HC Deb 03 March 1869 vol 194 cc563-85

Order for Second Reading read.


, in rising to move the second reading of this Bill, said, he believed an appeal would be made to him from the Treasury Bench to refer the measure to the consideration of the Select Committee which would be appointed to-morrow to inquire into the present modes of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections. If, however, such a proposal were made, he should do all in his power to resist it, as he strongly deprecated the practice of referring to Committees questions which the House itself was perfectly competent to decide. Such a practice led to a great deal of unnecessary expense, and his experience had shown him that Committees were granted with much too great readiness and frequency. After the ample discussion that had already taken place on the subject no one could deny that the House was in a position to at once come to a decision upon this question without inquiry before a Select Committee. Besides, the questions which would be referred to the Committee about to be appointed were quite of a different nature from that to which his Bill related. The Bill dealt solely with the necessary expenses of candidates, whereas the Committee would inquire into the subject of expenses which were entirely voluntary. He felt, therefore, that he should be promoting the interests of the subject with which the Committee would have to deal if he declared that, as far as he was concerned, he would, if possible, press forward the present measure through all its stages. It had been asked why the necessary expenses of candidates should not be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund instead of charging it upon the rates? In reply to that objection he would remark that some people imagined that the Consolidated Fund was a great source of wealth constantly supplied by the bounty of nature, and from which riches flowed as from a perennial fountain. In point of fact, however, the Consolidated Fund simply represented so much money gathered, from the taxpayers, and he objected to this charge being placed upon it, because in such an event, the necessary expenses of elections instead of being diminished would be enormously increased. If they made the constituencies pay the necessary expenses of elections they would interest them in economy, whereas if they threw it on the Consolidated Fund they would interest them in extravagance; and in fact he would much rather things should continue as they were than throw the charge on the Consolidated Fund. But perhaps some hon. Gentlemen might say, "We are in favour of the principle of your proposal, but object to the present mode of raising local taxes"—["Hear, hear!"]—Well, they could not object to the present plan of levying iaxes more than he did, and if the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) had carried his Motion to a division the other night the hon. Baronet would not have found a more cordial supporter of it than himself. Hon. Members opposite might feel assured, therefore, that his sympathies on this subject were entirely with them. He asked the House to pass this measure because he felt con- vinced it was based upon a just principle. It was most important that constituencies should be made to feel that the position of a representative of the people was not one which ought to be bought at an enormous price, but that a man who did his duty to his constituents rendered to them and to the country an important public service, and that it was wrong to call upon him to pay for the opportunity of discharging such a service. This was the main principle on which he rested his argument in favour of the Bill. Some hon. Members, however, would probably assert that they could not support the measure because the constituencies would not like it; but such an assumption on their part would be ill-founded, for whenever the proposal had been explained at a public meeting the poorest of the ratepayers had expressed themselves in favour of it, as they clearly comprehended that unless some measure of the kind were passed there would be no chance of the interests of labour being properly represented in the House of Commons, while they regarded the argument about adding a burden to the rates as paltry and contemptible. On the point of expense, he had made a calculation with reference to a certain borough where there had been a contest at every election during the last fifteen years. Now, taking into account the population of that borough, the amount of its rateable property, and the necessary expenses of all the elections which had occurred, he found that, had the present Bill been in operation, the whole charge thrown upon a ratepayer in a £10-house would have been the price of half an ounce of tobacco once in three years. The people generally were in favour of the Bill, because they felt convinced that under the present system the largest class in this country could not be properly represented. After the Irish Church had been disposed of there could be no doubt that the question of national education, which was peculiarly a working class question, would become the principal subject of discussion in that House, and was it not highly desirable that there should be working men's representatives to inform the House of the views entertained by their constituents? It might perhaps be objected that his Bill dealt only with a very small branch of a very important subject. That was no doubt true, but nevertheless it dealt with a distinct branch, as there was obviously a broad line of demarcation between expenses which were necessary and those which were voluntary. A most important principle was involved in the Bill, which he believed would be fruitful in its consequences, and of great advantage to the country. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.


said, that representing a large constituency, numbering 35,000 electors, he could corroborate the statement of Ids hon. Friend (Mr. Fawcett) that the poorer classes had, whenever they had been appealed to on the subject, expressed themselves in favour of the Bill. In his opinion, indeed, a more popular measure could hardly be proposed. It was not right that there should be a monopoly of the plutocracy in that House. His own experience enabled him to show that the official expenses of conducting elections might be reduced, if the local authorities had a motive for doing it, as by this Bill they would have. In Leeds, at the last election, a number of gentlemen voluntarily offered to discharge gratuitously the duties of deputy returning officers and poll clerks, the result being that the expenses of the candidates wore greatly diminished, and he had no doubt voluntary agency would become general if the expenses of the returning officer were thrown on the rates. This would correct some of the abuses which had grown up under paid agency. He was persuaded that a greater mistake could not be committed than to imagine that, if the expenses of elections were diminished, any great number of working men would be brought into that House. The difficulty in the case of the working man of being detached from his labour and of living for six months in an expensive metropolis, must show how visionary any such idea was. Their desire should be, however, to facilitate the introduction of working men into that House; and if they wished thus to get a real representation of the wishes and sentiments of the great bulk of the people they would diminish, as far as possible, the expenses of elections. He therefore had great pleasure in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Fawcett.)


said, he hoped the House would meet the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) with a direct negative. The hon. Member had distinctly stated that the Government would offer to refer the subject to the Select Committee which was to be appointed to consider election matters. He hoped the Government would be sufficiently firm to say either "Aye" or "No" to the second reading, as it was a matter which they must have maturely considered as it was so fully debated last year. It was perfectly true, no doubt, that the hon. Member for Brighton carried his clause on two occasions, but it was no less true that that clause was rejected last year by a very large majority. This was not only a very serious question in itself, but, if entertained, it might lead to the time of the House being occupied with a re-discussion of the Reform Act and other Acts connected with that measure. He trusted, therefore, that the House would nip this scheme in the bud by declaring that the Bill ought not to be read a second time. There were two reasons which ought to induce the House to take that course. In the first place there was the Motion brought forward the other evening respecting local taxation, which the Government had promised to inquire into; and he felt assured that that inquiry would conclusively show that the taxes pressed unfairly on house and landed property. Next there was the statement of the First Minister of the Crown that part of the surplus of the Irish Church revenues were to be given in lieu of certain portions of the county cess, which weighed heavily on the ratepayers in Ireland. Now, he maintained, that the county rates were a great burden in England, and consequently he opposed the present Bill. One objection to it was that if a Member took Office in the Government the constituency would have to defray the cost of his re-election. He might multiply objections against the Bill; but on the present occasion he would content himself with expressing his belief that the House would act wisely in not assenting to the second reading.


said, the expenses of returning officers were not the only expenses which candidates were required to meet, but still they formed no inconsiderable sum. He would remark that if the expense of providing polling-booths were thrown on the local authorities they would keep them from one election to another at a very trifling cost. Was it reasonable that they should punish a man because he set up as a candidate? Was it wise that they should secure that poor men should be excluded from Parliament? In his own borough (Birmingham) the expenses of the returning officer had amounted to about £2,177 at the last election. How, he would ask, could Chatham or Canning have entered Parliament if these expenses had been so heavy in former times? The ratepayers were willing to bear the burden, and why then should the House not permit them to do so? He hoped the House would agree to the second reading.


asked leave to raise, for the first time, his voice in that House, and he did so in opposition to the Bill, on behalf of the already overburdened yeomen of England, on whom this Bill, if passed, would impose an additional tax. He denied that they wished to be further taxed in respect of hustings expenses. A Herefordshire yeoman said to him the other day that he would see him further before he would pay such expenses. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had not made out his case. Why did not the hon. Gentleman inform the House what kind of men the Bill was intended to benefit? There might be some reason for supposing that the measure was brought forward at the instigation of the leaders of the Reform League. The recent elections showed, however, that several members of that League were debarred from entering Parliament, not by the large amount of the expenses but by the votes of the working men, who had no confidence in such leaders. It was not the election expenses which prevented President Beales, magister artium, being returned for the Tower Hamlets, Mr. Bradlaugh for Northampton, and the gallant Colonel Dickson for the borough of Hackney. Then, again, the object of the Bill could hardly be to prevent what were known as hustings oppositions, for these occurred, even although the candidates had to give security for payment of their share of the expenses. He himself and his hon. Colleague one morning in November last proceeded to the Shire Hall in the city of Hereford surrounded by a body of staunch friends. Their better halves were in the gallery, their swords were on the table, and they laboured under the delightful delusion that they were about to be elected without opposition, but, at the last moment, an excellent man of business was proposed against whom it was not his intention to say a single word. The new candidate immediately entered into security for costs—which costs he would have to pay. The returning officer's expenses in Herefordshire amounted to £850, and as there is an election on the average every four years an additional burden of upwards of £200 would be imposed on the already overburdened yeomen. Although the amount was not very large, it was a step in the wrong direction. He was much pleased with the eloquent appeal which the First Minister of the Crown made the other evening for the poor of Ireland, and he only regretted that he (Sir Herbert Croft) could not imitate the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, while pleading on behalf of the poor of this country, but with all the energy he possessed, with all his heart, he implored hon. Gentlemen to crush this measure, and if it were pressed to a division to vote against it in such numbers, that even the hon. Member for Brighton, with all his perseverance, would shrink from bringing it a fourth time under the consideration of the House.


said, he hoped it would not be regarded as very presumptuous if he rose to address the House so soon after the "crushing" speech which they had just heard. He should support the Bill: first, because it was based on a principle which asserted the true relations between a Member and his constituents; and, secondly, because it would widen the area of electoral choice, by affording a greater chance of procuring the services of men who, though not possessed of wealth, were yet endowed with all the necessary qualifications for representing the interests of constituencies. Everything which tended to lighten the burden of elections, not only from the shoulders of the candidates but from the constituents should be advocated in that House. Before the Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867, there were nomination boroughs which afforded an avenue to this House for men of ability and high attainments.

Now that the constituencies had been largely augmented and the area of electoral power had been extended he thought the House should enlarge also the area of the choice of representatives by diminishing the expenses of elections, and thus enabling men of moderate means to enter the House. He did not indulge any Utopian idea as to the working-class representation; but he fully agreed with the opinions of the Prime Minister, and of Earl Russell, that it would be a great advantage to that House, and that it would greatly assist their deliberations if they could have a direct representation of the working men, from whom they could hear directly what were the wants, the feelings, and the objects of the class to which they belonged. He agreed with the statement of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) that the relation of a Member to his constituency was that of one who undertook to perform a great public service. He ought not, therefore, to be burdened with the expense entailed by the necessary legal process by which he was returned. There were expenses in every election which would always fall heavily upon candidates. It is to be regretted that this should be so. But to call upon candidates to pay for the very machinery, so to speak, which the law imposed and required in order to carry out its own provisions, he confessed was an anomaly and a hardship not to be found under any representative system of government with which he was acquainted. Yet that is what now existed here, and what hon. Members who opposed the present Bill sought to perpetuate. In the olden time, and down to a period more recent than the Restoration, Members of the House of Commons were paid their expenses in coming to, remaining in, and returning to their homes. He did not mean to say that he was prepared to advocate a return to that system, but he referred to it in order to how what was originally the relation of a Member towards his constituents, and that in the conception of the law and the constitution it was one of service rendered to them by the Member, and not of service or advantage bestowed upon him. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who opposed the present measure were perpetuating what was the great source and the parent of corruption by cherishing the idea that the can- didate who sought to be returned to that House was seeking a great benefit for himself, instead of conferring a benefit upon the public. The consequence was that he was expected not only to bear all the expenses of his election, but hereafter to engage in what he (Mr. Serjeant Simon) considered the most dangerous, because the most insidious, form of corruption. He was expected to become the systematic subsidizer of the borough he represented by contributing largely towards the support of local institutions and other like objects. He thanked the House for the indulgent hearing which they had given him, and would give his cordial support to the measure.


said, he was of opinion that, as a Parliamentary election was a matter of national importance, the expenses of it ought, under ordinary circumstances to be borne by the nation. But while he entertained that opinion he was opposed to the Bill before the House, and he should state briefly the grounds on which his objection to it was based. The national taxation was £70,000,000; the local taxation, according to the very able statement of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon, was £21,000,000. It was said that the amount which would be added by the operation of this Bill to the local taxation of the country would be very insignificant; but it should not be forgotten that that taxation had reached its present large proportions by means of petty additions, and that it was necessary to watch with a jealous eye any further augmentation of the burden, however small. He had been somewhat amused, he must confess, at the statement which had been made by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) and the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines). They represented that their constituents were most anxious to be taxed for the purposes of this Bill. He knew nothing of Brighton, but he happened to represent the Eastern Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, in which Leeds was situated. He had not received frequent communications from the freeholders of that borough, but the chief topic of all that he had received was the great pressure upon them of local taxation, with any addition to which they would not, so far as his experience went, be at all satisfied. He, for one, objected to see the expenses named in the Bill taken off the shoulders of candidates, and transferred to those of the already heavily-taxed ratepayer, and it would, he maintained, come with a very bad grace from the New Reformed Parliament if, before the questions of national or local taxation—to the diminution of which, as far as possible, so many hon. Members had pledged themselves on the hustings—had been touched, they were to pass a measure for the relief of their own pockets. Entertaining those views, he felt it to be his duty to oppose the second reading of the Bill.


, as a representative of the largest constituency in the kingdom, hoped he might be allowed to say a few words on the subject before the House. He contended that the amount of the necessary expenses at elections was much greater as matters at present stood than it would be if the charge had to be borne by the ratepayers. In the borough which he had the honour to represent the claims of the returning officer at the recent election amounted to £1,400, or £350 for each candidate; but if the cost were thrown upon the public the requisite work would have been done for a much smaller sum. But the strongest argument in favour of the Bill was not that which was founded on the diminution of expense. To the great bulk of those whom he addressed the payment of £200 or £300 was, in all probability, a matter of trifling importance; but undoubtedly the necessity for incurring even that expense had a great effect in limiting the field from which constituencies might choose their Members; and if the House were anxious to avoid the charge of desiring to keep Parliamentary honours and political power in the possession of one class—namely, the class of very wealthy men—they must legislate in the direction proposed by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). It should be remembered that in limiting the field from which constituencies might choose their Members, the House thereby tended to limit its own intellectual power.


agreed in thinking that it would be a great misfortune if it should be laid down as an axiom that the longest purse should have the greatest chance of returning a Member to that House. It would, indeed, be a great misfortune if the number of pounds in a man's pocket should be taken as the measure of the amount of brains in his head; and it appeared to him that the question "whether the House should say "Aye" or "No" to this Bill lay in a nutshell. Would the Bill, or would it not, increase the expenses of elections? He held that anything which tended to increase the expenses of elections diminished pro tanto the proper representation of the people in that House, and the reason why he should vote against the second reading of the Bill was that he thought it would have the effect of increasing those expenses. He would tell the House why. Most of them were aware that the sum paid for the returning officer's expenses was small compared with many other expenses which were incurred. But still the returning officer's expenses were those which made the most show to the outer world, and people thought that if they could get these expenses paid for them by the Legislature their election would cost nothing. If the Bill were to pass, one result of its operation would be to induce candidates to stand who had not the remotest chance of being returned, and thus to give rise to contests where, as matters at present stood, none would occur. Believing that that would be a great evil, and would increase instead of diminishing election expenses, he should vote against the second reading.


said, that an Act of Parliament had been passed in 1820 with respect to Irish elections, providing that the expenses of returning officers should be borne by the county rate, but that they should be paid, in the first instance, by the sheriff. A second Act provided that those expenses should be very moderate, and the opinion generally prevailed in Ireland, and was often acted upon, that where there was no contest the sheriff could make no charge. It would, he thought, be advisable to introduce into the present Bill a clause embodying that principle, inasmuch as contests in those cases in which there was no chance of success on the one side would thereby be discountenanced.


observed that the Act to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. M'Mahon) referred had not been found to work well and had been repealed. As for the Bill of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), he looked upon it as a measure to provide additional candidates at elec- tions at the expense of the ratepayers who had no wish to be subject to increased charge. If the constituents of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) were so desirous of taking upon themselves a fresh burden, with the view of enabling working men to get into Parliament with greater facility, what, he should like to know, was to prevent them from subscribing to effect that object? They had never done so, however, and what the supporters of the Bill really sought to effect was to obtain compulsory powers to tax persons who did not concur in their views. He hoped the House would not be deceived by the spurious pretence that this was a Bill to increase the area of intellectual ability in the House—for he believed under that disguise it was intended to add to the already overburdened rates of the country.


said, the measure was a matter of indifference to himself personally, for his constituents had always paid his expenses; but he wished his opponent's expenses also to be paid. The chief objection to the Bill was the increase it would cause in the local taxation. Now, he admitted local taxation was already sufficiently heavy, but that was no reason why they should not endeavour to put the election expenses on a proper principle. Whether the expenses were to be placed on the local rates or on the Imperial funds was a matter for the consideration of the Committee when this Bill went before it. The question involved in the measure was, perhaps, very small, so far as the payment of those expenses was concerned; but then it was very great viewed as a matter of principle. He found from the Returns of the General Election of 1865 that out of the total expenditure on the elections for the United Kingdom, which amounted to £752,746, the sum charged for returning officers was only £47,320, and he felt assured that if the charges were levied as proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, it would be found that they would decrease very considerably. The fact that the expenses of registration were paid out of the rates was, he contended, another argument in favour of the Bill, for there could be no good reason for stopping short at that point and throwing the expenses of the election itself on the candidates.


said, he did not wish to parade his own personal ex- penses before the House, nor had he, like the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Hibbert), any particular desire to save the pockets of his opponents, but he was anxious to have justice done to his constituents, who had no inclination whatever, either upon this or upon any other occasion, for an increase of the county rates. It had been argued by some Gentlemen opposite that the passing of this Bill would facilitate the entrance of working men to this House. He (Colonel Gilpin) did not think that members of the working classes would have a bit the better chance of obtaining seats in Parliament if the Bill were to pass than they had at present, while the expenses of elections would in all probability be increased rather than diminished by its operation. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), he could only say that on more than one occasion he had heard the senior Member for that town boast that his elections for Birmingham had never cost him a farthing, and he had reason to be proud of it. When the hon. Member was as well known and appreciated as his Colleague, no doubt the same thing would happen to him. But what would occur in the interim? Why, the enormous expenses of the returning officer would be thrown upon the ratepayers, many of whom found it difficult to pay the sum already demanded. He (Colonel Gilpin) had not experienced the luxury of a borough election, but he had stood three contested county elections, and the sole expenses of the returning officers had not in all the three elections, he believed, amounted to the enormous cost at one Birmingham election of £2,700.


said, that having had a large experience in election contests he hoped the House would allow him to state that he did not think the passing of the Bill would have the effect either of enabling a greater number of working men to obtain seats in Parliament, or of breaking the back of that much-enduring animal the ratepayer by the email addition which it would make to the amount of his taxation. He was, however, of opinion that it was important to lay down a rule by which a clear distinction should be drawn between those charges which the law imposed upon candidates and the enormous expenses which they chose to impose upon themselves. From what he had heard on the subject from many of his constituents after a long and arduous contest—and his experience in the matter would, he felt convinced, be borne out by that of hon. Gentlemen round him—there existed a very general feeling on the part of large sections of electors of what he might term shame because of the large outlay which men who came forward to discharge to some extent a public duty were obliged to incur. The actual charges which came under the head of the expenses of the returning officer formed but an insignificant item in the long bill which the candidate was called upon to pay. But, comparatively small as those charges were, they would, he believed, be materially reduced if they had to be borne by the ratepayers. As things now stood many charges which were not strictly legal were mixed up with others which were considered to be legal and fell upon the shoulders of the candidate. The cost of erecting a hustings was not, he believed he was correct in saying, a strictly legal charge, and he, for one, should like to see the farce of nominations, with the erection of hustings, altogether done away with. If, however, these things must continue to be the inevitable accompaniments of a General Election, together with the expenses of employing polling clerks, and of furnishing copies of returns, multiplied to an indefinite extent, the cost should, in his opinion, be borne by the ratepayers, who would, of course take very good care that it was cut down. Entertaining those views, he could not refuse to support the second reading of the Bill, but he should be better pleased to see it referred to the Committee which was so soon about to commence its labours. This was only one of a series of questions which would be better considered by the Committee than by this House. Among other modes of diminishing the expenses of elections, he believed that an increased number of polling-places in counties would have a very material effect. It would then be possible to do what could not be done at present—put an end to the enormous expense of carrying voters to the poll. You could not accomplish this object until greater facilities were given for voting than now existed; but, in the meantime, believing that, as a mere question of justice and of right, the principle laid down in the Bill was a sound one, he should be prepared to support the second reading.


wished, before the House came to a division, that they should understand what were the points on which they were about to vote. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) had suggested that this burden might be thrown upon the general taxation of the country; but he believed he was correct in stating that no such alteration could be introduced into a Bill of this character in Committee, and therefore hon. Members would vote on a false issue if they supported the second reading under this belief. Then it was argued that if the expense were thrown upon the ratepayers, they would reduce the expense. But he did not find in the Bill any provision for the ratepayers having any control over the expenses—all they had to do with them was to pay them. The necessary expenses of the Bill would not be in the least degree under the control of the ratepayers. If that were so it was a totally wrong induction from the premise of the hon. Member for Brighton, when he said his Bill would reduce the expenses of elections. But granting that it were so, might not the principle be carried further than that House would wish? We had heard of appeals to eminent men who had been asked to decide whether this or that candidate should stand for a certain constituency; and recently, in one of our largest boroughs, that question was settled in some secret mode by the electors. No doubt, election expenses might be got rid of in this way, but for his part he abhorred all such occult and unconstitutional practices. Elections ought to be conducted by the constituencies, before whom candidates should come openly, and anything in the nature of hole-and-corner proceedings should be discouraged. He feared that this Bill rather pointed in the direction of practices, the tendency of which was to keep down expenses in an unconstitutional way, and for this and other reasons he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Floyer.)


said, he should op- pose the second reading, because he looked upon it as merely nibbling and meddling with a small part of a great question, and because he thought that a private Member should not attempt to deal with a question which within a very short time was to be dealt with by the Government. The Bill was incomplete, for unless you prohibited other than the mere hustings expenses you would be no nearer the object of allowing working men to become Members of Parliament. The measure would tax all municipalities on the contingency that some one or two of them might wish to return such Members. He would like that constituencies should have a free choice in this matter; but the Bill would not secure this result. No one could have observed the enormous expenses which the Election Judges in their recent inquiries had pronounced to be legal, without seeing that this Bill merely touched the skirts of a great question, and that we really had to deal with the larger question so ably referred to by the hon. Member (Mr. Walter). He would rather leave the Government to deal with the matter; and, representing a constituency where the municipal rates were very heavy already, he did not wish that one of the first votes of this House should be to impose fresh rates upon them and other constituencies. If constituencies wished to return working men, the way was open to them; they could do so by defraying the expenses of such candidates. For these reasons he should vote against the second reading.


, being also about to vote against the Bill, wished to give his reasons for doing so. He entirely approved of the principle of the Bill, and thought it was extremely desirable to diminish election expenses; but the expenses dealt with by this Bill formed only about 7 or 8 per cent of the total expenses of candidates, and it was trifling with the subject to throw a burden like this upon taxpayers, who were taxed to the utmost already, without any adequate advantage or result to anybody. There were plenty of means by which the cost of elections might be reduced before throwing this fresh burden upon the local taxes. He could not agree with the observations of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dews-bury (Serjeant Simon), for he felt that the honour, the pleasure, and the satisfaction of being in this House were well worth the legitimate expenses of the election.


said, that the statement of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) that he would persevere with his Motion, whatever might be urged against it, had raised a spirit of contention which might otherwise have been avoided. It became extremely difficult to conduct Business in this House when an hon. Member began by declaring that he would take a course of his own, and would not listen to any appeal that might be made to him. The hon. Member for Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had taken advantage of this to insist upon a final decision against the Bill, and to express a hope that the Government would, be firm—and no doubt they would be so; but what was firmness upon this question? At the beginning of the Session it was stated that the Government would recommend that an inquiry should be prosecuted into the present mode of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, with a view to consider the possibility of providing any further guarantees for the tranquillity, the purity, and the freedom of such elections; and the House returned an Address to the Speech from the Throne, stating that it would probably proceed with that inquiry. Accordingly notice had been given that to-morrow a Motion would be made by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce) for the appointment of a Committee. His hon. Friend opposite (Colonel Barttelot), in his view of firmness, proposed that, pending the Notice for a Committee, the Government should at this moment pronounce a decided opinion, Aye or No, upon the three or four propositions in this Bill which must inevitably become part of the inquiry carried on by the Committee. Surely such a course on the part of the Government would be very inconsistent. At all events, he declined to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member. Many other proposals had been brought under the notice of the House, all tending to show that this Bill was only part of a large subject. When, however, the Government had announced that, in their opinion, there ought to be inquiry with a view to a change in the law, it was not usual to draw the House into a discussion of the subjects embraced in that inquiry, nor was it usual meanwhile to prevent hon. Members from submitting their proposals to the House. On the contrary, the ordinary course was to let every hon. Member lay his proposal before the House in such a shape that it might be referred to the Committee upstairs, who would consider whether it should or should not form part of any general measure. He thought, therefore, that the House might with great propriety allow the Bill to proceed through a stage to-day, and that this would be quite consistent with the course which the Government had advised the House to take. He had no intention to go further, because hon. Members would see that, if the Committee should think it desirable, for example, that the votes should be taken in an entirely new manner, then the expense to be incurred by it was a subject which must of necessity be considered, and an entirely new set of arrangements would have to be made. Again, it had been pointed out that the very foundation of this subject was what ought to be the expenses of the returning officers. On this point the English law was most defective, while in Ireland a most excellent law was in existence. The charges of election officers would, therefore, probably have to be regulated. At present, every hon. Member knew that he was a victim. The returning officer had said to him, "You must send me a check for the modest sum of £230," and if you inquired for particulars, the returning officer probably did not condescend to give any. All these points must be inquired into; and, having sat upon a Committee on this very subject, he knew it was full of practical difficulties which could not be slurred over. In this country the elections were in the hands of the people as the guardians of their own rights and freedom, and not, as in France, in the hands of officials; and, therefore, there was no ground for comparison between our elections and those elsewhere in Europe; but if they wanted a standard of comparison they should look to the other side of the Atlantic where the elections were also in the hands of the people. Gentlemen who complained of the cost of elections might console themselves by the reflection that if they had been candidates in the United States they would have had to spend a great deal more. The people in the United States, however, showed their spirit by voluntarily contributing largely towards the election expenses, but there was no law to prevent them from doing the same in this country. That being so, and there being no law to prevent any candidate from saying that he would incur no liability at all in respect of the election, it would not be right to exaggerate the importance of this Bill, nor was it right to support the Bill on the ground that it would promote what was called the direct representation of the working classes. If any hon. Member entertained a deep-seated conviction that the working classes ought to be represented there by members of their own body, he might effect his object by resigning in favour of a working man. But he (Mr. Ayrton) had never encouraged this sentimental feeling, because he knew the difficulties in the way of such a class representation, and believed that he could represent working men quite as well as a member of their own body. Entertaining this feeling, he had no intention of resigning his own seat, but he hoped the House would be consistent, and that the hon. Member opposite would not, in the face of the impending Committee, ask the House precipitately to come to a final conclusion upon the questions contained in this Bill. For his part he thought that the Bill should be read a second time, in order that it might hereafter be properly considered.


said, it was desirable, before the House came to a decision, to know the position in which it stood. His hon. Friend (Mr. Ayrton)—with a rhetoric which would remind the House rather of his position below the Gangway than of his present position on the Treasury Bench—had controverted the opinions of the hon. Member for Sussex (Colonel Barttelot). He asked the House to read the Bill a second time in order that it might hereafter be referred to a Committee. Such a course as this was wholly without precedent. If the House now passed the second reading it would affirm the principle of the Bill, and yet his hon. Friend evidently thought the Bill unsatisfactory and imperfect. In his opinion a Bill read a second time could not, with propriety, be referred to a Committee appointed to consider a general subject, though it might be referred to a Committee appointed specially to consider its provisions. However, as he was most desirous that the Committee should inquire into the very root of the whole matter, he should advise his hon. Friend (Mr. Floyer) to withdraw his Amendment for the second reading that day six months, and to move simply to postpone the Bill for such a period as would enable the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fawcett) to bring the Bill again before the House if the Select Committee sanctioned the principle. In that case the Bill would not be negatived but affirmed, and meanwhile no opinion would be pronounced upon it, pending the consideration of the measure by the Committee.


, in reply, said, he felt some trepidation in consequence of the censure of the noble Lord (Viscount Bury) who accused him of presumption in "nibbling" at a great question. He was consoled, however, by remembering that the noble Lord had nibbled at a great constitutional question, and that his "nibbling" could not be half so unsuccessful as that of the noble Lord. The hon. Member (Mr. Ayrton) had said that he pursued an unusual course in declaring that he would persevere with the measure. Now, he denied that it was an unusual course. The Bill was not a new one, and the present occupants of the Treasury Bench had expressed in the clearest terms their opinion respecting it. The hon. Gentleman had just made exactly the same kind of speech as had been made on a former occasion by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli). When he (Mr. Fawcett) had tried to introduce a clause on this subject into the Act passed by the right hon. Gentleman, he was asked to withdraw it, because it opened a large subject, because the law was uncertain, and it was a matter for further inquiry. He thought it his duty not to listen to that appeal, and who supported him? Why, the present Prime Minister and his Colleagues. They said it was a plain and simple question, one involving a great principle, and with their support he was twice successful. On that occasion he had persevered to the last, and on this occasion he would likewise persevere through every stage of the Bill.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question,"

The House divided:—Ayes 165; Noes 168: Majority 3.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.

Akroyd, E. Fordyce, W. D.
Amcotts, Col. W. C. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Anderson, G. Fortescue, hon. D. F.
Anstruther, Sir R. Fothergill, R.
Antrobus, E. Gilpin, C.
Armitstead, G. Glyn, G. G.
Ayrton, A. S. Goldsmid, Sir F. H.
Aytoun, R. S. Gourley, E. T.
Baker, R. B. W. Graham, W.
Bass, M. A. Gray, Sir J.
Baxter, W. E. Grieve, J. J.
Bazley, T. Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.
Beaumont, F. Grove, T. F.
Beaumont, S. A. Hadfield, G.
Beaumont, W. B. Hamilton, J. G. C.
Blake, J. A. Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Bowring, E. A. Henley, Lord
Brady, J. Hibbert, J. T.
Brewer, Dr. Hodgkinson, G.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Holms, J.
Brinckman, Capt. Hope, A. J. B. B.
Briscoe, J. I. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Brown, A. H. Howard, J.
Buller, Sir A. W. Hughes, T.
Buxton, C. Illingworth, A.
Callan, P. Jardine, R.
Campbell, H. Johnston, A.
Candlish, J. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Carnegie, hon. C. Lambert, N. G.
Carter, Mr. Ald. Lea, T.
Cartwright, W. C. Leatham, E. A.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Lewis, J. D.
Chadwick, D. Loch, G.
Cholmeley, Capt. Locke, J.
Clay, J. Lush, Dr.
Clifton, Sir R. J. Lyttelton, hon. C. G.
Clive, G. M'Combie, W.
Cowen, J. Macfie, R. A.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Mackintosh, E. W.
Crawford, R. W. M'Mahon, P.
Crossley, Sir F. Maitland, Sir A. C. R. G.
Dalglish, R. Melly, G.
Dalrymple, D. Merry, J.
Dickinson, S. S. Miller, J.
Dilke, C. W. Monk, C. J.
Dixon, G. Morgan, G. O.
Dodds, J. Morley, S.
Downing, M'C. Morrison, W.
Duff, M. E. G. Mundella, A. J.
Duff, R. W. Muntz, P. H.
Edwardes, Colonel Norwood, C. M.
Egerton, Capt. hon. F. O'Conor, D. M.
Enfield, Viscount Ogilvy, Sir J.
Ewing, H. E. C. Palmer, J. H.
Eykyn, R. Parker, C. S.
Fawcett, H. Pease, J. W.
Finnie, W. Peel, A. W.
FitzGerald, right hon. Lord O. A. Pelham, Lord
Pim, J.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Platt, J.
Fletcher, I. Plimsoll, S.
Pollard-Urquhart, W. Stone, W. H.
Potter, E. Strutt, hon. H.
Potter, T. B. Stuart, Colonel C.
Price, W. E. Sykes, Colonel W. H.
Rathbone, W. Taylor, P. A.
Rebow, J. G. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Reed, C. Torrens, W. T. M'C.
Richard, H. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.
Richards, E. M. Trevelyan, G. O.
Roden, W. S. Villiers, rt.hon. C.P.
Russell, A. J. E. Walter, J.
Rylands, P. Wedderburn, Sir D.
St. Aubyn, J. Wells, W.
Samuelson, H. B. Westhead, J. P. B.
Sartoris, E. J. White, J.
Seely, C. Whitwell, J.
Shaw, R. Williamson, Sir H.
Shaw, W. Wingfield, Sir C.
Simeon, Sir J. Winterbotham, H. S. P.
Simon, Mr. Serjeant Young, A. W.
Smith, J. B.
Smith, T. E. TELLERS.
Stapleton, J. Baines, E.
Stevenson, J. C. M'Laren, D.
Adderley. rt. hn. C. B. Elcho, Lord
Allen, Major Elliot, G.
Amphlett, R. P. Ennis, J. J.
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Ewing, A. O.
Arkwright, A. P. Feilden, J.
Assheton, R. Fielden, J.
Ball, J. T. Figgins, J.
Barclay, A. C. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Barnett, H. French, rt. hon. Col.
Barrow, W. H. Garlies, Lord
Bateson, Sir T. Goldney, G.
Bathurst, A. A. Gore, J. R. O.
Beach, Sir M. H. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Beach, W. W. B. Grant, Colonel Hon. J.
Bective, Earl of Graves, S. R.
Bentinck, G. C. Greaves, E.
Bingham, Lord Greene, E.
Bourke, Hon, R. Guest, A. E.
Brand, H. R. Gwyn, H.
Brassey, H. A. Hambro, C. T.
Brise, Colonel R. Hamilton, Lord C.
Broadley, W. H. H. Hamilton, I. T.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Hardy, right hon. G.
Bruen, H. Hardy, J.
Bury, Viscount Hardy, J. S.
Cameron, D. Haviland-Burke, E.
Cartwright, F. Hay, Sir J. C. D.
Cave, right hon. S. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Clive, Colonel H. G. W. Henniker-Major, Hon. J. M.
Clowes, S. W.
Cole, Hon. H. A. Henry, J. S.
Courtenay, Viscount Herbert, H. A.
Crichton, Viscount Hermon, E.
Croft, Sir H. G. D. Hervey, Lord A. H. C.
Cross, R. A. Heygate, Sir F. W.
Dalrymple, C. Hick, J.
Damer, Captain D. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Davenport, W. B. Hill, A. S.
Dawson, R. P. Hoare, P. M.
Dickson, Major A. G. Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N.
Duncombe, hon. Col.
Dyke, W. H. Howes, E.
Dyott, Colonel R. Hughes, W. B.
Edwards, H. Hunt, right hn. G. W.
Egerton, hon. A. F. Hutton, J.
Egerton, E. C. Jones, J.
Kavanagh, A. M. Pell, A.
Kekewich, S. T. Pemberton, E. L.
Kennard, Captain Percy, Earl
Knight, F. W. Phipps, C. P.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Pochin, H. D.
Laird, J. Powell, W.
Langton, W. H. P. G. Read, C. S.
Legh, W. J. Round, J.
Lennox, Lord G. G. Sandon, Viscount
Leslie, C. P. Sclater-Booth, G.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Scott, Lord H. J. M. D,
Lindsay, hon. Col. C. Scourfield, J. H.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Selwin-Ibbetson, H. J.
Lopes, Sir M. Seymour, G. H.
Lowther, J. Sidebottom, J.
Lowther, W. Smith, A,
Manners, Lord G. J. Smith, F. C.
Manners, rt. hon. Ld. J. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Matheson, A Sturt, H. G.
Maxwell, W. H. Sykes, C.
Meller, Colonel Talbot, C. R. M.
Mellor, T. W. Talbot, J. G.
Meyrick, T. Tipping, W.
Milbank, F. A. Trevor, Lord A. E. H.
Milles, hon. G. W. Turner, C.
Mills, C. H. Walpole, hon. F.
Mitchell, T. A. Walsh, hon. A.
Mitford, W. T. Welby, W. E.
Montgomery, Sir G. G. Wethered, T. O.
Morgan, C. O. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Morgan, Hon. Major Whitmore, H.
Mowbray, Rt. Hn. J. R. Williams W.
Neville-Grenville, R. Willyams, E, W. D.
Newport, Viscount Wilmot, H.
Noel, Hon. G. J. Wise, H. C.
Northcote, right hon. Sir S. H. Wyndham, hon. P.
Wynn, C. W. W.
Paget, R. H.
Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J. TELLERS.
Parker, Major W. Barttelot, Colonel
Parry, L. J. Floyer, J.
Patten, rt. hn. Col. W.