, he must state that he had never known a Revising Barrister to take more than three weeks.


said, he had mentioned the time fixed for the revision under ordinary circumstances, and that there would be an extraordinary amount of business this year.


said, if the House were really desirous that the revision should be advanced and hastened, it must be content that further assistance should be afforded and that the number of Revising Barristers should this year be increased. He ventured to say that no dearth of available Revising Barristers would be found; and that, by increasing the number, he had no doubt the revision could be completed in a month, or between the 22nd of August and the 22nd of September. Then as to the subsequent operations; by the existing Registration Acts the town clerk had, he knew not for what reason, to number the entire register from beginning to end in regular consecutive order. The Government thought that was an unnecessary proceeding, and that if the names in each parish were numbered, and the parishes stood in alphabetical order, it would at the polling have all the same result, because when the voter went to the poll he would say his name was on the list of such and such a parish, and that his number was one, two, or three in that parish. The effect of numbering the whole list consecutively from beginning to end was that they could not commence to put the lists into print until they had the whole thing complete. But by the plan he had suggested of having the parishes separately numbered and put in alphabetical order, a great deal of time might be saved in the process of printing, and even the enlarged register might be got ready within the period which used to be allowed for the smaller one. Probably, the town clerk or the clerk of the peace would require to obtain additional assistance for that purpose, and, if so, he must be paid accordingly; but the result would be that if they got the revision completed by the 22nd of September, the register itself might be completed by the 20th of October. No doubt that would involve considerable difficulty and would require a considerable effort; but he believed it might be accomplished, and then they could have an election any day after the 20th of October—that was to say, the register would be ready. The right hon. Gentleman raised an objection in regard to the proclamation on a dissolution, and the period of thirty-five days between it and the meeting of Parliament; the point had taken him somewhat by surprise, but he apprehended there was nothing in the law to say there should be no proclamation issued before the registration was completed. [Mr. BOUVERIE: It could not be done; there would be no constituency.] If the law was as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, which he did not admit, then it was clear it could be altered and the period diminished. The right hon. Gentleman was very anxious to hasten the dissolution. Then, instead of trying to put in the way every suppositious difficulty, which, probably, after all, would be found none practically, let him assist the Government in accelerating it. According to the Registration Acts the register was to be ready by a given day, and it was enacted that whatever election occurred after that register was complete, must be based upon it. Therefore, he said, and said with confidence that there was nothing in the proclamation statute or the Registration or Reform Acts to make it necessary that the register should be complete before the issue of the proclamation of dissolution. At all events they might have an election at the end of October, and by shortening the thirty-five days a meeting of Parliament in November. Before that he could not see how it could practically be done. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir Robert Collier) the other night referred to a difficulty connected with appeals. If it was meant by that that there was any legal difficulty in having an election before the appeals were decided by the Court of Common Pleas, it was obvious that argument put the power of dissolution in the hands of the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, There was, however, no foundation for that assertion. By the 69th section of the Registration Act that case was foreseen and specially provided for, because it declared that no right of voting at the election of a Member of Parliament should be affected by any registration appeal pending in the Court of Common Pleas at the time of the issuing of the writ for such election. And there was a clause in the Reform Act, with which hon. Members, he had no doubt, were acquainted, to the effect that when a person had claimed before the Revising Barrister, and the Revising Barrister had declined to put his name upon the list, the claimant might tender his vote with 'a view to a scrutiny. He must also say that there was little practical force in the objection that appeals from the decisions of the Revising Barristers could not be heard in time. The decisions of the Revising Barristers had, to a remarkable extent, been confirmed. And, moreover, the tendency of the Revising Barristers, who had always exercised their jurisdiction with extreme honesty and propriety, and likewise with considerable discretion, was, in cases where they felt any doubt, to place the name upon the register, reserving a case for the Court of Common Pleas, which might afterwards strike off the name if it thought proper, But meanwhile, as everybody knew, the name being upon the register, the man polled and no questions were asked. If, however, any difficulty was felt on this head, as there must be legislation within the present year, it would be easy to provide that in all cases where the Revising Barrister felt that there was ground sufficient for reserving a case for the Common Pleas, he should put the name upon the register; and if that were done, of course the person would have a right to vote. Having carefully considered the provisions of the Registration Act, and having consulted persons of great professional knowledge, he was deliberately of opinion that by altering the mode of numbering the register, and the period between the 31st of July and the 25th of August, and by getting rid of the period of fifteen days—which, notwithstanding all the right hon. Gentleman had said, he could not regard as really material—and by increasing the number of Revising Barristers, it would be possible—with some inconvenience, no doubt, to all, and probably with great inconvenience to many persons—but still, if the House thought fit to make the effort, it would be possible to obtain a complete register by the 20th of October, to have a General Election at the end of the month, and a meeting of a new Parliament in November.


said, that he thought the Solicitor General had entirely misunderstood his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) in supposing it was his desire to raise objections, or to carp at any proposals made by the Government for the purpose of facilitating an early dissolution. On the contrary his right hon. Friend wished to be satisfied that the dissolution could betaken at an early period, and that desire was shared in by the majority of Members at his own side of the House. Their real object was to be satisfied that the prospect held out of a speedy dissolution was not an illusory one. The Solicitor General contended that under great pressure the register could be completed by the 20th of October, conceding that it could not be completed before. But if that were so, he (Sir Robert Collier) maintained that the new Parliament could not be called together sooner than thirty-five days from the date mentioned, which would bring them down to the end of November or beginning of December. Moreover, he ventured to think that the notion that a proclamation might be issued for the dissolution of Parliament some considerable time before the new constituencies were formed was a suggestion to which the learned Solicitor General would not adhere upon reflection. They knew perfectly well that the writs were issued almost immediately, some of them within three days of the dissolution, and it would be perfectly idle to dissolve Parliament unless they had existing constituencies. According to the Solicitor General, Parliament could not be dissolved till the 20th of October, which meant that the new Parliament could not meet, at the earliest moment, till the 25th of November. Then seven days must be allowed for the election of a Speaker and the transaction of other necessary preliminaries, which would take them into December before any real business could be transacted. But that certainly had not been the impression conveyed to his mind by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government when he spoke of their extricating themselves from the present abnormal state of affairs by an autumn Session. But he could not help thinking that the Solicitor General had made a material omission in his calculations. He admitted that the publication of the registration lists could not take place before the 1st of August. He would reduce the time now allowed for giving notices of new claims and objections, which was twenty-five days, to ten days. He (Sir Robert Collier) thought fifteen days at least should be given. But supposing the hon. and learned Gentleman to be correct, what followed? The hon. and learned Gentleman would give from the 10th to the 20th of August for the parish officers to make out the lists of claims and objections. The 20th of August would therefore be the first day on which the notices of the new claims could be published, and it was absolutely essential, before the lists were revised, that persons should know what claims were brought forward and who the claimants were. The law at present gave fifteen days for that purpose, which was not too much. But the hon. and learned Gentleman allowed not a single day or hour for the purpose; he entirely omitted from consideration that which, if the revision was to be a reality, could not be lost sight of—the importance of giving time to inspect the lists, to examine the claims, and to decide whether objections should be taken or not. If, however, the list of claims was only to be published on the 20th, and the revision commenced on the 21st, there would be no time to discover whether the claims sent in were valid or invalid; and therefore his hon. and learned Friend, in losing sight of this point, was altogether wrong, as he ventured to think. They could not give less than fifteen days for the purpose of examining the claims and preparing cases. The Solicitor General had somewhat sneered at the preparation of cases for the Revising Barrister; but, if the revision was to be a reality it was absolutely essential that persons should have time allowed them to prepare for coming before the tribunal, and to consider in what shape the case should be framed. His hon. and learned Friend gave the 25th of November as the time for the assembling of the new Parliament. But to attain this result he first omitted five days, and afterwards another period of fifteen days. Adding them together it brought them to the 10th of December, the exact period named by his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock as the earliest period for the meeting of the new Parliament. It was extremely undesirable that the House should deceive themselves in this matter, however anxious they might be for the assembling of a new Parliament; and it therefore deserved consideration whether it was worth while having an autumnal Session this year at all or not. Upon that point he offered no opinion. There could be no question that the coming registration would be infinitely more difficult and burdensome than any which had preceded it, not excepting the first under the old Reform Act. Therefore, he supposed it was that a clause had been introduced into the Reform Act extending the registration from the end of November to the end of December. Yet the time now proposed for carrying it out was less than on any previous occasion. It could not be satisfactory to the new constituencies to find that the process of registration must be squeezed to an extent altogether unprecedented. Although he did not deny that the registration appeals need not he decided previous to an election, it certainly would be convenient to have them disposed of. The appeals under this new system would be numerous, and must involve many difficult and important questions, upon which it was possible that several of the Revising Barristers might hold different views. Take one point—whether payment of rates by the landlord is to be considered payment by the tenant. In point of law, he believed that no doubt whatever existed on the point; but possibly some of the Revising Barristers might decide otherwise, and such a decision, if it were given, must affect the franchise possibly of hundreds of thousands of persons. He, therefore, thought it extremely desirable that the judgments of the Court of Common Pleas should be had on the disputed cases before the list was finally made out, though he did not insist on that as a sine quâ non. If this question were not decided by the Court of Common Pleas it might come before Election Committees, where they would get different decisions, and not arrive at the truth without the expenditure of a great deal of time and a good deal of money. But if any dissolution could be obtained at a sufficiently early period for a working autumnal Session, he, for one, should not insist on having the decision of the Court of Common Pleas taken before the General Election. He did not make these remarks for the sake of obstruction, but simply to ascertain whether they would have an autumnal Session.


said, that in his early days he was nominated, without his own wish or knowledge, to the office of returning officer for a borough of 10,000 or 12,000 voters, and his experience on that occasion satisfied him that, in the larger boroughs, and with the new constituencies, the time allowed by the Solicitor General for the registration would not be be a day too long for a returning officer desirous of satisfying himself that the list was properly made out.


said, he thought he could relieve the anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, by showing him that there was no difficulty whatever in the matter. He would do so by showing how the thing was managed in Scotland. It might be said that Scotland was a smaller country than England; but he submitted that to register a given number of thousands of electors in a borough or a county of Scotland was just the same thing as to register the same number of voters in a borough or county of England. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think there was a difficulty in regard to Scotland. But none whatever existed, and everything there was as the right hon. Gentlemen wished it to be. In 1856, the Act 19 &c 20 Vict. c. 58, was passed for Scotland. Its object was to squeeze together the different portions of time, and its effect was that the roll was completed by the 1st of November for Parliamentary and municipal purposes; and the municipal elections occurred on the first Tuesday in November. A General Election for the return of Members to Parliament might, in case of a dissolution, be as easily held on the same day. It was assumed that the English boroughs were larger than the Scotch. But the constituency of Edinburgh was at present 11,000, and there was as much difficulty in enrolling the voters there as in Bristol, with a similar number. That of Glasgow was 18,000. The former would be 27,000 and the latter 50,000 under the new Reform Act. The number of voters in Manchester or in Liverpool would not be larger than in Glasgow. If it could be shown that in Edinburgh and Glasgow they could be ready for operations in due time, they could be equally ready in Manchester, Liverpool, and other towns in England. By the provisions of the Scotch Act to which he had referred, the party who prepared the list was bound to have it ready by the 15th of August in each year, on which day it was affixed to the door of the Town Hall in a borough, printed in proof, but not numbered. On the 15th of August, every man could go to the door of the Town Hall and turn over the leaves, and see whether his name was in it or not; or he could go to the office of the party who prepared the list and examine it without any fee. The list remained open from the 15th of August to the 25th of August for public inspection. Applications from persons who had been omitted from the list and objections to names included in it, must be lodged by the 1st of September. The Revising Barrister must complete his work by the 30th of September, that must be his last sitting day; and on the 1st of October he must deliver the corrected roll to the town clerk. If there were no appeal, the elections might be held in the first week of October; but the Act provided for an appeal. Between the 30th of September and the 8th of October the Court of Appeal must be held. By the 21st of October all appeals in respect of the borough franchise must be ended, and by the 30th all appeals respecting counties. The town clerk must have the revised list published by the 31st of October, so that by that date all was ready for an election. Much had been said of the fears entertained by gentlemen of experience—legal gentlemen being, of course those referred to. Well, he had had a good deal of practical experience in this matter—first, in helping to arrange the dates in the Scotch Act, and subsequently in seeing it carried out. He knew all about it, and he undertook to say that they would not find any person of experience in registration in Scotland under the Act of 1856 to assert that there was any difficulty in the matter. There would be no more difficulty in arranging for an Election of Members of Parliament on the first Tuesday in November than there was in arranging for an election of town councillors on that day. He presumed that the men employed in preparing the lists would be as competent in England as in Scotland, and that the printing would be as rapid and as accurate. The Solicitor General did not seem to know much about the machinery of a printing office, if one were to judge from what he had said as to the probability of delay arising from the necessity of putting the numbers to the lists. Why, this was done in Scotland after the lists were finally revised in proof. The fears expressed in that House on the subject of registration were purely imaginary.