HC Deb 29 February 1872 vol 209 cc1206-12

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Nomination of candidates for Parliamentary elections).

MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK moved the postponement of the clause, until they got to the Schedule. The clause was differently drawn to that in the Bill of last year. He held in his hand a copy of that Bill.


said, the hon. Member must strictly confine his remarks to the postponement of the clause. Any general observations he had to make should have been made on the postponement of the Preamble.


said, he wished to state his reasons for making the Motion, and, in doing so, it was necessary he should refer to the Bill of last year. In this Bill the clause had been divided into two parts—one containing the principle, and the other the schedule containing the details. The clause and schedule should be taken together. He had never before seen such a specimen of Parliamentary draftmanship. Last year all the provisions were to be found in the clause; but now, on page 16, there were 11 paragraphs, all which had relation to this clause. He therefore moved that it be postponed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be postponed."—(Mr. Cavendish Bentinck.)


said, the reason why the details had been put in the schedule was, that last year it was the general opinion on both sides of the House that there were too many details in the clauses. The principle involved in the new form of nomination about to be introduced was embodied in the clause, and he believed it would be possible to make the change with the clause alone, and without the details in the schedule, which, though not absolutely necessary, were still advisable.


said, the separation of the details involved much repetition, both in the Bill and in the Amendments. It would have been much better if there had been more of the substance of the Bill contained in the body of the Bill, instead of in the schedule.


said, he intended to give all the assistance in his power to amend the Bill in order to make it as perfect as possible; but the way in which it was drawn was very inconvenient. In the discussion that took place last year the question of nominations, which was one of principle and not of detail, was not satisfactorily settled. Were the nominations to be considered private, or were they to take place openly and in the presence of a large number of persons?


said, the hon. Member must confine his remarks to showing reasons for the postponement of the clause.


said, he referred to the point to show that the clause ought to be postponed. As a matter of principle, the 1st clause and the schedule ought to be considered together, and he was simply giving an instance on which to found his argument. Were the nominations to be public or private? Were they to be conducted simply in the presence of the proposers and the seconders of the candidates, in which case there was nothing to prevent a corrupt bargain being made out of the view of the electors; or were they to be made in public, when the electors would have an opportunity of being present? If no other way were open to him, he should raise the question by moving an addition to the clause.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 218: Majority 73.


rose to move, in Clause 1, line 11, after "writing," to insert "in accordance with the form of nomination paper contained in the Second Schedule of this Act." He said that the power of the Returning Officer with regard to the nomination of candidates was so extensive, that unless the Bill were made more elastic very great injustice would be done, and in many cases the Returning Officer might prevent candidates from being freely and independently nominated. The clause before the Committee provided for the nomination in writing of candidates by two registered electors as proposer and seconder, and by eight other registered electors as assenting to the nomination—the nomination paper to be delivered to the Returning Officer by the candidate, or his proposer and seconder, within a given time. The 8th clause said that the Returning Officer should provide the nomination papers, and, by the first part of Schedule 1, the Returning Officer was to fix the time and place, and was not bound to give more than two hours for the nomination. But it might so happen that at the very last moment the candidate declined to be nominated and withdrew, and it might not be possible within the time specified for the election, to have a new candidate nominated in the way now proposed. The Amendment which he had put on the Paper was intended to remedy this defect.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 11, after the first word "writing," to insert the words "in accordance with the form of nomination paper contained in the Second Schedule of this Act, and to the like effect."—(Mr. Goldney.)


said, he could not see that his hon. Friend's fear was justified, or that the Amendment would remove that fear if it were well founded. It was, of course, necessary to provide how nomination papers should be obtained; but it did not follow that the exact words of the form of nomination given in the Act should be adopted, or that the nomination should not be drawn up by the electors themselves. The words proposed would leave the clause very much in the same position as it now was. Before Clause 8 was reached he would carefully consider the question; and if the danger which his hon. Friend pointed out really existed, the proper place to deal with it would be by a subsection in Clause 8.


said, that the clause could not be read without reference to the schedule, and it seemed that a candidate could not be nominated except according to the precise form furnished in the Act. Some guarantee against any abuse of power by the Returning Officer ought to be provided.


said, the question raised by the Amendment was one of construction, which was doubtful, and might become a matter for judicial decision.


said, he did not think there was any room for doubt; but if there appeared, to be any on farther careful reading, the defect should be remedied; for he quite admitted it was a matter on which there should be no doubt.


asked that, as a matter of fairness, the correction should be conceded now; and, to show the want of care with which the Bill had been drawn, he pointed out that the schedule of the Bill repealed 26 sections, of which 25 were already repealed by another Act of Parliament.


said, there was a provision in the old system which would preclude the apprehended possibility of candidates being proposed, seconded, and elected without the body of electors having had an opportunity of learning anything about them, and it was that he Returning Officer on or before the day of nomination should publish the name and address of each candidate's agent. That clause was unrepealed, and yet it was inconsistent with the 1st clause of this Bill, in which, however, he yet hoped it might be embodied. To require the declaration in writing of he officer to be responsible for election expenses was a safeguard against underhand electioneering proceedings.


said, the hon. Member was discussing by anticipation he 3rd schedule. It might be found when the Bill had passed through Committee, that it did not repeal all that all would be necessary to repeal; but the repealing of existing provisions was always the last thing done in the schedules of a Bill.


said, he could not see why the Amendment was not accepted, seeing that the Government agreed with he object of it.


said, he object of the Amendment was already contained in the Bill, and, if it were not, he words proposed would not effect he object. The 8th section, if any, was the faulty one; but a consideration of that section showed the objection was untenable. He would suggest waiting for the 8th section, and then amending it if it did not do what the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) suggested, which the Government were quite prepared to accept.


said, the 1st clause dealt exclusively with nomination papers, but the 8th dealt with other arrangements as well.


said, the plain and simple way of legislating would be to prescribe a particular form, and not to say that the paper may be in any form.


said, he was of opinion that the words suggested by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) would do no harm, and might dear up an ambiguity.


believed that the clause would be rather better without the Amendment.


said, that before he came down to the House he was under the impression that the object of the Amendment was to make the matter more stringent than the Bill as it stood.


suggested that there should be added to the end of the Amendment the words "or to the like effect."


said, he would agree to the suggestion.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 177: Majority 25.

MR. GREENE moved that the Chairman report Progress.


said, he wished to ask the Prime Minister, or the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Bill, whether the Committee was distinctly to understand that the following was the arrangement which had the sanction of the Government—namely, that they should take two or three clauses out of the Corrupt Practices Bill and introduce them into the Ballot Bill, and that the remainder of the Corrupt Practices Bill should be postponed, as it appeared to him, for an indefinite period, in order that the Mines Regulation Bill and other measures might be proceeded with? If that was the arrangement that had been come to, he was no party to it.


said, the arrangement proposed by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government was, that when they got towards the end of the clauses of the Ballot Bill, inasmuch as it might be found to be difficult to carry the whole of the clauses of the Corrupt Practices Bill before reporting the Ballot Bill, they should, in that case, transfer to the Ballot Bill the 2nd and 3rd clauses of the Corrupt Practices Bill. There was no statement on the part of his right hon. Friend that the other four clauses and the questions which might arise as to a renewal of the present Act, should be indefinitely postponed. The Government fully intended and expected that the Bill would be passed into law this year.


said, that in the observations he had made he did not relinquish the hope or expectation of their passing the whole of the Corrupt Practices Bill. The Ministry must recollect that it was in their power not merely to propose the insertion of these two clauses, but all the clauses of the Corrupt Practices Bill.


said, he wished to state further, in order to prevent any possibility of misunderstanding, that Her Majesty's Government tad accepted the Motion to refer the two Bills to the same Committee, which implied that it was possible that, having gone through the Ballot clauses, they would go through the Corrupt Practices clauses. They had no intention of embodying the Corrupt Practices Bill in the Ballot Bill, and constituting them a Ballot Bill; but they simply undertook that if, when they came to the end of the Ballot clauses, it appeared contrary to the convenience of the House to proceed at once with all the clauses of the Corrupt Practices Bill, they would transfer two of the clauses to the Ballot Bill.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday 11th March.

House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.