HC Deb 02 April 1878 vol 239 cc471-4

SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER, Mr. TENNANT, Mr. HENRY SAMUELSON, Sir WILLIAM CUNINGHAME, Dr. CAMERON, Mr. CHARLES LEWIS, Mr. COTES, Mr. MARTEN, and Mr. BARRAN nominated Members of the Select Committee on Parliamentary and Municipal Elections (Hours of Polling).

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. HALSEY be one other Member of the Committee."


suggested that, as the matter was one affecting boroughs, the Committee should be composed of borough Members only, with the exception of the hon. Baronet who had moved its appointment. There were a large number of hon. Members on the Committee of last year who were not amongst those now proposed; and he thought there would be no difficulty in getting one of them to serve in the place of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Halsey).


observed, that, although an hon. Member was returned for a county, it did not follow that he did not represent many large boroughs in that constituency, and that he had not as much reason to be heard on the question at issue as borough Members proper. As the Committee stood on the Paper, he believed it would fairly represent the opinions of the constituencies which would be affected by the change proposed, and that it was a very fair Committee for the purpose for which it was intended.


as one of the Representatives of a large constituency, demurred to the doctrine just laid down by the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury. The question was one which had a special interest for the large constituencies, not only because, under the present system, great numbers of the electors were disfranchised, but because a considerable expense for polling-booths, &c., was involved on account of the limited time which the working men had for voting. He was surprised to find that on this Committee such great constituencies as Liverpool, Edinburgh, Bristol, and Newcastle-on-Tyne were absolutely unrepresented. On the other hand, he found that the borough of Leeds had two Representatives, and that there were a good number of hon. Members on the Committee representing counties and small boroughs. He ventured to suggest that, if it was considered undesirable to strike off any names, the Members of the Committee should be slightly increased in order to obtain a fuller representation of the interests specially affected.


said, it would be in the recollection of the House that some time ago a very strong protest was made against the names of hon. Members being put upon more than one Committee at a time; and he gave a pledge that, in future, as far as he had anything to do with the formation of Committees, he would endeavour, as much as possible, to select those Gentlemen who were not sitting on other Committees. It was with a view to carry out this arrangment that he asked the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Halsey) to serve on this Committee. It was the easiest thing possible to find fault with the constitution of Committees, but hon. Members forgot how difficult it was to form a Committee. At the beginning of a Session the most capable Members were at once chosen to sit on Committees, and, as the Session advanced, of course the area of selection was very much narrowed. Now, the hon. Member for Hertfordshire was a Gentleman perfectly capable of serving on this particular Committee, although he was a county Member; and he should, therefore, ask the House to support the nomination.


admitted that there was a difficulty in forming Committees, and he did not deny the fitness of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire to serve on Committees. But that was not the question which had been raised in this discussion. The Committee was about to be appointed to inquire into the desirability, or not, of extending the hours of polling in large towns; and, as he understood, the objection was, that they ought not to put the Representatives of counties—small counties—on such a Committee, but they ought to have Members who represented towns where there were large numbers of the working classes who would be affected by the change. Local knowledge of the requirements of large towns was what was required on this Committee, but they had no Representatives on it from such large constituencies as Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool. Therefore, if a division was taken, it would not be on the question of the fitness of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire to serve on the Committee, but as to whether the large towns ought not to be represented in preference to the counties.


understood that some of the Gentlemen who served on this Committee last year were desirous of again being nominated; and, therefore, he did not see why the Committee of last year should not be re-appointed this Session. If, however, that was not to be done, he hoped the Government would re-consider this matter, and substitute another name for that of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire. Of course, the objection to his name was not a personal one; but it was desirable that, as a county Member, he should give way to some one who represented a large borough constituency.


, in reply to the remark that the Representatives of large towns had been excluded from this Committee, pointed out that such was not the case; because they would find on the Committee the two hon. Members for Leeds (Mr. Tennant and Mr. Barran), the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), none of which places could be called small or unimportant.


said, while it was true Bradford, Leeds, and Glasgow were represented on the Committee, it was equally true that Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle, and other large towns were not represented. In his constituency there were 40,000 electors; and, having been on the Committee of last year, he knew there was no question more interesting to the working classes than that of the extension of the hours of polling. Nobody seemed to have been consulted about putting the Representatives of the large towns on the Committee; and, in his opinion, the names of those now before the House ought either to be added to, or borough Members substituted, for those who represented counties, or small towns.


said, as this Committee was not to be re-constituted in the form it was last year, it was necessary to add some new Members to it; and he hoped that in doing that the House would not lay down the dangerous doctrine, that because this question was one which affected the large towns, therefore the Committee ought only to be formed of Representatives from such towns. As had just been pointed out by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, there were already on the Committee Representatives of some of the large borough constituencies, and nothing would be more dangerous than to establish the rule that the Representatives of counties or small towns were to be excluded.


pointed out that the scope of the inquiry of the Committee was not limited to an extension of the hours of polling in large boroughs, but in all boroughs. No doubt, if the inquiry had been limited to the large towns, it might have been desirable to have had more hon. Members from those boroughs on the Committee; but, as the inquiry extended to all towns, he thought the composition of the Committee a very fair one.


complained that there were only two Scotch Members on the Committee.

Question put, and agreed to.


nominated other Members of the Committee:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.


gave Notice that he should move to add to the number of the Committee.