HC Deb 26 March 1877 vol 233 cc502-3

asked Mr. Attorney General, If his attention has been called to a recent decision of the County Court Judge of Norfolk, which saddled the chairman of the vestry with the expenses of a contested election of a parish churchwarden; whether the person demanding a poll, the defeated candidates, all the candidates, or the presiding chairman are responsible for the expenses of such election; and, whether all occupiers whose names are in the rate book, including compound householders and women, have a right to vote at such elections?


in reply, said, his attention had been called to the case in question since the hon. Gentleman's Notice, and he had read a report of that decision, and had ascertained that the County Court Judge found, as a matter of fact, that the defendant was liable to the plaintiff for a sum of £5 for money had and received. As to the second part of the Question, there was no provision in the law for any fund out of which such expenses, which, he understood, were merely nominal, should be paid, and if there were any expenses, he presumed that the person by whose order they were incurred would be liable. As to the latter part of the Question, as a general rule, all occupiers whose names were on the rate book had a right to vote. In his opinion, compound householders had a right to vote, but he had very considerable doubt whether women had the right, except there was some special reason or custom to the contrary. That doubt was not entertained by some lawyers; but if the hon. Gentleman was desirous of knowing the reasons why he entertained his opinion, he (the Attorney General) should be very happy to inform him at a private conference. He was bound to say that he hoped it would not become the practice to ask the Law Officers of the Crown Questions tending to elicit their views as to the soundness or unsoundness of judicial decisions, nor, indeed, to attempt to obtain their views upon knotty points of law.