HC Deb 28 June 1872 vol 212 cc347-80

Lords Amendments considered.

On Lords Amendment making special provision for the death of a candidate between the nomination and the poll,

MR. W. E. FORSTER moved that the House agree with this Amendment, which remedied a mistake in the Bill arising from his having omitted to bring up a clause on the subject on the Report.

First Amendment agreed to.

Page 2, line 7, leave out from ("candidates") to ("after") in line 18, and insert— ("Each ballot paper shall have an official mark on the back and a number printed on the back, and shall have attached a counterfoil with the same number printed on the face. Every voter, on application to the presiding officer, shall receive a ballot paper, and the presiding officer shall in the presence of the agents (if any) of the candidates enter on the counterfoil of the ballot paper the number of the voter on the register, and shall enter on the copy of the register with which he is supplied a cross or other mark denoting that the voter has received the ballot paper, but not showing the particular ballot paper which he has received. The voter shall place a cross or other mark in the figure of a square printed opposite the name of the candidate or each candidate for whom he votes. The voter having thus marked on the ballot paper the candidate or candidates for whom he votes shall fold up the ballot paper so as to show the official mark on its back, and shall exhibit to the presiding officer such mark, and then in the presence of the presiding officer put the ballot paper into the ballot box. At the close of the poll the presiding officer shall in the presence of the agents of the candidates or such of them as may be present seal up the counterfoils of the ballot papers and send them by the earliest practicable post to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. Any ballot paper on which a cross is put opposite to the names of more candidates than the voter is entitled to vote for, and any ballot paper having anything written thereon other than the mark or marks made by the voter, shall be void, and shall not be counted"), the next Amendment, read a second time.


Sir, it is now my duty to move that the House disagree from this, by far the most important Amendment which has been made in the Bill by the other House. It is the omission of the words contained in the Bill as we sent it up to the other House, describing the manner in which we thought the vote ought to be taken, and inserting other words in their place. The practical effect of the words so inserted by the other House is to replace the Ballot Bill which we sent up to them by a fresh Ballot Bill. Notwithstanding the importance of the Amendment, however, I shall detain the House as shortly as possible in giving my reasons why I think this Amendment cannot be accepted; and I shall be thus brief on two grounds—in the first place, because I think that the House does not desire that there should be more discussions than is absolutely necessary upon this question—and certainly I do not expect that hon. Members will bear an unnecessarily long statement from one who has had to trouble them so often on this Bill, although, I must say, they have listened to me with a patience for which I am most grateful; and, secondly, because in being thus brief I shall be imitating the mode in which this Bill has been treated by the Lords, seeing that their Lordships, in an hour or two one evening, passed a fresh Ballot Bill, which completely replaces the measure which occupied us 12 days in Committee this year, after its details had been thoroughly thrashed out during a discussion which lasted 20 days last year. I can only account for the brevity with which the House of Lords treated the measure, by supposing that they regarded it as a matter of detail, in which the House of Commons was more likely to be interested than they themselves were; whereas the question before us regards a matter on which we came to a decision after long discussion and many divisions. After the greatest possible deliberation we adopted the view of the matter which we believe our constituents also take on the subject. The words which have been struck out of the Bill by the House of Lords are those by which we intended to give effect to that view—namely, to secure that the vote should be secretly given, and also that nothing should be put upon the voting paper by which the vote could be identified. By the words which, the Lords have inserted the first of these objects has been entirely frustrated, and the identification of the vote has been rendered much more easy than we desired should be the case. The substituted words carry out three or four objects. In the first place, the provision for secrecy is omitted; and, as I have already observed, that is the most important of these Amendments. There are, however, other objects carried out by these words, which, although of less vital importance to the measure, I trust the House will not lose sight of. Thus, by the Lords' Amendment, the voting paper is permitted to be delivered to the voter outside the booth. Now, that the House, after several divisions, came to the decided conviction could not be allowed, the experience of other countries, as in France and America, where such a practice is in force, showing that the greatest inconvenience arises from the voting paper being handed to the voter before he enters the booth. Then, again, the official mark is permitted by the Amendment to be affixed to the voting paper before the time of voting. The result of permitting that to be done would be to facilitate the discovery and the forging of that mark. The Amendment further permits the vote to be recorded without the official mark being recognized. The Amendment also gives a power of following the vote by means of what is called a scrutiny. My right hon. Friend at the head of the Government stated yesterday that wishing, as we do, to meet the other House of Parliament as far as we can, and being very anxious that, if possible, this matter should be settled this year, we have, although with reluctance, consented to a power being given of following the vote in certain cases by means of a scrutiny; but if such a power is given it is absolutely necessary that some safeguards should be determined upon similar to those contained in the Bill introduced by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland a year or two ago. The scrutiny proposed by the House of Lords is without any safeguard whatever. There are three safeguards which were in the Bill of the noble Lord which we think necessary in reference to a scrutiny. In the first place, it is important that the vote shall be inviolable, except when it has been ascertained to be invalid. It is not improbable that the Lords in- tended their Amendment to secure that object; but it does not do so to the necessary extent, and, therefore, we think it desirable to amend the provision inserted in the Bill by them. In doing so, we shall be carrying out the recommendation of the Committee which sat to consider this question three years ago, and which recommended that there should be a scrutiny under certain circumstances, but that it should be surrounded with this safeguard. Then, again, there is no safeguard in the Lords Amendment, requiring the officers and agents employed in the booth to preserve secrecy. The Bill of the noble Lord contained a provision on this point, that the officers and agents should make a declaration of secrecy, and inflicted penalties upon them in the event of their violating it. We intend to introduce Amendments in accordance with these views, and also to secure that the numbers of the votes shall not be known while the latter are being counted. I cannot imagine that there will be any objection to these safeguards on the part of either House of Parliament, as they merely secure that while, where necessary, the vote can be traced, the principle of secrecy shall not be transgressed more than is absolutely necessary. But while making this concession, we must ask the House to disagree from that part of the Lords Amendments which brings in what may be termed the optional and permissive Ballot in place of the compulsory Ballot, and which thereby, as we conceive, makes the Ballot Bill useless, or worse than useless. I am well aware that, in the course of the discussion about to take place, it may be urged that the result of the deliberation in Committee was against the principle of compulsory secrecy, because the penal clauses were struck out; but nothing could be more unreasonable than such an assumption. It is perfectly true that the Committee declined to fix any special and peculiar penalty as a punishment for the display of the voting paper; but it is also true that, after repeated divisions, the House sent up to the House of Lords a measure enacting that the voting should be secret, and containing provisions which would enable the law to be vindicated if there was any combined or serious attempt to break it. That was the extent to which the House was willing to go, and it seems to me that, in this law-abiding and law- loving country, that was sufficient to secure that voting should be secret in future. The Lords Amendment, on the other hand, introduces provisions which would enable any voter to be bribed or bullied into voting openly, and the Bill so altered in our opinion takes away many of the advantages of open voting and gives us none of the secret voting. I presented a Petition to-day from, the Ballot Society, in which they state, what is, in fact, my own opinion, that sooner than accept the proposal of the Lords upon this point it would be better to wait for the Ballot Bill another year. I beg to move that this House disagree from this Amendment.

Moved, "That this House doth disagree with The Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)


Sir, I am very sorry that Her Majesty's Government have arrived at the determination just announced. I am sorry also to hear the Bill described by the right hon. Gentleman as now "useless and worse than useless," which, even assuming that the Lords Amendments will have the effect he supposes, appears to me, from his own point of view, to be an exaggerated expression. I am glad, however, to hear that Her Majesty's Government have virtually assented to the Amendment of the Lords that there shall be a scrutiny, and that there shall be some protection to the constituent body from the vice of personation. When we have before us in detail the safeguards to be suggested by Her Majesty's Government, as applicable to the exercise of that scrutiny, of course, we shall be better able to judge of their import. I confess, so far as I can follow the right hon. Gentleman, there really did appear to me to be no important difference between the proposals of the Lords and that of Her Majesty's Government, coupled, as it is to be, with so-called safeguards. I do not imagine, therefore, there will be any great difference of opinion between the two Houses upon that matter. I now proceed to the next point, which the right hon. Gentleman has described as an alteration, which has made the Bill "useless and worse than useless," and with regard to which I am astonished at the different impressions which Gentlemen in this House have received from Acts which appear to me to be sufficiently clear. I cannot conceive how this Bill can be described, as it comes down to us with these Amendments, as "useless and worse than useless," when, so far as I can read the Bill, this is an Amendment which only extends a principle before contained in the Bill, and to which Her Majesty's Ministers had given their assent. The House is quite aware, for example, that the permissive Ballot—or optional Ballot, to use an expression which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted—was extended in the Bill, as it went down from the House of Commons, to a class of Her Majesty's subjects; and the only question is this—Is it prudent in the Lords to extend to the whole of Her Majesty's subjects the privilege which the House of Commons conferred on only a portion of those subjects? The House is perfectly aware that as the Bill left this House the class of Her Majesty's subjects which is described as the "illiterate" class might have the advantage of the optional Ballot; it is therefore necessary that if the House precipitately adopts the present most imprudent proposition of the Government, it should clearly see what is its probable operation. If hon. Gentlemen will look at the last Report of the Registrar General, they will find it stated that of every 100 men who are married in England 20 cannot sign their names. This is an important and authentic piece of official information. We may, therefore, take it for granted that the proportion of the constituency who would be described as illiterate is one in five. The Bill which we sent to the House of Lords thus proposed that one in five of the present constituency, because they cannot sign their names, shall have permission to use the optional Ballot. But, let me ask, what portion of Her Majesty's subjects is this illiterate portion? We may certainly assume that because they are illiterate, they are the humbler and the weaker portion of the constituency—the portion that we have always been told were most liable to corruption, and most exposed to intimidation. Therefore, as the Bill was sent up to the Lords we had taken security that those who were most liable to be corrupted, and who were most menaced by intimidation, should enjoy the privilege of having their votes known; so that those who wanted to corrupt them might prey upon them, and those who wanted to intimidate them might put them in fear. But it was for the comparatively and absolutely independent that we provided that they should submit to the degradation of secret voting. I say, under these circumstances, the Lords having received from us this extraordinary Bill—namely, a Bill to establish secret voting in order that the weaker classes of society should be saved from corruption and intimidation, and which yet provides for that class that their votes shall be open—I think it is not surprising that the Lords should have thought it more prudent to make the Bill comprehensive and consistent, and to provide that the classes that are independent, that are not corruptible, and that do not fear intimidation, shall still enjoy that which Englishmen always honour—publicity in the exercise of their duties. It appears to me, therefore, under these circumstances it is not the duty of the House to agree with the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has made; but, on the contrary, that we ought to agree with this Amendment of the Lords, for I have heard no argument whatever which will meet the objections I have named. The Bill for secret voting, moreover, is an experiment which we have no evidence has been called for by the country. The House may perhaps recollect that at the close of last year I had occasion to point out to the House, by a reference to authentic documents, that less than one-fourth of the hon. Members of this House were pledged to the Ballot; and to make that proportion even I gave credit to every hon. Member in the present Parliament who had in previous Parliaments voted in favour of the Ballot; otherwise I do not believe that one-eighth of the hon. Members of this House were pledged to their constituents to support the Ballot. Hon. Members must remember, also, that in the very few places in which the Ballot was demanded the ideas associated with it were very different from those associated with this Bill. I believe at the present moment the general feeling of the country is not in favour of secret voting, and of this I am persuaded, that those who are in favour of it would rather have a permissive and optional Ballot, so that every man might at least have the choice of giving his vote pub- licly or secretly. That is another reason why we should support the Amendment of the Lords. But in coming to a decision upon this point, let the House recollect that though my view may be erroneous, and though there may be a feeling in some portion of the constituency in favour of secret voting, of course that sentiment would prevail among the humbler and weaker classes of society, that class for which—assuming that they wish for it—secret voting is not provided by this Bill; and, therefore, I trust the House will agree with the comprehensive and consistent change made by the Lords, for I believe that the Amendments which the House of Lords have made may reconcile the country generally to the Bill. Without them I believe it would be odious to the country, and for this reason, that it is in fact a measure that has never been called for or required by the country. The fact is the Government were in difficulties in the middle of the Session, and they availed themselves of this measure in order to reorganize their party. I believe that if the Government had not been treated so scurvily by their friends—I mean the Government of the United States—if they had not got into the difficulty about the Indirect Claims, they would not have found it necessary to force through this Bill. We have, year after year, been struggling to make political life more public. Publicity is now the soul of our political life. We owe to the principle of publicity our chief blessings. We have introduced publicity into the affairs of Parliament, into the judicial Bench, into the Press. Now we are called upon to act contrary to this course which we have so long pursued. I consider myself that the House of Lords have acted with wisdom and moderation in the matter, for if a more decided policy had been adopted I am not sure that they would have erred. The proper way to view the matter seems to be this—that there is one ground upon which the House of Lords might have been recommended not to have made any alteration in the Bill. I would have left the Bill quite untouched, merely adding a clause that it should only apply in cases where corruption and intimidation on a large scale had been proved. I would have had it viewed as a penal statute. I would have kept it in reserve like the Riot Act, to be only brought into use when the excesses of electoral society demanded it.


Sir, there is one allusion in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on which I shall, advisedly, make no comment—namely, his criticism upon the question of the Washington Treaty. I refrain from it, because I am glad to take this opportunity of rendering to the right hon. Gentleman, as an opponent, my testimony to the signal prudence and forbearance with which he has conducted himself—and for the example which he has set to others—during the whole of the anxious period of the present Session since the controversy with the United States began. Having said thus much, I shall comment with some freedom upon the statement and arguments which we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman. He does not altogether approve of the course taken by the House of Lords on the subject under consideration. He would have the Ballot Bill confined to cases where corruption and intimidation had been proved on a large scale—he would have it reserved to be used like the Riot Act. Now, Sir, I presume the Riot Act is used for the prevention of rioting, and so, according to the right hon. Gentleman, the Ballot Bill is the effectual and best remedy for intimidation and corruption. The right hon. Gentleman further says that so far he has had no evidence whatever of the desire of the country for the adoption of secret voting. Now, I am desirous, if I can, to afford information on this subject to the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time, I am aware that the circle from which I can gather the information must of necessity be narrow; for if I were to quote the evidence of anyone sitting on this side of the House, or anyone connected with the Liberal party throughout the country, the right hon. Gentleman would take exception to that testimony. Therefore, I will look to the opposite side of the House, and I will ask, whether we cannot point out to the right hon. Gentleman some indications on the opposite side as to the true desire of the country. The right hon. Gentleman has heard—and I am now going to give his Friends an opportunity to cheer—the right hon. Gentleman has doubtless heard, during the present Session, of various Conservative triumphs at elections. He has heard of the election at Oldham, where a Gentleman of Conservative politics was returned, but who was an advocate of the Ballot. The right hon. Gentleman has heard of an election in the Isle of Wight, where a Gentleman of Conservative politics was returned, but one who declared his approval of the Ballot. The right hon. Gentleman has heard of the election at Tamworth, where a Conservative politician was returned, but was pledged to the Ballot. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman has heard of the crowning victory of all—that of the North-West Riding of Yorkshire, where the stump Conservative was returned, but who was in favour of the Ballot. Having quoted all these Conservative triumphs, I hope it will not be thought invidious if I refer to one case that can hardly be claimed under that head—I mean the election which, while I am now speaking, is procceeding at Aberdeen. Now, Aberdeen is a city of which we, on this side of the House, have a very high opinion; but we are not the only persons that have a high opinion of it. A most distinguished Judge in Scotland—an eminent Conservative—who had had a large practice at the Bar throughout Scotland, was asked of what portion of that country he thought the population most fully deserved the commendations bestowed upon Scotland for her intelligence and sagacity, and his answer was—"There is no doubt at all that it is in the city and county of Aberdeen; for I can assure you, as the result of long practice, that it is of no use to talk nonsense to an Aberdeen jury." Well, Aberdeen is at this moment engaged in the constitutional expression of its opinion upon the politics of the day. I will not refer to the figures I hold in my hand exhibiting the state of the poll, because I do not wish to give pain to any hon. Gentleman opposite; but the Conservative candidate for Aberdeen, whose position on the poll is not altogether flattering, has likewise, as I understand, found it an indispensable condition of his standing for that city—nay, probably, of even finding a mover and seconder—that he should declare himself to be friendly to the Ballot. Now, Sir, I hope I have done something towards meeting the demand of the right hon. Gentleman for information tending to show the desire of the public for secret voting. Well, the right hon. Gentleman has further stated that he is surprised there should be any difficulty about the simple acceptance of a Bill which he has described in language all his own. The House of Lords, he says, have made the measure a comprehensive and consistent one. Sir, it was a masterpiece of the rhetorical art and experience of the right hon. Gentleman that while he submitted that statement to the House he kept his countenance. Sir, I will endeavour to submit to a short analysis and examination the character which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the Bill. He has fallen back upon statistics, and says that the last Report of the Registrar General indicates that one-fifth of the population cannot sign their names upon marriage, and the consequence he draws is that one-fifth the voters will be unable to read and write. Sir, I think the right hon. Gentleman must have a very poor opinion of the perspicuity of mind possessed by those whom he addressed and whom he expects to convince when he tenders us statistics of that character. One-fifth of the population who marry, he says, are one-fifth of the population who vote. Sir, we deny it. Marriage extends farther downwards in the population. I apprehend that the peasants in the villages of this country are in the habit of marrying. I have heard so, and I believe it; but I have not heard that they have the habit or the capacity of voting. Even in towns, among the non-voters, you will find a much larger proportion of those who are called illiterate than among the voters; but in the counties almost the entire mass of the illiterate will be found among the non-voting population. Therefore, the one-fifth of the right hon. Gentleman is a figure, undoubtedly, but a figure in more senses than one. It is a figure of arithmetic; it is also a figure of speech; and one of the boldest figures of speech among the many for the production of which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible that he has ever indulged in. I might also point out—only I do not wish to descend to minute points—that to be able to write your name is one thing, and to be able to read the names of candidates another and an easier thing. However, let us pass from that point. Having laid, I think, some ground for objecting to the statistics of the right hon. Gentleman, I must remark that besides misapprehending the proportion of the public with whom we dealt in pass- ing the Ballot Bill, the right hon. Gentleman has paid no attention whatever to those provisions of the Bill which affect the illiterate voters. He says that as regards them we have established optional voting—that they are one-fifth of the constituencies, and that the House of Lords has only done the same in regard to the remaining four-fifths. Now, the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that in that statement he showed himself to be entirely mistaken as to the real points of the case. I will not dwell on the fact that though we acceded with great reluctance to a certain deviation from the strict objects of the Bill in favour of the illiterate voters, nothing but the hard alternative of a seeming indifference to their exercising the franchise would have induced my right hon. Friend and the Government to adopt that course; but we did not establish an optional Ballot even for the illiterate voters. We did—in deference to what appeared to be an absolute necessity—admit to the knowledge of the vote certain persons; but we required the strongest proofs that the man was really illiterate. That provision has been struck out by the Lords. We also imposed the strongest obligation of secrecy, backed by a penalty of six months' imprisonment, on those who were allowed to be taken into the confidence of the illiterate voter; but those penalties have disappeared from the Bill as it has come down to us from the House of Lords. Therefore, even if it was true that we had established an optional Ballot for a small portion of the population—not one-fifth, but more probably one-twentieth—it could not have been true that we sought to extend it; but it is, undoubtedly, inaccurate to state that we did establish optional Ballot on the fact even of that proportion. Finally, the right hon. Gentleman, in his recommendation of the consistency and comprehensiveness of the Amendments, appears to have overlooked the reasoning on which the whole proceeding was founded. According to the right hon. Gentleman, comprehensiveness and consistency mean nothing else but a rational and absolute uniformity of proceeding, quite irrespective of the circumstances to which those proceedings apply. In the case of the illiterate voter, what we did was to meet a difficulty which we did not find ourselves able to meet in any other way. What the Lords have done is to apply, not the same provisions, but provisions infinitely more lax and totally different in character in cases where there is no necessity whatever for them. We have no wish to quarrel over this matter. The Session is well advanced, the weather has been warm, and I hope will be warm again; and I trust under those circumstances that we shall not be found wanting in that good humour with which we, on both sides of the House, desire to conduct our proceedings. Under these circumstances, having made many steps forward to meet the right hon. Gentleman and the other House of Parliament, we are ready to make a similar advance now, without the sacrifice and infringement of our higher duties—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not give us credit if we were ready to make such a sacrifice—we have endeavoured to avoid creating new differences, or widening the differences which already exist between us; but we do not use the language of exaggeration when I say that the principle of optional Ballot goes to the very root of the matter. It is true, as I have said—and as most of us have said—that practically the Ballot will be so far optional that there will be nothing to prevent any man who is so disposed from declaring to anyone he pleases the nature of the vote he has given, and that as regards a large portion of the constituency the manner of voting will be as well known after the Ballot as before; but, in order that there may be a really optional Ballot, I believe it is of absolute and inevitable necessity that within the polling-booth there should be no option at all. While the polling is going on, or in bringing the voters near to the process, anything in the nature of option would in many of our constituencies render this Bill "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare." I am using the language of simple, sober common sense, not of rhetoric or figure—though, perhaps, if I did use the language of figure it would be more acceptable to the right hon. Gentleman—when I say that if such provisions were allowed to remain in the Bill we should betray our trust to the people of England as its promoters, if we did not also disappoint some of those who had achieved Conservative triumphs by their advocacy of it. I therefore trust the House will not be indisposed to adopt the course of proceeding indicated by my right hon. Friend. I am quite sure they will not allow themselves to be deluded either by the inaccurate statistics or the illusory figures introduced by the right hon. Gentleman.


said, that having heard various statements made with regard to the opinion entertained by the constituencies on the question of the Ballot, he must beg to record his protest against the supposition that the feeling of the country was in favour of that measure. It was as an opponent of the Ballot that he had been elected; and he must remind the House that it was as opponents of the Ballot that the hon. Members for Plymouth, Truro, Cumberland, and East Surrey had last Session been returned. Intimidation had been referred to, but, speaking of county elections, where was it to come from? They were sometimes told, from the landlords. Well, in his own case, putting the landlords and tenants whom they might be supposed to influence out of the question, he had been returned by a majority of 700 freeholders. His constituents declared themselves against the Ballot, because, they said, if there was a compulsory secret Ballot, they would not be able to vote openly if they wished. He therefore protested against the statement that the country was in favour of the Ballot.


Sir, I am confident that the House has listened with gratification to the able speech of the hon. Member for North Nottinghamshire (Mr. Monckton). The hon. Member has shown us that there are, as yet, young Gentlemen who are neither afraid nor ashamed to vindicate in this House the opinions of the constituencies who return them. I confess that I regret the course which has been pursued by the House of Lords on this subject. The House of Lords had a great issue to meet. They had a great choice to make. They have a representative character of their own to maintain, or, as the alternative, to accept the position of being a mere dependency of the House of Commons. Now, the House of Lords although not elected, have a representative character in this respect—if any measure goes up to them from this House, as to which they doubt the opinion of the country, they have the power, they have the function, they have the duty of rejecting such a measure, and of persevering in that rejection until the Prime Minister is compelled to apply to the Sovereign to dissolve Parliament. Thus the House of Lords have the function and the duty of forcing a direct appeal to the constituencies upon any important subject upon which they have reason to think that this House does not represent the deliberate judgment of the country. The representative character of the House of Lords rests upon their power of forcing a direct appeal to the country, and if this power be not exercised when its application is needed, the representative character of the House of Lords is lost. After what has passed in this House, I think it must be admitted, to say the very least, that it is a matter of doubt whether the country desires this secret voting. As the Representative myself of a great popular constituency, composed chiefly of freeholders, I know that they do not, and I believe that the country does not, desire secret voting. I lament that the House of Lords have been entrapped into a mistaken attempt to effect a compromise with the majority of this House upon this subject, because the opinion of the country has not been legitimately declared at a General Election; and an expression of opinion by this House ought not to be taken as conclusive by the House of Lords upon a constitutional question of the magnitude of the present, until it has been fairly submitted to the country by an appeal to the constituencies. What course, then, am I now to pursue in reference to these Amendments? Sir, I shall vote for every Amendment that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has declared to be inconsistent with the principle of secret voting—for every Amendment that is in any way directed against the principle of secret voting. I shall vote in vindication of the ancient and time-honoured, honest, open, electioneering system of this country. I shall do this in the spirit, in the temper, and on the principles of an Englishman. Look at Canada. What have the Canadians done in reference to this question? Canada lies along the United States of America, with a very extended frontier. The Canadians have watched the operation of the Ballot in the United States for many years; the new Dominion has been constantly receiving immigrants from the States, who know what are the dangers and vices of the Ballot by personal experience. Well, the adoption of the Ballot has been repeatedly proposed to Canada, and at length, upon some curious political contingency, it was accepted in New Brunswick, where it prevailed for 15 years, but when Canada became united, the able men who were delegated to frame the new Constitution of the Dominion unanimously rejected the Ballot. I cite the experience of Canada, then, in this respect, against all that has been said on the faith of the embryo example of Australia. I am not about to enter into the merits of the question; but I have said enough to explain why I intend to vote against the principle of secrecy at every possible opportunity.


said, he wished to allude to a view of this question which had been entirely overlooked in the debate. He would call attention to the fact that the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) had treated the action of the Lords as if they had sent them a new Bill, substituting optional secrecy for compulsory secrecy; but he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) ventured to assert that the Bill as it left that House was not a Bill for compulsory secrecy at all. He did not now speak of that large number of persons who were directly authorized to vote openly; he did not refer to the class of Jews, physically incapacitated or illiterate voters, although he ventured to predict that among many corrupt constituencies there would be found an extraordinary number of Jews and illiterate persons on the day of election. But he alluded to the general provisions of the measure; and it seemed to him that the House of Lords had only endeavoured to save Parliament from the folly of enacting a law which they had declined to insert penalties to enforce. Had they so soon forgotten what happened in the de-debate on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham)? The expression of opinion on the part of all who voted against that Amendment, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), was in favour of permissive secrecy and against compulsory secrecy. The supporters of the Amendment were equally clear in their declarations, that without its adoption there could be no compulsion, and without compulsion there could be no secret Ballot; and the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James) called upon the friends of the Ballot to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield as even more important than the second reading of the Bill. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, moreover, urged that the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) would simply legalize open voting, and that for the proper carrying out of the measure penalties were necessary. The same argument was used by the Prime Minister, who said a penalty was necessary not only for the advantage of the voter himself, but for the security of his neighbour. The Committee, however, in almost the largest House of the Session, rejected the Amendment by a majority of 28, the Prime Minister afterwards, in reply to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne), admitting that the Bill had received a grievous blow. What was this decision but a vote in favour of the optional or permissive Ballot? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) stated, both on the third reading and to-day, that a penalty was not necessary to enforce secrecy, but in the discussion on the Amendment he said this— 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 misdemeanour would lie against any person who disobeyed the law in this respect."—[3 Hansard, ccx. 1484.]


remarked that he repeated that statement on the third reading, and had alluded to it to-day.


had already stated that, but would ask the right hon. Gentleman to listen to what he said afterwards, which he did not repeat on the third reading, or on the present occasion. This was how he continued— 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 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."—[Ibid. 1484–5.] He would appeal, too, from the right hon. Gentleman's words to his acts. He had had a considerable share in passing measures of elementary education for England and Scotland. In both those measures there were provisions for compulsory education. But would the right hon. Gentleman have been content with enacting that a father should send his child to school, without following it up by a penalty if he failed to do so? Now, the default of a parent in that respect was a criminal act, which, in the opinion of the great majority of the community, would call for punishment; but nobody would venture to assert that to vote openly was a moral offence, for it would simply be continuing to discharge a public duty in the way hitherto required by the law. If, therefore, it was to be punished, it was far more necessary to enact a penalty for open voting than for such a moral offence as the neglect to educate a child. But as no such penalty appeared in this Bill, how would it be interpreted? Could the House suppose that the Courts, if this Bill became an Act, would inflict a penalty on a man who wilfully gave an open vote? They would refer to the discussions in this House, and they would see that the House had declined to inflict a penalty, and they would not fine or imprison a man in defiance of the opinion of Parliament, possibly in September next, because he had acted on the opinion which the Prime Minister himself held in September last. The Lords had done their best to save this House and the country from a sham. Ballot Bill—a Bill which, according to its authors, was one for compulsory secrecy, but which really did not enforce anything of the kind. If this House should disagree with the Amendment, the Lords would earn the gratitude of the country by declining to give way; for what most of the supporters of the supporters of the Ballot really desired was this—that a man afraid of voting openly might be permitted to vote secretly; but that no penalty should be imposed on a man who still wished to give an open vote. The Lords would thus accord protection to all who required it, without interfering with those who did not, and would save this House from a deceptive and inconsistent Bill.


said, that having been referred to by the hon. Baronet he wished to state that he had given utterance to no such opinion as he had attri- buted to him. The opinions he expressed last September were precisely conformable to those he had enunciated to-day.


said, he had simply referred to the remarks reported in the public Press as having been made by the right hon. Gentleman in his Wakefield speech, which was not contradicted by him at the time.


said, he had stated on a previous occasion that the report was not an authorized one. He much doubted whether a reporter was even present, and what occurred was rather conversation than speaking.


Sir, I should have had some difficulty in replying to the hon. Baronet who has just spoken but for the circumstance that my right hon. Friend purposely introduced words into another part of the Bill, the object of which was to remove the ambiguity of which the hon. Baronet complains. These words were subsequently struck out in "another place." Now, Sir, there is sometimes this difficulty in discussing measures which come down to us after they have received the finishing touches of hereditary statesmanship—that it is almost impossible to consider them with becoming gravity. Here is a Bill which was sent up as a measure for enabling dependant voters to vote freely, because they were to vote secretly. It comes back to us a measure for compelling dependant voters to vote openly; for persons in that position will be allowed no choice. It was also a Bill for the discouragement of bribery, for the briber would never have known that he had value for his bribe. But as the Bill stands now he can secure that the bribed vote is given as openly as at present. My right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) was therefore justified when he said that the Bill had been made "worse than useless," for it retains the form without the substance of the Ballot. In fact it is Box et præterea nihil. What then is the duty of the House? Why, to put the Bill back again; and if their Amendments are insisted upon in "another place," I trust that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government will appeal to the country. I can assure him that there has been no question upon which any Government has gone to the country, within the memory of this generation, upon which that appeal has been more popular than it would be upon this. Let me say one word with reference to the scrutiny. I am aware that many hon. Members who sit near me object to a scrutiny, on the ground that even under the closest form of Ballot, it will take years for men who have been coerced to recover the full use of their consciences. But in asking us to abandon the scrutiny, they are asking us to renounce a privilege of importance, and one which is not seldom resorted to. Shortly after the last General Election I ascertained that in 20 per cent of the cases in which the seat had been recently vacated on petition, a scrutiny, or the threat of scrutiny, determined the final return. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has been seated on three distinct occasions by scrutiny. With the important restriction to which my right hon. Friend has referred—which will prevent a wanton scrutiny and votes from being challenged in order that they may be exposed—I do not object to a scrutiny, and, in fact, provided for such a scrutiny in the Bill which I had myself the honour to introduce. I cannot sit down without thanking the Government for the firmness of their attitude with regard to these Amendments, and I believe that I am expressing the opinion of many hon. Members who cannot take part in this debate, when I say that that firmness will win for the Government the support and confidence of the country.


said, that as he had been referred to by the Prime Minister as one who had been long pledged to to the Ballot, he hoped the House would allow him to explain why he was against this Bill. On the first occasion when he stood on the hustings he was asked by the people before him whether he was in favour of the Ballot or not. He told them he was ashamed of the Ballot, but that if they would assure him they could not vote as they liked because of the oppression of their masters, they ought either not to have a vote at all or to be protected by Ballot. He told them if they desired such protection he would vote for the Ballot. But the House would recollect that until this time they never had before them a Ballot Bill; that on all previous occasions when the Ballot was discussed they had before them merely abstract Resolutions, to the effect that it was desirable to take votes by Ballot. Except on one occasion, when the division came on too early to permit him to vote, he always voted with "Ballot Berkeley" as he was called, and he was prepared to vote that there should be vote by Ballot if he found the people persisted in requiring it, and if a proper Ballot Bill were proposed. By a large part of the House the present Bill was called a sham. He should have objected to it from the very beginning, because it would do away with open nomination. He held that a candidate should stand before the constituents to hear what they had to say to him, and that they might see and hear him. He was not for getting himself proposed in a shed, where there would be police officers to guard those who came to move and second his nomination, and therefore he was against this Bill. In his address to the electors he had denounced this Bill as a bungling piece of legislation, which favoured corruption, and that he objected to it; therefore the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have pointed to him as a person in favour of this Bill. He would do all in his power to prevent its becoming law.


said, as he was about to vote against his party, which he did with great regret, he felt bound to give his reasons for taking that course. During his canvass two months ago, in nearly every house which he entered he was asked—"What line are you going to take with regard to the Ballot?" and he found that the feeling was so strong on that point that he felt it his duty to pledge himself to the Ballot. Having promised to do so, he was not going to shrink from the obligation into which he had entered, nor would he shirk his responsibility by saying that the Ballot Bill which he pledged himself to support was a different Bill from the present one. The Bill known to his constituents was the one which he supported now, and it was his intention to vote with the Government.


said, he should support the Bill, because he preferred the prevention of corruption to its cure.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 302; Noes 234: Majority 68.


Sir, I will now, in fulfilment of the pledge of my right hon. Friend yesterday and of myself to-day, propose to insert words which acknowledge the principle of a possible scrutiny. In the 7th line of Clause 2, after the word "candidates," I propose to insert these words— Each ballot paper shall have a number printed on the back, and shall have attached a counterfoil with the same number printed on the face. I do not for a moment deny that it is with reluctance that I move this Amendment. It is a great concession made by those who are strongly in favour of the Ballot; but I think it is a concession which, rather than lose the Bill, it is wise for us to make. It is the one point on which most is to be said in favour of the Lords' Amendments. I shall not detain the House by repeating arguments which are familiar to hon. Members, but will repeat what I said last year, and it is this—that I always considered the importance of this question of a scrutiny exaggerated on both sides. The argument against a scrutiny is, that under it the way in which a voter gives his vote may be discovered, while the argument in its favour is that under it a bad vote may be traced and struck out. I believe that very few bad votes will be struck out under a scrutiny, and that a machinery can be made which will render votes with a possible scrutiny substantially secret. The suggestion of the Committee which sat to consider this subject—that there should be a scrutiny, was supported by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, whose assistance we should have been glad to have had on this question; but his approval of the plan was coupled with the condition that the vote should be inviolable until it was declared invalid. With that view I shall propose to follow this Amendment in the future clauses and in the Schedule by providing that the secrecy of the vote shall be secured as much as it can be secured, and that a scrutiny shall not be made use of merely to discover the vote; and I shall also have to propose another consequential Amendment, which I now allude to, to show both sides of the House that the Bill was scarcely considered with that attention in "another place" which we might have expected it would have received. The strongest argument in favour of a scrutiny is, that a bad vote may be traced under it and struck out, but as we in this House were unable to agree that scrutinies should be permitted, we inserted a clause to the effect that when a vote was proved to be in- valid, a vote, but not the bad vote, should be struck out. The Lords having provided for a scrutiny, had left that clause in; so that, although they provided the machinery for identifying the bad vote, they merely required that a vote, and not the bad vote, should be struck out. I shall therefore have to move by-and-by that the clause to which I have referred be struck out.

Amendment proposed to the words reinstated by such disagreement, To insert, after the word "candidates," in page 2, line 7, the words "Each ballot paper shall have a number printed on the back, and shall have attached a counterfoil with the same number printed on the face."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)

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


said, that he was not content to allow the Amendment to pass without a challenge, and he proposed to take the sense of the House upon it. He admitted that he could have but little hope of defeating the combined forces of the Government and the Opposition, but still he felt it should be recorded on the Journals of the House that there were some here who declined to accept the Ballot accompanied by a scrutiny, and who would prefer a system of open voting to anything of the sort. He thought he should have but little difficulty in showing that a scrutiny ought not to be introduced into a Ballot Bill at all; not that he was about to detain the House with a long argument, but because those who were now about to vote for a scrutiny had over and over again argued and voted against it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were perfectly consistent in accepting a scrutiny, but he wanted to know what hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side, who had divided some 15 or 20 times against such a principle, could say in vindication of the vote which they were now about to give. It was said that that must be a matter of compromise with the other House, but he protested against that doctrine: whatever would make the Ballot a bad Bill would be infinitely worse than leaving things as they were. He hoped he should not be misunderstood in saying that he thought the House of Lords ought not to bear the full responsibility of this measure. He was not one of those who sneered at the legislation of the other House, and he had nothing to say against the interference of the other House with any measure which that House might pass; but if ever there was a question which the House of Commons ought to decide for themselves, and which was a question arising between themselves and their constituents alone, that was one; but they were now asked to give up a vital principle in order to favour the opinions of those who, with much deference to their position, ought not to interfere at all. He wished to remind the House of the Resolution formerly passed by that House— That it is a high infringement of the liberties and privileges of the Commons of the United Kingdom for any Lord of Parliament, or other Peer or Prelate …. to concern himself in the election of Members to the Commons House of Parliament. What amount of personal experience had Members of the House of Lords had in elections for Members of Parliament? Some of them never could have taken part in such elections, unless they had infringed the Resolutions of Parliament. A few of them did take part in the Election of 1868, and that had shown a practical necessity for the Ballot. If the House of Lords entertained the view that had been expressed against the Bill that day, they ought, in common fairness, to have rejected the measure, and to have borne the responsibility of its rejection; but instead of that, while a vast majority were opposed to it in principle, only 50 or 60 Peers had the courage to express their opinions, and the remainder of the opponents of the principles of the Bill introduced some suggestion of a scrutiny, and thus endeavoured to destroy the Bill insidiously, instead of openly rejecting it. He was not making any attacks upon the House of Lords, but he wished they had acted now with the courage which they showed of old. He wished he could say that all virtues were hereditary. There were barons of old who were bolder than barons were now, and they fought with fair weapons both in war and in council. The Commons were now in the position of endeavouring to buy the Bill by giving in their adhesion to a principle which was against the whole theory of the measure. He knew there were supporters of the Ballot, like the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), who did not see much evil in providing for a scrutiny. That hon. Gentleman, in 1869, had even a scheme of his own for giving a scrutiny, by putting all the voting papers into an oven and compelling the Election Judge to bate them until an invisible number appeared on their backs. But within the last two years the hon. Gentleman had yielded, and now supported the Ballot without a scrutiny. The present Bill proposed to bring to the polling at elections the evil of privacy and the virtue of secrecy, but it was now proposed to give up the virtue and retain the evil. Opportunity after opportunity would then be offered to poor men to dispose of their votes to the best advantage, and no doubt they would embrace those opportunities even to a far greater degree than they did at present, for if the voter were led to suppose that his vote could be traced, his course of action in all probability would be to vote according to his interest, as he did now, rather than according to his conscience, which it was the object of a Ballot Bill to enable him to do. There was no necessity for a scrutiny either, for in the case of a defeated candidate who had been beaten by 20 votes, no one would know how any of the voters had polled; and if there were known to be 25 cases of personation it might be found by means of an expensive process of scrutinizing that all the personators had voted in favour of the defeated candidate. A scrutiny, therefore, was not wanted for cases of personation, because personation could be as well discovered without knowing how the voter had voted as when that knowledge was obtained. He knew that so far as the result was concerned it would be useless to divide the House on the subject; but it was not useless to enter a protest against the course which was being pursued, and with that view he should take the sense of the House upon the question.


said, he would venture to say that in a large constituency 500 or 1,000 persons might be personated, for he was satisfied that the Bill would give the utmost facility for personation in our large towns. He had no doubt it would be found that all the penalties proposed would be useless to stop personation, and he said that from experience of the present system, with all the checks and safeguards which, with public voting, were adopted by candidates and their supporters. When per- sonation was detected, moreover, there was great reluctance on the part of those who had been injured to prosecute the personator, for it was usually said that the conflict was over, that the battle had been lost and won, and that it would be but a poor exercise of power to crush the unlucky man who had been induced to personate a voter. Personation was a great and a growing evil, and it would be much increased, not diminished, by a system of Ballot which was private and secret too.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 382; Noes 137: Majority 245.

Several other Amendments made to the words reinstated by the said disagreement.


said, he was sorry that the Government had in a moment of weakness consented to give way so far as they had, and thought it would be convenient that the House should be informed what kind of scrutiny was proposed. The division which had just been taken affirmed that there should be a scrutiny, but it would be interesting to know by what means his right hon. Friend proposed it should be carried out, and what the securities for secrecy were in case of a scrutiny.


said, he thought he had already explained that matter to the House. The machinery for the scrutiny would be that which was contained in the Bill of his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The number of the vote was placed on the counterfoil, the same number being stamped on the voting paper. The security against the number being discovered, except in case of a scrutiny, would be this—the counterfoils would be sealed up and the voting papers also after the election was decided, and there would be no permission to look at them; the vote would be inviolable, unless there was an order from a tribunal for it to be delivered up after it was declared invalid. There would be this security—that in the next clause words would be introduced making it penal for any agent or officer, either at any polling station or at the time of counting the votes, to attempt to obtain or give information as to the numbers on the votes. He also proposed to introduce a provision similar to what was in the Bill of his noble Friend, requiring the presiding officer, at the time of counting the votes, to keep the voting paper upwards.


suggested that the counterfoils should be sealed up before the ballot papers were counted.


said, a provision to that effect would be introduced.

Amendment disagreed to.


proposed to disagree with the Lords' Amendment in line 22, by which the property in the ballot papers was vested in the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery instead of in the Returning Officers. He believed the effect of the Amendment had not been understood in the House of Lords, for if adopted it would introduce a principle different from that which had reference to municipal elections. He proposed to substitute instead words vesting the counterfoils as well as the ballot papers in the Returning Officer. He was informed that an action for theft would not lie against the Returning Officer, who would have to be proceeded against for misconduct. The question they had to deal with had reference to what would happen if the papers were stolen from the Returning Officer.

In reply to Mr. WALPOLE,


said, this clause had nothing to do with the custody of the papers, but related to the person in whose name the property was to be laid for the purpose of indictment. In a Post Office indictment they laid the property in the name of the Postmaster General, although he never had the custody of the property. This was merely machinery for the convenience of criminal proceedings.

Lords Amendments disagreed to.

Then words inserted "as well as the property in the counterfoils."

MR. W. E. FORSTER moved that the House disagree with the Amendments in lines 25, 26, 36, relating to the obligation of secrecy on the part of the officer, clerk, or agent as to voting at the polling stations.

Amendments disagreed to.

MR. W. E. FORSTER moved in line 38, after ("voted") insert— ("or as to the number on the back of the ballot paper given to any voter at such station. Every officer, clerk, and agent in attendance at the counting of the votes shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of the voting, and shall not attempt to ascertain at such counting the number on the back of any ballot paper, or communicate any information obtained at such counting as to the candidate for whom any vote is given in any particular ballot paper.")

Amendment agreed to.

MR. W. E. FORSTER moved that the House disagree to the Lords Amendment providing that there should be a polling place not more than two miles from any voter's residence. The House decided by a large majority last year in favour of four miles in preference to three, and this year they decided in favour of four miles in preference to two. He should have been anxious to adopt the Amendment could it be safely done; but the condition of the country under the new arrangements must be ascertained before such a step was taken, which would involve inconveniences in their arrangement of parishes, increased cost, and a difficulty in finding so many presiding officers.


urged that facilities for conveying voters to the poll would be less under secret than under open voting, and he believed the reluctance to vote would be much greater. The question was, whether that should be counteracted by additional facilities for polling, and by relieving the voter from the expense of riding four miles, for many would not have sufficient time or strength to walk that distance and back. The Amendment was materially qualified by the words "as far as is reasonably practicable," and by the Proviso that no polling-place should be created unless there were 400 registered electors within its radius. He hoped, therefore, the House would accept it. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) had said that four miles was neither walking nor riding; but under ordinary circumstances it would be riding, and it was desirable to fix such a distance that in most cases the electors might walk.


pointed out that the four miles would be a maximum distance, and that in most cases the voter would have a shorter distance to travel. A two-mile limit would involve many additional agents, presiding officers, and clerks, and would make county elections so costly that few gentlemen would like to become candidates.


, while anxious to multiply polling-places, agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that there were practical objections to a two-mile limit, the expenses of contests being materially increased.


remarked that in Ireland great inconvenience and difficulty would result from the adoption of the Amendment.


reminded the hon. Gentleman that the clause did not apply to Ireland.


reminded the House that some English counties, or parts of them, were in much the same position as Ireland. He hoped the House would adhere to its decision. He did not see how the Ballot would lessen the facilities for polling. The circumstances of counties greatly differed, and it was undesirable to fetter the discretion of the local authorities further than making four miles the maximum. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, moreover, had evinced great distrust of the discretion necessarily vested in presiding officers, whom it would be difficult in some places to obtain; and they could not desire to multiply them needlessly, for that would be attended with multipication of expenses.


remarked that, if the Amendment as to the use of school-rooms was disagreed to, it would be easy to multiply polling-places largely. He suggested three miles as a compromise.


understood the Government proposed to accept the Amendment as to school-rooms. He thought the House had better adhere to the maximum of four miles. It would materially add to the expenses of elections, if they were to have polling-places largely multiplied.

Amendment disagreed to.

Clause 6 (Use of public room for poll).

Page 5, line 26, leave out from ("election") to ("any") in line 28, the next Amendment, read a second time.


said, that, although the Government were of opinion that these buildings might be fairly used for election purposes, they were not prepared to object to the Lords' Amendment, which seemed to commend itself to the feelings of the other House. He therefore proposed that the Amendment be agreed to.


, who had a Notice of Amendment on the Paper with regard to the subject, said, he hoped the House would not accept the Lords' Amendment, and that, in spite of what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman, the House would support him in resisting it. The Lords had done all in their power to multiply polling-places, and then to make them as expensive as possible by refusing the use of quasi-public rooms. The schools were now used for many meetings of a public description, and it was quite proper that this additional use should be made of them. In some places the school-room would be required only once in four or five years; and in others only once in 10 or 20 years; and its occasional use for an election would be attended with very little hardship compared with the service which such a use would render to the community. He would therefore move that the House disagree with the Lords' Amendment in page 5, line 26, by leaving out from "election," to "any" in line 28; and inline 28, after "room," by inserting "not being a school."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with The Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)


maintained that in many places there were no rooms available except the school-rooms.


hoped the Government would not agree to the Lords' Amendment, for in Scotland they always made use of school-rooms for election purposes.


said, he must strenuously deny that school-rooms were public buildings; in many instances they they had been built and maintained chiefly by private munificence, and he could not admit that the Parliamentary grant gave Parliament a right to use them against the wishes of the managers. Last year it was proposed that such consent should be necessary; but the hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) proposed to make their appropriation compulsory. He wished that they could now divide on the same issue as they did last year. He emphatically protested, in the name of liberty, against the schoolrooms being taken in opposition to the will of the managers.


said, he desired to record his experience that school-rooms were the best places for taking the poll. Otherwise, hustings would have to be erected in the streets—so far as the metropolis was concerned—and that would be not only disagreeable, but expensive. His remark especially applied to the borough with which he was connected—Southwark.


said, the Government had felt it to be incumbent on them to consider the apparently strong feeling of the House of Lords; but it was quite clear that the feeling of the House of Commons was equally strong. He did not think this was a matter in which the Lords could expect the Government to go against a decided expression of opinion from both sides of the House. It was quite true he first assented to the proposal to use the rooms with the consent of the managers; but upon consideration he was almost immediately convinced that this arrangement would be worse than no alteration at all. After the decided expression of opinion on both sides of the House, the Government, at all events, would not put the House to the trouble of dividing.


said, one of the objections to the use of school-rooms in large towns was that there were frequent elections in such towns, and it was very objectionable to give the children a holiday on an election day. Besides, a school might imperil its Government grant by these compulsory holidays. If the matter were made optional instead of compulsory the difficulty might be overcome.


said, that schoolmasters and the Diocesan Board of Education in his county were opposed to giving up the school-rooms. Hitherto education had been kept free from politics; but now there was a talk not only of taking the rooms compulsorily, but of compelling the schoolmasters to be deputy Returning Officers. In France a similar use had been made of schoolmasters, and see to what a condition it had been reduced.


said, that by increasing the number of polling-places the expenses were increased. The number of rich men was also increasing yearly in the House; but he was far from saying that the eloquence or intelligence of the House was increasing. He was surprised that the House of Lords, with curious perversity, had struck out of a bad Bill almost the only good provision it contained.


said, that one practical matter had been overlooked in the debate. They were going to take the school-room for one day, but it would be required for three or four days. The school-rooms had fittings and fixtures which would require to be taken up that the ballot-box and all the hocus-pocus of voting by Ballot, and Heaven only knew what, might be put into the school. Now, was he or anyone else to confiscate these schools for any such purpose? The practical inconveniences of this scheme were not merely sentimental—they were very real. If the Government had adopted this Amendment the House also would have adopted it, and it was only a few county Members who were in the way.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 365; Noes 86: Majority 279.

The next Amendment disagreed to.

Subsequent Amendments, as far as the Amendment, page 8, line 20, agreed to.

The next Amendment in line 28, after ("room") insert ("not being a school").


asked the right hon. Gentleman, whether the managers of schools would be allowed to count the days when the school-rooms would be occupied for election purposes in estimating the amount of the Government grant; and would the holiday be limited as to time?


said, he did not think that the fact of the schoolrooms being used occasionally for election purposes should be a ground for reducing the amount of education given to children.

Amendment disagreed to.

Page 8, line 20, after ("Act") insert Clause (A.) At every contested election of a member or members to serve in Parliament after the passing of this Act, the poll shall continue for one day only, and shall commence at eight of the clock in the forenoon of the day appointed for that pur- pose by the returning officer, and shall be kept open until the hour hereinafter mentioned, and no longer; that is to say,

  1. (a.) If the poll takes place between the last day of March and the first day of October, until seven o'clock in the afternoon, and
  2. (b.) If the poll takes place between the last day of September and the first day of April, until five o'clock in the afternoon,"
the next Amendment, read a second time.

MR. W. E. FORSTER moved that the House do agree to this Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with The Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)


, in moving that the House disagree with the Lords' Amendment, said, the House would recollect the unanimity which had prevailed on this question when the Bill was passing through Committee. He intended to divide the House upon the question, because if the hours named were adhered to an outcry would be raised against any Government that dissolved Parliament in the winter, on the ground that Liberal voters would not be able to vote at so early an hour as 5 o'clock in the afternoon.


said, he could not understand how this Amendment had come before them. It was from the Government bench of the House of Lords that this Amendment was made; and the Prime Minister only yesterday had stated that he accepted it with great doubt and hesitation, though it was moved from the Government bench in the other House. The working men were not satisfied with it. He trusted they would not now adopt a system which would give two separate agents and have the poll open after nightfall.


said, he could not conceive why Her Majesty's Government accepted this alteration, and he would vote against it.


said, he hoped the House would disagree with the Amendment. It might be found desirable to state these hours of polling for the large boroughs; but it would be highly inconvenient to apply the same rule to small boroughs, where all the voters were generally polled out by 2 o'clock; for if no provision were put in this Bill to enable the poll to be closed when every man had voted, the presiding officer and his assistants would have to sit several hours biting their thumbs.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 190; Noes 227: Majority 37.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment, page 13, line 23, read a second time; several agreed to; one disagreed to.

And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the further Consideration of the Lords Amendments was adjourned till this day.

And it being now five minutes to Seven of the Clock, the House suspended its Sitting.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the Clock.

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