HC Deb 27 April 1882 vol 268 cc1581-631


Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [24th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

And which Amendment was, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "considering no corruption has been proved to exist in the larger town constituencies, or in any county constituency, it is inexpedient to adopt such uniform restrictions and punishments as will render the fair conduct of an election in a great constituency perilous and penal,"—[Mr. Robert Fowler,) —instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


said, that when, on Tuesday last, he addressed a few observations to the House, the time was so limited that he could not condense his observations within it. There were only a few minutes intervening between the time at which he rose and the hour at which the House by its Rules adjourned the Sitting—10 minutes to 7 o'clock. He had no wish whatever to delay the passing of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Bill. On the contrary, as an Irish Member, against whom these practices militated, it was his wish and his interest, in common with those with whom he usually acted, to promote any fair and well-considered measure for the prevention of corrupt practices. Now, his justification for so prolonging the discussion would, he was confident, be proved this evening by the number of Members who were anxious to address the House, and by the adverse opinions which had been formed since their attention had been directed to this ill-drawn, ill-considered, crotchety, and ill-advised Bill. Before he entered into the merits of the Bill, he thought it right to direct attention to a matter somewhat personal to himself. At one time he thought it was almost due to the House as well as to himself that he should bring it forward as a matter of Privilege. It would be in the recollection of the House that upon a Vote in Supply exception was taken by the Irish Members to what he then alleged to be a corrupt practice on the part of the Government with respect to certain Scotch newspapers, more especially as regarded one newspaper, the proprietor of which had a seat in this House. His remarks were unpleasant, and he had no doubt they were unpleasant in a peculiar sense to a Scotchman, because it interfered with his pocket as the owner of a newspaper, and he had had his reward. But he (Mr. callan) had had his reward. He found the next day an article, to which he should presently direct attention, in The North British Daily Mail, which was owned by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), not as a sleeping partner, but as an active proprietor, who wrote, inspired, and suggested the articles which appeared in that paper, and who was lately a very active agent in proclaiming in its columns that the attempted assassination of the Queen was due to an Irishman. It was owned by a Scotchman who could have availed himself of the privileges of a Member to make his complaint if any other Member had acted in a manner unworthy of his position. It might be well to recall the circum- stance that last Monday night he crossed the floor of the House and went to the Attorney General on the Treasury Bench, which he did not like to approach, because one was there nearer to corruption the nearer he approached it. He asked if the Attorney General would consent to the adjournment of the debate if he moved it, and he was met at once by the reply—"No; I will go on with this Bill to-night." A Member of the Fourth Party moved the adjournment of the debate, and, after some discussion, that was acceded to. The next day there was a debate on the Budget, and at an unexpectedly late period of the day the discussion of this Bill was resumed. At a quarter to 7 o'clock he rose, as he said, to exercise his right to speak upon this Bill. He certainly was not accessible to the blandishments of the Home Secretary, who made the appeal to the Alderman the Member for the City of London to withdraw his Amendment. Now, this Scotch newspaper, The North British Daily Mail, wrote of him— At a quarter to seven, in response to an appeal from Sir R. Assheton Cross, Mr. Alderman Fowler withdrew his Amendment to the measure, and the question of second reading was about to be determined when Mr. Callan intervened and, actuated by a spirit of malicious mischief— He had a right to his opinion, and he would not quarrel with him for that; but he made a substantive charge, for he added— And a deliberate design to obstruct the Public Business of the country, wilfully talked out the Bill. He (Mr. Callan) had never made a Motion or seconded one in that House of an obstructive kind, and in that he had disagreed with many of his Friends with whom he usually acted. Having said this much, he should treat this charge with the contempt he treated all that emanated from ill-conditioned Scotchmen. Turning to the Bill before the House, the most remarkable feature of it was that, while it enlarged all the penalties, it contained nothing limiting the character of agencies, which was a question of the utmost importance. When the Attorney General was drafting this Bill he ought to have borne in mind the principles laid down by Baron Dowse in deciding an Election Petition in which he (Mr. Callan) was interested. In his decision the learned Judge held him (Mr. Callan) scatheless. He said he came out of the trial in an honourable and straightforward manner, and with clean hands—observations which were altogether absent from the decision of Mr. Justice Groves in deciding a Petition in which the Attorney General himself was the respondent. In Baron Dowse's judgment, which was a very able one, he distinctly laid down that there was a difference between illegal treating and treating openly and corruptly. At the trial of the Drogheda Election Petition, in 1869, Mr. Justice Keogh, who was a notorious Election Judge, declared Mr. Benjamin Whitworth to have been guilty of corrupt practices under the Act, and he was disqualified for sitting for Drogheda from that cause. Mr. Whitworth swore that he had not been guilty of any illegal practice, and that, on the occasion in which the learned Judge held he was guilty of undue influence, he merely acted with the view of preventing persons being intimidated. The hon. Member for Drogheda was a Gentleman who would not be guilty of illegal practices; but if it had not been possible at the time of his election to review the decision of the single Election Judge, the decision of Mr. Justice Keogh against him would, under this Bill, have prevented Mr. Whitworth from ever sitting for Drogheda. Turning to the case of the present Member for Tyrone, he noticed that that Gentleman (Mr. Dickson) was elected for Dungannon at the last General Election, and was unseated under circumstances of great unfairness. A friend of his induced a bibulous voter living in Belfast to take a journey to Scotland, and agreed to pay his expenses, including his whiskey bill. Under the term of agency this circumstance was brought up against the hon. Member, and he was held to have been guilty of a corrupt practice, and compelled to pay the whole cost of the proceedings. If the present Bill were to become law, the result would be that he would be for ever disqualified from sitting for that borough. Was such a provision fair or considerate? The Attorney General had introduced another unfair and absurd provision with respect to the hiring of rooms for the use of candidates. According to the Bill, if he (Mr. Callan), during an election, endeavoured to obtain the most convenient house in the borough, knowing that the Returning Officer would be likely also to seek it as a polling booth, he would be guilty of corrupt practice. This was certainly giving a monopoly of convenience to the Returning Officers. The effect of it would be this. If he, knowing the county Louth thoroughly, endeavoured to obtain the most convenient rooms in every large town for his committee-rooms, as he most assuredly would do, he would be guilty of illegal practices, because the Returning Officer might also desire to obtain the most convenient rooms for polling booths; and, according to the 13th section, a person guilty of illegal practices would be incapable of ever again seeking the representation of that borough or county. Accordingly, for seeking his own convenience, he might be rendered incapable of ever sitting for Louth. Surely the Attorney General for England could never have read this absurd clause, although his name was on the back of the Bill.


said, he was unwilling to interrupt the hon. Member; but he requested him to read that section accurately. He would see his assumption was not correct.


Very well; take for granted that it was so. Still he argued that, under this Bill, if he, in the village of Louth, which contained only a few houses, took the most convenient lodging during an election—and he always did take the most convenient lodgings—he would be debarred from ever again sitting for the county Louth. Was not this a ridiculous offence visited with an outrageous penalty? He would caution hon. Gentlemen against ever giving up a county for a borough constituency. He did so on one occasion, and it certainly was a most unwise proceeding, for all small boroughs were corrupt. He sat for a small borough from 1868 till 1870; but he had no hesitation in saying that that small borough was hopelessly corrupt; and, though he managed to retain his seat for that borough in 1874, he was defeated in 1880 by corruption of the basest kind. In 1875, the House appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the Corrupt Practices Election Act of 1854 and the various other Acts on the subject. That Committee consisted of men of great eminence, among those being Mr. Cubitt, Mr. Gibson, since then Attorney General for Ireland; Mr. Herschell (now Sir Farrer Herschell), Mr. C. E. Lewis, Mr. Lowe, who had since gone up to those high regions where the "weary are at rest;"Mr. Rodwell, Mr. Spencer Walpole, and others. Having sat from the 18th of March to the 28th of May, the Committee reported; and they recommended that every Election Petition which alleged corrupt practices against the sitting Member or his agent should be tried by a tribunal consisting of two Judges of the Superior Courts, and that no Member should be unseated, nor should any person be declared guilty of corrupt practices, except under a joint decision of the Judges. In 1879, effect was given to the Report of that Committee. Sir John Holker, then Attorney General, said that a Select Committee had recommended that the tribunal for trying Election Petitions should be composed of two Judges; that he was himself of opinion that a tribunal of three Judges would be more satisfactory; but there was not a sufficient judicial staff to admit of the latter arrangement. The House, after debate, agreed without a division to change the law, and two Judges were appointed for trying those cases. He now asked whether any representation had been made by the English Judges intimating to the Attorney General that it was desirable to revert to the practice of trying those cases before a single Judge? Unless some safeguard were introduced into this Bill in Committee—if, indeed, the measure ever reached that stage—it would be a Bill to intimidate candidates from coming forward at elections, and to disqualify those who ventured to come forward. An eminent Judge who had tried Election Petitions during the last two years in Ireland said that the Legislature had wisely provided that there should be two Judges sitting together for the trial of all those cases, and that, speaking for himself, it did give great assistance to Judges to be associated together in dealing with those most serious and difficult cases. That was the opinion of an impartial authority; and he challenged the Attorney General to produce the opinion of one single Judge justifying that proposal, which, he thought, was deliberately framed for the purpose of rendering still more unsafe the position of Irish Members, who were dependent on voluntary effort, and who were not returned, like many English Members, through the exertions of paid agents or by the influence of the Caucus. As to the 8th clause, which prohibited the engagement of committee-rooms at public-houses, he would say that in his county there were 10 polling stations, and at six of them you could not get a room of adequate size, except at a public-house; therefore, the effect of the clause would be to preclude a candidate having a committee-room at all. Perhaps it might be suggested that huts might be erected; but then Mr. Clifford Lloyd might be sent down to prevent that being done. Unless Ireland were excluded from the Bill, he was sure it would not be passed this Session, not even if the clôture were carried. The suggestion that the object of the Bill was to reduce the expense of elections was contradicted, so far as the Attorney General was concerned, by his conduct in 1875 in regard to the Parliamentary Elections Returning Officers' Bill. In compliance with the request of Members of the House, the word "Ireland" was cut out of that Bill—he believed in deference to Irish Members; but in the month of August, when the Irish Members were away, a friend of his, who was now dead, re-introduced the word "Ireland" in Committee, for the express purpose, by extending that Bill to Ireland, of preventing poor men from standing for Irish constituencies.


said, he objected to so gross an imputation being made without any evidence.


maintained, however, that it was true, and said that in the course of the debate on the Bill of 1875 the present Postmaster General declared that it would increase the costs of Returning Officers by 100 per cent. As an illustration of how the Bill would operate in the matter of agency, he would mention an incident in his own experience. During his election a young man volunteered to act as one of his agents, and he appointed him to attend at the Ardee polling booth on a Friday morning. On the previous Monday this young man gave a friend a glass of whiskey, and their conversation having turned on the then approaching election, this was cited at the Petition trial as a case of treating. The person, however, in reply to Mr. Baron Dowse, who asked if that glass of whiskey induced him to vote for Mr. Callan, replied—"No amount of whiskey would induce me to vote against Philip Callan." Yet under this Bill this act of the agent would have unseated the Member, and disqualified him from sitting again for the constituency. There was no one in favour of the Bill; he could not believe that even the Attorney General was, except on the assumption that he intended never to present himself to an English constituency again. It was an ill-considered and crochetty measure; and unless it were greatly amended, or Ireland were excluded from its operations, it would be opposed in every shape and form.


said, he rose to answer some very unwarrantable remarks made in regard to himself. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) commenced his speech by stating that, some time ago, in a discussion in Committee of Supply, he had taken exception to what he then alleged to be corrupt practices on the part of the Government with respect to certain newspapers, more especially with regard to one Scotch newspaper, the proprietor of which had a seat in that House. The hon. Member went on to say— His remarks were unpleasant, and he had no doubt they were unpleasant in a peculiar way to a Scotchman, because they interfered with his pocket as the proprietor of a newspaper. The hon. Member continued— The North British Daily Mail was owned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, its active proprietor, who wrote, inspired, and suggested what appeared in it, and who was one of the active agents in inserting in the columns of that newspaper that the attempted assassination of the Queen was by an Irishman. The hon. Member went on to say that he had had his reward, and had accused him (Dr. Cameron) of having in revenge written an account of a scene the other night, attributing to him misconduct in having maliciously moved the adjournment of the debate. Now, he (Dr. Cameron) was almost ashamed to trouble the House about the matter. He could not pretend to be particularly indignant at it; but it might be that his skin was abnormally thick. It did not affect him much; but when he found charges of corruption made against him repeatedly—


I beg pardon. I made no charge of corruption against the hon. Member. I charged the Government with having unfairly given advertisements to Scotch newspapers, no doubt for purposes of corruption.


, continuing, said, that the hon. Member remarked that that touched him (Dr. Cameron) in his pocket, and that it was peculiarly unpleasant to him as a Scotchman. He did not feel troubled about these things. His skin might be abnormally thick. He did not rise even now to protect himself, although he was quite aware that if a sufficient amount of dirt was thrown a certain amount would stick; but what he wanted to do was to soothe the feelings of the hon. Member for Louth, who was of remarkably fragile honour.


I rise to Order, and to ask whether it is in Order or Parliamentary for one hon. Member to say of another that he is of "remarkably fragile honour?"


An expression of that kind is certainly not Parliamentary, and I call on the hon. Member to withdraw it. I did not interpose during the observations made by the hon. Member for Louth upon this personal matter, because he wished to make a personal observation to the House; but I think I ought to have said to the hon. Member, as I now desire to say to the hon. Member for Glasgow, that while the House was very indulgent with regard to personal explanations, they should be limited as much as possible.


said, that in using the expression he certainly had not used the proper word. He withdrew the expression, and he thought "tender" would have been the better word. The whole of the hon. Member's charge against him from beginning to end was a farrago of nonsense. He was not responsible for the composition and distribution of those bills in which M 'Lean, the assassin, was represented as an Irishman. He had not given a second thought to the charge of corruption levelled against himself, for he did not imagine that anybody believed it. He had even forgotten that the hon. Member for Louth was the Member who had made it. He knew nothing of the statement of which the hon. Member complained, until that Member had read it to the House; and had the same statement been made concerning him- self, it would not have ruffled him in the slightest degree. The hon. Member knew something of journalism. He had had something to do with it, and he must know that in the case of every journal the work was done by many different hands, and that to attribute this or that to any one individual was preposterous. It certainly would have been the last thing that would have occurred to him to attempt to annoy the hon. Member in such a way as he had suggested; and he rose to appease the hon. Member, who, when he was irritated, had to resort to such disagreeable courses as made him a very terrible foe. On one occasion his tender honour had been touched by something said by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), and he had endeavoured to intimidate him by threatening language in the Lobby of the House. On another occasion an unfortunate reporter, who had somehow wounded his susceptibilities, had been obliged to seek protection in the public Courts. He had no desire to provoke so terrible a wrath, and he begged to assure the hon. Gentleman if he had given offence he did not mean it. He certainly had not offended him in the way he had pointed out to the House. He had nothing whatever to do with the matter. He thought the accusation too absurd to obtain credence. He perfectly forgave the hon. Member, in the heat of the moment, for having used the language against himself; but he would appeal to him now that he was calm—he would appeal, if he might use the expression, from "Philip drunk to Philip sober"—to withdraw the charges he had made against him.


said, he regretted that the Government had not introduced this Bill into the House at an earlier period of the Session, so that it might have been sent to a Select Committee of experts skilled in the law of elections. He believed that it was the general wish of hon. Members in all parts of the House that a Bill dealing with corrupt practices and limiting the expenditure at elections should be passed. There was no body of men who were so interested in the reduction of expenditure at elections as hon. Members. While that was the general feeling on both sides of the House, they should be careful not to legislate in advance of public opinion. If a series of Draconian regulations were passed against which the opinion of the community revolted, more harm than good would be done in the suppression of corrupt practices. This Bill involved few principles for discussion on a second reading, but contained many matters of detail fit to be discussed in Committee. Still, there were certain questions, rather of principle than of detail, to which he wished to refer. The payment of travelling expenses to voters was a matter which required to be discussed in the House. He did not think that any alteration in the law making the payment of such expenses illegal would affect the practice. The friends of candidates would place their' carriages at the disposal of voters, and the only result would be that less expense would be occasioned to the candidate. That, however, would be a great improvement. He thought that the 3rd clause of the Bill, by which a candidate once found guilty of corrupt practices was not allowed to sit for 10 years, was very harsh. That clause was, he thought, very much in advance of public opinion. If legislation went beyond what was legitimately' demanded by public opinion, the result would be that the law would be discredited, and juries would refuse to convict. In his opinion the principle of the clause was right; but the disqualification ought not to extend beyond seven years. It would be much better that the House, before going into Committee, should have a general knowledge of the scope of the Bill before they proceeded to consider it in detail. Therefore, he suggested the desirability of sending the Bill to a Committee of experts. Then, again, he strongly objected to Clause 16, as to the nomination by the candidate of an election agent. Why should a candidate be put to that expense? Dnring his own election he had himself selected his own clerks and his own committee-rooms, and any other candidate might do the same. He hoped to see the day when every candidate would do without an agent altogether. These were, no doubt, all questions for Committee, and were details which must be dealt with before the Bill could become law. Then, as to the number of Judges, he thought one would be quite sufficient. The Judges had acted more strictly of late years, and he had hopes an Election Petition would soon be altogether unnecessary. The Bill bristled with difficulties, and, at all events, ought not to pass through the House, except concurrently with some measure dealing with the peccant boroughs. If it should be passed in its present shape he anticipated that it would ultimately either have to be repealed, or become a dead letter through juries refusing to convict, and public opinion considering that it went beyond the necessities of the case.


said, he was clearly of opinion that the Bill demanded on the part of the House the most serious consideration, and that, moreover, without reference to Party; and, therefore, he could not complain of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) having moved the adjournment of the debate. He thought the House was agreed on two points—first, that the present state of things was unsatisfactory, and, therefore, the Attorney General was justified in introducing this measure; and, secondly, that the Bill, however well-intentioned it might be, erred on the side of extreme stringency, and that, if passed in its present form, it would be likely to defeat its object, and give rise to new evils that possibly might be as objectionable in a public point of view as those which were deplored at the present moment. The pitfalls were so many, and the penalties so severe, that men of honour would be deterred from risking their character by becoming candidates, or becoming the agents of candidates. Indeed, one highly influential gentleman, well known in the political world, had already told him that if the Bill passed in its present form he should tell the agent in his borough that he should never stand again. That man, perhaps, was too nervous; but no one wished to expose himself to the risk of degradation in the eyes of his fellow-countrymen. If these severe regulations were carried, and if honourable men refused to stand, there would still be plenty of candidates to be found among men who had no fear of consequences. This objection applied with still greater force to the case of agents. Good men would not become agents at all at such a risk, and the result would be the introduction of a lower class of men altogether. It might be well worth while for a party to corrupt an agent, and so to get rid of a local candidate; but to do that would be to punish the victimized employer in the most cruel manner. There were, however, such people as carpet-bag politicians, who would come forward in sufficient numbers, and for whom no penalties would have any terror. Thus the Bill would infallibly lower the character both of candidates and of agents. Then, as to the proposed maximum to be spent at elections, what was easier than to evade the provisions of the Bill by subscribing money to local clubs, whose officials would work gratis, or to Joint Stock Companies, who would undertake the management of elections? The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), for instance, might conceivably be at the head of such a combination, and would be sure to make it a great success; and they on the Liberal side of the House would certainly try to do the same. However, speaking seriously, such a course would be a dishonourable evasion of the Bill, though, as the penalties of the Bill were so severe, the offenders would most likely have the sympathy of the public. Again, he need hardly say that the different size of boroughs made it quite absurd to fix a rigid maximum scale. He desired, of course, to keep down expenditure, and would support any Bill that would have that effect; but he could not vote for particular provisions which were sure to be evaded. The cost of elections was to be cut down by all means; but how could the Attorney General prevent the expense incurred by candidates in nursing constituencies? Soon after the General Election of 1874 he heard in the course of conversation that a friend of his had lost his seat by not sufficiently nursing his constituency. At Bridport it was a matter of common belief that the constituency determined to eject its late Member for that very reason; and he was told that the present Representative of that borough was not nursing it either, and that, unless he took a very different view of his duties, the House was likely to lose his services after the next Dissolution. If a Member for a middle-sized town did not support excellent institutions, moral and religious, or refused to subscribe to cricket and other clubs, he would certainly lose his seat. What he would urge upon the Government was to have larger constituencies, in order to check this strain upon the pockets of candidates; and if they had larger constituencies, and a re-distribu- tion of seats, it would strike a fatal blow at bribery and corruption. He believed the spread of education would also do something, and that it would be of the greatest possible advantage to require from a Member that the return he should make of his expenses was an absolutely true statement. He was in favour of election inquiries being carried on by two Judges. To go back to one Judge would be a retrograde step. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill, because he was willing to aid the Government in checking expenditure. At the same time, he was glad to hear that the Attorney General was willing to listen to suggestions as to its amendment, in certain respects, in Committee.


said, he cordially agreed with most of the remarks which had been made by his hon. Friend who had just spoken. A speech more damaging to the Bill had not been made by any hon. Member. He was glad that the House generally was agreed that some Bill should be passed to meet the great evil of corruption, for anything more scandalous than the recent disclosures could not be conceived. His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley thought that the remedy was to be found by enlarging the constituencies. He doubted that very much. He believed that County Members spent infinitely more pro ratâ than those who represented boroughs, and than if the country was parcelled out into large constituencies, a greater amount would be expended in nursing them—he did not say corruptly—than was done at present. Moreover, if constituencies were enlarged, the same class of voters would still be liable to corruption, as no one would dream of disfranchising the voters, even though a particular borough might become absorbed in some general scheme. There was no foundation for the charge of obstructing the Bill. Since he had obtained a seat in the House, there was no measure introduced which deserved more careful consideration. That the Prime Minister should throw down such a Bill on the Table was no reason why they should accept it without discussion. As it was a measure which touched everyone who in future should try to represent a constituency, it was imperative on Members to indicate on the second reading their reasons for objecting to certain of its provisions. The feeling was almost universal that something must be done. The minds of all men had been startled by the disclosures which had been made with regard to certain boroughs. Every right-minded man must come to the conclusion that the Government of the day would not be doing its duty if it did not try to remedy the evils then brought to light; and, he believed, both political Parties were anxious that something should be done to wipe out this great blot upon our electoral system. One great good in the Bill was that it would make candidates look after their agents. He believed that a great deal of corruption had been owing to the candidate not making better inquiries as to what his agent was doing, and also many candidates were often careless about their own personal expenses during the election. Therefore, any Bill which threw a greater onus on the candidate would be useful. But Clause 4, if passed in its present shape, was so stringent that it could never be carried out. Who was an agent? Not merely the particular person employed for the purpose, but any committee-man. At the time of a General Election, not only gentlemen well known in the borough, but working men wished to be put on the committee. They thought it an honour; and was an honourable man determined to carry on the election purely to lose his seat and to have his character blasted for life by the foolish act of one of these persons? They might have one of these committee-men turn traitor, and for£500, or even for£5 or£10, do something which would ruin the reputation of a candidate for ever. He did not believe that corrupt practices took place so much in public-houses as in other places. By the 8th clause of this Bill, candidates were prohibited from holding committee meetings in these houses. If this Bill passed as it now stood, it would be illegal for anyone to hold a committee meeting in Westminster Palace Hotel, or at any Provincial hotel of local reputation; but it would be almost impossible to get any other meeting place in many localities. Why deal with the publicans in a way different from that in which they dealt with any other portion of the community? If they were to allow no more committee meetings in public-houses, why should they permit them to be held in eating-houses. It was well known that beer was not the only article of corruption. He knew that chops, beefsteaks, and groceries of all kinds had been used to corrupt people and get their votes. It was very hard upon the publican, in places where there was no other house to meet in, to make it illegal for committees to be held in his house. He could not understand the principle on which the personal expenses of a candidate were limited to£20. In 1874 the elections in boroughs were over in some places in a week or 10 days. In 1880 the borough elections were not over for nearly a month. But under this Bill the personal expenses of a candidate would be limited to£20, no matter for how long the contest lasted. It was quite evident that such a rule as this would be evaded; in fact, it would be utterly absurd. He also objected to the proposal that the documents should be kept open for inspection for 12 months after the election. That, he believed, would only tend to heart burnings and local ill-feeling; but, irrespective of bribery and treating by voters of a particular locality, there was abundant proof, from the evidence taken before the Commissioners, that the worst cases of corruption were in those localities to which strangers were sent to what was called "assist" at elections, and most of those emissaries were sent by the so-called Birmingham League; and he regretted to observe that there was no provision for putting an end to organizations of that character. If the Conservative Party employed such an agency as that, he should feel and speak just as strongly against it. He thought it was a grossly immoral Association. It had been used—or, at all events, gentlemen connected with that Association had been sent down—purely for the purpose of corrupting boroughs in different localities. ["Oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "Oh!" but he asked them if they had read the Evidence in the Oxford Election Petition, or the Evesham Petition? He said there was nothing in this Bill which would stop that Caucus system, either on the one side or the other; and if they did not put some clause in the Bill to prevent outsiders going down to corrupt constituencies he could only say this—that if it were done on the one side they were sure to have a retaliatory measure on the other. God forbid that the Conservative Party should ever follow the lead of the Birmingham Caucus; but he believed if the policy of that Caucus was not stopped most effectually, there would be a counter-agitation got up upon the Conservative side, which he should be very sorry to see. They did not think it wrong in Birmingham on the day of the election, or during the election, to provide those whom they considered their workers with refreshments. He thought that was one of the dodges, if he might so call it, of the Birmingham Caucus. If the Conservatives did that, notice would soon be taken of it. He hoped the Attorney General would see his way to put a stop to the corrupt practices of this Birmingham Association. It was said that if some such Bill as this were passed they would have more working men in Parliament. It was impossible that working-men candidates could spend much money. But the money was spent. These gentlemen had large subscriptions made for them. They did not know how that money went. There could be no doubt that a great deal of their subscriptions were spent in an improper manner; and how was it possible for a working man, without any knowledge how his election had been financially conducted, to sign the form of declaration in the Schedule to this Bill? He contended that candidates should be surrounded by conditions which would exonerate them from such enormous penalties as this Bill put upon them. He hoped the Attorney General would see the way to make a practical provision of his Bill, that two Judges should be necessary for the trial of Election Petitions, and that they should never again hear of Election Petitions being tried by only one Judge. There was a great deal of good in the Bill, but there was also an enormous amount of harm. He trusted when it came into Committee, the House would give its best attention to a subject which had created a great deal of feeling in the country; and he hoped that the Bill would be dealt with altogether apart from the feelings of Party.


said, substantially, he approved of the Bill, though he did not think it went far enough in some respects. It did not embody principles that ought to be embodied in a Bill of that kind. It con- tained numerous provisions against bribery and treating, and what were called illegal practices; but with regard to undue influence, it scarcely contained any provision at all. Undue influence was almost as dangerous as bribery and treating. The Ballot Act was passed with the view of preventing not only bribery and treating, but undue influence also. So far as voting was concerned, it provided a perfect remedy for the voter, because it prevented anyone from knowing for whom he had voted. But it contained no provision against an evil, which, since it was passed, had been felt very much in small constituencies, and probably in many large constituencies of this country; he referred to the practice of canvassing from house to house, a practice which seemed to be contrary to the principle of the Ballot Act. An elector had a right to give his vote, without being subjected to visits from candidates, or his employer and paid agents of the candidate to himself or to his wife, or any other person who might have influence over him, for the purpose of getting a promise that his vote would be given for a particular candidate. This practice had led to an enormous amount of untruthfulness and lying and false promises over the country. Hence they found that each candidate had promises of more than the majority of voters. The Bill would make paid canvassing illegal; but on the ground of public morality it was absolutely necessary it should go further, and make it illegal for a candidate to ask for votes. If that were done we should have an assurance that the principle of the Ballot Act would be carried out. It seemed to him that the true principle of representation was that a constituency should be enlightened, that every elector should be aware of what the question before the country was at the time, that he should know something of the merits of the different candidates, and, that being attained, he should then be at liberty to make his choice. That was not, to be done by canvassing, by holding committee meetings, or by men going about amongst the electors; but it was to be done by public meetings, by the public Press, and the issue of circulars. The abolition of canvassing would also lead to the reduction of the number of agents. It would thus also prevent the practice of men coming forward and professing to act as a candidate's agents who were really emissaries from the enemy's camp. The unpaid agents of the great central associations would be deprived of their influence when none but the regularly engaged and paid agent was recognized. In that way none but the legitimate methods of influencing the electors by public meetings and printed circulars would be resorted to, and the choice of the constituency would be a fair and rational choice.


said, that while he could not join in the great praise which had been bestowed upon the Bill, he was unable to join in the indiscriminate abuse which had been cast upon it by its opponents. It seemed to him that the Bill contained a great deal of good and a great deal of bad. Clause 4 was objected to because of its stringency; but if they wanted to put an end to corruption it could only be done by stringent and Draconic laws. It would be found that if principals were rendered liable for the acts of their agents and punished for those acts, they would inquire with much greater minuteness into their expenses than had hitherto been the practice with elected Members. So far as Ireland was concerned, he thought the portion of this Bill relating to corrupt practices was really immaterial. Since the General Election in 1880 corrupt practices had not been proved in a single instance in Ireland; and, therefore, that portion of the Bill concerned English Members only. But other portions of the Bill concerned Ireland very closely. The portion of the Bill which referred to election expenses would, he had no doubt, be received very cordially throughout Ireland, because it tended to diminish the expenses of elections. Any Bill having that object in view would be received with pleasure in Ireland, because it was a notorious fact that at present many able and eloquent young Irishmen were prevented from entering Parliament and. furthering the cause of their country because of the great expense of an election. But he wished that the maximum scale of the expenses of Returning Officers could be made a sliding scale. The scale provided might be suitable for England, but it was too high for Ireland, where the constituencies were much smaller; one of the boroughs only had 306 electors. Unless that scale were altered, that por- tion of the Bill would meet with strenuous opposition in Ireland. There would also be a strong objection entertained in his country to the trial of Election Petitions by one Judge only. After the General Election in 1874 there was a feeling of discontent throughout the country and in the House on the subject of the trial of Election Petitions. In 1875 a Committee was appointed to inquire into the question, and among the witnesses examined were Lords Justices Bramwell, Keating, and Hawkins, and Sergeant Ballantine, all of whom gave evidence in favour of trial by more than one Judge. From Ireland Chief Justice Morris gave strong evidence in favour of more than one Judge, and the Irish Members of the Committee were unanimously of the same opinion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who was then Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) felt so strongly on the subject that he actually drafted a Report in favour of three Judges, but finally did not press it before the Committee. The present Bill provided only for one Judge. He confessed that if he were an English Member he should as soon have his case tried before one Judge as before two; but in Ireland he should have a very strong objection to one Judge, because appointments to the Bench in that country were very different from those in England. In Ireland they were simply political appointments, and Parliament was regarded as an indispensable stepping-stone to promotion. It was impossible that Judges so appointed should be free from Party bias and from Party feelings. Indeed, it was a notorious fact that some Judges in Ireland had proved themselves to be very strong partizans. Therefore the safeguard with respect to Election Petitions in Ireland would be the appointment of more than one Judge to try them; and in Committee, if it should be suggested, as he hoped it would, that three Judges should be appointed, he would strongly support the proposal.


said, he was opposed to that provision in the Bill which prohibited travelling expenses to persons coming very long distances for the purpose of exercising the franchise. There were a large number of gentlemen possessing property in the counties who lived considerable distances from the polling booths, who would probably not come at all if they were compelled to come at their own expense. Many of those persons were small proprietors, who would exercise their right to vote without undue influence; but under this Bill they would be obliged to travel a long distance at their own expense, which it was very unlikely they would do. He thought if facilities were to be given for this purpose to voters in boroughs by means of ballot papers the principle should be extended to counties. He might be told that if that were done it would afford an opportunity for the creating of faggot votes; but he contended that that might easily be prevented by confining the ballot paper to persons who were well known to have been on the register for some time. He trusted that some provision of this kind would be adopted, because the Bill, in its present shape, would work injustice upon a very respectable and worthy class of voters. To come to the clauses of the Bill, it appeared to him that Clauses 4 and 6 should be considered together, both imposing penalties—one for corrupt, the other for illegal practices, and the main question was the liability of a candidate for his agents. He regretted very much that the Election Judges had gone to the extent they had in the construction of agency. They had, in fact, for the purposes of elections, reversed or abrogated the old principles of English law, which required direct evidence of agency, and laid down distinctly that a principal was not liable for acts done by his agent which were illegal, or beyond the scope of his authority. Not only did the Judges hold that a candidate was liable for all the acts of his agent, whether authorized by him or not, but they held acts of the most trivial character to be evidence of agency. But the matter did not end there; for it was held that an agent might appoint sub-agents, and that a candidate was liable for their acts also, in direct contravention of the old principle—"Delegatus non potest delegare." This being the state of the law as laid down by the Judges, any extension of the penalties of it required very careful consideration now it was proposed. It should not be forgotten that the penalty was nothing less than the disqualification of the candidate from sitting for the particular constituency for the rest of his natural life. Why, this was absolutely ostracizing and cast- ing a stigma upon him for ever. An agent might easily involve a man in this disgrace, a penalty which, he thought, could not possibly be maintained by the promoters of the Bill. He begged now to advert to the portion of the Bill providing for the trial of election cases. Under the old system, any person accused of illegal practices at an election was entitled to have the assistance of counsel or a solicitor, for the purpose of defending him; but by the words of the Bill this protection was taken away, and, in lieu of being so heard, he was to have the opportunity of making a statement. But let them look at the danger to a man, under such circumstances, being suddenly and unexpectedly called upon to make a statement before such a tribunal. There was every probability that he might let slip some unguarded or injudicious statement rendering him liable to punishment. Under the old law, so far from being placed in such a position, he had abundant opportunity of considering how he was to frame his case, and could employ, if need be, that agency and assistance in his defence which was open to the meanest defendant in this country—namely, that of counsel, or of some thoroughly competent and properly qualified legal adviser. All this was taken away in the present Bill. He earnestly hoped, that the Attorney General would be induced to give way and restore this safeguard, which existed in the old law. Again, as framed at present, the Bill permitted persons to make the most dangerous statements against others, who had no opportunity of examining or cross-examining them; and who, too, might be accused of some illegal act and placed upon their trial. Machinery was put in motion, by the 32nd clause, which he could not help thinking would have a most dangerous tendency. They should remember, too, that the tribunal to deal with all these matters was to be a solitary Judge. It was undoubtedly true that there was the option given to persons indicted for corrupt practices to elect to be tried by a jury; but that did not apply to illegal practices. Those who were deemed liable by the Public Prosecutor to be charged with illegal practices might be brought before a single Judge, without a jury, and their case summarily dealt with. It appeared to him that there was great danger in much of this as leading in the direction of the French, system of interrogation. On the whole, the Bill, he thought, would have a tendency to considerably mitigate the heavy expenses of elections. So far as his experience went, the great expense of an election lay in the employment of canvassers, the conveyance of voters, and the cost of printing and advertising, matters which were all dealt with by the Bill. With respect to the general question of corruption and bribery, whether they could suppress it altogether was a very difficult subject with which to deal. It must largely depend upon local circumstances, upon the disposition of the people, and the habits of the electoral body. In his opinion, the franchise had been carried too far, and the consequence was that, in legislating on such a subject, they had to deal with a mass of people who did not at all regard it in the light in which it was intended; people to whom the political principles involved had no object or interest whatever. All they thought about was what they could get by their exercise of the franchise. Deal with the subject as they might, he did not believe that, having got into this stratification, they could effectually eradicate corruption and bribery. Candidates and agents might be rendered liable by the Bill; but the corruption of many of the lower classes was a totally different thing, and they must not forget that by such measures as were proposed they might deter and exclude gentlemen of high repute and character from undertaking to have any connection with an election. He ventured to say that no man of position and professional standing would venture to incur the risk to which he would be exposed in the conduct of an election if this Bill became law. He trusted that the Bill would be carefully considered and revised in Committee, and that the points which he had drawn attention to would be duly weighed and discussed.


said, he objected to the Bill on the point of details as affecting England, and objected to it in toto as applied to Ireland. With regard to details, he quite agreed with the last speaker that it would exclude from that House every man who had a respect for himself and his political reputation, while it would crowd the arena of politics with men of the very lowest political calibre. He was astonished that a Bill containing such penal consequences should be brought forward by a Liberal Government. He feared very much it showed that there was amongst them a very low estimate of the political character of the country. He could not affirm from any experience of his that it was necessary to bring in such a Bill as this was. There was no definition of agency given in it; there was no limitation of agency; no one was safe in this transaction. It was quite possible, under a Bill like this, for a dinner party, or any similar assembly of honourable men, to be regarded as treating, if it was proved that some of those present, without any malice, happened to express approbation of a particular candidate. He did not exaggerate when he said that a case of the kind was possible, because the trial of the Bradford Election Petition disclosed this—that voters who agreed among themselves that the present Chief Secretary for Ireland ought to be supported said among themselves that they would go into a neighbouring public-house and discuss the matter over a glass of beer. They were all his friends. If that was done under this Bill the right hon. Gentleman would be deprived of his seat, and that House would be deprived of one of the greatest ornaments it contained. ["Oh!"] It would be deprived, at all events, of distinguished Ministers. In former Bills on this subject, the word corrupt was the governing word which leavened the whole subject, and Judges, quoted that word over and over again—in fact, it was the whole gravamen of the matter. What was the reason for having the word "corruption" out of the Bill? No doubt any man guilty of corrupt practices thoroughly deserved to be punished; but if that word were omitted, the most innocent might be overtaken by punishment. Baron Dowse, in his judgment at the trial of the Louth Petition, said that a man's guilt entirely depended upon the wilful intention of the person committing the act in question—intention must be proved; and people must not be entrapped and punished for acts they did not intend. There was another point of which Members from Ireland had cause bitterly to complain—the reversion to the one Judge system. They knew what they had suffered from one Judge in Ireland at an Election Petition. It would have been impossible for the law to have been so travestied as it was in the notorious "Galway Judgment" if another Judge had been sitting with the Judge that tried the Petition. They knew that so great was the opposition to having one Judge trying Petitions that the law was changed in that respect; and Judge Harrison, in his Charge in the Louth Petition, said he was not more pleased with any feature in the case than with having associated with him a learned Colleague, who could corroborate what he said, and give him the benefit of a joint judgment. Now, however, a return to the former system was proposed; and he assured the House that, small as was the respect often paid to judicial decisions, it would be infinitely less if that decision were the work of one Judge. He could not understand such a measure coming from a Liberal Government—from a Government of progress. The Government seemed to have adopted a course of retrogression. The present Government, instead of being a Government of progress, seemed to have abandoned their natural policy, and to have gone upon a system of retrogression, which would bring them back from the path of liberty, he feared, into the paths of tyranny and oppression. As he had said, he objected to this Bill as affecting England upon the details to which he referred; but he objected to it in toto as unnecessary for Ireland. The raison d'être of this Bill was that in five or six towns in England they had done what they should not have done; but in Ireland there was no occasion whatever for such censure as the Bill would impose. Candidates in Ireland had been accused of being actuated by the basest motives in pursuing their political career, but hardly ever of bribery. He had often observed at the end of beneficial and remedial enactments the phrase "this Act shall not apply to Ireland." He looked in vain for it on the present occasion. Ireland could not spare those measures of liberty and justice which were denied to her; but she could spare the present measure, which was altogether unnecessary for the country.


said, that the chief difficulty lay in dealing with canvassers. They always were the most zealous of the persons engaged in electioneering work. And it was almost always through them that acts of bribery were committed. They went from house to house, and it was upon these visits that hints were given about the rent being in arrear, and this or that wanted, and then the bribery took place. The honorarium of the agent also did not seem to be alluded to in the Bill. If these matters were not already provided for, he thought that some Amendment should be introduced dealing with them.


said, he was reluctant to join in the chorus of disapproval which had greeted the Bill; but he could only imagine that the Attorney General had been unable, on account of his professional labours, to attend to the Bill himself, and had left it to a draftsman in consequence. He had read many Bills in his life, but he had never been so frightened by one before, because it was impossible for anyone who had any respect for freedom of action to concur in its provisions. The penalty of anyone who, under its 1st clause, was found guilty of unduly influencing a voter, was exclusion from the representation of the borough for ever, from Parliament for 10 years, and a fine of£500. The Bill seemed to be drawn with the idea that every candidate and every election agent was to be looked upon as a criminal, or as a man who was purposely endeavouring to counteract the law, and to do something that was to be regarded as an offence. The Bill said that no person should be engaged to act as an agent, a clerk, a messenger, or to render service in any capacity whatever, except one, for which payment was authorized by the Schedule, and that the person engaging or employing him should be guilty of an illegal practice. It was almost impossible that any man having the least self-respect, or holding any position in the Legal Profession, would accept the post of election agent if that Bill, or any Bill like it, became law, so as to subject himself to the penalties to which it made him liable. If such a man accepted the appointment of agent for a sum, say, of about£100, he would run the most serious risks. For example, if he failed, through no wilfulness or corrupt intent, but from the ignorance or negligence, perhaps, of a clerk to render an account within a specified period, he became by the Bill guilty of an illegal practice, and an illegal practice was turned by another section into a corrupt practice, which would render him liable to two years' imprisonment, with or without hard labour, and a penalty of£500.


explained that, in the case supposed by the hon. Member, the person would not be liable to the penalties that attached to a corrupt practice, but only to those attached to an illegal practice, which were much lighter.


said, that, if that was really so intended, it ought to be made clearer in the Bill when they got into Committee. As the measure was drawn at present, he repeated that it would be extremely difficult to get any man of position to act as election agent—a result that would be exceedingly unfortunate, not only for candidates, but for the general community. But that evil might possibly be averted if material alterations were made in the Bill before it became law.


said, he would support the Bill; but he objected to the clause reducing the Election Petition Judges to one, and hoped the Bill would be altered in that respect.


said, that no one who had read that Bill carefully could fail to see that it was as important a measure as could be brought forward in the interests of that House and of the constituencies. The hon. and learned Attorney General had had a very difficult task to perform, because if they could judge by the position taken up on that question by the country, the public mind was not ripe at present for a measure as strong as this one. [A laugh.] An hon. Member below the Gangway laughed at that statement; but if the hon. Member had read the papers, and had seen the comments that were made on the imprisonment of certain gentlemen for acts of bribery and corruption, he would have perceived that the country sympathized to a certain extent with them in regard to the punishment which was inflicted on them. That was also shown by the Petitions which had been sent in on their behalf, and by the recommendations which had been made for mercy towards them. If these men had been treated with more leniency a stronger case might more easily have been made out in favour of a strong measure like that proposed. He was one who felt, and strongly felt, that something ought to be done to stop bribery and corruption, but it must be done quietly, tentatively, and carefully, so that penalties might not be inflicted upon men who might not deserve them. No one would venture to get up and say that the Attorney General had not done his best with regard to the prevention of crime in connection with elections, and in introducing his Bill he had said that it was open to amendment—and, as he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) understood, to serious amendment—in some of its provisions. That showed that the hon. and learned Gentleman felt that the Bill was a very stringent one, and knew that the Bill would be open to mitigation of the penalties it was purposed to inflict upon those who might infringe the law. When proper Amendments were proposed in Committee, with a view to the mitigation of the stringent penalties contained in this Bill, he was sure the hon. and learned Gentleman would be the first to consider them fairly, and, if necessary, adopt them, so that the penalties might be mitigated. He hoped the Bill would go to a second reading, when they would doubtless hear from his hon. and learned Friend, or from the learned Solicitor General, that some modifications would be introduced into the Bill. He had looked most carefully Over the Bill; but he could not see one word that would prevent men being sent down to disturb and debauch a constituency, a thing which hon. Members knew was done in the last Election. That was a question which he hoped would be considered before the Bill went to a second reading. Then there was a matter which had already been dealt with by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis)—special expenditure. For instance, if persons were sent down to disturb and debauch a constituency, a candidate who spent large sums of money in resisting them might, under this Bill, be found guilty of corrupt practices. If the penalties in this Bill were to remain it would be exceedingly difficult to get a proper candidate to stand for a constituency. There should be some guarantee that the candidate who sinned unwittingly should find relief under the Bill. Another point was with respect to the prohibition against using public-houses as committee-rooms. This might be right in boroughs, but if enforced in counties there would be the greatest difficulty in finding committee-rooms at all. On the general question of corrupt practices, he had to observe that there had been more corruption under the Ballot than before. Men took money from one side and voted for the other, or perhaps took money from both sides. That, he thought, was most un-English. As to the question of one Judge, he could not conceive why this was inserted in the Bill, except that the Attorney General feared there would be so many cases under this Bill that there would not be sufficient Judges to try them. If that was the case an appeal ought to be given. If there was an appeal from the Election Judge to the Supreme Court of Judicature public opinion would be satisfied, and he believed there would be less difficulty in passing the Bill.


said, he desired to address to the House some observations upon the principle of the Bill. Though the Bill had met with a cordial reception, there had been a good deal of criticism, in the midst of which the principle of the Bill had been lost sight of. The principle was a novel one, for it was that corrupt practices were to be stopped by limiting the expenditure of candidates. He was not sanguine of the ultimate success of any Bill to put down corrupt practices. Experience tended to show that it would be very efficient at first, but that eventually people would find their way round it, and it would thus become inoperative. He thought it probable that, at least, for some time to come, the method of attempting to suppress corruption by putting a compulsory limit upon the expenditure of the candidates would be very effective. Much had been said upon the subject of necessary expenditure at elections; but it was a mere matter of detail. If the Attorney General's scale was not sufficiently liberal, that was a matter that could be altered when the Bill went into Committee. But the ideas that many people had as to what was necessary expenditure were simply extravagant. All that was really required was that the constituencies should have the means of amply being informed, or informing themselves, of the character, qualifications, and political views of the candidates. That was really all that was necessary to enable the constituents to exercise the franchise. Many items that usually came under the head of election expenses were not wanted at all. Take the case of the posters. What could be more ridiculous than posters announcing, for instance, "Rogers for East Somerset," when everyone knew already that Rogers was standing for East Somerset? It no doubt put a great deal of money into circulation; but it was not necessary to the conduct of the election. Then there were the ridiculous cartoons. At Birmingham, for instance, where an election was conducted as purely as anywhere, a great deal of money was spent in the last election in ridiculous pictures of Colonel Burnaby flogging a soldier. Surely that was not necessary to enable the electors to exercise their franchise. Then, again, every elector was in the habit of receiving large numbers of cards in various colours telling him for whom he should vote and the number of his vote on the Register. Then there were the bands of music. No one could say they were necessary. Then the variety of colours used in coloured fires and in adorning the committee-rooms, the carriages of the candidates, and the vehicles for conducting electors to the poll. Then the enormous number of clerks and messengers that were engaged. In most of the boroughs of this country any candidate who refused to engage the number of rooms usually engaged, or who refused to retain the number of clerks and messengers usually employed, would have a very poor chance. If the Schedule of the Attorney General were adopted elections would be conducted with much more propriety; and every candidate would find that the expenditure allowed by the Bill was sufficient to enable him to bring his character, his antecedents, and his opinions before the electors. The Bill would be of no use whatever if the Maximum Schedule were omitted. He did not know whether it was too high or too low; but he was inclined to think it was quite high enough. He wished to point out one or two matters in which he thought that expenditure would ultimately creep in, unless some provision was made. He understood that the Attorney General was prepared to bring in a corresponding Bill with regard to municipal elections; but unless that were done this Bill would be of little use. If that were not done, the result would be that the expenditure at present lavished on Parliamentary elections would be spent at municipal elections. Another matter was with respect to the expenditure incurred for what was called organization or registration. A great deal of money was spent in organization at a time when there was no immediate prospect of an election. In process of time, if that system were not checked, the expenditure would grow to most alarming proportions. Then, some provision was required in the Bill to prevent expenditure at elections by persons outside the candidate, and not immediately connected with him. He did not wish to join in any abuse of the Caucus, for he rather admired the Caucus, and it might be that there was something like it on his own side. But the Caucus clearly ought not to be allowed to spend money at elections outside the candidates. It ought to be laid down in the Bill that any third person, or any body of persons outside each candidate in elections, who should spend money among the electors, should be liable to severe punishment. While expressing his strong approval of the principle of the Bill, and his readiness to give the Attorney General his most hearty support in carrying it through the House, he must state his opinion that provision ought to be made for the enforcement of the law. Many of our laws were excellent; but the provisions for their enforcement were generally extremely feeble. In order to induce people to obey the law, severe penalties were not required, but penalties which were certain and speedy. Instead of accumulating heavy punishment, they should make punishment more certain and speedy. It was now notorious that out of 10,000 corrupt practices committed, perhaps only one was ever punished. The reason why public opinion was agitated by the punishment inflicted upon the Macclesfield and Sandwich bribers was rather due to the belief that, though the punishment was deserved, there were thousands of people in the different boroughs of the country who deserved the punishment quite as much. There could be no doubt that the Electoral Law was violated at present in the most public and barefaced manner. Bands of music and colours, which were illegal, were freely made use of, and no effort was made to stop them. It ought to be made the duty of some public official responsible to the central authority to take means to bring to justice all infringers of the law. His own idea was that the Returning Officers were the proper persons to be intrusted with the power and the duty of prosecuting all persons offending against the Electoral Law. If that power were given to Returning Officers they would be able to bring persons whom they found to be committing offences against the Election Law immediately before a justice or a police magistrate. A small punishment inflicted at once would, he believed, have more effect in checking improper practices than the uncertain and long-delayed liability to heavier punishment. A candidate might now be aware that the opposite side were treating extensively; but he could not prevent it without losing his chance of election. If he could inform the Returning Officer, and that functionary could at once prosecute the offenders, an end would be put to a great many corrupt practices, and they would have a much better chance of securing pure elections.


said, that a satisfactory incident in the discussion had been the unanimity with which hon. Members on all sides of the House had expressed their determination to put down corruption. He could not, however, help thinking that if the 600 and odd Members of the House had resolutely set their faces against corruption before they got into the House this legislation would not have been necessary. With reference to placards, he quite agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) that they were hardly necessary; but he could not concur with him in the opinion that they did no good to the Party which employed them. He might mention, for example, that when he last stood for Ipswich a strong prejudice was created against him by a disgusting placard issued by his political opponent representing him (Mr. Bulwer) as standing by to superintend the flogging of a soldier. And, in connection with this placard, ladies, said to be his opponent's friends, visited the wives of the electors, and exhorted them not to let their husbands vote for "Colonel" Bulwer, who could order the flesh to be torn off a soldier's back. He was not aware, until he heard the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, that these vile productions emanated from Birmingham. They must keep in mind that this was a strictly penal Act, with provisions so stringent that many candidates would be unwittingly caught within them. Some of the consequences of very venial offences were absurdly severe, and seemed to point to insufficient consideration and care in framing the Bill. One clause provided that all the personal expenses of a candidate beyond£20 should be paid through his agent; and he presumed that any sums for personal expenses beyond£20 would have to be deducted from the£250 which was fixed as the limit of the general expenses.


wished to explain that there was no limit at all to a candidate's personal expenses. The object of the clause was simply to insure that his personal expenses beyond the limit of£20 should appear in the accounts.


said, if that were so, he had no further criticism at present to make on the clause. There were many other clauses open to the strongest objection; but, although this was not a convenient opportunity for detailed criticism, he could not pass over the section which provided that a gentleman who lost his seat in consequence of an illegal act done by some person, of whom he knew nothing, and whom, perhaps, he might never have seen, should be disqualified from representing the constituency for 10 years; the proposal was so monstrous and so outrageous to public opinion that he trusted the House would never agree to it. Then he was averse from having these matters decided by a single Judge. He objected to single Judges on all occasions when they were to be judges of facts as well as of law. It was desirable that two minds, at least, should be addressed to the many complicated questions which arose in these cases; and. he believed that any individual Judge would prefer to be associated with another, so that all the responsibility should not devolve on the shoulders of one man. While agreeing entirely in its principle, and being earnest in his desire to put down corruption, as so much depended upon the means adopted to achieve that result, he would not say whether he should vote for the Bill or not. He had not heard much said in favour of it; and if he entertained the sentiments, which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had expressed with such force, he should vote against the Bill.


said, he desired to set the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Bulwer) right on a matter of fact, relating to the placard which represented a soldier being flogged; he would be glad to learn that there was enough talent in his former constituency to produce it there, and that it was imported into Birmingham from Ipswich. The hon. and learned Gentleman was beaten, as he stated, by an importation from Birmingham; but it was not in the form of a placard. Some of the electors of Ipswich were also of an imaginative turn of mind; and their imagination misled them when the hon. and learned Gentleman told them, with innocent intentions, that he (Mr. Collings) had gone there to fight a pure election, adding that Brummagem nickel was not equal to current coin.


could assure the hon. Member that he told his late constituents—and they well understood what he meant—that, in speaking of "Brummagem nickel," he was alluding to the hon. Member's political principles.


said, no doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman did so at a later date. But the people of Ipswich either preferred the Brummagem nickel, or they had a different standard for current coin. However, the placard did not come from Birmingham.


In my borough it did come from Birmingham.


said, that might be so, for Birmingham did a large export trade, and a great many boroughs looked to Birmingham for aid, just as others looked for help to the headquarters of the Conservative Caucus in Westminster; the main difference between the two Caucuses being that it was an absolute condition with one that it should have the people at its back. ["Question!"]


called the hon. Member to Order, and to the Question before the House.


, in continuation, said, he desired to express his approval of the principle of the Bill, which would have the effect of stimulating legitimate political activity, and of improving political morality. This would result particularly from fixing a maximum of expenditure, because it was the idea of unlimited expenditure which led to illegitimate expenditure. During the last few years every speaker on the subject had declared that some stringent provisions were necessary; and now the application of a test to their professions would determine whether they treated the matter as one to be talked about only, or whether they were now ready to give legal effect to the opinions they had. expressed.


said, he believed that this was a matter on which both sides ought to speak with perfect impartiality, for the principle of the Bill, limitation of expense, was most important to both sides, and neither side could with justice reproach the other. Those who were mainly responsible for the lavish expenditure which grew into corruption had no politics whatever. Anyone who, like himself and his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, had been extensively engaged in inquiries, whether before Committees or Judges, must have come to the conclusion that in a great number of places there had grown up a class of persons whose trade and business were to extract money from candidates on both sides, and that it was the idlest pretence that they were actuated by any political motives at all. They might desire to get a candidate in as a triumph of their trade; but if he were unseated on Petition, and the Petition involved more expense, so much the better. If that did not result in a Commission, which he admitted they did not like, but only in another election, it was simply a repetition of the means by which money was obtained from candidates, one candidate being played off against another. It was often suggested that the expenditure incurred by one side ought also to be allowed on the other; and so a very considerable outlay, that was not originally contemplated, and would otherwise have been absolutely refused, was ultimately sanctioned. In this way various forms of corruption had become customary in a great number of boroughs, and there were even counties that had caught the infection. As things were, there was something like an auction of boroughs; and even if the return of a particular candidate was certain, if the contest was conducted on purely political grounds, a struggle was frequently promoted in the interest of those who most profited by it. He regarded the attempt of the Attorney General to impose a limit on election expenses as a most valuable experiment. The Maximum Schedule had, perhaps, been conceived in a somewhat too restricted spirit; but he did not understand his hon. and learned Friend to insist on the exact figures, or to be unwilling to consider the desirability of changes in Committee. If the fixing of this maximum was the principle of the Bill, he could only say he approved it, and believed that it would be a great boon both to electors and candidates throughout the country. With respect, however, to some of the other clauses of the Bill, there seemed to be a confusion between illegal and corrupt expenditure. Nothing was more distinct than the old Electoral Code, under which corruption made a candidate liable to electoral penalties, while that which was illegal subjected the offender to punishment, but did not affect his seat. As it appeared to him, the Bill did not recognize the fact that the one was a question of civil disability and the other of moral delinquency. And as for the guilty candidate himself, he thought it bad policy to visit him so heavily as to make him an object of sympathy, to say nothing of those candidates whom the Bill would punish severely in spite of their innocence. Even as the law now stood, the candidate, as his hon. and learned Friend must often have felt, was frequently the person who had the best right to complain; for a man with every desire to do right might win an election by a great majority, and be unseated in consequence of the conduct of a corrupt agent. In his opinion, the present law, as far as such a candidate was concerned, was quite sufficiently severe. The impolicy of the proposed change was manifest, seeing that an honest candidate could not possibly do more than he now did to secure purity of election. But what, then, was the object of increasing the penalties? In the 4th and following clauses of the Bill, a man who had lost his seat through the corrupt conduct of his agent might never again contest that constituency. A newly-elected Member in such an unfortunate position could not, of course, be allowed to retain his seat, for he would be enjoying the benefit of the corrupt practices of his agent; but surely it would be a sufficient penalty if his disqualification were for a certain definite period, and not, as the Bill pro- posed, for life. As for the machinery of the Bill, as far as it was provided in the 32nd and following clauses, it was a departure from the principle affirmed by the House, that not two Judges, as at present, but one Judge, should try Election Petitions. As no one had ever complained of the existing arrangement, the plan was all the more remarkable. Without going into each part of the case, he might say that the general feeling of those who had watched the decisions of the Election Judges was that the alteration of the law had brought about the better protection of the interests of the litigants. To have two Judges would remove one of the objections entertained by the late Chief Justice of England to the trial of Election Petitions by the Judges. A Judge might have taken a decided part in politics; and, for the sake of the Judicial Bench itself, it was most important that the trial of an Election Petition should have the benefit of two minds. He believed, however, that the Attorney General would not be indisposed to accept an Amendment on this point. There was another provision which he regarded with the greatest possible apprehension; and that was that the Judge might, upon the trial of the Petition, become a Criminal Judge, and, without the intervention of a jury, proceed to try a criminal case. Such a provision was extremely objectionable in itself, and introduced a new element into our jurisprudence. It was most important, no doubt, that electoral offences should be punished at once; and he might, in passing, give an example of the serious injury which arose from the non-execution of one part of the Electoral Law. It was enacted, under penalties, that no person employed in certain capacities for hire should vote at an election. That provision had been constantly and persistently violated. Both the Attorney General and himself had been present when man after man came up, and, with the utmost effrontery, admitted that he had voted when he was a clerk or messenger of a candidate, or something of the kind, and he did not think that in one case punishment had been inflicted. That had led to serious mischief in the administration of the Electoral Law. When such an offence was allowed to go unpunished the line between it and direct bribery became extremely indistinct; and nothing tended more to debauch the whole tone and spirit of an election than the fact that, in spite of the known condition of the law, nobody had enforced it against those who had persistently disobeyed it. There was this additional reason why the punishment should be inflicted at once, that if time was allowed to go by there was very often a general consent on the part of the constituency that a veil should be drawn over what had been done and nothing more heard about it. But then the machinery provided by the Bill seemed open to grave objection. And here he would observe that the Bill did not seem to have been very carefully drawn. There ought to be some provision for a written record of a specific charge against a person placed upon his trial. But if the Attorney General would accept the suggestion that there should be two Judges, and that it should be competent for them, if they thought it necessary, to summon a jury, and that the defendant should not have it in his power to say how he should be tried, he thought it would be a great improvement on what was now proposed. But he would submit that there was no necessity for any increase of penalties against men who had committed no moral delinquency. If that was agreed to, and if, with some alteration of the machinery by which the law was to be enforced, there was a widening of the Schedule so that the maximum of expenses should be considered, not simply with reference to population, but to local circumstances and geographical position, this Bill might become the germ of a most valuable contribution to the law, and might prevent elections from being what they had been very lately in this country—simply an opportunity for a set of persons who had no politics whatever to extract money from the pockets of the candidates on both sides.


said, he could not feel that the evening had been wasted, owing to the valuable speech which they had just heard, and also to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). And yet he could not help saying that there had been a great repetition of points which had been brought forward in the first debate, and also too much dwelling on matters which were better suited for Committee. Since the Attorney General had spoken, however, there had been one or two speeches in which larger principles had been dealt with. In the discussion on Tuesday, and in that which was now proceeding, almost all the speakers on both sides, and belonging to the three Parties, had admitted the necessity of some stringent legislation on the subject of corrupt practices at elections. It might be assumed that that was the general, if not the universal, opinion of the House. There was one exception in the speech which was delivered on Tuesday by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour). That hon. Member went so far as to say that bribery and treating affected only a small fraction of the voters in any constituency. That was a strange assertion to make in the face of the startling fact which had been brought out before the Election Judges, that nearly the whole of some constituencies had been bribed—for instance, at Sandwich, where two-thirds of all the electors who voted had been proved before a Commission to have been bribed. The hon. Member for Hertford and the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) had been united in saying that what they called corruption by the Caucus—by which the hon. Member for Guildford had said he meant certain Liberal organizations—was much worse than the ordinary forms of corruption. The latter hon. Member had referred to recent proceedings at Oxford. He was amazed to hear the hon. Member speak of that subject. He would not deal with it at any length. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Mid Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke) that there was no use in dealing with the question in a Party spirit; but he would refer the hon. Member to pages No. 10, 11, and 12 in the proceedings of the Oxford Commission, which proved an expenditure of between£3,000 and£4,000, which came from the central Conservative organization. He hoped they would hear nothing further in connection with the City of Oxford. He was somewhat astonished to hear such statements from the hon. Members for Guildford and Hertford; because the organization, which was so ably presided over by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, had branches both at Guildford and Hertford. He would not speak further on that subject, but join heartily in the expressions of hope on the part of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), the right hon. Member for Mid Kent, and the late Home Secretary, that they might discuss those questions without reference to Party considerations. He thought much that had been said that evening might have been reserved for debates in Committee. The penalties were said to be too severe. No doubt seven or eight Members had spoken of the penalties as too severe, yet he would point out that the warm friends of the Bill—the debate on which had been unexpectedly prolonged—had preferred to sit still rather than lengthen the debate; and he had no doubt 16 or more Members might have spoken in an opposite sense. The hon. Members for Hertford, Mid Kent, Knaresborough, Launceston, and Burnley had dwelt chiefly on the clause disqualifying for life the candidate who had been guilty of corrupt practices. But it could not be denied that candidates, in some cases, were considered to have earned the gratitude of constituencies, which were glad to return them afterwards. That was a question for Committee; and it might possibly be considered, as had been suggested, that seven years, or two Parliaments, might be a long enough period of disqualification. But only within the last day or two he had heard a Conservative Member complain of the lavish expenditure of a candidate of his own Party in a neighbouring borough as tending to make his own expenses heavier. There was necessity for great care in that matter. The worthy Alderman the Member for the City of London, whom he saw on the Front Opposition Bench—[cheers]—well, it was a right, though not often claimed, of the Members for the City of London to sit on the Front Bench—had spoken of the expenses in the Schedule as too low for the case of large constituencies. He was himself, like other Members of the Government, a Member for a large constituency, and he thought that the expenses there allowed were too high rather than too low; and the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, in his admirable speech, for which he begged to tender the hon. and learned Gentleman his thanks, had concurred with him in that opinion. He could not but think that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) spoke from a county point of view rather than from any regard for large boroughs. When they went into Committee he would be prepared to consider the representations put forward by Representatives of counties as to the necessary expenses of conducting county elections. It might be possible to make some small further allowance for what borough Members might call weak county human nature. There was next the suggestion of a drumhead court martial for the immediate trial of offenders. He thought there was a great deal in it, and he hoped it would be considered in Committee. The hon. and learned Member who had just addressed the House had made a proposal for the immediate trial of offenders before a local jury. The great difficulty would be to obtain an impartial local jury. As to the question of two Judges or one Judge, that was a point on which they were open to argument and conviction. They must not overlook the strain on the judicial strength of the country. As regarded Ireland, he had always felt that the situation rendered it necessary that they should have two Judges there. Whether they should have in England two Judges or one Judge, with the right of appeal, was a matter to be discussed. The hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins), regarded this Bill as one which should be sent to a Committee of experts. Why, every Member of that House was an expert—not, he was glad to say, in the subject of corrupt practices, but in election procedure. No doubt that was why this debate had been protracted to a considerable extent. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had also spoken. He should not refer to him as his hon. and learned Friend, though that had been done. He had heard him referred to as the hon. and gallant Member. Well, that only showed how great was the energy and the enterprize of his hon. Friend. The speech of his hon. Friend was certainly hostile to the Bill. The point raised, however, by his hon. and learned Friend—[A laugh"]—threw no light whatever on the subject. He had, he found, made the slip which he intended to avoid. He hoped that the House would now draw the discussion to an end. Many of the arguments advanced would have to be repeated in Committee. He appealed to the House to allow the Bill to be now read a second time.


said, he thought it only fair that Irish Members should offer their opinions upon this Bill, more especially as one of the most objectionable parts of the Bill was one which specially affected Ireland. He did not himself follow in the footsteps of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Callan), as giving an undecided opposition to the Bill now before the House. He himself was thoroughly convinced that it was of the very utmost importance for all the interests of these countries that elections should, as far as possible, be pure, and that elections should be carried on at as small an expense as possible. The present system of electioneering affairs he held to be of a highly objectionable nature. He was of opinion that the Schedule of this Bill fixed the maximum rate too low for the expenses of elections. The Bill contained no provision against a very objectionable form of corruption—namely, that of pecuniary aid to working men's clubs or other similar bodies. That system of corruption, he thought, was far more reprehensible than open bribery during an election, because open bribery might be detected, as it could be watched. It had been suggested that a way to diminish bribery would be to enlarge small constituencies. He thought the least objectionable plan would be to have a large number of small constituencies, and a number of large constituencies, so that the former might be within the reach of men of moderate means, and the latter within the reach of men of large means. He was glad to see some provision made against the number of messengers employed at elections. A schoolmaster had told him that on the eve of an election all his boys disappeared. He met one of them, and was informed that the lad had been engaged as a messenger by one of the candidates at a salary of 10s. a-day. He concurred also in the remarks made by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) with respect to house-to-house canvassing. The worst feature of that system was the employment of hired men, volunteer canvassing being, in his opinion, legitimate; but it was perfectly impossible that the elections of an extensive county could be managed by one agent. One agent could not traverse the whole space; the proper method of dealing with the question would be to make the number of messengers allowable proportionate to the size of the constituency. Nor was the proposed method of dealing with a candidate's personal expenses satisfactory. It would enable car owners, for example, to send in their bills and charge what they pleased, the only alternative left for the candidate being either to pay or dispute the bill, which would often be unpleasant. If however, it was made penal to furnish an extortionate account, tradesmen who now attempted to extort money from candidates would hesitate risking the whole of their debt. He quite agreed with the provisions of the Bill which prevented the sale of intoxicating liquors during the hours of polling. On the whole, he thought the Bill was entitled to the support of everyone desirous of electoral purity; but many Amendments would have to be made in Committee.


said, he was not altogether able to agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) that the Bill was an admirable one. He had listened to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) in the hope of finding some justification for the application of the measure to Ireland; but he had waited in vain, and, so far, no case had been made out why the Bill should be applied to Ireland. After the last General Election there were only four Election Petitions in reference to Irish constituencies, and in only one of them was the successful candidate unseated—namely, in the Election for Dungannon, in which the return of the present Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) was declared to be void. Why, therefore, the Bill, large and comprehensive as it was, should be made to apply to Ireland, he confessed he was unable to understand. There was no one in the House who was more in favour than he was of limiting the expenses which candidates had to pay; but he was of opinion that a Bill of this kind should not precede, but should follow a Reform Bill. It was after a Reform Bill, when there would be new constituencies, that a Bill of this kind would become necessary; and it would be far better, instead of introducing a Bill of 60 clauses, like this, to substitute a short Bill of one page and one clause, throwing the entire expense of the election upon the constituents themselves. He thought a good many of the Members of the House would desire that the cost of a General Election should be paid by the constituents. Of course, he could understand the reason why the constituents did not like to pay the legal expenses of their Representatives; but he saw no reason why, if they desired to continue to return Representatives, they should not be made to pay the legal expenses. It therefore appeared to him to be an extraordinary thing that, instead of bringing in a Bill of that character, the Government should desire to carry the House through the mazes of some 60 clauses of the Bill. Personally, he should not be touched by the Bill, because the expense of his election when he was returned only amounted to£20; and if a General Election were to occur immediately he did not think he need care about the cost. He was quite sure that it would be equally limited, and if it were much more he could not pay it; and, what was still more to the point, he would not. Upon this ground he was opposed to a Bill of this kind, because it was, in his opinion, a needless and a harmful expedient which he viewed with alarm. In regard to the question of two Judges, he was glad to find that the mind of the Government was open upon the subject. The Irish Judges were not over-worked; on the contrary, they were much under-worked and very much over-paid. At present they had nothing to do but to go all over Ireland haranguing the people in regard to their duty upon the preservation of law and order. If they had any real work to do they would give up these academic harangues, and address themselves to the business they were intended for—namely, the trying of prisoners. Therefore, he was glad to hear that there was likely to be two Judges instead of one. That would not even be a complete safeguard. The entire Judicature of Ireland, so far as the popular Party was concerned, was unsuitable to them. There was not a single Judge upon the Bench in their favour. Up to a recent period they had one learned Judge—Mr. Justice O'Brien—but he was now unfortunately no more, and there was not a single Judge whom he would trust upon an Election Petition involving heated political differences. When Mr. Justice O'Brien—who died a few months ago—was upon the Bench, he was a Judge of the old school, and he adminstered justice according to the abstract principles of justice; hut, at the present moment, there was not a single Judge in Ireland whom, in the matter of an Election Petition, he would trust, if their political prejudices were strongly enlisted on either side. The only reason he could see in favour of two Judges was that if both of them were of opposite politics and Party partizans, the view of one would counteract that of the other. If the Liberal Ministry was in power, it was desirable that there should be a Tory Judge, and if there was a Tory Ministry in power, then there ought to be a Liberal Judge. Care should always be taken that when two Judges were appointed to try an Election Petition in Ireland they were, at least, of opposite politics. He had no trust whatever in the impartiality of Irish Judges in political matters, and the sooner the House made up its mind to understand that question the better. They were men who at an election, probably through bribery they had practised, had got a seat in the House of Commons, and they were pitch forked on to the Bench when they had served the purposes of the Government of the day. In Ireland there was nothing of the noble example occasionally set in England of appointing a Member of the Opposition to a seat on the Bench. He was obliged to admire the spirit which had induced the Prime Minister to appoint Sir John Holker—the late Member for Preston—to a Judgeship. It showed the total absence of Party feeling; and what he wanted to know was, why they could not do the same in Ireland? Unhappily, they never saw anything of the kind there; and why he approved of having two Judges appointed to try Election Petitions instead of one was, that he saw some slight additional safeguard in the matter. This was a Bill to prevent undue and corrupt influence; but it seemed an extraordinary thing that, on the eve of the second reading of a Bill to prevent corrupt practices, the Government should have created half-a-dozen Baronets for Party purposes. On Thursday they were discussing the second reading of the Bill; and on Tuesday or Wednesday he had read that a number of Members, who were only known to fame as combatants who had conducted very severe and expensive election contests, had been created Baronets. He made no imputation upon the Government, or upon the hon. Baronets themselves; he only said that the Government might have reserved the new creations until the Bill had been read a second time. He thought such a course would have been more simple, because, on an occasion of this kind, the House was apt to draw inferences; and when he came to consider the claims of these Gentlemen to the dignity conferred upon them, he felt almost inclined—using the expression applied to the Claimant—to put them in the same category as that "unfortunate nobleman." When Gentlemen with such claims were appointed Baronets, Her Majesty's Government must not complain if the House felt inclined to be a little inquisitive as to the services they had rendered to entitle them to the dignity. He therefore repeated that it would have been better and more simple for the Government to have reserved these high distinctions until the Corrupt Practices Bill had passed through the House. There was another matter to which he wished to refer—namely, the question of penalties. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had stated that upon that point, as well as regarded the Election Judges, there was no disposition to apply too hardly the question of penalties. In Ireland what they had to fear, so far as their constituents were concerned, was that there might be a strained interpretation by partizan Judges of what was called undue influence. He desired that there might be a clear definition of the phrase "undue influence." For instance, a popular candidate in Ireland generally marched into a town and out of it accompanied by a band and banners. Perhaps there was a little disturbance, and a few windows got broken. He did not think that was an unusual event even in England. Occasionally a head got broken; and it would be a very hard thing indeed if, when such things occurred in the heat of an election, they were to hold the candidate liable for the injury done on the score of undue influence. What might happen if it were left to an Election Judges, or to two Election Judges, appointed under the Bill, unless a strict definition of the meaning of that phrase were supplied, was that the successful candidate might be deprived of his seat, even when the broken glass and broken heads were supplied by his opponents. The Judges would be asked to inspect the broken glass and the broken heads; they would at once cry out "undue influence," and unseat the Member. He (Mr. Healy) thought that would be a very strange interpretation of the Bill, and one which no Irish Member could consent to support without considerable criticism. He also objected to the proposal to prohibit the candidate who was alleged to be guilty of undue influence from sitting for the constituency. As the Bill stood, a candidate found guilty of a breach of any of the provisions of the Bill would be prohibited from sitting in the House of Commons for 10 years. Let him be prohibited from sitting for the constituency among whom it was established that undue influence had prevailed for 10 years; but it was far too severe a penalty to say that he could not sit for any other constituency at all. Why should anything that happened in Yorkshire prevent a man from sitting for Wexford? Why should a man, simply because he was alleged to be guilty of undue influence in one quarter of the globe, be prevented from sitting for a constituency in another? He had no objection to prohibit him sitting in the House of Commons for the same constituency; but he confessed that he was unable to see the justice of placing him under a general disability, because a few panes of glass had been broken by some boys he had never seen, and of whom he knew nothing. This was a Bill which laid down that all expenses in excess of a maximum should be illegal expenses, and an illegal practice. No doubt, the introduction of that clause, so far as England was concerned, would be hailed with satisfaction. But he would suggest that, if all expenditure in excess of the maximum was to be considered an illegal practice, the first thing that ought to be done would be to disestablish and disendow the Reform Club and the Carlton Club, which were the rings that interfered so greatly in these matters. He was told that if a man wanted to fight a constituency on the Tory side, he had only to go to the Carlton Club, where he would get a hand- some cheque; and, if he desired to contest a constituency on the Liberal side, it was only necessary for him to go to the Reform Club. [A laugh.] If his allegations were unfounded, it was only his virgin innocence that induced him to make them. At all events, statements of this kind were currently made; and, therefore, instead of bringing in Section 9 of the Bill, which declared that all expenditure in excess of the maximum should be considered an illegal practice, they could bring in a clause declaring that, whereas the Carlton and Reform Clubs were reported to the House to have encouraged the dissemination of corruption hitherto, they should be in future disestablished. Then there was the question of throwing upon counties the expenses. Section 33 declared that power was to be given to the Election Court to order payment by the county or borough of the costs of the Election Petition in certain cases. His knowledge of elections was so slight that he was unable to say how the English counties or boroughs were to be made to pay the election expenses, which were to be thrown upon them by the Judge; but, so far as Ireland was concerned, he was not aware of the existence of any other machinery than the Grand Juries for providing them. Therefore, in the case of Ireland, he strongly objected to any such mode of procedure. As it was well known that the Grand Jury system in Ireland was thoroughly abnormal, he warned the Government that if they intended to make Grand Juries the means of enforcing payment of the expenses, they must look out, when they went into Committee with the Bill, for a discussion upon the Grand Jury system. The Government were themselves pledged to re-model and revise that system; nevertheless, at a time when they admitted that the machinery was inadequate or rotten, they introduced a clause in the Bill which threw heavy expenses on the counties, and empowered Grand Juries to mulct the taxpayers to meet them. He was, therefore, not prepared to consent to the Bill in its present form; and he contended that, as far as Ireland was concerned, no case had been made out for the Bill. He was with the Government in any attempt they might make to cut down election expenses; but Ireland was, so to speak, virgin soil, and Members were in that country frequently returned to Parliament free of cost. He was himself practically returned free of cost, and the expenses of his hon. Friends were exceedingly moderate. His argument was that Irish constituencies found that there was a great lack of suitable candidates to represent them in Parliament, and they were only too happy to pay the expenses of such candidates when they were found. For instance, on the opposite Benches he saw several hon. Members who would never again serve in Parliament as Representatives of their present constituencies. He referred, of course, to a class of Members who were known as nominal Home Rulers; and at a General Election it might happen that a number of candidates were required to oust these Gentlemen from their seats. In that case the constituencies would be only too willing to pay the expenses of the new candidates, in order to bring about that result. Therefore it seemed to him extraordinary that the Government should be eager to carry out their plan, seeing that the constituencies were quite willing to pay the expenses of suitable candidates. Of course, he considered the Bill only so far as Ireland was concerned. With regard to England, it was well known that the smaller English borough constituencies were notoriously corrupt. ["No!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "No!" but that was alleged; and if they were not corrupt, he would ask why the present Bill was introduced? It was impossible for him to regard the Bill as anything less than an indictment of many Members of the House; and he considered that they were called upon to plead guilty or not guilty to the indictment brought against them in this country. For his own part, he pleaded "Not Guilty;" and he objected to the introduction of a Bill which, however necessary it might be in England, was nothing but a slur upon the people of Ireland, and almost an insult upon Members representing Irish constituencies. The fact was the Irish Members had no money to throw away, and the Bill seemed to proceed on the needless and erroneous assumption that they were possessed of the wealth of Crœsus. He objected that the Bill was unnecessary, and that it ought not to be brought in for Ireland. With regard to canvassing, he thought provision ought to be made in the Bill for putting down that practice. Many persons, especially in boroughs, expected that candidates would call upon them. In former days—although the custom, it seemed, had been since done away with—he believed the candidates were required to kiss the babies. However that might be, he repudiated the necessity for the Bill in relation to Ireland, which was an elector-ally pure country, whose people, as he had before pointed out, were simply anxious to find men who would serve them properly in Parliament.


said, he rose, in pursuance of the intimation he had given on Tuesday, to ask leave of the House to withdraw his Amendment, upon the ground that later consideration led him to believe that the question raised by it could be better dealt with when the Bill went into Committee.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.


asked whether the Government would be able to name any particular time when the Bill would be taken in Committee? The learned Attorney General had met the objections raised to many portions of the Bill in an extremely fair and candid spirit; and it was probable that, having listened to all that had taken place in the debate, some points might have occurred to him on which he might be inclined, on the part of the Government, to make certain alterations in Committee. If that were so, he ventured to suggest that those alterations should be put upon the Paper as soon as possible, in order to avoid similar Amendments being put down by hon. Members, and thereby shorten the discussions in Committee.


said, that Notice of the Committee stage of the Bill would be given as soon as possible. He would endeavour to keep in mind the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but he thought the more convenient course would be for hon. Members to give Notice of their Amendments, and he would then endeavour to say whether they could be accepted, either in conversation with hon. Members, or by statement in the House.


said, he thought it would be an advantage if the Government would put down the Schedule suggested by them.


said, he hoped the Schedule would be laid upon the Table of the House next Monday.

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