§ Clause 4. (Infringement of Secrecy.)
An Amendment having been proposed in page 3, line 32, after "voted," to insert—
And no voter shall, after marking his vote on his ballot paper, wilfully display sueh paper in such manner as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for or against whom he has so marked his vote,
and the word "wilfully" having been struck out of the proposed Amendment on division:—
§ Question proposed, to insert in the proposed Amendment, after "ballot paper," the words "with corrupt intent:"—(Mr. Vernon Harcourt.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought he might, perhaps, save the time of the Committee by at once stating that it was impossible for the Government to accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt). 1482 The grounds on which the Government felt obliged to take their present course were two. In the first place, they were of opinion that to introduce the words "with corrupt intent," in place of the word "wilfully," which had been struck out of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), would render that Amendment almost if not quite nugatory. "Corrupt intent" would not be legally interpreted to include the result of intimidation which the Government were endeavouring to prevent, and this was the ground on which they had thought it most necessary to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend. But there was another reason, which he believed would be considered a weighty one even by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford. It appeared to the Government that by inserting those words they would put a voter in a worse position than he occupied before as regarded protection, as the words would be ruled to be a limitation of Section 2, which stated that the voter was to vote secretly. The Government believed the interpretation of the words "with corrupt intent" in Clause 4 would be that a voter might show his paper as much as he pleased, unless it could be proved that he did it corruptly. These were the two grounds upon which the Government must take the opinion of the Committee, which, he trusted, would support them in not accepting those words. He might save time if he took this opportunity of stating what course the Government proposed to adopt in reference to the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. Perhaps it would be as well to state briefly what objects the Government had in view in introducing this Bill. The view which he thought had always been expressed by himself, and which the Government had always held from the time when the Bill was brought forward by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington), was that the House should be asked, not merely to consent to change the present mode of voting personally to voting by Ballot, but that the Ballot which ought to be advocated ought to be a Bsecret allot. Their object in proposing the Ballot had been to check bribery, because a man would not know he had obtained that for which he had offered money, and would, therefore, be 1483 less inclined to make the payment. But an additional—perhaps a greater—object was that a man should no longer interfere with his fellow-subject, and should cease to try to influence him to vote as he wished, and not as the voter himself wished. This, indeed, was generally understood to be the chief ground of the Ballot. There was in the country a general feeling, which was shared by the House, that a man should be allowed to vote as he pleased without any interference. [Opposition cheers.] He gathered from that cheer that there were still some Members who supposed that any facility given to one person to put pressure upon another was carrying out that principle. In order to carry out that object the Government had based their Bill upon the principle of a secret ballot, and the object of the details of the measure was that a voter should not only have the opportunity of voting secretly if he pleased, but that the arrangements should be such as to render it difficult, if not impossible, to prove how he voted. It appeared to them that this was a necessary condition of the Ballot, for if a voter could be made to prove how he gave his vote, he would be liable to be pressed just as much as at present. If there were any attempt to interfere with a voter now, the same attempt at interference would be made in order to make him prove how he voted. He wished to remind the Committee what steps had been already taken to attain the object in view. The mode of voting by ballot was described in Clause 2, which provided that the voter, having secretly marked his paper and folded it up so as to conceal his vote, should place it in the box. The Government had further to consider what steps ought to be taken in order to protect the voter in his obedience to this Parliamentary order, supposing, of course, that Parliament finally passed this Bill into law. When this Bill was last under consideration, the Committee, after much deliberation and three important divisions, came to the conclusion that any person in a polling-booth who attempted to obtain information from a voter as to how he had voted, or who at any time communicated such information if he happened to obtain it, should be liable to a penalty not exceeding three months' hard labour. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed at this proposal; but, at all 1484 events, it was accepted by a large majority of the House. In the Schedule there were one or two sections which he had better bring under the notice of the Committee. By the 19th Sub-section of the Schedule the presiding officer was not only empowered but obliged to exclude from the polling-booth all persons except his officers, constables on duty, the duly appointed agents of the candidates, and such voters as were engaged in voting. Under Section 23 voters must leave the booth after voting, and Section 51 provided that a declaration of secrecy should be demanded from the officials in the booth with regard to the votes given. All these were regulations and arrangements to prevent Section 2 being frustrated by any attempt on the part of other persons to induce voters to disobey the provisions of the Bill in reference to the mode of voting. His hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield thought, however, that an additional safeguard was necessary, and that the voter himself should be informed by the infliction of a penalty that it was the determination of Parliament to carry out that mode of voting which it had prescribed. He confessed he thought his hon. Friend was right in making that proposal. It was, of course, open to the objection that it added another penalty, and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford said it was a hardship to the voter that he should run the risk of incurring this penalty. The Government, on the other hand, thought that the fact of a penalty being imposed was a protection to a voter. It would enable him to reply with effect to any person who asked him to disobey the law that it was not only his duty to obey its provisions, but that as its infringement would subject him to a penalty he could not be expected to disobey it. On asking the opinion of a legal gentleman he found the probability was that, inasmuch as by Section 2 a secret mode of voting was ordered, to display a vote would be an act of disobedience to that section, and according to the letter of the law an indictment for misdemeanor would lie against any person who disobeyed the law in this respect. He was also informed on the same authority that, although such an indictment would be possible, it would probably not, according to the common practice of the law, be successful. The general practice of 1485 the House in passing provisions of this kind was, after declaring what they wished the Queen's subjects to do, to state what was the penalty for the transgression of the law. This rule ought, in his judgment, to be observed in the present case. The word "wilfully" was at the last sitting of the Committee struck out of the Amendment proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. Although the absence of the word did not alter the meaning of the Amendment, because as it stood the intention would be clear, Her Majesty's Government thought it would be desirable to insert some qualifying words, and, therefore, if the Committee decided to reject the words "with corrupt intent," the Government would be prepared to propose or support some other words of a similar character. The Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield now stood in this form—No voter shall, after marking his vote on his ballot paper, display such paper in such manner as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for or against whom he has so marked his vote;and the Government would be prepared to alter it by striking out the words "in such manner as to make known," and substituting for them the words "for the purpose of making known." [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen seemed amused; but the words as altered would apply to a voter displaying a paper intentionally, and clearly to make it known how he was voting.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, he would not criticize the Amendment which had just been presented to the Committee, because if he had desired to throw ridicule upon it he could not do so more effectively than his right hon. Friend had done himself. The Amendment to which he referred was the re-ductio ad absurdum of the proposal against which he ventured to protest. He would ask the attention of the Committee to matters less absurd and more serious. It was never an agreeable position for any person to occupy to feel it his duty to support opinions which he entertained when those opinions were at variance with the views of the mass of the party with which he sincerely thought and generally acted. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen might cry "Oh!" but it was for the reason he had just stated that he 1486 desired to express his opinion on the subject. What he understood to be the feeling on that side of the House was, that the Bill without this provision for secret voting was, in point of fact, a sham, and that those who were opposed to the provision in question were opposed to the principle of the Ballot. If that position wore true, he would ask hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House especially to consider to what degree it stultified the position of the Government, of the Liberal party, and of the majority of the House of Commons. In the first place, they had this remarkable fact—that a Bill, professing to be a Ballot Bill, was introduced by the responsible Government of the country without this provision; therefore, if a Bill without the provision in question was a sham, the legitimate consequence of the circumstance was, that the Government had deliberately produced a sham Ballot Bill. But this was not the whole situation. They actually passed a Ballot Bill through the House of Commons last Session. That Bill contained a provision, contemplating, in some degree, though not by such stringent and violent—he was almost going to say brutal—provisions, the security for secret voting; but when it became necessary to cut away the top hamper under stress of weather, the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill considered what were the material provisions of the Bill, and what were its immaterial or rather minor provisions. And the right hon. Gentleman found that a clause imposing secrecy by penalties was minor and immaterial, and proposed that it should be abandoned. What was the course taken by the Liberal party with respect to that Bill? There was a great compact of silence on the occasion, and therefore very little open criticism; but when the Liberal party, who had agreed to shut their mouths and open their eyes and see what his right hon. Friend would send them, found that the clause imposing secrecy upon those who did not desire it was, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, one of the minor and immaterial provisions which might be safely abandoned, they acquiesced with the greatest silence, and, so far as he could learn, with the greatest cheerfulness. His hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) was present upon that 1487 occasion, and he had dry-nursed the Ballot for many years, but he said no word in opposition to the proposed abandonment. He might almost say of the hon. Member, in the words of Sir Walter Scott—Where, where was Roderick then?One blast upon his bugle-hornWere worth a thousand men.Why did the hon. Member not jump up in his place and say that a Ballot Bill without a clause imposing compulsory secrecy was a sham Ballot Bill? But nothing of the kind was said. They sat week after week, and month after month, elaborating a great constitutional measure, without any provision of this character. Not only was the hon. Member for Huddersfield silent on the occasion, but his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. James), who was extremely shocked at his (Mr. Har-court's) behaviour, was silent also. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton was his "guide, philosopher, and friend" upon this subject of the Ballot. He had studied the Ballot under the hon. and learned Member. He sat by him all last Session, and they "took sweet counsel" together; but he never revealed the profound and overwhelming secret that they were cackling over an addled egg, and elaborating a sham Ballot Bill. The House sat and cooked a sham Ballot Bill, and sent it to the House of Lords, and if the House of Lords had passed the measure, it would now have been the electoral law of the country, proposed by a Liberal Administration, and endorsed by the Liberal party. But the House of Lords took a course which he, for one, did not approve. They said they had not time to consider the measure, and so rejected it; but if the views now expressed by the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Huddersfield were correct, the majority of the Upper House showed themselves to be a much more sagacious assembly than they were sometimes thought to be. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) passed some severe censures upon the House of Lords for not passing the Ballot Bill; but surely, if that measure in the form in which it reached them was a sham Ballot Bill, then the House of Lords was entitled to a humble apology for rejecting a measure which would have "promoted corruption and encouraged intimidation." But even this was not 1488 all. After the discussion of last Session the Bill was introduced this year without a provision such as the one to which he was referring, and which was now pronounced to be one of the vital principles of a Ballot Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Greene) the other day, with that pleasant humour which distinguished him, said that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the measure had got the Bill and he must support it. He knew every Liberal pariah might be willing to support the legitimate offspring of the right hon. Gentleman; but when they were told that the fortunes of the party depended upon their supporting the by-blows of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Leatham), Her Majesty's Government must, he thought, leave the putative father to maintain his own very promising bantling. Yet they on the Liberal side of the House were told at this time of day that if they did not adopt and agree to this newly discovered principle they were, in ecclesiastical language, to be excommunicated, or, in language less ecclesiastical and more secular, they were to be "rattened." Let him explain what he understood to be the principle of the Ballot. He had come slowly to the conviction of the necessity of the Ballot; but when a man came slowly to a conviction it was generally a reason why he did not alter his opinions with the rapidity which sometimes characterized those who arrived at them more quickly. He protested against this new dogma of the Ballot. There were very powerful Churches which held the doctrine of development—a doctrine which seemed to prevail with regard to this subject upon the Treasury bench in a very arbitrary manner. He knew that the Councils of Infallibility had been declared; but he was one of those who still maintained the Protestant right of private judgment as far as this question was concerned. His right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), with his old orthodox predilections for the Ballot—predilections very inconsistent with his present proposals—fell accidentally into a confession of his doctrine of the Ballot. He said it was to allow people to vote as they pleased. This was the reason why he (Mr. Harcourt) supported the Ballot, and why he should oppose it as soon as it became anything else. He should always oppose the Ballot when there was mixed up with it any proposal 1489 which could prevent people voting as they liked. He wished to see the present system altered, because under it they compelled a man to vote openly whether he liked it or not. But he also objected to the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) who wished to make a man vote secretly whether he liked it or not. As he understood the Ballot, its object should be to enable a man to give a free vote, and they were now told that they were to give a man a free vote by putting him into prison if he voted as he pleased. That was a method of protection which had no counterpart, as far as he was aware, except in the old way of protecting a man from engaging in a duel which he did not want to fight. But the notion of protecting the English voters against what they disliked by putting them in prison for doing what they liked was to him an utterly new doctrine. He might be wrong; but he believed that the great majority of the people of this country had both the will and the means of voting openly. He should be very much ashamed of his countrymen if it were otherwise. The corrupted and the intimidated were, as he believed, very greatly in the minority, and that minority he would protect as far as he could do so justly and fairly. It was for that reason that he had supported the Bill of last Session, and it was for that reason that he had supported the Bill under consideration up to the present point. But when he was asked, in favour of a weak and timorous minority, to sacrifice the rights and liberties of the majority of the people, who, he believed, were able and willing to give an open vote, he, for one, would decline to do so. If the case were reversed, and if the majority were people who were unable to vote openly as they desired, and the minority were those who desired to vote openly, he would, and as he believed upon perfectly sound Liberal principles, protect that minority in that right and desire. He would coerce no man; least of all would he coerce a man by sending him to prison in this way for three months. Then it was said—"If you oppose this, you are inconsistent, for you ought not to have voted for the second reading." What! not vote for the second reading of a Bill which did not contain this provision? What a marvellous Parliamentary proposal! He 1490 had always understood that voting for the second reading of a Bill meant voting for what was in it. Those who were inconsistent were in reality his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield and those who acted with him, because they supported a Permissive Ballot Bill, believing all the time that a Permissive Ballot Bill was a sham. As far as he was concerned he had acted consistently throughout, for he was now speaking in favour of the Government Bill. He was always glad when discoveries were made below the gangway, and he congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield on the great constitutional discovery which had escaped the attention of the Government. A more extraordinary account than that given of this provision it was scarcely possible to conceive. The provision was deliberately excluded from the Bill of last year because it was immaterial, and it was accidentally omitted this year because it was thought material. And because this infant had not been lawfully begotten on the Treasury bench, his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield had to carry his offspring in a basket and to leave it at the door of the Privy Council. Then, again, it was said that he had gone over to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Not at all; he was simply supporting the Government Bill. The Government Bill contained no such clause; that Bill he was supporting, and he was taunted with being a traitor. It was not often that he was reproached for supporting the Government, and the moment when he found himself able to agree with them he was accused of endeavouring to secure their defeat. [Laughter.] A more laughable way of defeating a Government he never heard. There had been some criticism about the difficulty of interpreting the word "corrupt." Not only, however, was there in his opinion no difficulty whatever about it; but it should be remembered that, without being able to interpret the word "corrupt," there could be no punishment for "corruption." He was perfectly aware that some difficulty had arisen in connection with the Election Petitions; but speaking in that House, and covered by the privilege of Parliament, he believed that difficulty to arise more from the fault of the interpreter of the law than from the law itself. It was said that this would not put an end to intimida- 1491 tion. No more would it; but if they wished to put an end to that offence, they should put into prison the intimidator, and not the person intimidated, and with that view he had himself put an Amendment on the Paper. But his right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster), who, though he possessed all other qualities in the world, had not been educated a lawyer, had been told by some one that if he made it out a crime for a man to be intimidated, he would be able to put into prison the person who intimidated him. He could not help thinking, however, that was rather a roundabout way of getting at the offender. It was as if, because they objected to a man's beating his wife, they made it a misdemeanor in a wife to be beaten. On the whole, if he had to deal with the particular offence of wife-beating, he should prefer to leave the unfortunate wife alone and send the beater to prison. And that was the manner in which he proposed to deal with intimidation. He objected, however, to their enforcing a secrecy which was not the original or the orthodox doctrine of the Ballot, because he believed that every man ought to be able to vote openly or secretly as he pleased. ["No, no!"] The proof that it was not the original or orthodox doctrine of the Ballot was to be found in the fact that it was not contained in the Ballot Bill which they passed last year, and that the discovery of the necessity for compulsory secrecy was, as far as he could find out, about 23 days old. He altogether objected to this new fashion of multiplying misdemeanors. A friend of his had illustrated this fashion the other day by saying that if a shocking case of an old woman catching cold were to occur, there would be some one to recommend an application for an Act of Parliament to send people to prison unless they wore muffettees. That would be called protecting people against catching cold, and in the same way his right hon. Friend wanted to protect voters by sending them to prison for voting as they pleased. For his own part, he altogether objected to this system of manufacturing misdemeanors for the purpose of sending people to prison for anything or nothing, as might happen to be the case, according to the fashion of the moment. The Amendment he had proposed had no other object than that of carrying out what he 1492 had long understood to be the true object of the Ballot, to let men vote openly or secretly as they pleased, and to protect them in the free exercise of their franchise. And it was his firm conviction that if they passed any Bill, whether they called it a Ballot Bill or not, which contained such a provision as this, they would have passed a Bill as futile as any which had ever received the assent of that House.
§ MR. LEATHAM
said, the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) was always amusing when he was in a good humour, and he had never been more amusing than in the speech he had just delivered; but he would endeavour to extract from the abundance of chaff, with which they had been favoured, the few grains of wheat contained in it. The hon. and learned Member had commented on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) as if, in using the words "men should vote as they pleased," he had intended to say something calculated to upset the principle of this Bill. What the right hon. Gentleman meant, no doubt, was that men should be enabled to vote for whom they pleased; but the hon. and learned Member had interpreted his words as meaning that he would have men vote by ballot or otherwise. Then the hon. and learned Member found fault with those who sat near him for having last year let the Bill pass framed as he would have this one; but did the hon. and learned Member remember the condition to which the House was last year reduced? Those who sat on the benches near him last year were unanimous in giving expression to the feeling—"For Heaven's sake let us pass some Ballot Bill! However defective this Bill may be, let us pass something." He and his Friends hoped, however, to correct any blemishes in the Bill on a subsequent occasion, and this loophole which they sought to stop now was one of them. Without this provision the evils of the present system would continue. It would be impossible to prove "corrupt intent" in the showing of a ballot paper in one case out of a thousand, and the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member would simply legalize open voting under the Ballot. If this Amendment were passed, it would be in the power of a man openly to 1493 declare his vote in the act of voting, and those who had the power and were anxious that he should declare it would insist upon his doing so. The hon. and learned Member was perfectly well aware he was by this Amendment opening the floodgates of intimidation, for he had put a new Amendment on the Paper making it penal for any man to induce another to show his vote. But the hon. and learned Member ought to know that the peculiarity of the crime of intimidation was, that it not only violated a man's conscience, but made him an accomplice in his own dishonour; for the same power which forced conscience concealed the crime. How far would they have got, therefore, if the hon. and learned Gentleman, after all his protests, was allowed to make a new offence? The hon. and learned Member had spoken as if the moral turpitude of an offence ought to be the measure of the penalty which followed it. But that was not the rule followed on all occasions. A very respectable gentleman, a friend of his own, had a servant at whose house a voting paper for an election of guardians was left. As the servant could not write, he asked his friend to fill up the paper, and he unwittingly and with no moral turpitude did so in accordance with his wishes. In a short time—very naturally and properly as he would say, but very improperly as the hon. and learned Member for Oxford would hold—his friend had to make acquaintance with the inside of a gaol. The fact was, when it was desired to attain a great public object, that object must be attained, by penalties, and without question the suppression of the crime of intimidation was a serious task. They had to contend against a whole army of persons personally interested in defeating the object of the Bill, and who were armed with two centuries of experience in the art of defying the law. The Committee must be prepared to thwart the ingenuity of experts in every species of corruption, and for this reason he trusted they would adopt his original Amendment.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
submitted that the object in view was the protection of the voter. This was the object announced by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill last year. Clause 30 of the Bill of last year, as originally introduced, was identical with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr.- 1494 Leatham). On the 27th of July last year, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster), announcing the determination of the Government, spoke of the essential and non-essential matters contained in the Bill. The four essential points as stated by him were—the alteration of the system of nominating candidates, voting by ballot paper, the amendment of the Corrupt Practices Act, and the payment of expenses. Among the minor matters he classed the 30th clause, identical with the one under consideration, imposing a penalty upon voters who displayed their ballot papers, and, having announced the intention of the Government to omit it, he said he knew there were reasons for inserting this clause, but that the Government thought it would be better to pass the Bill without too many penal clauses in it. The Government appeared to have departed from this wholesome conclusion, and had inserted in the Bill now before the Committee no less than 58 indictable offences, punishable with from two years to three months' imprisonment. From 1832 to the present time there had been only two indictable offences on the Statute book in connection with voting at elections—one imposed a penalty for making a false declaration, the other for personation. There were only three other offences, and they were met by money penalties. Yet this was a Bill for the protection of the voter. Besides adding these 58 offences, it was now sought to introduce a clause which would intimidate every voter in the kingdom. It was monstrous for a Liberal Government to propose such a measure. In the Report of the proceedings in the Ballot Committee the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) brought forward a Resolution to the effect that, although in the case of voters whose opinions were well known and who voted openly—the case of the majority of the constituences—the Ballot would not be required and would afford no protection against intimidation, it would do so effectually in the case of more dependent voters. That, he believed, fairly represented the views of the country and of the majority of the Committee. The timid voter, who was the subject of intimidation, would be assisted by the Ballot; but the true Englishman did not need it.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
very much regretted that the Government had given its assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfied (Mr. Leatham). He agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) that the great majority of the electors of this country were men whose political opinions were well known, and who had the courage publicly to declare them whether at an election or on any other fitting occasion. He thought, at the same time, it would be right to extend to those voters who either had not the courage openly to declare their opinions or whose interests—as was the case with some—clashed with their opinions, the veil of secrecy. Therefore, it would be proper to impose a penalty on official persons conducting elections who betrayed that secrecy. It would also be proper to impose a penalty on persons who used undue influence to induce the voter against his will to declare how he voted; but he could not consent to subject to the penalty of imprisonment the voter who chose to declare how he voted. In doing that they would be attempting an impossibility. Nobody proposed to subject either to fine or imprisonment those electors who did not vote at all. There was a certain class of voters whose opinion was so pronounced and well known that their employer might say to them—"I know perfectly well for whom you will vote if you do vote," and therefore he might use influence to prevent them from voting at all. Did the hon. Member for Huddersfield, therefore, propose to inflict three months' imprisonment on those electors who abstained from voting? He would put it to the hon. and learned Member for Oxford whether, instead of taking the sense of the Committee on the words, of doubtful legal interpretation, which he wished to insert, it would not be better to withdraw them, and let the division be taken on the question whether the proviso ought not to be omitted altogether?
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, if it was generally thought more expedient by Gentlemen on either side of the House who agreed with the views just stated by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey), that the division should be taken on the proposals of the hon. Member for Huddersfield rather than on his Amendment, he would place himself entirely in their hands.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, as he intended to go into the lobby with the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt), perhaps the Committee would allow him to state the reasons for his vote, which did not entirely concur with those given by one or two hon. Members. After he had stated those reasons, he almost hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) might be induced not to press his Amendment to a division in its present form. His hon. Friend would admit that he (Mr. Childers) had been a consistent supporter of the Ballot ever since he first entered that House, having voted and spoken in its favour a few days after his election; and he had had the honour to be elected in another country under the Ballot, the operation of which he had watched there. But he must protest against the new doctrine which found favour to-night. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford had spoken of a permissive secret ballot, and said that this Amendment would prevent permissive secrecy. It would, however, be impossible to adopt that principle after the words they had already passed, because they had declared that the voter should secretly mark and fold up his ballot paper. If, therefore, it was supposed they were voting in favour of a permissive secret ballot that would be making a serious blunder. But while he should strongly object to optional secrecy, it did not follow that it was necessary to obtain secrecy by this system of severe penalty on the voter. To enforce secrecy by three months' imprisonment was quite unnecessary, and fortunately we had in this matter experience to guide us. The system of ballot proposed in the present Bill, and in the Bill introduced last year by the Government, was almost exactly identical with the system which had been in force for some 15 years throughout the Australian Colonies. In the first Ballot Bill brought forward in Victoria there were words very similar to those now proposed by the hon. Member for Huddersfield. The Electoral Act of 1856 contained the following words:—Such elector shall fold up the same (the ballot paper) in such a manner as to conceal the names of the candidates; and any elector wilfully infringing any of the provisions of this clause shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.The offence was punishable, he thought, 1497 with two years' imprisonment. But that Electoral Act was re-considered a very few years afterwards, and a new and very much improved Act—though maintaining the general principles of the former one—was passed by the Legisture. In the new Act the same words occurred requiring the elector to fold up his ballot paper in such a manner as should conceal the names of the candidates. But there was no provision in that section touching the punishment of those who failed to conceal their votes; and a separate section was passed laying down all the offences for which an elector could be punished. Those offences were—giving a false answer, making a false declaration, personation, voting twice, or putting in more than one ballot paper. All the offences contained in the previous Act were retained, in fact, except that particular one at which his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield's present Amendment was directed. He believed he was strictly correct in saying that the new Act, with that alteration, had worked perfectly well, and that there had existed under it no such abuse as was apprehended by his hon. Friend (Mr. Leatham). He had carefully read the valuable Australian evidence adduced before the Select Committee three years ago as to the machinery for ensuring secrecy, and every one of the answers given with reference to it went to show that the operation of the present Act was entirely satisfactory. He would, therefore, suggest to the Committee not to introduce that penalty which, on experience, had been found unnecessary in the Colonies where the Ballot had been wholly successful; but to take the other means of preventing the disclosure of the manner in which the elector voted—the means provided already in the Bill—namely, requiring all who were officially present in the polling-booth to maintain secrecy, and imposing a severe penalty on them if they violated it. That would be quite sufficient. Nobody could be in the polling-booth except the Returning Officer, the clerks, and the agent of each candidate, and each of those persons was compelled to take a declaration pledging himself to maintain perfect secrecy, even as to the names of the electors who had voted. The Committee would, he thought, do well to be satisfied with that on the present occasion.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
pointed out a misapprehension on the part both of the Vice President of the Council and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in assuming, from the words of Clause 2, that the Committee had already passed a clause directing that there should be absolute secrecy of voting, for it provided merely that the voter, "having secretly marked his vote," should place it in the ballot box.
suggested that if the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) was to be withdrawn, it had better be done at once.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he did not see how a division could be taken upon the proposal of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) when the other Amendment had been withdrawn, unless there was an understanding that the division was to be taken on the clause without the Government Amendment.
§ MR. JAMES
said, he felt that on the determination of the matter before them rested, if not the fate of the Bill, at least the fate of all that was good in it. He wished to bring to the attention of the Committee the real question in dispute between those who supported and those who opposed the Bill. He was one of those who reluctanctly parted with open voting, and he parted with it under the compulsion that he felt it to be necessary that they should have secret voting. But if they were not to have secrecy, let them keep open voting. During the last General Election, the Ballot had been much discussed. ["No, no!"] It had been discussed simply as a question between open voting and secrecy, and never once to any constituency was mention made that they were about to adopt permissive secrecy. When hon. Gentlemen opposite denied that the Ballot was discussed at the last General Election, let them ask those most recent recruits of their body whether, when in the changed circumstances of the constituency, be it in a riding of a county or in a borough, they pledged themselves to the Ballot in order to secure their election, they had once suggested to the constituency that they were to have permissive instead of absolute 1499 secrecy. With regard to the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt), nobody denied that the hon. and learned Member could make a smart speech—that he could make a smart speech at the expense of his party, or that he took delight in making a smart speech at the expense of the Government. He appealed to both the friends and foes of the Ballot to say what they were asked by the opponents of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) to accept. He understood his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Harcourt) to say that he (Mr. James) had been his "guide, philosopher, and friend" with relation to the Bill, though he did not know that he had been so. The 2nd clause of the Bill declared that—At the time of voting, the ballot paper shall be delivered to the voter within the polling station, and the voter having secretly marked his vote on it, and folded it up so as to conceal his vote, shall place it in a closed box in the presence of the officer presiding.The same clause also provided that if anything was written or marked on the ballot paper by which the voter could be identified, the ballot paper should be void and not counted. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford acquiesced in those provisions, and also in the provision imposing a penalty of three months' imprisonment on any clerk or agent who communicated how any elector had voted, and yet his hon. and learned Friend now turned round and declared that he would be no party to compelling, the elector to keep his vote secret, and joined hands with those candid friends of the Ballot who talked about the vote being a public right and the voter a trustee. Why did not his hon. and learned Friend use these arguments on the second reading of the Bill, or honestly state at that time that he could not vote for the Ballot? That would have been fairer than now to ask the House to believe that he was a friend to the Ballot, while he proposed an Amendment which destroyed its whole value. The right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) declared that he would be no party to a proposal for punishing a voter for declaring how he voted; but no one wished that to be the case. All that was objected to was that a man should, at his own will and pleasure, show his vote, as 1500 if he were voting in public. They might have public voting if they liked; but, if they had secret voting, let them not decide that the voter should not have the protection of secrecy. If the Committee did not accept the principle of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, they would be giving protection to corruption and bribery. The briber would offer a bribe on the condition that the elector exhibited the ballot paper showing how he voted, and the bribed accordingly would show the paper to the briber to prove that he had voted as desired. The intimidator would also insist on the dependent showing him his ballot paper; and if the dependent replied that he simply claimed the protection of the law, and was resolved to exercise his vote in secret, the intimidator would tell him that he would be punished just the same as if he voted in public. At present, in cases of intimidation, public opinion condemned the intimidator, and justified and consoled the voter; but if the system of intimidation was pursued in private, no one but the intimidator and the intimidated would know anything about it. The enemies of the Ballot struggled to obtain a permissive Ballot, because they knew that the latter would be fatal to the existence of the Ballot in this country, and would have in it no good whatever. If the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford were carried there would be much agitation in the country for a repeal of the Bill, which, modified in that way, would only prove a cloak for all the evils of which they complained. He asked the honest supporters of the Ballot to treat the division which was about to be taken as of more importance even than the division on the second reading of the Bill; for if they accepted the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, they would accept only what was bad in the Ballot instead of what was good.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that he had been a constant friend to the Ballot, which he had supported ever since he came into that House, and therefore he wished to say half-a-dozen words upon the subject. He must remark that if this proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) for putting enormous penalties on the voters of England, who had been accustomed at all times to vote in a particular way, 1501 for voting in the way proposed, were adopted, it would make the Ballot so intolerably odious to the greater part of the electors of England, that it would be impossible to maintain that system at all. The Ballot was a proposal to change in a most material respect the habits of the bulk of the electors; and he believed that there were strong reasons for the measure. To prevent intimidation and to check corruptions were objects worthy of the attention of Parliament; but when it was proposed that every voter who unintentionally—["No, no!"]—well, then, carelessly, did that which the great body of English voters had been accustomed to do—when a man openly declared before polling, as he always hitherto had done, that he was blue or yellow, and that he should vote for Brown or Jones, and when it was said that if such a man declared his vote in the polling-booth—which had hitherto been considered an innocent act—he should undergo three months' imprisonment with hard labour, as if he were a housebreaker or burglar, and to threaten to make such a man stand on a treadmill, as if he were a thief or a villain, was an act of gross injustice. His long attachments to the Ballot would not allow him to give such a vote. He could understand a 40s. penalty, to vindicate the directions of the new law; but such a tyranny as that to which he had referred nothing could justify. He had rather a great deal have the present system with all its evils, which he felt as strongly as his hon. Friend (Mr. Leatham) than assent to the proposal before them. If it were introduced it would render the Ballot odious and repugnant to the people of England. This was not the penalty originally proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. Two years' imprisonment was the original penalty for what, indeed, was, in a moral sense, no offence whatever. The justices were to try this offence; there was to be a summary conviction of the voter, who, perhaps, came up to the poll not quite so sober as he ought to have been, and disclosed this paper to somebody in the polling-booth. His right hon. Friend who had charge of the Bill proposed, in the schedule, that only certain parties—the presiding officer and the agents of the candidates—should be in the polling-booth in addition to the constable. He would recommend 1502 that the constable should have with him a pair of handcuffs; that the prison van should be waiting outside the polling-booth, ready to carry off the free and independent British elector to prison. Whatever the House might think of this proposal now under discussion, he believed it to be entirely repugnant to the ordinary habits and notions of the English people, and if introduced into this Bill the Ballot would become so intolerably odious that they would be obliged in the course of a few years to repeal it.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would favour the Committee with some explanation of the reasons which had induced the Government to sanction the introduction of this Amendment. Secret ballot might be some protection to the weak voter, but it would also enable the dishonest to lie with impunity, and would deprive the honest and straightforward Englishman of the means—and there might be occasion to use the means—of proving the sincerity of his convictions and his vote. He was astonished that the Prime Minister should have given his sanction to this Amendment, for they were not legislating for convicts, but for an upright, high-minded, and intelligent community. Only a short time since the Prime Minister was entirely opposed to the principle of secret voting; it was, therefore, due to the Committee to state distinctly the reasons he had for this change of his opinion. He believed that the majority of that House, and the majority of the people, would not permit the introduction of a principle so repugnant to their feelings.
I rise in reply to the appeal made by the hon. Member (Mr. Chaplin), and the more willingly because I think that the area of this discussion was extended too much by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt); and from the two speeches we have heard from Members of great importance, I conceive that very considerable misapprehension prevails as to the effect of the enactment in this Bill on the point before us. I am not sure upon what point we are about to divide—I mean the actual form of the Motion. There was a proposal that my hon. and learned Friend should withdraw his Motion; to that we are willing to accede. If there be objections 1503 to its withdrawal we are perfectly willing to vote upon it. If we do not vote on the original words of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), it will be understood that my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Forster) desires that there should be no mistake whatever as to the meaning of the words—they mean, not the accidental, casual, precarious exhibition of a ballot paper, but an exhibition of it with the set purpose of making the contents of it known; and, conceiving that such is the meaning of the words, we are perfectly ready to make it clear, either by way of Amendment now, or by equivalent words on the Report. I now come to the speeches of the three important Members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ponte-fract (Mr. Childers) refers to the practice in Australia, which he says is perfectly satisfactory. The voter, he says, is sufficiently protected without the introduction of any penalty such as that now proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. Now, if we were legislating for Australia that would be sufficient. In Australia you have generally a perfectly independent labouring population; whereas in this country a very large proportion of labourers are not free and independent in that sense, and that is the reason of what I should call the broad distinction between the case before us and the labourers in Australia. And now I wish to refer to the speeches of my right hon. Friends the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) and the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), because they contain misapprehensions which it is desirable to remove. My right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth says he will not punish a voter who thinks fit to declare for whom he votes. Neither will I. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock says we are going to punish a voter for doing what he has been doing all his life. We are going to do no such thing. The voter has never had the means of proving to a particular individual the vote he gives. Of course, I am speaking of the personal conduct of the voter. He has had the power of declaring for whom he was going to vote; he has had the power of uttering his sentiments freely at all times; and so he will have under this Bill. There is nothing in this Bill to make it penal for a voter to declare for whom he votes. He may make that 1504 declaration before he votes, when he votes, and after he votes. That is indisputable; but what he may not do under the present Bill is this—he is not permitted to prove how he votes by exhibiting his ballot paper. And the question is, whether this secrecy is an injury or a protection to the voter. We contend that it is a protection. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford dealt largely with this matter, and he went the length of saying he was prepared to lay down broadly the principle that the voter who wished to vote secretly should do so, but the voter who wished to vote openly ought, under this Bill, to vote openly. I am astonished at that declaration of my hon. and learned Friend, because on the 11th of this month—only last week—the Motion was made to omit the word "secretly" in Clause 2; the voter being required secretly to mark his vote. That Motion was rejected by 202 to 126, and the name of my hon. and learned Friend is to be found in the majority when they asserted the principle of compulsory secret voting. No declaration of opinion, no use of the tongue and voice, such as is habitual with the English voter, is interfered with in this Bill as it stands, or as it will stand if the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Leatham) is introduced; but what we recommend is that a penalty should be affixed to the act of the voter if he purposely or wilfully exhibits his vote to some person who has a motive and desire to know what it is. The House has agreed, by a very large majority, that we shall have the Ballot. We shall, I am sure, feel, if we are to have the Ballot, it ought to be a reality. We have done much to make it a reality. I will not go the length of saying that there is no reality in its provisions if this Amendment is not carried. There is much, because we have done two things—we have made it highly penal for anyone but the voter doing anything to ascertain a vote, and forbidding the voter to do otherwise than mark his vote secretly, according to Clause 2. Is the exhibition of his vote a hardship or a protection? You say it is a hardship. Hon. Members are perfectly well aware that we do sometimes protect through the medium of a penalty; that, if it is requisite and necessary, we do compel people to do things which are also for their own advantage by attaching a 1505 penalty for not doing them. That is the test to which, apart from rhetoric and declamation, we must bring this question. It is said to be far-fetched to attach a penalty to this act. But the question is, is it advantageous for the voter himself, and is it necessary to secure his neighbour in the true exercise of his rights? If it is not, the penalty cannot be defended; if it is, the penalty is just. Now, first, is it necessary for the protection of the voter; and next, is it advantageous for the voter himself? All liberty and privilege which is enjoyed under free institutions and under systems of law is invariably limited by this—that it is not to interfere with the liberty and privileges of your neighbour. I am treating this question as a very important question, or as a question of means to an end, rather than as a question of principle, because I assume my right hon. Friends behind me are determined that the Ballot shall be a secret ballot, and the only difference which can arise is as to the sufficiency and excellency of the means by which we purpose to secure that result. Is it necessary for the protection not of the voter himself, but of the voter's neighbours, that a penalty should attach to the exhibition of the voting paper to some person who is supposed to have a motive in ascertaining the way in which a man is going to vote? I say it is. If it be allowed, especially in small constituencies, that voters are to exhibit proof of the manner in which they are voting, of course those voters, by exercising that power, may render perfectly null and nugatory the pretended privilege of the remainder of the voters who wish to give secret votes; because, by a process of exhaustion, if it can be shown how A, B, C, and D, voted, and so on, it can be shown, by comparison with the result of the polling, how the others voted. Here is a letter on this point addressed to my right hon. Friend by a practical man—If an employer says to his men, 'You may, if you choose, show your voting papers,' and a certain number who vote with the employer do so, while others, who go against him, do not, he will not require any discrimination to know who voted against him.And this is the whole question so far as regards the neighbours of the voter—that, if you allow his vote to be proved to a person who has an interest in ascertaining it, there is a most serious danger 1506 of nullifying entirely the privilege of those who wish to vote secretly. I do not wish to overstate the case. I know we have taken precaution against that; we have made the action of that person penal; but we contend in that point of view the case is greatly strengthened by also making the action of the voters penal, and taking a double security instead of a single one. Is it really an advantage or a disadvantage to the voter, that the exhibition of the ballot paper should be made an act liable to a penalty? It is for the advantage of the voter that a penalty should attach to the act. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford says it is a most extraordinary proposal, if a man beats his wife, to make the beaten wife guilty of misdemeanour. Certainly it is; but suppose my hon. and learned Friend can find a mode of proceeding by law which, though it may be uniform in penalty, puts into the hands of the wife the means of defending herself against the husband, that presents the case in a different aspect. What we contend is, that a voter, who is solicited to show his voting paper, has a far stronger ground of objection to doing that act if he can say—"You are asking me to incur a penalty." I am not referring here to employers or landlords. I know of no distinction. If we have the landlord in view, we have also the employer; if we have the employer in view, we have also the customer; and if we have the customer in view, we have also the agent of the trades union. It signifies not from what quarter this intimidation comes. The object is, that voting shall be secret—not on the ground of the abstract merit of secret voting, but because painful experience has shown it is the only way with a considerable portion of the community to make them really independent. Now, take the case of a man solicited. I do not wish to take the case of a trades union more than that of a landlord or employer; but let us take the case of a trades union. Actuated by the spirit prevailing in the unions in Sheffield, the agent of the union requires that the members of the union shall show him their voting papers. If a voter could only say that that act is not according to the Act of Parliament, that is a very feeble answer to return to the person who endeavours to intimidate him. But if the voter is able to say—"Parliament 1507 has made this act penal, and has threatened me with the risk—nay, with the likelihood—with the liability, at any rate, to punishment if I prove to you the manner in which I am going to vote," you give him a firm standing-ground on which he can resist; and though I admit that it is under the form and appearance of a penalty, I think my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) is justified when he says that it is a protection to the voter, if you put into his hands the means of self-defence against those who seek to interfere with the exercise of his right. I hope, at any rate, we shall clearly understand the matter on which the vote is to be given. I must protest against our taking the labouring class in Australia as a fair specimen of a large portion of the labouring class in this country. Above all, I hope it will be understood we are not endeavouring to provide against the declaration by any man of his vote; but that we are endeavouring to provide against those who seek to intimidate him by obtaining access to his ballot paper and absolute proof of the manner in which the privilege of voting is to be exercised.
§ MR. DENISON
rose to point out a fallacy in the reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. A great portion of his argument was based on the assumption that the ballot paper ever passed out of the ballot room. If he referred to Section 2, he would see that the paper could not get out of the polling station.
said, that in voting differently from many of his party, he accepted to the full the challenge of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. James). He (Mr. Gilpin) spoke now as an earnest friend of the Ballot. ["Oh, oh!"] An hon. Member said "Oh!" but he challenged anyone to prove that he had more consistently supported it than he (Mr. Gilpin) had. He was anxious to show on what ground he was going to vote. He could not support a clause which provided that if a man intentionally showed his ballot paper he was to be classed as a criminal. It was perfectly fair, it would be perfectly just, it would be a sufficient punishment for the transaction, if the vote of the man who wilfully showed his paper were forfeited. If they went beyond that, then the smallest modicum of imprisonment—say, for 48 hours—would be abundant pu- 1508 nishment. He believed that magistrates would risk being struck off the roll rather than inflict such a penalty as the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) imposed. In the event of the division being against the Motion of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, he would be glad to know from the Chairman, would it be competent for those who did not agree with him, and who were yet in favour of the compulsory Ballot, to vote for a milder provision?
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, he would withdraw his Amendment for the insertion of the words "with corrupt intent," in order that the Committee might divide on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
That after the word 'voted,' in page 3, line 32, the words 'and no voter shall, after marking his vote on his ballot paper, display such paper in such manner as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for or against whom he has so marked his vote,' be there inserted.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 246; Noes 274: Majority 28.
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Brown, A. H.|
|Adair, H. E.||Browne, G. E.|
|Akroyd, E.||Bruce, Lord C.|
|Allen, W. S.||Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.|
|Anderson, G.||Buckley, N.|
|Anson, hon. A. H. A.||Buller, Sir E. M.|
|Antrobus, Sir E.||Cadogan, hon. F. W.|
|Armitstead, G.||Campbell, H.|
|Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S.||Candlish, J.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Carnegie, hon. C.|
|Backhouse, E.||Carter, R. M.|
|Bagwell, J.||Cavendish, Lord F. C|
|Baines, E.||Chadwick, D.|
|Baker, R. B. W.||Cholmeley, Captain|
|Barclay, A. C.||Cholmeley, Sir M.|
|Barry, A. H. S.||Clay, J.|
|Bass, A.||Clifford, C. C.|
|Bass, M. T.||Coleridge, Sir J. D.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Craufurd, E. H. J.|
|Bazley, Sir T.||Crawford, R. W.|
|Beaumont, Captain F.||Dalrymple, D.|
|Bentall, E. H.||Davie, Sir H. R. F.|
|Biddulph, M.||Dease, E.|
|Blennerhassett, R. (Kry.)||Delahunty, J.|
|Bolckow, H. W. F.||Denman, hon. G.|
|Bowmont, Marquess of||Dickinson, S. S.|
|Bowring, E. A.||Dilke, Sir C. W.|
|Brady, J.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Brand, H. R.||Dixon, G.|
|Brassey, T.||Dodds, J.|
|Brewer, Dr.||Downing, M'C.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Dowse, rt. hon. R.|
|Bristowe, S. B.||Duff, M. E. G.|
|Brocklehurst, W. C.||Dundas, F.|
|Edwards, H.||Leeman, G.|
|Egerton, Capt. hon. F.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Lloyd, Sir T. D.|
|Erskine, Admiral J. E.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Esmonde, Sir J.||Lush, Dr.|
|Ewing, H. E. Crum-||Lusk, A.|
|Eykyn, R.||Lyttelton, hon. C. G.|
|Finnie, W.||M'Arthur, W.|
|FitzGerald, right hon. Lord O. A.||M'Clure, T.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord E.||M'Combie, W.|
|Fletcher, I.||MacEvoy, E.|
|Fordyce, W. D.||Mackintosh, E. W.|
|Forster, C.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Forster, rt. hon. W. E.||M'Laren, D.|
|Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Fortescue, hon. D. F.||Magniac, C.|
|Fothergill, E.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Fowler, W.||Maitland, Sir A. C. R. G.|
|Gavin, Major||Marling, S. S.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Matheson, A.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Melly, G.|
|Goldsmid, Sir F.||Miall, E.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Miller, J.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Gower, hon. E. F. L.||Monk, C. J.|
|Gray, Sir J.||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Greville, hon. Capt.||Morgan, G. Osborne|
|Greville-Nugent, hon. G. F.||Morley, S.|
|Grieve, J. J.||Morrison, W.|
|Grosvenor, hon. N.||Mundella, A. J.|
|Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.||Muntz, P. H.|
|Grove, T. F.||Norwood, C. M.|
|Hadfield, G.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Hamilton, J. G. C.||O'Conor, D. M.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||O'Conor Don, The|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Ogilvy, Sir J.|
|Harris, J. D.||O'Reilly, M. W.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||O'Reilly-Dease, M.|
|Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.||Osborne, R.|
|Henley, Lord||Palmer, J. H.|
|Henry, M.||Parry, L. Jones-|
|Herbert, hon. A. E. W.||Pease, J. W.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||Peel, A. W.|
|Hodgkinson, G.||Pelham, Lord|
|Hodgson, K. D.||Pender, J.|
|Holland, S.||Philips, R. N.|
|Holms, J.||Pim, J.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||Playfair, L.|
|Hoskyns, C. Wren-||Plimsoll, S.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Potter, E.|
|Howard, J.||Potter, T. B.|
|Hughes, T.||Price, W. E.|
|Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W.||Price, W. P.|
|Illingworth, A.||Rathbone, W.|
|James, H.||Reed, C.|
|Jardine, R.||Richard, H.|
|Jessel, Sir G.||Richards, E. M.|
|Johnston, A.||Robertson, D.|
|Johnstone, Sir H.||Roden, W. S.|
|Kensington, Lord||Rothschild, Brn. M. A. de|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Rothschild, N. M. de|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Rylands, P.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen, E. H.||Salomons, Sir D.|
|Lambert, N. G.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|Lancaster, J.||Samuelson, B.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. C.||Samuelson, H. B.|
|Lawrence, W.||Sartoris, E. J.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Seely, C. (Lincoln)|
|Leatham, E. A.||Shaw, R.|
|Sherriff, A. C.|
|Simon, Mr. Serjeant|
|Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.||Vivian, A. P.|
|Smith, E.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Smith, J. B.||Waters, G.|
|Smyth, P. J.||Wedderburn, Sir D.|
|Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.||West, H. W.|
|Stapleton, J.||Whatman, J.|
|Stepney, Sir J.||Whitbread, S.|
|Stevenson, J. C.||White, J.|
|Stone, W. H.||Whitwell, J.|
|Storks, rt. hon. Sir H. K.||Whitworth, T.|
|Strutt, hon. H.||Williams, W.|
|Stuart, Colonel||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Synan, E. J.||Wingfield, Sir C.|
|Tite, Sir W.||Winterbotham, H. S. P.|
|Tollemache, hon. F. J.||Woods, H.|
|Torrens, R. R.||Young, A. W.|
|Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-||Young, G.|
|Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Verney, Sir H.||TELLERS.|
|Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.||Adam, W. P.|
|Glyn, hon. G. G.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C.||Charley, W. T.|
|Amcotts, Colonel W. C.||Child, Sir S.|
|Amphlett, R. P.||Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||Clive, Col. hon. G. W.|
|Arbuthnot, Major G.||Clowes, S. W.|
|Arkwright, A. P.||Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B.|
|Arkwright, R.||Cole, Col. hon. H. A.|
|Assheton, R.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Baggallay, Sir R.||Collins, T.|
|Bagge, Sir W.||Corbett, Colonel|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Corrance, F. S.|
|Ball, rt. hon. J. T.||Corry, rt. hon. H. T. L.|
|Barnett, H.||Cowper, hon. H. F.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Cowper-Temple, right hon. W.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Crichton, Viscount|
|Bates, E.||Croft, Sir H. G. D.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Cross, R. A.|
|Beach, Sir M. Hicks-||Cubitt, G.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Dalglish, R.|
|Beaumont, S. A.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Damer, Capt. Dawson-|
|Bective, Earl of||Davenport, W. Bromley-|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Dawson, Colonel R. P.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Denison, C. B.|
|Benyon, R.||Dick, F.|
|Beresford, Lt.-Col. M.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bingham, Lord||Dimsdale, R.|
|Birley, H.||Disraeli, rt. hon. B.|
|Bourke, hon. R.||Dowdeswell, W. E.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Duncombe, hon. Col.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Dyke, W. H.|
|Bright, R.||Dyott, Colonel R.|
|Brise, Colonel R.||Eastwick, E. B.|
|Broadley, W. H. H.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Brooks, W. C.||Egerton, hon. A. F.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Egerton, Sir P. G.|
|Bruen, H.||Egerton, hon. W.|
|Buckley, Sir E.||Elcho, Lord|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Elliot, G.|
|Buxton, Sir R. J.||Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.|
|Cartwright, F.||Ewing, A. O.|
|Cartwright, W. C.||Fawcett, H.|
|Cave, rt. hon. S.||Feilden, H. M.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Fellowes, E.|
|Cawley, C. E.||Fielden, J.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Figgins, J.|
|Chambers, Sir T.||Finch, G. H.|
|Floyer, J.||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Forde, Colonel||Lindsay, Colonel R. L.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Locke, J.|
|Foster, W. H.||Lopes, H. C.|
|Fowler, R. N.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Galway, Viscount||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Garlies, Lord||Lowther, J.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Lowther, W.|
|Goldney, G.||Macfie, R. A.|
|Gooch, Sir D.||Mahon, Viscount|
|Gordon, E. S.||Malcolm, J. W.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Gower, Lord R.||March, Earl of|
|Graves, S. R.||Matthews, H.|
|Gray, Lieut.-Colonel||Maxwell, W. H.|
|Greaves, E.||Meyrick, T.|
|Greene, E.||Milles, hon. G. W.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Mills, C. H.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Mitford, W. T.|
|Guest, A. E.||Monckton, F.|
|Guest, M. J.||Monckton, hon. G.|
|Hambro, C.||Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Montgomery, Sir G. G.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Morgan, C. O.|
|Hamilton, Lord G.||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Hanbury, R. W.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Muncaster, Lord|
|Hardy, J.||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Hardy, J. S.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Newport, Viscount|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Newry, Viscount|
|Henry, J. S.||Nicholson, W.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. Gen. Sir P.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Hermon, E.||North, Colonel|
|Heygate, W. U.||Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S. H.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Otway, A. J.|
|Hill, A. S.||Paget, R. H.|
|Hoare, Sir H. A.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Hoare, P. M.||Parker, C. S.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Parker, Lt.-Colonel W.|
|Hogg, J. M.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Holford, J. P. G.||Peek, H. W.|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Holt, J. M.||Pell, A.|
|Hood, Cap. hn. A. W. A. N.||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Phipps, C. P.|
|Hornby, E. K.||Plunket, hon. D. R.|
|Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.||Powell, F. S.|
|Hutton, J.||Powell, W.|
|Jackson, R. W.||Raikes, H. C.|
|Jenkinson, Sir G. S.||Read, C. S.|
|Jervis, Colonel||Ridley, M. W.|
|Johnston, W.||Round, J.|
|Jones, J.||Royston, Viscount|
|Kavanagh, A. Mac M.||Russell, A.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Russell, H.|
|Kennaway, J. H.||Sackville, S. G. Stopford-|
|Keown, W.||Salt, T.|
|Knightley, Sir R.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Knox, hon. Colonel S.||Scott, Lord H. J. M. D.|
|Laird, J.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Langton, W. G.||Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H.J.|
|Laslett, W.||Seymour, A.|
|Learmonth, A.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Legh, W. J.||Smith, A.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Smith, F. C.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Smith, R.|
|Lewis, H.||Smith, S. G.|
|Lewis, J. D.||Smith, W. H.|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Somerset, Lord H. R. C.|
|Stanley, hon. F.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Starkie, J. P. C.||Walsh, hon. A.|
|Steere, L.||Waterhouse, S.|
|Straight, D.||Watney, J.|
|Stronge, Sir J. M.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N.||Welby, W. E.|
|Sykes, C.||Wells, E.|
|Talbot, J. G.||Wells, W.|
|Thynne, Lord H. F.||Wethered, T. O.|
|Tipping, W.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Tollemache, Major W.F.||Williams, C. H.|
|Tomline, G.||Winn, R.|
|Torrens, W. T. M'C.||Wise, H. C.|
|Trelawny, Sir J. S.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Turner, C.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Vandeleur, Colonel||Bury, Viscount|
|Walker, Major G. G.||Harcourt, W. G. G. V. V.|
|Walpole, hon. F.|
§ MR. OSBORNE
Before the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) moves the Amendment which stands next upon the Paper, I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and that question is, whether, after the defeat which the Government has just sustained, he will continue to proceed with this measure?
Sir, if I thought there was any ground for doubt as to the course which the Government ought to take, I should ask the Committee to resolve that the Chairman should report Progress. But I have no doubt upon the subject. I hope that those who, being undoubted friends of the Ballot—it would not be for me to reproach them in any case—but, I say, being undoubted and unquestioned friends of the Ballot, and sitting on this side of the House, have just voted in the majority, have marked the enthusiastic cheering with which the result has been received—["Order!"]
The Amendment which stands next in order on the Paper is that of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, and I call upon that hon. Gentleman to speak to it.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I would ask whether it is in Order, before the Question is put, for any Member to address the House? If the Question had been put, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. 1513 Gladstone) would then have been perfectly in Order.
I called upon the hon. and learned Member for Oxford to move the Amendment which stands in his name, and he is in possession of the House.
I have called upon the hon. and learned Member for Oxford to move his Amendment, and he is in possession of the House.
I have called upon the hon. and learned Member for Oxford to move his Amendment; he is in possession of the House, and it is, therefore, not competent for any hon. Member to move that I report Progress.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
In order that any hon. Member may make any explanation, or bring forward any Motion he desires, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name, and to ask the Vice President of the Council his opinion upon it. The Amendment is, in page 3, line 32, at the end of the original Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), to add—No person shall, by the exercise of undue influence, directly or indirectly, induce any voter to display his ballot paper after he shall have marked the same, so as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for or against whom he has so marked his vote.The object of the Amendment is to punish any person using undue influence to induce a man to display his vote; and that is an offence which has been overlooked in the 4th clause, and I think that it should be inserted. I propose to subject persons so offending to the same penalty as that inflicted upon any person who in the polling booth should conduct himself in the same manner.
In page 3, line 32, after the word "voted," to insert the words "No person shall, by the exercise of undue influence, directly or indirectly, induce any voter to display his ballot paper after he shall have marked the same, so as to make known to any person the name of the candidate for or against whom he has so marked his vote."—(Mr. Vernon Harcourt.)
By the rule of the Committee I have no right to speak at this point, except upon the subject-matter of the Amendment which is before us; but I rely upon the indulgence of the Committee to enable me to say a few words apart from the Motion of my hon. and learned Friend. I was endeavouring before to speak with reference to a question put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne); and, considering the nature of that Question, I do not think I was proceeding to an unusual length. I quite understand the Question of my hon. Friend. He put it to me as one who thought that the Ministry had received a very serious blow; and I wish to make to him the admission that the cheers with which his question was greeted by the other side of the House wont very much to support the opinion implied, rather than distinctly expressed, by the words of the question. I went so far as to express a hope that the cheers which came from that side of the House would be borne in mind by some hon. Gentlemen. Although it is the fact that the measure has received a blow, I do not think it would be consistent with the duty of the Government to abandon it at present. Last year, as has been truly said—though, as I think, with some exaggeration—my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Forster), when it was considered necessary to lighten the Ballot Bill in order to pass it, not estimating this provision as one of small or of no value, but, on the contrary, estimating it as one of great value, was nevertheless prepared to part with it rather than part with the Bill. I also was, and am now, prepared to part with it rather than part with the Bill; for I am convinced that if we pass the Ballot Bill we shall do everything that is necessary, either in that Bill or very shortly afterwards, to make it really effective. Though I deeply regret the vote that has been come to, I think that a great portion of the purpose of the Bill will be attained, and that the remainder of that purpose will unquestionably be supplied by subsequent legislation, if it should be found necessary. I am not so enamoured of the abstract idea of penalties—as Mr. Canning said the West India planter was of the abstract idea of the cartwhip in the case of the negro—as to break my heart on account of the 1515 absence of the provision, and that absence I would trust to the wisdom and experience of Parliament to remedy. I hope for the approval of my hon. Friend; but I am sure that with his indulgent judgment we shall continue—I would say with unabated zeal, to press the Bill upon the attention of the House. I am sure that my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), instead of slackening in his support of the Bill, will be more zealous in its support. We shall proceed with the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Harcourt), having defeated the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), doubtless desired to afford as much protection from pressure as possible to the voters in the exercise of their rights. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would omit the words "by the exercise of undue influence," he should have no objection to the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, by leaving out the words "by the exercise of undue influence."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, he would waive those words if the right hon. Gentleman objected to them. He had inserted them because the term "undue influence" had a defined meaning, and because he thought there should be something indicative of improper conduct.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he would like to ask, whether they could not deal with another kind of undue influence? The Prime Minister had just used language calculated to unduly influence those who were in the habit of supporting him in that House. It would be desirable to have some words introduced which would prevent a Prime Minister from exercising that undue influence, for were Members able to vote by ballot the right hon. Gentleman would somewhat oftener than at present lack the numerical strength which he occasionally displayed.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he could not see whom the Amendment would affect, for the Returning Officer, agent, and clerk the only persons to be admitted to the polling-booth, had been already prohibited under penalties from 1516 obtaining information as to how a vote was given.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
understood the Amendment to apply to persons outside the booth, and he objected to the omission of the words as likely to raise a difficulty hereafter.
§ MR. DENISON
feared that there would be some danger in agreeing to this Amendment, before they had determined how persons blind or otherwise incapacitated were to record their votes. There would be nobody but certain specified persons in the polling-booth, and he could not understand against whom the Amendment was directed.
§ MR. CAWLEY
approved of the object of the clause, but doubted the propriety of omitting the words, because without them there would be great difficulty in giving a legal meaning to the word "induce."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
explained that he objected to the words because they would weaken the former part of the clause, making it a penal offence to attempt to obtain information how a person voted. The Amendment was directed at persons outside the booth; but, as it would also apply to those inside, he did not wish to weaken a provision already agreed to respecting them.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
repeated his willingness to omit the words, on the ground that at a future stage they could be reinstated if it appeared necessary.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
contended that if the words were omitted two voters entering the booth together would be liable to two months' imprisonment, if they agreed in a friendly way to show their voting papers to each other.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that objection would apply to a part of the clause already agreed to, making it penal for a person to attempt to obtain information as to how another voted.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, he could not admit that the case he had instanced would come within an attempt to obtain information.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
did not see how the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford as proposed to be altered, would prevent the offence he intended to guard against.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
explained that the object of his Amendment was to prevent one man saying to another— 1517 "If you don't show your ballot-paper to the election agent I will turn you out of your employ." He wished to make such a threat a punishable offence.
§ MR. COLLINS
remarked that it was proposed to make it an offence if one voter said to another that he would show his paper if the same favour were shown him in return. But, supposing that became law, would a verdict ever be got against the offender under such circumstances? With the Amendment as it stood he entirely agreed. The recent decision of the Committee, in spite of a strong Government opposition, was in favour of a man showing his voting paper if he chose to do so; and as it had been determined not to muzzle the British voter it was absurd and monstrous to inflict a penalty. The feeling of the Committee was evidently in favour of a permissive ballot.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
must protest against the conclusions that had been drawn by the hon. and learned Member who had just spoken from the result of the last division. It was true that the effect of that division would be to relieve a voter who showed his voting paper from the penalty of three months' imprisonment, but it by no means followed that therefore the person who induced a voter to show his voting paper should not be punished.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he thought it would be rather hard that if the voter's wife were to say to him—"John, dear man, display your ticket," that she should be liable to three months' imprisonment, with hard labour, and yet that would be the logical consequence of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. He thought the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford, as it stood, was a very proper one.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would prevent a man taking the advice of his friends as to the way he should vote. If a friend were to say to the voter—"Your best plan will be to show your ballot paper," he would be liable to three months' imprisonment if the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion were carried out. He should also like to know a definition of the word "induce."
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
inquired whether the hon. and learned Gentleman could point out any case which bore that interpretation?
§ MR. COLLINS
contended that the whole gist of the Corrupt Practices Act depended upon the words "undue influence," and not upon the word "induce." The Committee was a very thin one just at that time, and, perhaps, the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, seeing that those who had succeeded in securing the proper framing of this measure up to the present time were absent, was afraid to retain the original form of his Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 153: Majority 66.
, in moving in page 3, line 32, after "voted," to insert—And if any voter after having marked his vote upon the voting paper, shall in any mariner, whether intentionally or by accident, display such paper so as to make known the name of the candidate for whom he has voted, such vote shall be considered null and void, and such voting paper shall be immediately destroyed by the officer or clerk at the polling station, and the said voter shall not he allowed to record his vote at that Election,said, that though he had always been a friend of a secret ballot, and never of a permissive ballot, he had objected to the penalties which had been suggested for absence of secrecy. He admitted that his Amendment gave great power to the Returning Officer; but it was a very proper power if he were to be entrusted with such important functions as those contemplated by the Bill. With the question of agents going into low districts and inducing voters not to go to the poll by corrupt means, or promising they would got something for showing their ballot papers, and so disqualifying themselves, the Committee need not trouble itself. The system worked remarkably well in Australia, because it was found that practically the votes were not shown.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he could not accept the Amendment, which practically placed the election in the hands of the Returning Officer. At present the Returning Officer was not allowed to decide upon the validity of a vote. It had been found excessively inconvenient in practice that he should do so. 1519 If A presented himself in place of B to vote, all the Returning Officer could do would be to ask him whether he was B, and on his taking the oath that he was he would have to allow him to vote. The Proviso submitted would give the Returning Officer power to exclude a vote.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. CORRANCE
moved, in page 3, line 35, to leave out "three," and insert "six." The clause provided that—Any person who acted in contravention of, or in any way failed to comply with, the provisions of the section, should be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three months, with or without hard labour.The Bill was creating a crime, and there ought to be something like proportionate punishment. Agents, officials, persons in authority, had responsible duties to perform, and he could not conceive anything more serious than their being guilty of malpractices.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 35, to leave out the word "three," and insert the word "six."—(Mr. Corrance.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was open to conviction, and to accept Amendments from both sides of the House. He was especially glad to accept this, because it showed the Committee wished for secrecy, and to punish those who violated it.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the magistrate would have to determine the character of the offence. Some interference would be venial, while other interference would be criminal.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that if a person gave him in formation at his request he would not regard him as interfering; but if he meddled with what he was doing unasked, he would regard that as interference.
said, that unless a very distinct description of the offence were given, he must object to six months' imprisonment being awarded for it.
§ MR. C. S. READ
inquired how long the officer or clerk was required to maintain the secrecy—whether till the close of the poll, or during the whole of his natural life? If he were to maintain it all his life, he should certainly object to a clerk being rendered punishable with six months' imprisonment for a disclosure of what might have occurred many years previously.
§ MR. BIRLEY
said, he objected to this Amendment, because the offence and the punishment were not proportioned. Besides, he objected to leaving to the discretion or indiscretion of a single magistrate, at a time when party feeling would probably run high, to sentence a person charged with this offence for so long a period as six months. He would suggest that the clause should be entirely reconsidered.
§ MR. CHARLEY
complained of the ambiguity of the clause, and insisted on the importance of making its meaning clear, more especially if the penalty was to be raised.
§ Question put, "That the word 'three' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 121: Majority 73.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to standpart of the Bill.
§ Clause 5 (Divisions of counties and boroughs into polling districts).
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
remarked that all parties were agreed as to this part of the Bill—namely, an extension of the facilities for polling, and he was sure the Government wished the provisions for that purpose to come into operation as early as possible. The clause directed the local authority to divide counties into polling districts by order, and at the October Quarter Sessions the magistrates would probably appoint a committee or make a provisional order, to be confirmed in January. By the 1st of May following a copy of the order was to be sent to the Home Secretary, and the order was to apply to the list of voters next thereafter made out, and to elections held after such fist came into force. The effect of that would be that the new polling districts would not 1521 come into operation till the 1st of January, 1874, or 18 months after the passing of the Bill, assuming that it passed this Session, which seemed doubtful. What might happen during those 18 months nobody could say. Probably the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not think a General Election imminent, and considering the elections which had recently, occurred, he could quite understand that the Government were not anxious at present to make an appeal to the country. A General Election, however, would probably happen before the end of 1873, in which case the Ballot portion of the Bill would come into force, while another and, as he thought, equally important portion would not do so. The dates in the Irish clause had apparently been fixed on the same principle; but it was obviously desirable that prior to a General Election in Ireland the polling districts should be revised. Instead, therefore, of leaving it optional with the magistrates to consider the question at the sessions next after the passing of the Bill, he proposed that they should be required to make the necessary order before the 1st of November, a date which would allow them ample time for consideration, a special sessions being held and it being adjourned from time to time till a decision was arrived at. By the 1st of November the registration had to be completed, and the list sent to the clerk of the peace or town clerk, so that by the Amendment he proposed that functionary would be able by the end of November to adapt the new list to the new polling districts, and both could come into operation on the 1st of January, 1873, a gain of a year on the proposal of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman having shown this evening a willingness to accede to Amendments proceeding from the Opposition side of the House, he trusted that he would accede to that proposal. He moved to insert after "order," "to be made before the 1st day of November next after the passing of this Act."
In page 3, line 39, after the word "order," to insert the words "to be made before the first day of November next after the passing of this Act."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
agreed with the hon. Baronet that the Committee had now reached a part of the Bill on which 1522 the sole difference between the two sides of the House would be how best to settle the details. He agreed also that the new polling districts should be created as early as possible. The hon. Baronet was of opinion that the General Election was near at hand. He did not share that belief. But it might occur, and therefore the change with regard to polling places should be made as quickly as was consistent with the proper performance of the work. He should be glad to make the change, so that it might apply to the register of next year, but he feared it could not be done. He hoped the Bill would now not be long delayed in this House, or in "another place;" but it could not become law for two or three months, and, supposing it received the Royal Assent towards the end of the Session, there would be only September for framing the new scheme. Now, the county justices would not find the work of re-arrangement an easy one. They must provide for every voter a polling place within four miles of his residence, unless there was some good reason for excepting him from the rule. This rearrangement would be difficult, and it was unreasonable to expect the magistrates to complete it by October. Then there was the difficulty of the register, several of the parishes being so large that they must be divided, and fresh lists must be made. For those reasons, he was afraid it would be impossible to make the dates earlier than they had been put by the Bill.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that the Amendment was an important one, and it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman exaggerated the difficulties of carrying it out. As to the remark that it was not very likely they would soon have a dissolution, he hardly thought the present Government could defer a dissolution for a very long time, if there was any virtue in the Bill. When they wished to give the voter the protection of the Ballot they assumed that the present House of Commons did not really represent the opinion of the electors, and that some had been subjected to undue influence. If, therefore, Her Majesty's Government had a sincere belief in the virtue of their Bill, they must soon appeal to the electors. But even supposing there was no General Election until next year, what would be the position of the electors? Why, they would vote under some of 1523 the provisions of the Bill, but not under others. The right hon. Gentleman was always referring to what was done last year. But last year it was decided that there ought not to be a General Election without a multiplication of polling places. He looked upon this Bill as a whole, and he did not think that there should be any elections under it except subject to all its provisions. The right hon. Gentleman probably agreed with that remark, because he would be willing to adopt the proposal of his hon. Friend if he thought it practicable. The proposition, however, was perfectly practicable, and he did not speak without experience. In the first place, he had some experience of Quarter Sessions, because he had submitted to Quarter Sessions in his own part of the county a scheme for a new division of polling places, and, in the next place, he had carried through that House a Bill for amending the law with regard to registration. There would be no difficulty whatever in making a new division of counties into polling places by the 1st of November. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Quarter Sessions would have only one month to deal with the matter. But suppose the Bill passed by the middle of August—and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman hoped it would be passed long before, they would have two months and a half. In the 30th line it was stated that in the case of a county—"Any court of general sessions might be assembled and adjourned from time to time for the purpose." So that after the passing of the Bill a General Sessions might be assembled for the very purpose; and what was the practice of Quarter Session? It was to appoint a committee to draw up a scheme; and in the case of counties of more than one division more than one committee would be appointed. Then the Quarter Sessions would be adjourned from time to time until the report was received. He felt perfectly certain there would be no difficulty about the case as far as the Quarter Sessions were concerned. Then the revising barrister's work would be complete by the last day of October, and the list would be handed over to the clerks of the peace to be put into the shape of a register. Their lists would come up under the old arrangement of polling-places, and the only difficulty was to distribute the voters according to 1524 the new districts. But two months would have to elapse before the new register of voters would come into force, which would be on the 1st of January. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that during these two months the list of voters could not be arranged according to the grouping made by the quarter sessions? The right hon. Gentleman said supposing one part of a parish fell into one polling district and another part into another, would not there be some difficulty? No doubt, in that case, certain operations would have to be gone through in order to get the list properly made out. If the parish were divided into townships, he took it the division made by the magistrates would be according to the townships, and there would not be the slightest difficulty in the clerk of the peace grouping the several divisions into two or three polling districts. In the case of parishes where there were no separate townships the difficulty was theoretical rather than practical. It would only require that another clause of a few words should be introduced, enabling the clerk of the peace to call to his assistance the overseer of the parish. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment.
said, he had an Amendment of a similar nature on the Paper, but one which would cover the whole ground. It was a new clause, and would require that the new polling-places should be created before a single election could be carried on under the Act. But if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the proposal of his hon. Friend, he would not press the new clause. He quite agreed with his right hon. Friend who had just spoken as to the possibility of the magistrates arranging the polling places within the time.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, it was quite obvious that if this Bill was to be carried, there must be a dissolution as soon as possible after it became law. It would simply be a fraud on the part of the Government to defer for one moment longer than was necessary an appeal to the new constituencies who would supply the places of those who by the passing of this Bill would be condemned as unworthy to be returned to the House. He could not but express his admiration of the sanguine tempera- 1525 ment of the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Bill, when, after what had occurred that evening, he gravely talked of the arrival of the period when this Bill would pass into a law. The right hon. Gentleman had been many years in Parliament; he was very able and had great knowledge of the world; and he would ask him whether his political experience enabled him to quote any precedent which justified his sanguine expectations? Had he forgotten what occurred between six and seven o'clock that evening? It was simply impossible that a Bill, against a principal clause of which a majority of 274 Members had voted, would pass into a law. The only instance that he could remember which would justify the right hon. Gentleman in entertaining sanguine expectations of the passing of the Bill was that of a sailor who kept on singing "Rule Britannia" to the last moment while he was on his way to the place of execution.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the hon. Gentleman very often diverted the House from a dull discussion by allusions which, though they might be somewhat sarcastic, were always made in good temper, and which he rather enjoyed than otherwise. He could inform the hon. Gentleman that he entertained a sanguine expectation that the Bill would become law before a long period had elapsed. As the hon. Gentleman had asked him for a precedent to justify him in entertaining such an expectation, he must refer to the last Bill affecting the representation of the country, which was conducted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), and which was amended in Committee in a much more Radical manner than the present measure had been, yet it passed both Houses and became law. The Amendments rejected on that occasion were not those of a private Member, but of vital importance. That was a striking precedent, and as the Bill succeeded so admirably afterwards, he thought the hon. Gentleman would derive comfort from the circumstance. The hon. Gentleman said it must be obvious to everyone that the passing of this Bill must result in an immediate election. What was obvious to the hon. Gentleman he must say was obvious to very few other persons. It was not obvious to the Government, or, 1526 he believed, to the Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House. But, to return to the Amendment, he was willing that power should be given to such Quarter Sessions as were desirous of making such arrangements as to the polling places as would enable a polling to be held under the Bill by the 1st of January next; but he imagined that in some Quarter Sessions there would be no anxiety to undertake the work of making new arrangements for polling places at a period of the year when country gentlemen were not particularly desirous to transact business. He would suggest an Amendment enabling such Quarter Sessions as desired it to make such new arrangements for polling places that an election might be held under the Bill upon the 1st of January next.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he thought the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman would not meet the case. All the Quarter Sessions ought to be compelled to make new arrangements as to polling-places, so that an election might be held under the Bill upon the 1st of January next. He admitted that where parishes were divided there would be some difficulty; but that could be overcome by the clerk of the peace obtaining the assistance of the overseers. As to the expense, the cases would be so few that it would be trifling. Electors under the present law had no check over the arrangement of polling districts, so that they would not be prejudiced in that respect. He still hoped the right hon. Gentleman would assent, at least in some measure, to his Amendment.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
maintained that, assuming the Bill to become law at the usual period of the Session, the Amendment would practically allow only a month for the settlement of polling districts. If hon. Gentlemen opposite assisted in expediting its passage, so that it became law in June or July, the hon. Baronet's proposal would doubtless be more feasible. The publication of the lists by the overseers at an earlier date than usual would be difficult, and though he would gladly accede to the Amendment were it practicable, he could not see that it was so.
§ MR. HUNT
suggested that the magistrates should be required to meet on a particular day. Having been chair- 1527 man of Quarter Sessions, he believed the magistrates could make the arrangements by the date proposed by his hon. Friend. The division of parishes presented a difficulty, but it might be overcome. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that divided parishes should be treated exceptionally was scarcely a practicable one. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER said he did not press it.] Such cases would be rare, and with the assistance of the overseers the matter might be arranged. The right hon. Gentleman might accept the Amendment, reviving the question on the Report if there was any difficulty.
§ MR. GORDON
reminded the Committee that the registration under the last Reform Act had to be completed by the end of October, the elections being held in November. That proved that where the will existed the matter might be expedited, for the settlement of the register under the new qualification was more difficult than the re-arrangement of polling districts would be. The inability of the Government to perceive the feasibility of the proposal reminded him of the adage, that none were so blind as those who would not see. The Government were bound in consistency to make a General Election practicable under the Bill as early as possible, and pressure should be put upon the magistrates to make prompt arrangements by which not more than about 100 voters would vote at each polling place.
§ MR. DENISON
admitted that there was some difficulty in the re-arrangement of polling districts, and thought that unless it were surmounted the right hon. Gentleman, following the precedent of the last Reform Act, would have to provide that no election should be held under the Bill till some remote date.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
suggested that magistrates should be vested with an enabling power as to future re-arrangements of polling districts in populous localities.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that suggestion confirmed his view that the work could not be hurried through, but would require careful investigation. The matter could not be properly settled between the middle of August and the end of October; but if hon. Members opposite thought differently, they must have their own opinion.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
again protested against the right hon. Gentleman's doc- 1528 trine that the passing of the Bill would not necessitate a General Election. Either there was no necessity for the Bill, or the Government were bound immediately on its passing to appeal to the constituencies; for unless they were so bound, it followed that this House, elected under the present mode of voting, was fully qualified to carry on the business of the country. When the right hon. Gentleman told the Committee that a dissolution was not likely to be the immediate consequence of the passing of this measure—an event, however, of which he was not very apprehensive—he completely abandoned his entire position, because he thereby asserted his belief that a House of Commons elected by open voting was perfectly competent to carry on the legislation of the country. The Reform Bill of 1867 was a very bad measure, and so was the Ballot Bill.
§ MR. CAWLEY
remarked that the place where the "shall" came into operation ought to be marked in the Amendment, as a mandamus would lie if the "shall" were neglected.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 158: Majority 50.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
then proposed the insertion after the word "order" of the following words, "as soon as may be practicable after the passing of this Act." Those words would carry out the spirit of the Amendment which had just been disposed of, by inducing the magistrates to act with promptness.
§ Amendment agreed to.
moved, in page 3, line 42, to leave out the word "four" and insert "two." The object of this Amendment was to diminish the distance between the residence of the electors and the polling places. Unless the polling places were brought within a fair walking distance of the residence of the voters, the result would be that practically many would be disfranchised. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) had complained of the inconvenience which the men of Birmingham suffered in recording their votes, although there were probably about some 40 polling places there. He should like to ask that hon. Member, whether any voter there had to walk two miles, or 1529 even one mile, to the poll? His proposition was only to enforce that the distance should not be more than two miles. The proper solution of the question would be the establishment of polling-places in every parish, and to that he believed they must ultimately come.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 42, to leave out the word "four," and insert the word "two."—(Mr. Heygate.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that according to the Bill, the distance was not to exceed four miles, and that provision, which was adopted last year by a large majority, the Government thought they ought to adhere to. It could not be regarded as having a disfranchising effect, because it was a new regulation affording facilities to voters to record their votes. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that all the voters would have to go four miles to the polling-places; but the enormous majority would have to go a very much less distance.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was sorry to hear what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. Apart from all questions of the Ballot, this matter deserved the favourable consideration of the Government. This was a Bill which abolished nominations, and so had done away with the inherent birthright of all Englishmen of meeting to elect their representatives. The same Government which was called on to repress illegal meetings was standing up for the abolition of the only public legal meeting at which, by their birthright, men might express their opinions. Their first object should be to take care that the great body of the people were interested in the election, and that they had an absolute right to exercise their franchise. They had done everything they could, however, by the infliction of pains and penalties, to drive the elector from the poll. He apprehended that, instead of a larger number of voters coming to the poll, they would find that a larger number of people kept from it. They had deprived men of the opportunity of using their due influence upon their fellow-creatures, for though he was in favour of putting down undue influence, there was a due influence which any man might exercise upon his fellow-man. According to the principles laid down 1530 by the Government, every working man ought to be enabled to exercise the right of tendering his vote on the day of election, without being required to ask any favour of his employer; and as he could only do this in the time allowed him by the ordinary hours of labour—namely, the dinner-hour—it followed that he should be enabled to go from his work to the poll, and return to his duties within the space of one hour. The polling place should be as close as possible to the voter's residence. There was no possible objection to the multiplication of polling places. Working men could not go to the poll if the polling place was, as it might be, four miles off.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cross) that Gentlemen on the Government side of the House did not share the opinion that the Bill would discourage voting. On the contrary, one of the main objects they had in view was to remove from the minds of working, men any fear they might have of the consequences of their freely exercising their right to vote, and the Bill was calculated to carry out that view. The hon. Gentleman went on the supposition that the candidate would have to bear the expense of the new polling stations. Though that was implied by a clause now in the Bill, yet the Government were prepared to substitute for that provision the Amendment of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). Were the distance from the polling-booth reduced to two or three miles, there would be a great outcry on the part of the ratepayers against an unnecessary increase of expense.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that, although this was a matter of detail, it involved a principle—namely, that the Legislature, having once given a working man the right to vote, it should give him a fair opportunity of exercising that right equally with any other elector. He maintained that the clause did not afford that opportunity. Under the present system voters were generally conveyed to the poll at the expense of the candidates, and unless that were done three-fourths of the county electors would be disfranchised. That practice was not to be defended in principle, but was tolerated because of the state of the existing law. Candidates at present took voters to the poll knowing how they would 1531 vote, and would see how they voted; but what candidate would convey voters to the poll unless he knew they would vote for him? [Cheers.] Hon. Members opposite seemed to admit by their cheers that poor voters who had no conveyance of their own would not be conveyed to the poll. How, then, could they record their votes? The poor voter would be placed at a disadvantage with the rich in that respect. The increase of polling places rather tended to decrease expense than increase it. No candidate would employ a paid agent to watch a polling place for a few voters. A friend would do the work for him. Even if the expense of elections were thrown upon the rates, the increase of polling places would be a gain to the ratepayer, because what he paid in rates would be saved to him ten-fold in the expenses of travelling four miles.
§ MR. JAMES
regarded the question as it affected county Members and the public generally. As to the former, he asked whether they had not arrived at the time when the great expense of county contested elections ought to be stayed? At the last General Election in 1868 he observed that every candidate, whether successful or not, spent upwards of £4,000 on the average at contested elections. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had their wish carried into effect, and threw the expenses of the polling places, after they had been multiplied, upon the candidates, a larger number of Returning Officers and agents would have to be obtained, if, indeed, they could be had to meet so great a demand. The object which hon. Gentlemen opposite had in view did not apply to the urban population, but only to the rural and sparse districts, where, however, a voter was sure to find some friend to carry him to the poll. That was the view which he concluded the county Members ought to take of the question, for he could not think that they meant to increase the expense of contested elections beyond their present average. By making the expenses of counties so great they made it impossible for a candidate to stand. It was not a working man's question, but a landlord's question—a question of a landlord who desired that his tenantry should poll upon his own estate, who desired to see how they polled, and who did not wish that they should approach the market town, where 1532 they would be free from control and supervision.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
utterly and entirely denied that this was a landlord's question. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. James) should know that county electors were by no neans comprised in the two classes of landlords and tenants. There were £12 householders, many of them small shopkeepers, and 40s. freeholders; and in West Gloucestershire there were 3,000 small freeholders, many of whom were working colliers, so that it was a working man's question quite as much as any other person's. The object of the Amendment was to diminish the expense of county contests, and, as far as resident voters were concerned, he would gladly make the expense of carrying them to the poll illegal. It was clear that no mere increase of polling places would afford non-resident county voters proper facilities for voting; but that desirable result might be produced by the adoption of a system of voting papers which had been already proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther). As far as the resident voters were concerned, there was no disposition on that side of the House to render illegal the payment of the expense of conveying them to the poll if the number of polling places were sufficiently multiplied to enable them to exercise the franchise without inconvenience. He objected to the limit of four miles being inserted in this clause, because the magistrates would adopt it as the normal distance of a voter from his polling place. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that the Committee would consider this matter in the interest of all the county electors, including the working classes.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) seemed to imagine that when they had the Ballot and secrecy there would be much more difficulty than at present in inducing voters to come to the poll. For his own part, he did not believe there would be any secrecy. He did not believe the Committee wanted secrecy, for by the division before the dinner hour they had pronounced in the most emphatic way an opinion in favour of a permissive ballot. ["No, no!"] Then permissive secrecy. ["No, no!"] It was all very well for the hon. Member to say "No, 1533 no!" but judging from the remarks of the right hon. Members for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) and Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), and the cheers in all parts of the House, the general feeling was that there should be liberty to voters either to vote in the dark, if they were sneaks enough to do so; or to adopt the more manly method of showing their voting papers. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) himself said the object of the Bill was to enable every elector to vote as he pleased without interference. There was not, he felt assured, one Yorkshireman in a hundred who wished to conceal the way in which he exercised the franchise. This question ought to be considered in the interests of the people of this country, which required that every possible inducement should be given to the electors to record their votes, in order that the real opinion of the constituencies might be ascertained. Therefore, they ought to place the polling booths as near to their doors as they reasonably could. This was not a landlord's, nor even a farmer's question, but one affecting the great mass of the freeholders. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who talked so much about the extension of the suffrage and the liberties of the people, and who professed such anxiety to get all the electors to the poll, ought not to throw difficulties in the way of persons recording their votes by compelling them to go four miles, when a polling booth might be erected within two miles of their residences. As to the expense of county elections, the root of the evil was not payment of voters' travelling expenses, but the exorbitant sums given to legal agents. If a Bill prohibiting paid agency were passed, the expenses of county elections would be greatly reduced. Another element of expense, both in counties and boroughs, was the corruption of a certain portion of our free Press. Exorbitant demands were made on the pockets of candidates for the insertions of speeches, addresses, and everything connected with election proceedings. It had been shown, in an election inquiry now pending, that a sum of £1,000—if he remembered aright—had been paid to one newspaper in respect of leading articles and advertisements. It would strike at the evil if they cut down the wholesale system of employing agents and bribing the Press, 1534 for candidates had to put in advertisements not only in papers representing their own principles, but in the papers of their opponents also.
MR. H. R. BRAND
rose to Order. He appealed to the Chairman whether the hon. Gentleman's remarks had any bearing on the question?
said, he could not say that the hon. Gentleman had departed so far from the Question before the Committee as to require his (the Chairman's) interference.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he was endeavouring to meet the charges that were brought against county Members, by showing how it was that the expenses of county elections were so great—namely, from the heavy expenses of agents, and the profligacy of a certain portion of the newspaper Press in demanding black mail from the candidates. It was of primary importance that the electors should have easy access to the polling booths.
objected to the light and airy way in which this important branch of the subject had been treated by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. It was the more to be objected to when they remembered the different light in which Her Majesty's Government had regarded the question upon which a division was taken early in the evening. At one time the question was said to possess no importance, at another time it was regarded as the vital principle of the Bill, and then again it sank into insignificance when the Government had been defeated upon it in a division. The conveyance of voters must come to an end under the provisions of this Bill, and he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James) that it was desirable to decrease the expenses of county elections. It was for that object that he introduced his Amendment. If a sufficient number of polling places were given to allow every man to walk to the poll, he would gladly surrender the right of conveying voters to the poll.
§ MR. LIDDELL
wished to retain the power to convey voters to the poll, because if it were abolished the effect would be to disfranchise a great number of old and infirm voters.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he thought it unfair summarily to dismiss this question, which related to counties, after the 1535 length of time that was devoted to the hours of polling in boroughs only a few days ago. The voters in counties were not landowners and farmers alone, but there were many small tradesmen, to whom it would be a matter of loss and inconvenience if they were called upon to go four miles in order to record their votes.
doubted the advisability of fixing any particular limit, as the circumstances of different localities were very dissimilar. The limit which would suit counties like Surrey or Middlesex would be altogether unsuitable to the wild districts of Wales or Northumberland. The limit of four miles was about as inconvenient a distance as could well be fixed on. It would be what he should call neither a walking nor riding distance. It would be too short a distance for conveying voters economically, and too long for many people to walk. The voters would not walk that distance to poll. He should like to see all the figures struck out of the clause, and trust to the authorities of the various places to fix upon an area for polling most convenient to all.
§ MR. PELL
protested against the idea that elections could be conducted under the auspices and guidance of unpaid agents. The employment of such men would be highly dangerous, especially when they would have to master the details of a measure so complicated as the present. In the county which he had the honour to represent (Leicestershire) there were numbers of electors who came from distant places, and whose faces were never seen in the county except on the election day. It would be highly dangerous if the identification of these persons was to be entrusted to the care of unpaid agents.
§ Question put, "That the word 'four' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 193: Majority 52.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
proposed to amend the next provision of the clause, "so, nevertheless, that a polling district need not in any case be constituted containing less than 100 registered electors," by substituting 50 for 100. He did not at all agree with hon. Members who said that this Amendment was disposed of by the last, because 1536 there were many sparsely populated districts in which it would be necessary to describe very large areas in order to include 100 electors. There was a polling district in Gloucestershire, several miles long, containing 380 electors, of whom 180 were in three parishes, and the remaining 200 in 22 parishes. In such a case as that it was not fair to draw a hard and inflexible line, and say that no polling district should be constituted for less than 100 electors; for the inevitable result would be that many electors would have to go very long distances to the poll. He did not believe the provi-vision of the necessary polling booths for such districts would involve any serious addition to the cost of an election.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that the clause did not lay down a hard and inflexible rule, and it did not deprive the magistrates of discretion to meet such a case as that which had been mentioned by the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
supported the proposal of the hon. Baronet, believing that unless it was adopted, a large number of electors would be virtually disfranchised.
§ MR. CAWLEY
said, he knew of some districts where they would have to go eight miles instead of four to collect 100 electors.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
complained of the distinction made by the clause between counties and boroughs, in respect to the duty thrown on the local authorities of providing a sufficient number of convenient polling places. It was rendered imperative on the local authorities in counties to provide such polling places, but in the boroughs they were only required to take the matter into their consideration.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the question had been very carefully discussed last year, and all that it was thought desirable to do in the clause was to state that the borough authorities should take into consideration the making of a division of the borough into polling districts; and that, if they did not do so, they should be compelled to report to the Secretary of State their reasons for not doing it. It was not expedient to oblige them to make such a division in ignorance of what their special circumstances might be.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
denied that the matter had been fully discussed last year. At the last election in his borough, which was not a corporate borough, and where, therefore, under the Act of 1867, the local authorities were the magistrates of the county, the Returning Officer decided that the voters were to vote according to an alphabetical list issued by the Poor Law Guardians. The result was that the borough, being some three miles from end to end, the voters whose names began with A and B were at great inconvenience sent to vote three miles from their place of residence. That was a strong instance in favour of his contention that the local authorities should be imperatively required to divide boroughs into districts, as was the case in regard to counties. He, therefore, moved in page 4, line 5, to strike out the words "if they think it desirable by order."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 5, to leave out the words "if they think it desirable by order."—(Mr. Cavendish Bentinck.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought it would be wise to leave the matter to the discretion of the Returning Officer; but in some small boroughs it would be inexpedient to compel them to be divided into districts.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
looked upon it as a very great grievance, which virtually disfranchised many voters, and he should press his Amendment to a division.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 216; Noes 108: Majority 108.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.