HC Deb 06 June 1878 vol 240 cc1323-5

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [15th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, that the measure now before the House could not be spoken of as one affecting exclusively either political Party, since its object really concerned both sides alike. It was intended to redress a manifest grievance which applied, in some boroughs, to the one political Party and in others to their opponents. So that he felt, if really fairness were desired or desirable, he might claim the sympathies of Gentlemen alike who generally supported or opposed him. He knew that in one borough—that which he represented—the boast had been made that the Municipal Council should never have another Tory Alderman or Tory Mayor, and for upwards of 30 years the Council had uninterruptedly acted upon the boast, since nothing could induce the Borough Council of Leeds to admit a political opponent to the so-called "honours" of the Aldermanic Bench or Civic Chair, and he did not hesitate to say that amore complete violation of the spirit of the Statute was never realized. The method by which Aldermen were expected by the Municipal Corporations Act, to be chosen was inserted in that Statute in order to guard against an unfair preponderance, and still they saw the consequence of straining it. But he regretted to say that the Corporation of Leeds was not the only municipal body which carried this exclusive system into operation. While Leeds did it on the one side Exeter did it on the other, and to a greater or less extent the same course of conduct was pursued elsewhere. Indeed, it was pretty generally well known that the vast preponderance, if not the whole of the representatives on the several Aldermanic benches was engrossed by one particular shade of politicians; and if the system remained, it would continue to have—as it already had had—the effect of excluding from the representation the better part of those who ought to hold Aldermanic seats. Surely they were not going to perpetuate one of the most unfair grievances that had ever been discovered? If it were right to adopt the cumulative vote with reference to school board elections, à fortiori, it was far more in accordance with common sense, fairness, and justice that no Corporation should have the power to say that it would only for 30 years have one particular class of politicians as its representatives, and keep the exclusive power in its own hands. If the cumulative system was a good one for school board elections, it should also be applied to municipal elections. He had never heard a satisfactory excuse urged in favour of the present system of electing Aldermen; for, in nine cases out of ten, those elections were merely political. He thought it was no part of the duty of Municipal Corporations to enter into the political arena, their business being, and the purpose of their election being, that they should see to the sanitary and other arrangements of their constituencies; and the moment they arrogated to themselves the functions of Imperial legislation, or were even elected ostensibly on political grounds, he did not hesitate to say that they not only infringed the duties of another province, but to that extent they also confused their own. He, therefore, hoped that the House would read the Bill a second time.

MR. DODDS moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He did not think that any case had been made out for the radical change in the existing law which the measure proposed—a change for which there had been no application from any Corporation in the Kingdom.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Dodds.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


contended that the Bill was a mistake.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 48: Majority 5.—(Div. List, No. 169.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday, 18th June.