§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. BROADHURST
, in rising to move— 1931That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert a new Clause in the Bill charging the returning officer's expenses at Parliamentary Elections upon the rates in boroughs and counties,said, that that very proposal was before the House in the early period of last Session, on the Motion of the late lamented Member for Newcastle (Mr. Ashton Dilke) and, on a division, the Motion was carried by a majority of 2. He had no doubt that but for certain extraneous matter in Mr. Dilke's Resolution it would have been carried by a majority of 20 or 30. It was said that the proposal would be unpopular with the ratepayers. That might be true to some extent; but there were other considerations to be borne in mind than that of popularity. It was the duty of Parliament to do that which was right for the best interests of the nation as a whole. Now, was his proposal just and reasonable? If so, it ought to be adopted. There was no occasion for the ratepayers to be alarmed, as the charge would not exceed, for the year in which the election took place, one farthing, or probably not half a farthing in the pound. That charge, too, would only be incurred every few years, on the recurrence of an Election. It was a common complaint that many men who would make excellent Members of Parliament—he did not refer to working men exclusively or chiefly, but to others of only moderate fortune— could not contest a constituency on account of the expense. His proposal would enable such men to sit in the House. But it was not for that reason alone, or chiefly, that he made his proposal. It would never be possible to strike at the real root of electoral corruption and bribery until they had impressed upon the electors that men seeking their suffrages desired to discharge high and important duties to the country, and not self-advancement or the promotion of their personal interests. In almost every civilized country—in Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, Germany, and Denmark—the expenses of elections were cast either upon the constituency or national funds. He had been assured on good authority, that the effect of his proposal would reduce largely—probably by one-half—the Returning Officers' charges now defrayed by the candidate. Some hon. Members, 1932 he understood, were afraid that this proposal, if adopted, would open the door to an influx of candidates to every constituency. But the clause which he would propose would provide that every person becoming a candidate should doposit£100, and should he not poll one-sixth of the number of votes given to the successful candidate, he should forfeit the deposit-money; but that if he should obtain that proportion, the money would be returned to him. This, he thought, would be quite sufficient to prevent mere speculative people—what might be called "carpet-bag" politicians—from invading the various constituencies for the sake of publicity. Moreover, he believed that if these costs were placed upon the ratepayers they would themselves take good care not to have a lot of bogus candidates to unnecessarily increase the charge upon the rates. He was persuaded that by adopting his proposal more would be done to strike at our system of terrible extravagance in election expenses than by any process of penalties and punishments for people who were caught in the commission of illegal practices. He asked the House to agree to this Instruction with the more confidence, because, on former occasions, this proposal had been supported by several Members of Her Majesty's Government. In conclusion, he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert a new Clause in the Bill charging the returning officer's expenses at Parliamentary Elections upon the rates in boroughs and counties."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)
I am friendly, Sir, and certainly most of the Members of the Government are friendly, to the principle contained in this Instruction; but I am bound to say that for reasons which I think my lion. Friend will himself appreciate, even if he cannot adopt them, I am unable to support the introduction of such a clause as he proposes in the present Bill. I agree with my hon. Friend in nearly all his arguments, and I make that admission freely, though it may seem to compromise the ground on which I stand in declining to vote for his Motion. I agree with him as to the 1933 bearing of this proposal on the admission of men who are not rich into the House, and on the higher ground of principle on which he bases his argument — namely, that to pay the expenses of the Returning Officer is in principle the affair of the local community and not of the individual. With these admissions my hon. Friend will naturally say to me—"Why do you object to introduce the proposal into the present Bill?" We cannot say that it is wholly alien to the purpose of the Corrupt Practices Bill; indeed, it appears to me to be well within the scope of the Bill. True, it is a large extension of the scope of the Bill, and that is shown by the fact that my hon. Friend does not move it as a clause in Committee, but has moved it as an Instruction to the Committee, and I presume he might have moved as an Instruction any proposition of which he was in favour, whether it related to corrupt practices as understood by the Bill or not. As, however, I admit that it is not so far from the purpose of the Bill as to make it appear per se improper, and as in truth I have myself on former occasions, when similar Bills were before the House, both spoken and voted in favour of the introduction of a similar proposal, I proceed to explain to my hon. Friend the reasons which lead me on this occasion to take a different course. My first argument against the expediency of agreeing to the hon. Member's proposal is one that certainly is not conclusive against it, although it somewhat detracts from the force of those considerations which the hon. Member has urged in its favour. It is true that by this measure it is intended to lighten to a considerable extent the load which has hitherto been improperly placed upon the shoulders of candidates. The main objection, however, that I have to accepting the hon. Member's proposal at the present time is that, from its nature and history, it is a polemical and controversial one, and that the Government feel that if they had intended to assent to the introduction of this clause into the Bill, they ought to have introduced it into the measure in the first instance. Her Majesty's Government have submitted the Bill to the House as being one not polemical and not controversial, and I rejoice to say that it has been accepted by the other side of the House in a corresponding spirit. 1934 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), acting I may say on behalf of the great bulk of his Party, has given a friendly reception to this Bill, and it has made a progress at this moment which it certainly would not have made had it contained this proposal. Had it contained this proposal the Bill would have been a matter of dispute, of contest, at every point in going through the House. My hon. Friend is perfectly in his right in endeavouring to bring the proposal into the Bill; but the Government would not be in their right if they introduced a Bill of this character as one apart from Party contest and the polemics of this House, and subsequently, on the Motion of a private Member, consented to what was not only an alteration of the Bill, but an alteration of a vital character. I think such a course would hardly be consistent with a strict and liberal understanding by the Government of its engagement to the House at large—because the engagement which we contract towards our own Party when we introduce a Bill, which is a matter of contest between Parties, we must recognize as binding on us with regard to the whole House—and especially when, in consequence of that engagement, we have been so fortunate as to be able to make good progress with a measure which in itself as it stands we believe will be a most valuable one, and one which promises to be of great benefit to the community at large, and which is so far divested of Party considerations as to receive the calm and judicial support of all sides. If my hon. Friend had raised this question in a separate Bill, I should have voted with him, as I have voted for the same proposal before; but, although I do not blame him for the proposal he has made, I feel that blame would attach to myself, as a friend of the proposition on its merits, were I to take advantage of the position which we have obtained for the Bill in the House, upon a different supposition, and upon a promise of a different measure, in order to introduce into it a proposal which distinctly alters its character. That I feel is in some degree a matter of faith with, the House, and when I look upon it as a matter of policy, I come to the same conclusion. Were we to be parties to the introduction of this proposal, in the 1935 first place, we should be liable to some sharp and not unjust reproaches from Gentlemen opposite; but, in the second place, I suspect that we should find that a change of course on our part was not at all favourable to the future progress of the Bill and to its passing through the different stages. We have before us a Bill of great value to the country, and that is admitted on both sides of the House. I believe Gentlemen opposite believe it is of special value to their own Friends. I am weak enough to believe it is of special value to our own Friends. But I do not wish to raise any question of this kind. We nearly all agree that the Bill in its main aim and purport is a valuable measure. Is it not wise, on the whole, to be content with that, and to avail ourselves of the opportunity of getting it through Committee as a measure which is to be argued judicially, and not in a polemical spirit? Is it not well to take that advantage, and rather to trust to other and separate and more legitimate opportunities of proposing the measure contemplated by this Instruction? I do not disparage the arguments of my hon. Friend, and I have no charge to make against him; but, under the circumstances, I must undoubtedly say, on the part of the Government, that we are not able to accede to the passing of this Instruction to the Committee.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that after the line which had been taken in reference to this subject by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it would be out of place for him to attempt to enter into the merits of this Instruction. The points which were put by the Prime Minister seemed to be unanswerable It would have been regarded as something of the nature of a breach of faith if, after the Bill had been read a second time without this proposal, the Instruction had been accepted by the Government and allowed to be introduced into the Bill. He accepted the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as the conclusion of the Government against the acceptance of the Instruction. On the present occasion the House had nothing to do with any proposal for the introduction of a separate Bill. If such a measure were to be introduced, it would have to stand upon its own merits, and hon. Members would be free to express their opinions upon it, both by speech and 1936 vote, as they had done on former occasions.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that whenever a proposal like this had been brought before the House it had been regarded as a political one, and discussed with great interest. In a Parliament in which the present Prime Minister occupied the same position as he did now, a proposal similar to this would have been carried by the House, and would have formed a part of the law of the land, had it not been for the opposition given to it by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary and the Attorney General. If this proposal was not the law of the land at present, the fault was due to the Leaders of the Liberal Party. The language of the Prime Minister to which they had just listened amounted to this—that he was afraid to face the House of Commons with this proposal, although personally in favour of it, because the effect of accepting it would be to delay the Bill for a certain length of time. That was the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister in spite of the incitements of the creatures of the Caucus to heroic resolves and courageous action in the House. It was to be suspected the Prime Minister was a good deal hampered by some of his enthusiastic admirers, who preached at him in this style with a virgin innocence characteristic of Provincial politicians. For himself, he believed the Bill as it stood would be inoperative so far as regarded changing the character of the Representatives of the House in the direction advocated by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broad-hurst). Just as in the case of the Legal Profession, an entrance fee of £100 was quite as insuperable an obstacle to many young men as a fee of £1,000 would be, so the Schedule of fees laid down in the Bill would be as effective an obstacle to the entrance of large numbers of men into political life as if the maximum were not £350, but £3,500. So far as that went, therefore, the Bill was a fraud and a pretence. With regard to the example of other countries, he might mention that when Prince Bismarck in fighting the Liberal Party in Prussia over the question of German military re-organization resorted to the expedient of constantly dissolving Parliament in the hope of exhausting the pecuniary resources of his opponents, an hon. Friend 1937 told him on the authority of a Prussian Liberal that Prince Bismarck to attain his object need only have dissolved once or twice if election expenses had been on the same vast scale as in England. After one or two elections the constituencies would have fallen into the hands of Conservative Members of larger means as well as more pliant wills. Now, did they not know that with certain exceptions in the case of Ireland the House of Commons was composed almost as much as ever of rich men? [Cries of "No, no!"] If the matter were gone into he believed he could show that since the reduction of the franchise fewer poor men had entered the House of Commons than before. The very largeness of the constituencies increased the expenses of the contest, and, therefore, made more narrow the portals of Parliament to men of small means. Some years ago, for example, there was a large number of Liberals in Lambeth who were bitterly dissatisfied with the representation of the borough as it then was; but the effective answer to these discontented ones, was that every vote in Lambeth cost £1. The existing Representatives were the only men who could afford to pay that price for the seats, and so the Liberal Party had to swallow them, whether they liked them or not. If the Government could not carry the Bill with this proposal it would be better to drop it, rather than carry through Parliament an ineffective measure. He therefore begged to say that if the hon. Member for Stoke's adhesion to the Government would not prevent him from going to a division, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would be very glad to vote for the Motion.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he was very much amused with the speech of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said he was very desirous for a substantial reform; but he could not allow improvements to be made in the Bill, because they might not be acceptable to the Tory Party. Now, he never heard of a better course than the one suggested by the right hon. Gentleman for wasting the time of the House. The Prime Minister also said that this Motion should be introduced in the form of a second Bill, so that the Prime Minister's scheme for saving the time of the House would be to introduce two Bills, have fresh divisions on each, send them into Committee at 1938 different times, and then he supposed, when they were passed, have a third Bill to consolidate the two. In Ireland they had the experience of two systems. In Parliamentary elections the candidate had to pay the entire expenses of the relieving officer—[Laughter]—the Returning Officer—and in Municipal elections the expenses were borne by the ratepayers. In Parliamentary elections, also, the Sub-Sheriff always insisted on getting new ballot-boxes at every election, and the highest prices were charged for rooms, so that the candidate was obliged to pay several times more for these things than the real value supplied. The result was that such elections were a source of considerable emolument to the Sub-Sheriffs, and a means by which men seeking to represent constituences were fleeced in the most unfair manner. Now, he for one had more regard for the quality of legislation than the quantity of it, and he did not see what good there was in returning a Radical Party to power if they were only able to pass such measures as were acceptable to the Tory Party. For himself, he was very much in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Stoke. The Bill, if adopted in its present form, would by no means be a perfect one; and he, therefore, appealed to the Government to make it one of real reform by adopting the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke. With this view he should himself support the Motion.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, if the Bill was simply a Corrupt Practices Bill—a Bill directed against corrupt expenditure only—the argument of the Prime Minister against adopting the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke would have been unanswerable. The Bill, however, was intended not only to do away with corrupt expenditure, but to lessen the general expenses connected with elections. That being so, it seemed a most reasonable thing, and quite pertinent to the Bill, to begin with an expense which met the candidate at the very threshold of his candidature. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member for Stoke would not withdraw his Motion, which he should support with pleasure.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that one of the objections of the Prime Minister to the Motion was that it would introduce Party considerations into the matter, and lead to Party contests. The 1939 right ton. Gentleman should have shown them how or whore the Motion would do this, for it appeared to him that the proposal had nothing whatever of a Party character in it, and that it would apply alike to all Parties. The objection that the Motion would lead to prolonged discussion on the whole matter in that House was a very poor one, for it should not be forgotten, that many of the best measures that had ever passed the House of Commons had been the subjects of prolonged and even excited discussion. Scarcely any measure of real reform had been granted without a great deal of discussion; and he took the fact that this proposal might lead to debate as a strong proof that there was merit in it. It had been said that Members on both sides of the House were agreed upon this Bill, and that it was very undesirable to interfere with the union that existed. But this union was one of rich men against poor men—a union of rich men to keep out of the House as long as they could other men who were less rich than themselves. He was strongly in favour of the Motion, which he hoped would be adopted.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he should have no hesitation in supporting the Motion, as he had done on previous occasions, believing the principle of it to be right and just. In his opinion, there was great analogy between the case of the election of Members of Parliament, and elections under the Municipal Corporations Act. The Mayor of a borough was obliged to find the conveniences and necessities for an election under that Act, because the duty was regarded as a public one, and he had never been able to understand what difference existed in the two cases. The question was not at all one as between rich men and poor men; the essential argument was this—that the officer whose duties were called in question was not an agent of, or employed by, the Parliamentary candidate, but a public officer of the constituency, performing a public duty, the cost of which ought, therefore, to be paid by the public. On that principle, and that principle only, he put the matter, and entirely disregarded any consideration whether the proposal would affect this or that Party. It would be quite another thing if it was proposed to pay anything outside the Returning Officer's expenses; but this was simply 1940 an elementary question whether a public officer performing a public duty should be paid by the public for doing it.
said, he thought the last speech ought to prove to the Prime Minister that there was no danger of this question being regarded as one of Party. It was the only proposal in connection with the matter that could meet with any acceptance in Ireland, because they were against the application of any part of the Bill, as it stood, to Ireland. The days when a constituency could be bought in Ireland one day to be sold out of it the next were gone, or nearly gone. As far as the people of Ireland were concerned, they had proved their willingness to pay not only the official, but the unofficial expenses of their Representatives, whom they regarded as their servants doing their business.
§ MR. HEALY
said, it was an extremely interesting spectacle for intelligent people to witness the House of Commons refusing to entertain the proposal of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst). The Bill before the House was intended to put down bribery. But he would ask, what were the reasons for the growth of bribery? Were they not these? That it had been hitherto a profitable thing to get into Parliament, a profitable thing to invest £2,000 or £3,000 in effecting that object. Why, any person examining that House would find it studded with legislative dummies, whose only title to be there, so far as he could make out, was that they were their fathers' sons, or had a balance at their bankers. They had representatives of the great reigning families in the House, because the great reigning families knew that if the men of the people got in there they would make the laws in a different way, and in a way which the great reigning families would not desire. He regarded the masses of the people of England as simply befooled by the pretence of liberty given of entrance to the House of Commons. Moreover, if the working men of England imagined that they were getting from that House the benefits of the Constitution, they were greatly mistaken. They were bound by invisible bonds, which prevented them from making those changes in the law which they wished to see carried out. The chief reason why the laws were not reformed speedier and better than at present was because the great bulk of the people of 1941 England were shut out from having any voice in the matter. Such a state of affairs could only be removed by a proposal such as that of the hon. Member for Stoke. Of course, the great reigning families and the great banking families desired to continue the present state of things. He had expected that the great Radical Party would be almost irruptive on this question; but what was his astonishment to find the cold chain of silence thrown over them all by the speech of the Prime Minister. It would seem to be that the Prime Minister, intoxicated with the great success with which he had carried the second reading of the Agricultural Holdings Bill—brought in because it was acceptable to the Tory Party—enamoured with that splendid success, could not think of accepting the proposal of the hon. Member for Stoke, because this Bill also was acceptable to the Tory Party. What had become of the combative disposition of the Prime Minister? Had that been the manner of his legislation hitherto, that his proposals were so diluted and watered down in spirit that the test to be applied to them was whether they were acceptable to the Tory Party? He congratulated the Tory Party upon being able to apply this standard to the future intentions of the Prime Minister; and when, in future, the Prime Minister wished to carry all the measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech, he had only to apply to the Leader of the Opposition, and ascertain whether he had any objection to his proposals. So far as Ireland was concerned, this Bill did not ameliorate the position of any candidate. There was no bribery or corruption in Ireland, practically speaking. ["Oh, oh!"] He would prove that, for in the course of the last nine years there were only four Election Petitions in Ireland, and in only one—an Ulster constituency—Dungannon—was it successful; and it was not bribery there, he believed, but they bottled up a candidate—[Laughter]—he meant the voters. That being so, why should Irish Members and Irish constituencies be placed under the extraordinary restrictions proposed by the Bill? The Irish people sent their Representatives to that House because they wanted to get changes made in the law, and they sent their Members there as their servants. The Irish Members did not come there to amuse themselves; they did not come there to assist at pub- 1942 lic dinners, or to attend the Queen's levees and her balls. But they came there to "slog" in the public interests. They came there to work on behalf of the people who sent them; and as for considering whether their proposals and speeches were agreeable to the Prime Minister or his Government, they did not care a single rush, and they believed that it was only by returning a certain class of men who would bring steady pressure to bear on the Government that the English working men would get the reforms they desired, and begin to see the whole character and office of the House. They knew very well that legislation was affected by the character of the House. They might reduce the question to a mathematical calculation, and say that the chances of a certain Bill in a certain direction with a House of Commons of which each Member on an average possessed £1,000 passing would be as 10, while the chance of a similar Bill with a House of Commons possessing each on an average £100 would be as 100. Take, for instance, the Employers' Liability Bill. The employers were in the House, the workmen were outside; and he should like to know how many Representatives the workmen had in the House when that Bill came before the House? It was not to be contended that if they reduced the expenditure they would not bring about a better class of Representatives on the whole. Why had hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on his side of the House declined to accept a Resolution of that character? Simply because they wished to have their monied influence felt. He was convinced that they would never have thorough-going legislation until the constituencies were bound to pay the expenses of the candidates. The theory to which he had already adverted was that the House of Commons was open to every man. Yes, that was nominally the case, but in reality they found that it was only a certain class of men who were able to get into it. The story was told of a person saying the law was open to everybody. "Yes," said the person addressed, "and so is the London Tavern"—a swell restaurant in its day— meaning "if you are able to pay." In the same way the House of Commons was open to everybody if he was able to pay for it, and the same state of things would continue to exist until the constituents were obliged to pay the expenses of the 1943 elections. The idea that Members came there to work in the public interest was an exploded fallacy. There never was a greater mistake. The great majority came there to advance their own personal conveniences and concerns; and hence upon that account, until legislation was carried which would enable the humblest working man to put up against "my Lord Tom Noddy," and fight him upon even terms, the working men and the masses of the people of England would find that Membership of that House was a thing confined to a limited section, and that its legislation would be swayed and conducted by the interests of that limited section, and not by the interests of the people at large.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he hoped the Amendment would be pressed to a division, because some Members in the House desired to appear before their constituents in a proper light. He wanted to know whether the great Conservative Party were prepared to stand before the constituencies as being in favour of extravagance, limiting the number of candidates available for seats, and anxious to maintain a barrier against the mass of people being represented by those in whom they had the greatest interest, and with whom they had the closest affinity? This was an opportunity for them to declare themselves upon the matter, because they had no special reasons such as that which seemed to affect the Government so much, for voting against their convictions in order to keep an undertaking with the other side of the House. He hoped there would be found Members on both sides who would not turn back against the opinions which they had expressed, over and over again, in favour of throwing on the constituencies the obligation to provide machinery under which candidates might freely present themselves for seats in Parliament. For his own part, he should have much pleasure in supporting the Motion.
§ MR. MAYNE
said, that if the Prime Minister had waited until he had seen that almost every Member who had addressed the House spoke in favour of the proposal, it might have affected the right hon. Gentleman's decision. One of the objects of the Bill of the Government was to lessen the expense of elections, and the proposal of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) 1944 went in the same direction. He had had much to do with Municipal and Parliamentary elections in Ireland, and, limited as the Irish Municipal franchise was, he new wards in Dublin in which the constituents were twice as numerous as the constituents in some Irish boroughs; while the expense of the election in the wards did not amount to £ 1 in every £10 of the expense of Parliamentary elections in the boroughs. The Bill also imposed penalties of a very stringent character upon persons indulging in dishonourable practices at Parliamentary elections. He had been concerned in Parliamentary elections in Ireland where he might almost say he felt disgust at the imposition practised upon candidates by gentlemen in the respectable position of Returning Officers; and if this Bill should become operative, as he hoped it would, probably the only gentleman remaining to be dealt with in the constituency by penal clauses would be those who occupied that responsible position. The proposal of the hon. Gentleman dealt with that person now, and he would cordially support it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 247: Majority 167.—(Div. List, No. 118.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. LEWIS
, in whose name the following Notice appeared upon the Paper, to move:—That this House is of opinion that the course proposed, of limiting the amount of lawful expenditure by candidates for seats in this House, and then restricting, by odious and heavy penalties, the mode of such expenditure in matters not essentially improper, is inexpedient and unjust,said, that he did not know that he should have troubled the House with any remarks if it had not been for the observations of the Attorney General on the debate on Monday night, and the imperfect view he had presented to the House of the speech he (Mr. Lewis) had made with respect to the Corrupt Practices Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman had placed him before the public as the representative of electioneering agents, and had distinctly 1945 stated that he advocated the cause of bribery. That was certainly very unfair and unjust of the Attorney General, who was as sharp-witted as any Member of the House in apprehending the purport of an opponent's speech. The whole object of his (Mr. Lewis's) speech, on the occasion to which he referred, was to show that the Bill would press hardly upon candidates, and he had not referred to its effect upon electioneering agents. But, because incidentally he stated that if the Bill were to pass into law, candidates would find it necessary to employ more professional assistance than they did at present, the Attorney General thought fit to say he was taking a professional view of the question. In fact, instead of wishing to encourage the practice of resorting to professional assistance, he desired to lessen the number of pitfalls to which a candidate would be exposed by this Bill, and thus to diminish the demand for professional intervention. He appealed to the House as to whether the Attorney General ever attempted in the least to answer the objections he had ventured to urge against his Bill? He contented himself rather with dealing with arguments against the Bill as a whole; but all he condescended to say with reference to the ridiculous anomalies and results following the operation of this Bill was that he would not follow him (Mr. Lewis) through all the details of his speech. The Attorney General had made much of the cheapness of the election proceedings in Hackney; but he would remind the hon. and learned Member that only 64 per cent of that constituency were polled at the election to which he had drawn attention. His (Mr. Lewis's) object on the present occasion was to draw the attention of the House and the country to the specific proposition which he had put upon the Paper, though he did not purpose to ask the House to divide upon it. It affirmed that, inasmuch as the Bill limited the expenses of elections to a very narrow amount, it was most unfair and improper to accompany that provision with others which made particular expenditure penal where no impropriety was actually committed. If a candidate were told that he must not spend more than £350, what was the use of telling him that he must not spend so much in the hiring of messengers and clerks, and in the purchase of ribbon? 1946 The very limiting of the amount was sufficient, and it was quite unnecessary to inform him that he must not spend money on one thing or another. The pitfalls in the Bill were of a most serious character; and, as far as the Attorney General was concerned, he did not propose to remove them in any sense of the word, but in a most irregular manner complained that he (Mr. Lewis) had given no definition of the Law of Agency. But whose duty was it to define the law if not that of the Attorney General himself? That law was, however, very strongly bound up in the Motion he had before the House at the present time. The Prime Minister seemed to have derived, from perusing the debate on the second reading of the Bill, the impression that there was no vital difference between the two Front Benches with regard to it. There were vital differences on many questions, such as those raised by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope). Nearly every Member of the House had experience of the manner in which his seat was endangered by the foolish conduct of those whom he had begged not to do certain things. Was there any remedy in the Bill for the Member whose conduct might have been prudent and lawful, but who was unseated for some petty act of folly on the part of his agent? From the commencement to the end there was no reasonable, moderate, or considerate provision to that effect. On the contrary, the supposed offences of a candidate were pursued with unrelenting severity; in fact, the Bill was drawn upon the severest possible lines. His object in making these observations was to draw attention to the extraordinary way in which a supposed offence on the part of a candidate was dealt with. In a borough limited by this Bill to the expense of £400, what could it matter, if the candidate kept his expenses to that amount, whether he had 30 clerks instead of 20, or 20 committee rooms instead of 19, or as many messengers as he could afford; but, according to the Bill, these trifling differences would upset the election. If a candidate was allowed to spend £400, and did not exceed that sum, yet if he had 30 clerks instead of 25, or 20 instead of 19 committee-rooms, his election was upset.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member appeared to be going through the Bill clause by clause. That he was not entitled to do, for that was the function of the Committee.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he would submit to the judgment of the Chair, and eon-tent himself with the illustrations he had given. He wished, however, to draw attention to this result of the Bill, Even if the very limited expenditure allowed was adhered to in the letter as well as in the spirit, yet should the candidate spend it in a different manner to that provided by the Bill, it involved the loss of his seat. He (Mr. Lewis) was, however, glad to see that already there were many Amendments on the Paper on the first 12 clauses of the Bill, and he believed they would have a lively time of it in Committee. The Attorney General, instead of answering the criticisms on the Bill, had contented himself with eloquent vapouring with respect to purity of election. When the Attorney General described his speech against the second reading as being in favour of bribery, he took a liberty for which there was no justification. He did not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman believed it when he alleged that he was taking the part of a class outside the House on this question. The Attorney General knew that to all these matters he had given close and accurate attention, and he thought, therefore, that it was a subject in which he was entitled to speak without having it thrown in his face that he was the representative of any class or interest. Many observations which had been made were entitled to the most careful consideration; but, instead of answering them, the Attorney General had chosen to cast the slur upon him that he was supporting bribery. That was a great liberty for the Attorney General to take, and the statement was altogether unfounded. As the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) desired an opportunity to bring forward his Motion, he would not detain the House further; but he felt bound to make these few remarks as a protest against the speech of the Attorney General.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was much obliged to the hon. Member for Londonderry for the opportunity he had afforded him of bringing forward the Amendment which stood in his name, the 1948 adoption of which by the House would enable Irish Members to withdraw from the discussion of the Bill. The Bill had been introduced for the purpose of meeting a state of affairs existing in some of the constituencies of England which had not existed in Ireland since the passing of the Ballot Act. Before the passing of that Act probably some Irish constituencies were as corrupt as any in this country. But that Act, insuring as it did the secrecy of voting, had protected the voter from intimidation, whether at the hands of his landlord or the clergy. Notwithstanding this, the Irish constituencies were now to be put under this most stringent Act, beset as it was with dangers to candidates, because many English constituencies had proved themselves to be corrupt. There was no more reason to include Ireland in this exceptionally severe Bill, directed against a special evil in England, than there was to place England under the provisions of the Crimes Act of last year, which was alleged to have been passed by Parliament to meet an exceptional state of affairs in Ireland. Since the Ballot Act they had had only four Election Petitions in Ireland, and only in the case of the present hon. Member for Tyrone, who was unseated for Dun-gar van, was any of them successful. That was primâ faciea very fair claim why the request they made—that the provisions of the Bill should not extend to Ireland—should be granted; and he should be only too glad if the result of the consideration of his Amendment by the House should be that the Irish Members would find themselves in a position to leave English Members to discuss by themselves the provisions of this very complicated Bill. If, however, this Bill was to apply to Ireland, it was absolutely necessary that some safeguards should be inserted in Committee. For his own part, he did not desire to undertake the difficult duty of wading through the Bill in Committee, and of endeavouring to hedge it round with safeguards. The measure had been brought in to meet two evils—first, the increase in corrupt practices on the part of the constituencies and some of their candidates; and, secondly, the alarming and very great height to which election expenses had risen in election contests throughout England. Neither of those two circumstances applied to Ireland. 1949 Corrupt practices did not exist in Irish constituencies. Practically speaking, in any contest for a popular constituency in Ireland the popular candidate could obtain his return for an expenditure very little exceeding, if at all exceeding, the sum charged by the Returning Officer and the hotel expenses of the candidate. He himself was returned for three large constituencies at the last General Election, without any expense whatever except the Sheriff's costs. They had established that principle now throughout Ireland; and everywhere the electors and people were beginning to recognize thoroughly that it was to their interest to prevent the imposition of the excessive charges upon candidates which were so usual in past times, when elections were managed by local magnates and wire-pullers, and that if they expected good service from their Member they must see that he was not unfairly mulcted. These were the lessons that they had endeavoured to inculcate upon the Irish constituencies, and he was glad to say that without any Act of Parliament or repressive legislation they had succeeded so far. It was, then, in the face of the absolute purity of election that prevailed in Ireland that the Government came with this formidable Bill, bristling with spikes and pitfalls of all kinds, against dishonest candidates. The objections of the Irish Members were few but important. In the first place, they said that the Common Law construction of corruption and undue influence was liable to be abused by Irish Judges, and, in the event of such abuse, high penalties would be inflicted without mercy on Irish candidates. He need only refer as instances to the notorious judgments of Justices Keogh and Lawson on the Galway Petition; and it was the fact that Irish Judges in time past had brought to the discharge of their duties in trying Election Petitions a political partizanship which did not appertain to the Judicial character. Candidates should not be submitted to the very great risks which this Bill would undoubtedly entail upon them of being driven from the constituencies which they had been in the habit of representing. Again, this Bill, so far from diminishing election expenses in Ireland, would increase them, for it would be impossible to conduct elections without election agents. In Ireland, they 1950 had hitherto dispensed with election agents; but this Bill directed that each candidate should have an election agent. There, at the start, was an expense of £100 upon candidates who from their position were not able to bear any expense which could be avoided. Moreover, there would follow the necessity of employing trained agents in the polling districts, who might be solicitors or other lawyers, to insure that the provisions of the Act were not broken or transgressed. Trying the question by the unanimous wishes of the Irish Members on both sides of the House, and by the almost unanimous expressions of opinion against the Bill, he ventured to assert that there was no occasion for including Ireland in its provisions. It was a measure to meet certain evils that were peculiar to English constituencies alone. Parliament had, therefore, no right to enforce it upon the Irish constituencies, and thus to increase the difficulties of sustaining a popular representation. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the question of Corrupt and Illegal Practices at Parliamentary Elections in Ireland should be reserved for separate consideration,"—(Mr. Parnell,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and the Amendment which he moved, were alike remarkable. They had always hitherto had in substance the same electoral arrangements existing in the two countries, the same legal definitions of what were corrupt and illegal practices, and the same results of an infringement of an election law; but now it was proposed to leave Ireland under the old system, and to hand over the debased country of England to a harder and more severe system, to fresh definitions of illegal practices, and to different modes of payment of election expenses. It would, in his opinion, be to the last degree inconvenient and undesirable to have an absolutely different electoral law applicable to England and to Ireland. He failed to see one single argu- 1951 ment which could cause the Amendment of the hon. Member to commend itself to his judgment. It might be that in Ireland during recent years there had not been much occasion for resort to electoral law; it might be that there had not been much of corrupt and illegal practices; but that might also be the case in many parts of England, Wales, and Scotland. These practices only existed in a very few boroughs and counties, for the majority of the counties in England, Wales, and Scotland were not corrupt; yet it was deemed desirable, in the interests of the electoral laws generally, by those who proposed this Bill, to make new arrangements, not only with regard to portions of the country which had been open to suspicion, but also with regard to those which had been pure. The case of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was that Ireland need not be included, because in those counties where the hon. Gentleman and his Friends were elected there was no necessity for the Bill. If that was so, how could it work any injustice to the hon. Member or his Friends that such a reasonable reform should be instituted in other counties and districts which were not amenable to these beneficent influences? The only two other principal points to which the speech of the hon. Member was directed were those of undue influence and election agents. With regard to the first, he could not call to mind that there was anything whatever in the Bill that would interfere with the old law as to undue influence; and, therefore, the first of those argumenss was outside the question. As to the other point, as he read the Bill, it seemed that every candidate must have an election agent. He thought the hon. Member's objection to that well worthy of consideration. An election agent need not in all cases be necessary, and, that being so, if an Amendment were moved in Committee on that point, he should be disposed to support it. He regretted that the hon. Member for the City of Cork should have seen fit to go back and repeat the old attacks upon the Irish Judges. One of the Judges to whom he had referred was dead, and the other still living. He had the honour to know all the Judges, and he believed them to be able, upright, and impartial, and that they were thought to be so by those whose confidence and respect they 1952 sought to obtain. He could not hear the remarks of the hon. Member without standing up in defence of those gentlemen whom he had had for some time the honour of knowing. If the Bill was good for England, it was good for Ireland, and, therefore, he hoped the Amendment would not be accepted by the House.
I will endeavour, Sir, to follow the example of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, in being brief on this occasion, as the question is a very narrow one, and it is very easy indeed to advert to the points which have been raised. Now, Sir, it is almost impossible for the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and must be quite impossible for the House, to accede to the proposition that Ireland should be exempted from a Bill not denied to be salutary in England on the ground that the Irish Judges cannot be trusted with its administration. If the Government from time to time appoint to the Bench in Ireland gentlemen whose integrity and judicial impartiality cannot be trusted, that is a subject which manifestly applies to every law which they are called upon to administer, and not to matters relating to elections only. I, of course, do not accept the statements of the hon. Member; but from his own point of view I think he must see it is impossible to consider that as a reason why we should not have the Law of Elections in Ireland as regards corrupt practices in the best possible condition. Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman will, I think, see that the exclusion of Ireland from this Bill makes it a stigma upon England and Scotland. It is not to be expected of this House of Commons, which mainly represents England and Scotland, and having the preponderance of opinion, that we should be prepared to accept a proposition founded upon principles involving that result. But, Sir, there is one statement of the hon. Member for the City of Cork to which I think I may confidently appeal as invalidating entirely the ground upon which he has made this Motion, even if considered from his own point of view in every other respect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) had already adverted to and made use of his argument, that he and his Friends will suffer no injury from this Bill. Let 1953 me look at the matter from another point of view. The hon. Member for the City of Cork said—"I object to your Bill; I object to the inclusion of Ireland in your Bill." And why? Because all elections in Ireland are pure? Because all election practices in Ireland are pure? Because the burden of enormous expenses does not attach to Irish elections? Is that his ground? No, Sir; that is not his ground. His ground is that to one portion of the candidates in Ireland this flattering description applies. Well, Sir, I must say it is highly honourable to the hon. Gentleman, and highly honourable to his Friends, if they can manage their elections on these principles. I am bound to say, in candour and in honesty, that although, to some extent, there appear to be a considerable number of instances in which these Gentlemen do not comply with the law by making Returns of their expenses, yet, looking at the Returns which have been made, they do, to a considerable extent, bear out the statement of the hon. Member. But surely he cannot possibly say, taking it upon his own showing, that because for one portion of the candidates in Ireland elections are cheap, and in the sense of which we are now speaking are pure, that therefore Ireland is to be altogether excluded from this Bill. The logical bearing of his argument is this—that he and all his Friends ought to be excluded from the operation of the Bill; but that all the other candidates in Ireland not connected with him or his Party ought to be brought within its operation. I have had recently brought to my notice the case of two counties in Ireland, one of which spent £4,000, and another has already paid £6,000, but has not yet settled its account. Another county, which is not a large county—with about 5,000 electors—spent £10,000 for a single candidate. Surely, that is a case which calls for the application of this Bill. How can the hon. Gentleman, rising in his place, or any Friend of his—if I grant the whole of his statements in the whole breadth of their application to himself and to the different candidates who are in the sacred band which he leads—deny to these other Gentlemen who have to pay £4,000, £6,000, and £10,000 for a seat the application of a Bill which he admits to be beneficial in England and Scotland? If the hon. Gentleman has made 1954 this Motion for the purpose of paying a tribute—which he is entitled, perhaps, to claim—to himself and those with whom he is associated, yet there is no reason why he should either inflict a stigma upon England and Scotland, or inflict a hardship upon candidates not associated with himself in Ireland by dooming them to pay these heavy, and, in many cases, these intolerable and scandalous expenses, which are now the great disgrace of many English constituencies.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the Prime Minister had spoken with more than his usual frankness; but he (Mr. Sexton) considered that it was rather hard upon the people of Ireland that because the conduct of constituencies in England and Scotland at elections was bad they should be harassed and annoyed by a Bill of this description. The sole reason for this Bill was the conduct of English and Scotch candidates and constituencies. They knew, from repeated Commissions of Inquiry and the contents of Blue Books, that there were large constituencies where the average voter was willing to sell his vote for a shilling or a pot of beer; and they had to complain bitterly, on the part of the people of Ireland, that a country which had retained purity of election should be exposed to a Bill of this kind, which would impose expense upon popular candidates because of the conduct of the people of England and Scotland. The Prime Minister had referred to one county, which he had not named, in which the expense of the candidate was £10,000. He was at a loss to know what county that could be. It was suggested to him that the expense was incurred in the county of Londonderry. They, however, knew that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who represented that county came from the North, and with that prudence which was characteristic of the North he was careful of the expenditure, while he was lavish with political promises. It was very hard upon Members of the Irish Party who had done faithful service to the people, and had not sought for themselves any political or financial advantages, that they should be subjected to a Bill which would impose upon them at election time officials whom they never employed before. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had informed them that he was returned for three different contested constituencies 1955 at the last election without any material expense. In his own small experience something of the same kind occurred; indeed, it was impossible for him to incur any legal expenses in his election, for the two other candidates had bought up every attorney and attorney's clerk in the place. He then dispensed with an election agent; but he supposed, if the present Bill passed, he would be compelled to employ one. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No!] The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had spoken highly of the Irish Judges. They knew that lawyers were neither the most chivalrous nor Quixotic in the world; but he confessed that he realized the sophistication of life when he heard a learned Gentleman who had been an Attorney-General, and would be a Judge, get up and vouch, in pathetic tones, for the purity of the Irish Judges, saying that he knew them, and they were his friends. They knew them too. It was true they had not the same acquaintance with them as the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and if they had they would not be proud of it. One of the first acts of the late Attorney General for Ireland was to make his election agent at Mallow Registrar of his Court; and that was the sort of political purity which prevailed, and had prevailed for a long time past, in that borough. Mallow, for scores of years, had been the political hotbed in which claimants to the Judicial Bench were reared. Upon its roll of voters there were not more than 250 names, and for the last 15 or 20 years it had been regularly debauched by future Irish Judges. He could name 20 or 30 persons from the borough who had received public offices. [Sir. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The Prime Minister seemed to think that an argument in favour of this Bill; but they had disposed of his Solicitor General, and had taught the whole hungry tribe of Irish lawyers it was no use to come there any more, and they had elected his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Brien) and purified the borough of Mallow without the aid of this Bill. They had taught the smaller electors, who depended upon the Party favours of the lawyers, that their interests depended upon purity of election. He objected extremely to the Bill because it subjected to the same punishment criminal acts and acts of a very different 1956 class; and he must own with shame, though the shame was not his but theirs, that he would not object to it so strongly if its administration were to be intrusted to English instead of Irish Judges. Everyone understood what was meant by bribery, or personation, or treating; but why was undue influence placed in the same category? He was very much afraid that when the offence of undue influence came to be tried by Irish Judges they would not forget that they were promoted politicians; they would bow to the Whig or Tory interest, according to the side they had taken, or, at any rate, would be adverse to the popular candidate. But what would amount to undue influence? An exhortation to "vote for Porter and fair rents?" It was not sufficient to say that it must be an offence recognized by the law of Parliament—that was, Statute Law or the Common Law—for whenever they had pressed the Attorney General on any legal point for which he was unable to find the authority of a Statute he always took refuge in the Common Law, and in that midnight darkness it was impossible to follow him. It would be difficult indeed for an Irish candidate to assure himself from fine and disability if such an undefined offence as undue influence were left to the interpretation of the Judges. For these reasons the case of Ireland should be reserved for separate consideration. He agreed with the second reading of the Bill, and was quite as anxious as anyone to limit and abolish everything that interfered with freedom and purity of election; but he objected to having disabilities placed upon their country on account of the political sins of others.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I have no right to speak for the Attorney General; but that is my view of the matter.
§ MR. HEALY
Were they to understand that they were to have two Judges? ["Yes!"] He was very glad to hear that. He did not object to the Bill as a whole; but he objected to various provisions which it contained. The Irish Members demanded legislation, and they were refused it. They did not demand 1957 this legislation, and therefore it was thrust upon them. That seemed to be the usual attitude of the British Legislature. Why should they not be consulted on this matter? The Prime Minister told them that this was not a Party question; but if they consulted the Front Bench opposite, why did they not also consult the Irish Members and meet their objections? The Prime Minister thought he made a tremendous point when he said that even if the Parnellites had not much expense, that was no reason why other candidates should have to pay large amounts. The right hon. Gentleman was needlessly solicitous, because in a very short time the great bulk of the Irish Representatives would be returned under the flag of his hon. Friend. What was the attitude of the Irish people towards the House? They regarded the House as a legislative smithy, where certain work was to be done, and they sent certain people to do it. What was the position of England? It was a country where men sold their votes for a pint of beer. The Irish people did not do that; but because the English were sinful the Irish were to have no more cakes and ale. Irish candidates would have to study the Schedule and every detail of this Bill with microscopic care. At present he could go down to a constituency and get a gentleman to nominate him, hand in his paper, and, presto! the thing was done. Under the Bill he would require to have an agent and sub-agents, make contracts through them, and so on through the miserable litany of the Bill. This was intolerable. If he failed in any one particular, some Mr. Justice Porter would come down upon him and inflict these penalties of fine and disqualification. What could be a more shameful thing than to sell a vote? The man who would it he would have scourged. But they put him upon the same footing as the man who made a speech that a Judge might consider intimidation. Undue influence would be what intimidation was to the Resident Magistrates under the Grimes Act; and intimidation was to the Resident Magistrates whatever the Government disliked. He objected to the public conscience of Ireland being regulated by the British barometer. He did not care a pin whether he was in the House or not; but if the constituents desired Members of a certain type they should not be de- 1958 barred from sending them. Then the Irish Judges were wholly unfit to try political offences — though he did not deny that there were some of them who would endeavour to act impartially; but there were others he would not trust on any conceivable subject in which politics or passion could enter. They asked that the offences should be defined; and the difficulty as to undue influence might be met by its being defined as threats; but no candidate should be responsible for any threats uttered by anyone who was not a paid agent. He would not object to having political offences tried by English Judges, who would be welcomed in Ireland, and would not require police protection; and the Irish Judges, who were over-paid and underworked, might be sent over hero. They certainly could not be trusted to decide on questions of undue influence. When his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Brien) was victorious over Mr. Naish, the Solicitor General for Ireland, it was suggested that one of the speeches in favour of his hon. Friend was a case of undue influence, and that a Petition might be presented against his return. But Mr. Naish answered—"If you put him out, they would immediately elect another ruffian just as bad." He appreciated the philosophy of Mr. Naish; but it should not depend upon the prejudice of any single Judge whether or not the penalties of such a Bill should be enforced. If the Bill were to be applied to Ireland, a very different scale would have to be applied to Irish voters than was contained in the Bill; and he would, therefore, support his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell).
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he thought the arguments used and the speeches made by hon. Members who sat near him deserved some reply from the Government, although he was quite sure that no effective answer could be given to any of them. He did not disapprove of the Bill as applied to England; and he was in favour of the most stringent action being taken against corruption, treating, and intimidation. The question of undue influence was, however, not defined, and until it was defined the door was left open for very unjust charges and sentences. As an instance of this, he might mention that in the celebrated Irish case of the Petition from the County of Galway undue in- 1959 fluence was interpreted by the Judge to include the use of any arguments employed by the Catholic clergy to the effect that a man might, by voting against his conscience, imperil his salvation. That was held to be intimidation in a spiritual sense. It would, in his opinion, be unjust to extend all the provisions of the present Bill to Ireland, where the Judges were, in many instances, political partizans. It was by a strange perversity that the Prime Minister and the right lion, and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had used almost the same arguments about the necessity of making the law the same in England and Ireland, when Irish Members had been told over and again, when pleading for an assimilation of the law in Ireland to that of England, that the condition of the two countries was entirely different, and that they must be content under the law as it existed. The Prime Minister had seemed to think that the great objection of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) to the Bill was that some of the Irish Judges were thought to be unfair. His hon. Friend had, however, contended that the Bill was one which, in any case, Ireland did not want, because it was framed to deal with a state of things which in that country did not exist. Practically speaking, there was no bribery and no corruption in Ireland. He was aware, indeed, that there were certain small boroughs where bribery and corruption in various forms still existed; but he contended that every successive election had been purging even those small boroughs of bribery and corruption. If time and education were allowed to do their work, there would soon be no trace of bribery and corruption in any of the small Irish boroughs. In the last 12 months they had cleared out one of them, and never again would the borough of Mallow be given over to corruption. In the county constituencies in Ireland there was no thought or idea now of bribery or corruption at all. A candidate might be elected at a very small expense, even for a large county and after a sharp contest. Under such conditions, what want was there of a measure so stringent as that now under discussion? With regard to the Irish Judges, he did not believe that, as a rule, they were not upright men. He 1960 believed the great majority of them were upright men; but it was well known that Irish Judges were very often, if not always, chosen as political partizans, and that they retained on the Bench of Justice the feelings and the sentiments which had raised them to it. The late Judge Keogh was a remarkable example of this, and his judgment in the case of the famous Galway Petition had not yet been forgotten. He did not like to say anything about a man who was dead; but there were many men in the House who knew what were the charges against the political and judicial career of that Judge, whose appointment had been a scandal, and seemed like a gross practical joke at the expense of the whole judicial system. Even supposing that the imputations made against some of the Judges were wholly unfounded, it was not an advantageous thing to have Election Petitions tried by men in whose impartiality no one in the country believed. He did not assume that the popular feeling against the Judges as a body was justified by facts; but it existed, and had to be taken into account. As regarded intimidation, that offence had almost altogether ceased to exist in Ireland. There had, no doubt, once been intimidation—intimidation exercised by the landlord over the tenant—and to cope with that had sprung up the intimidation of the populace. The ballot had done a good deal to prevent intimidation, and, together with the Land Law Act of the present Government, had done much to relieve the tenant from any fear of oppression on the part of his landlord. Intimidation, as an offence, had therefore almost entirely ceased in Ireland, and he believed that the condition of things would go on improving from year to year. The Bill, however useful for England it might be, was entirely unnecessary for Ireland, and would only tend to intensify the feeling against the Judicial Bench in Ireland. Lastly, though this was by no means an argument on which he wished to lean too heavily, the Government might recollect that the acceptance of the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork would greatly facilitate the passing of their measure. He would, therefore, strongly urge the Government, for their own sake, to agree to the Amendment, and to detach Ireland altogether from the scope of the Bill.
THE ATTOKNEY-GENEBAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORIER)
said, that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) rested his Motion on the ground that election offences, such as bribery and undue influence, were practically unknown in Ireland, and that the electoral purity of the country was such that the Bill would be all but inoperative. If that were so, there could be no conceivable objection to the Bill, which, whatever its faults might be, could not by any possibility do any harm. Many forms of crime—wife-beating, for example—were extremely rare in Ireland; but that was no reason why the law should not forbid them. The hon. Member for the City of Cork must have regarded with mingled surprise and apprehension the line of argument of one of his Colleagues, who had stated that the borough of Mallow had been for a series of years thoroughly and utterly debauched. Probably that was not literally true of the borough; but small boroughs, whether; in Ireland or in England, were very much, alike, and there was no obvious reason why they should not be all treated in the same manner. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) had argued not against an extension of the English law, but against the application to Ireland of certain provisions of the Bill, and had dwelt very sensibly on the difficulty of defining the offence of undue influence. The difficulty was, no doubt, considerable; but it was not novel, and the present Bill could not in any substantial degree alter the existing definition. It was important to bear in mind, as an argument for assimilating the law of England and Ireland, that if the two countries had different laws on this important point, the Irish Judges would not be able to avail themselves of the definitions laid down by their English brethren. Reference had been made, he was sorry to say, to the conduct of some of the Irish Judges; and he almost despaired of ever inducing hon. Members opposite to desist from that course. He felt that the Judges needed no defence; but he was bound to ask hon. Members opposite to consider whether this practice should not be discontinued except in case of necessity. Neither the hon. Member for Longford nor the hon. Member for Wexford had included all the Judges in their denunciations; but the belief in the unfairness of the 1962 whole Bench was kept alive by the frequency of the allusions made to it in the House. The Judges, as public servants, were, no doubt, responsible for their conduct to Parliament; but no light charge ought to be made against them in Parliament for the reason that there was a proper and legitimate mode of testing the conduct of a Judge, and it was only proper that he should have an opportunity of defending himself. If it could be shown that any one among the Irish Judges was open to the observations that had been made in general terms, then he said that Judge was not fit to be upon the Bench, and the proper course would be to bring to the proof the allegations here made. It was impossible to grapple with mere generalities and statements, regarding which no facts were given. He did not ask the House to believe he was unprejudiced in the matter; but he did ask those who were influenced by expressions of opinion in that House to believe that they were not supported by any body of men outside the House who had any competent means of forming an opinion; and, notwithstanding all that was done to weaken their influence, the Judges occupied their right position in the public mind. As regarded political matters, he did not think that that objection could be seriously urged. The Irish Judges, like other Judges, were taken from different sections of the community, and some were hasty and some were not, and these differences must be looked for so long as men were men; but so far from their appointments being political, three Judges out of the last four never had seats in that House at all, and the fourth, the hon. Member for Wexford himself, said he would entirely trust as regarded his impartiality. As regarded their fitness to try Election Petitions, they must remember that they already tried them; and when, at the hon. Member's request, two Judges had been substituted for one, he thought it unreasonable that any further objections should be made. Even though hon. Members opposite might not have spent any large sums of money on their elections, they must remember that there were other Members not in the same happy category, and there could be no doubt that the legitimate expenses of candidates were largely in excess of the amount which might reasonably be al- 1963 lowed. Some other matters had been referred to. He did not complain of the allusions to himself; but he could only say that if there was anything in the way of undue influence or of bribery in the placards, "Porter and fair rent"—anything which was open to question—it would seem that the stricter and more definite they made the law the better for hon. Gentlemen opposite. He could assure those hon. Gentlemen that any Amendments they might suggest would receive attention in Committee; but it would be monstrous not to have one uniform system governing elections in England and Ireland.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had almost allowed that there were no electoral offences in Ireland. That was the danger of this Bill, because the Judges who would find no offences could create them plentifully under the vast powers entrusted to them. He had referred also to small boroughs in Ireland with that threatening glance which seemed to intimate their hasty annihilation. English opinion was very likely to be deceived upon such a point as this, because it would, perhaps, be thought that these boroughs were small in regard to population, influence, and importance, compared with English boroughs with the same number of voters. But where in Ireland they saw 200 electors they had a town with as many people as a town in England that had 1,000 electors. This was an instance of how the right hon. and learned Gentleman put an extinguisher upon every fact that would lead to the information of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted, too, with a strange want of consistency and logic, that this term of "undue influence" was indefensible. Why, then, did he seek to renew it in the Bill? The word was undefended and undefensible; and yet the right hon. and learned Gentleman kept it in a measure of a most drastic character, which he asked the House to pass. He (Mr. Dawson) was willing to see the laws of the two countries assimilated, so far as such assimilation gave increased freedom to Ireland; but he declined to shackle that country in order to follow the example of England and Scotland. This was a Bill of restrictions anni-hilatory of the rights of electors, and he would certainly oppose it. Though 1964 it was brought in for England, he thought it was meant for Ireland, because it was well known that the English Judges and the whole hierarchy of the law knew how to respect the rights and privileges of Englishmen, and that if the measure contained anything that was trivial or unworthy of being taken advantage of, the traditions of the Bench would be to defend the law, and not to degrade the Empire. Did the Attorney General not know that the tendency in Ireland was to pay Members, instead of Members debauching the constituencies? While he was anxious, like every other Irish Member, for purity of election, he declared that the extension of the provisions of the Bill to Ireland was totally unwarrantable. The proposal of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was not directed against purity of elections in Ireland, but in favour of a separate measure in view of the totally different position of the two countries. He hoped, therefore, the Government would see their way to accede to the request of Irish Members on both sides, and rather introduce a measure which would apply to Ireland with more cogency and justice.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, he approved of the Bill for England, believing that it would effect a very desirable reform in that country; but for Ireland it was totally unnecessary. Nothing had taken place in Ireland during the last 15 years that had contributed to the introduction of this Bill. There had been no electoral scandals there; but it was because of the electoral corruption at Chester, Sandwich, Macclesfield, and Wigan, and many other places in England, that this measure had been brought forward. It was for the sins of those peccant English boroughs that Ireland was to be subjected to a measure likely to be applied to most oppressive and unfair purposes, and in the way of stifling the small amount of liberty that at present existed in that country. They surely got enough coercive measures for themselves in Ireand without having this thrust upon them. The real remedy for electoral corruption was to do as they had done in England—where there was great improvement in this matter as compared with 40 or 50 years ago—namely, extend the franchise. Why not do for Ireland what they had done for England in that respect? Why not include it in 1965 the provisions of the Act of 1867? That would be the way to prevent any corruption that did exist, and prevent even any undue influence that might exist. As showing the way in which such a measure would be worked in Ireland, he might quote a dictum of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, who had laid it down that, in advocating the cause of candidates, a man must not hold out hopes of reward here or hereafter, or fears of spiritual or temporal injury. In laying down such a principle the learned Judge would preclude any man from saying it was a moral duty to give an honest vote. What was the standard of moral duty to be set up in Ireland under this Bill? Would it prohibit a man from advising or warning an elector that he was not to vote one way or the other unless there was a Circular from the Propaganda permitting him to do so? With the new relations that seemed now to exist with that famous College, such a thing might take place; but he objected to have such a decision authorized by this Act, and future decisions founded upon it. Ireland did not want the Bill, nor had she asked for it; and even if there was any necessity for applying a measure of this kind to that country, it should be a separate and distinct one altogether, adapted to Irish requirements.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, he saw no reason why the discredit which the passing of this Bill necessarily imputed to England and to English constituencies should be thrown on the constituencies of Ireland. The justification of a measure of this character, which might admittedly inflict the most serious consequences on those who were innocent, but might have been incautious, could alone be rested on the proved inadequacy of the existing law to meet some pressing evil. Now, certainly, as related to England, such strong instances had been mentioned that he did not complain of English Members introducing such a stringent Bill as this to deal with the flood of corruption in England; but no necessity whatever had been shown for extending it to Ireland, where corrupt practices did not prevail to any extent. In 1875 a thoroughly well constituted Committee of the House sat to discuss this question of dealing with corrupt practices; and not only did that Committee not suggest that the stringency of 1966 the Acts applying to Ireland should be increased, but the evidence adduced before the Committee showed that, with the exception of a few cases of intimidation, other corrupt practices might be said to be matters of past history in that country, and did not now prevail. This was borne out by the fact that in 1871 there was not a single Election Petition presented; in 1872 there were only two, which were referred to the Judge for trial; and in 1874, after the General Election, there were only eight Petitions. Of those eight Petitions five raised questions of law alone for the decision of the Courts; and, with the exception of the case of one Northern borough, there was no allegation that any corrupt practice had been committed other than intimidation in any of the three other cases. Certainly it was noteworthy that, since the passing of the Act of 1868, with the exception of the City of Dublin and the remarkable decision made in Galway County, there had been no cases in which the Judges in Ireland reported that corrupt practices extensively prevailed. Again, after the General Election in 1880, only six Petitions were brought to trial; and, except in regard to intimidation, not one of the offences or charges proposed to be dealt with under this Bill was alleged against any of the persons petitioned against. He admitted that there was one slight case—that of the election for Dungannon; but the Member petitioned against was unseated for only one single act coming within the category of bribery; and surely one such case, after the election for 1880, was net sufficient to justify the application of such a Bill to Ireland? It was said the Bill would have a great tendency to diminish the expenses to candidates, and in that respect it might be necessary for England. The Attorney General had shown, by the Returns presented to the House, the election expenses were enormous in many places in England. But, so far as he knew, this was not shown in Ireland. It was true there had, in consequence of the Liberal efforts in the North to wrest seats from the Conservative gentry, been a lavish expenditure. But it was of an exceptional, and likely to be of a temporary character. Monaghan stood at the head of the list, the expenses of the two candidates amounting to £3,300,
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, he believed £10,000 had been spent in Down. But that was under very peculiar circumstances. If they looked at the Southern and adjoining constituencies they would find that there had been no unfair or unreasonable expenditure that anyone could complain of. This excessive expenditure, under the present circumstances of Ireland, might be well left to work its own cure. The proposal in the Bill was wholly inadequate. Political organizations and men of great wealth might safely risk, as before, illegal expenditure; for it was by a Petition alone that the return could be questioned. He should like to know where the poor man in Ireland was to find security for the purpose of prosecuting a Petition. A wealthy man might go down and expend as much money as he pleased, trusting to the inability of the poor man to find the deposit requisite to be lodged before the Petition could be entered. Where were poor men to meet the large fees necessary to pay counsel to argue the case before the Election Judges? If there was a sincere desire to practically check illegal expenditure, why should there not be a tribunal constituted which would, whether there was a Petition presented or not, in every case where the expenditure was shown to have been excessive, examine into and report to the House the manner, object, and purposes with which that expenditure had been made. In conclusion, he would ask why, because bribery and treating had been shown to have extensively prevailed in England, were Irish Members to be called to cast discredit upon their country by extending the provisions of this measure as proposed? Under the circumstances, he trusted the House would not force the provisions of a measure which was uncalled for and unnecessary on the people of Ireland, contrary to the wishes of a large majority of their Representatives.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that the Government had shown a disposition to exclude Ireland from the Bankruptcy Bill, which she desired, and wished to include her in a Bill which she did not need, and which had no application to her circumstances. There were very few cases of bribery and corruption in Ire- 1968 land; and when they occurred, according to his experience, it was generally in consequence of the advent of some adventurous Scotchman or Englishman. If the Bill would prevent a recurrence of the visits of these gentlemen he would give it his hearty support. Why, if this Bill was really intended for Ireland, was not the name of the Irish Attorney General on the back of the Bill? He was not afraid of the Irish Judges giving way to prejudice, as some of his hon. Friends were; but he thought they would much dislike, in respect to a class of offences carrying heavy penalties, solely created under that Bill, to be made both Judge and jury. The Irish Judges had already shown themselves adverse to assuming the duty of a jury. The Bill was wholly unsuited to Ireland. What could be more absurd, applied to a country where everybody treated everybody else, than the clause about treating? That clause might be made the occasion of grave injustice; and men might unjustly have penalties imposed upon them greater than those which in this country were visited on men who beat their wives or half-killed their stepmothers. The Irish people had no objection to any legislation for England and Scotland desired by those countries; but they strongly opposed such legislation as that applied to their own country.
said, the Bill was regarded with great dissatisfaction in Ireland, where the one thing of which all classes were proud was the purity of electoral contests. Nowadays, nobody in Ireland ever thought of carrying an election by means of drink or money, or a gang of roughs or attorneys. The English people might learn a lesson from Ireland as to purity of election. The corrupt practices in Ireland were a thing of the past—a matter for Lever's novels. After the General Election in Ireland—a period of very great excitement—the Petitions in Ireland were infinitesimal; indeed, as the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. P. Martin) had reminded the House, there was only one successful Petition, and that was from the unemotional North. Moreover, nobody had ever complained that the will of the people was not fairly and honestly expressed under the present system. The fact was this Bill would not strike at any real abuse in Ireland, but would 1969 be a direct incentive to men to present Petitions in the hope of getting some partizan Judge to try them, who, on some pretext or another, would be glad to upset the choice of the people. Undue influence might be all very well if they knew what undue influence was, and nobody appeared to know much on the subject; but if undue influence existed it could be punished under the Crimes Act. But undue influence in this Act would be what a Judge in Ireland chose to make it; and they all knew that although there were fair and impartial men on the Irish Bench—he had the honour of being tried before one recently—yet there were men on the Irish Bench also whose badness in their judicial capacity no words of theirs were able to describe. Why should such men as these be tempted in this Bill to use their positions to disfranchise political opponents? He hoped the House, if there was any use in hoping anything from it, would not add to the bitterness of its constant refusal to pass the measures that Ireland demanded by forcing on her a Bill which she did not want, and which would simply unsettle the only good and satisfactory institution which Parliament had planted in that country.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that Irish Members had, in the course of the discussion, been taunted with inconsistency in opposing this Bill, because they had often asked for equal laws for England and Ireland. But Irish Members had never asked for equal laws as regarded the letter, but only as regarded the spirit. Laws equal in respect of the letter might act very differently in the two countries. What they wanted in Ireland were laws inspired by the same spirit as prevailed in the laws of England—laws favourable to justice and to the liberty of the people. But did the Government act on that principle? From day to day they were passing special laws for Ireland which they did not want, on the ground that the circumstances of that country were peculiar to it; they should, therefore, be consistent with their contention on this occasion. It was alleged that this Bill would reduce the costs of elections in England. It was very probable that it would increase them in Ireland. One reason why the Bill might imperil the liberties of Ireland was that the Judicial 1970 Bench in that country acted very differently from the Judicial Bench in England where the liberties of the people were concerned. Many of the Irish Judges had won their way to the Bench by political action in or out of that House, and were not to be trusted with the trial of political causes in Ireland. The Attorney General for Ireland had said that the offence of undue influence had not been created by the Bill, it existed already. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman omitted to mention that the penalty for this so-called undue influence was very much increased under the Bill. The penalty for a candidate who should be convicted of undue influence by himself or his agents was that he should be incapable of ever being elected for the county or borough in which the offence was committed, or of sitting in the House during a period of 10 years; and if undue influence was proved to have been practised by his agent without his knowledge or sanction, then he was to be excluded from Parliament during the Parliament for which the election was held. There were Irish Representatives whose exclusion from the House was desired by a large party both in this country and Ireland, and by the Government; and he should not be surprised if treacherous agents were found who would play candidates a trick in order to deprive them of their seats. Such agents would he amply repaid out of the Secret Service money of England. Considering all the circumstances, he believed that portion of the Bill would do much damage in Ireland; and he protested against it being applied to that country.
§ MR. MAYNE
said, that no more extraordinary reason was ever given for a measure than that it would do no harm, especially at a time when the Empire was crying out for legislation which was much needed. If this Bill passed, the expenses in his county for agents and sub-agents would be enormous, whether the seat was contested or not; whereas hitherto, in the case of an uncontested election, the expenses for that county had been merely nominal. He might mention that when he contested Portarlington, a borough which had a very evil reputation for corruption in the old times, he found the most grateful remembrances there of a gentleman who was now on the Irish Judicial Bench; 1971 and there were stories told of £120 having passed for votes, and was that gentleman, if he (Mr. Mayne) were a successful candidate, and a Petition was presented against his return, to be his Judge as to electioneering purity? If for no other reason, he would vote against the Bill on that ground.
§ MR. KENNY
said, that if the Bill were persisted in the number of Amendments would have to be largely increased. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He was glad that the Prime Minister rejoiced at the prospect. He looked upon the Bill simply as a filibustering proposal to interfere with a very salutary and satisfactory state of things in Ireland; and the result would be that instead of its having the effect which all reforms should have of amending the condition of things, it would make them considerably worse. It had been said that the Irish Members had brought unfair charges against the Irish Judges. They had simply said that the Judges in Ireland were not as fair and impartial as those in England. It was impossible that men who depended for their position on political chances could be as fair as men appointed on their personal merits. They were told to call them to account in the proper way; but he thought there was no possibility of their being able to do that, as the only method by which it could be done was entirely out of the reach of the Irish Members and people. He hoped that at the eleventh hour the Government would yield to the remonstrances of the Irish Members, and not persevere in their determination to apply this Bill to Ireland.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, it was expedient that he should, before the debate closed, take some notice of the strange development of Irish opposition. This was the third time the Bill had been before the House. It was first introduced in 1881; but, until to-night, he never heard of any opposition on the part of Irish Members. In 1881 no Irish Member made the slightest objection to the Bill being applied to Ireland. It was then a more severe measure than now, and the only Member from Ireland who addressed the House upon it complained that it contained no provision for placing the expenses of the Returning Officer on the constituency. In 1882 the Bill had no more enthusiastic sup- 1972 porter than the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), who had been cheering the opposition speeches of his Friends to-night. The hon. Member for Cavan, on that occasion, stated that the Bill deserved the support of everyone desirous of electoral purity. Had anything occurred since then? The Bill was the same, except that some of the penalties had been mitigated. The 5th clause was reached in Committee without any of the topics now urged being brought forward, and the Irish Members who voted gave their votes for the Bill. Therefore, he said, he never knew until now that the Irish Members objected to this measure; and for two years, by their silence, they had supported the measure as being applicable to Ireland. If the present Bill had not been made applicable to Ireland, Irish Members would have spoken still more loudly. It would have been said that the Government were making elections cheap in England, but were allowing wealth to retain power in Ireland. Had anything occurred since then? He supposed a mandate had been given to the Irish Party to change the policy they had pursued, and to oppose a Bill they had never opposed before. And what had been the attempted reasons to cover this new opposition? It was said that Ireland was so pure that there was no need for the Bill in Ireland; but, in 1874, England and Scotland, with 351 constituencies, produced 22 Petitions; and Ireland, with 64 constituencies, produced eight. And if England and Scotland had produced the same proportion as Ireland, the number would have been 48 instead of 22. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: How many of the Petitions succeeded in each country?] He had not got the figures; but, from the point of view of the Irish Members, it did not matter, because they said the Judges did not act justly. And it might be said that the whole truth was not discovered. In 1880 the English and Scotch proportion was still lower than that of Ireland; and yet that was the country which it was contended ought to be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Scotland could appeal to its purity—it had had, he believed, only three Petitions since 1868; but Scotland did not ask to be exempted from the Bill. It was said by hon. Members opposite that the Irish popular Party spent no money at election. If, how- 1973 ever, the popular Party was very pure, some portion of the electorate of Ireland must be very impure. [Cries of "The Whig Party!"] If the Party to which hon. Members opposite belonged was so pure, they had nothing to fear from the Bill; and, therefore, they ought not to object to it. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) said that the popular Party in Ireland had had little or no expense in connection with the election of their candidates. He dared say that was the case; but the House had had very little opportunity of judging, because, though at the last Election 105 Members were elected in Ireland, 54 made no return at all of their expenses. The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. P. Martin) said that Monaghan was the county where the expenditure was the largest. He must have forgotten that in the county of Antrim four candidates spent £14,000, and that in the county of Down the candidates spent £12,000. If such great expenditure were allowed in Ireland and forbidden in England, wealthy candidates who failed at the elections in the latter country would flock to the former, in the belief that their wealth would enable them to be successful there. It was curious that the hon. Members who objected to the application of the Bill to Ireland were the very Members who were always praying for equal legislation for the two countries. They said that the law with regard to undue influence ought not to be altered for Ireland. They assumed that the Bill would alter that law, when, as a matter of fact, it would not. [An hon. MEMBER: It alters the penalty.] Well, the alteration of the penalty was agreed to last year, when no objection was raised. [Colonel NOLAN: I objected to it.] If the hon. and gallant Member objected to it, he certainly did not divide the House upon the question. There was some unexplained reason for the present opposition. The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) had threatened that his Party would defeat the Bill by attempting to introduce a large number of Amendments. It would be contemptible to yield to threats of that kind. Those who had charge of the Bill could not possibly yield to an opposition springing from an unknown source, and supported by arguments which were nothing else than threats.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had asked why the Irish Members opposed the application of the Bill to Ireland now, no such opposition having been shown in the last two Sessions. The reason was that the Irish Party had no longer any confidence in the Liberal Government. They had seen the most unconstitutional acts taking place in Ireland with the sanction of the Government; and they believed that if such a Bill as this were passed in the present Parliament, all freedom of election would practically be taken away from Ireland. It was very well for the Attorney General for Ireland to defend the present Bench of Judges; but what guarantee was there that after the passing of the Bill the Ministry would not appoint a partisan Judge who would strain the law in order to get rid of an inconvenient political opponent, like the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), for example, who was sent to gaol for four months only because he was an inconvenient opponent. Did anyone mean to tell him that any English Member would be sent to gaol on similar grounds? The reason why the Irish Members opposed the Bill was that, having talked it over fairly at a, meeting which they held for that purpose, they came to the conclusion that it would not be safe to trust the Government with such a measure. The decision that had been given in the case of the Galway Election Petition, that the interference of priests in an election constituted undue influence, was repugnant to the feelings of the great majority of the Irish people. In these circumstances, seeing that the Judges on the Irish Bench were capable of giving decisions which were opposed to the opinion of the Irish people, he called upon the Government to give some clear definition as to the meaning of the term "undue influence," and as to the meaning of the word "agent." He would only add that he did not know where the mandate of the Irish Party alluded to by the Attorney General should come from. Recently there was a mandate sent to Ireland; but it was not sent through the wish of the Irish Members. He thought that the Treasury Bench was more responsible for it than they were.
said, the hon. and learned Attorney General objected 1975 that no Representative from Ulster had intervened in the debate. He (Mr. Macartney) believed himself that he was only expressing the opinion of all the Members for Ulster, when he said that the whole of that Province would rise in indignation if a different law on this subject were proposed for Ireland from that which was to prevail in England and Scotland. They objected to be subjected to different laws from those which prevailed in the rest of the Kingdom; and they would certainly resent the idea that corrupt practices and intimidation should be allowed to exist in Ireland, while they were put down by fine and other penalties in England.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he must earnestly deny that he had on that, or any other occasion, received any mandate from his constituents, or from anybody else, as to the course he was to take with regard to any measures before Parliament. He had now been nine years in Parliament, and never, on any occasion, had his constituents found fault with his conduct. More than that, he had never received any instructions as to how he was to vote upon any particular question; and therefore he could say, with a clear conscience, that no mandate had been given to him as to how he was to act on this occasion. The hon. Member for Water-ford (Mr. Leamy) had stated, with fairness, that the Irish Party had consulted among themselves, and had come to a conclusion as to how they were to act. The Amendments which had been put down upon the Paper in his (Mr. Biggar's) name were all bonâ fide Amendments. He was prepared to defend them upon their merits, and he believed the House would accept them, if they were disposed to decide the question upon the arguments which might be advanced. The hon. and learned Attorney General asked how he (Mr. Biggar) could conveniently reconcile the course he was now taking with his conduct on a former occasion; but he would point out that, only that very night, the Prime Minister had set hon. Members an example by expressing his convictions in favour of a particular course, and winding up by voting on the other side. He (Mr. Biggar), therefore, thought that he was quite justified in changing his mind, even supposing that he had changed it. The hon. and learned 1976 Gentleman said that, in general terms, he (Mr. Biggar) had supported the provisions of the Bill last year. Well, he had also spoken, in general terms, in favour of the Bill this year, because he conscientiously objected to extravagance in election expenses, either in regard to England or Ireland. But, last year, he had stated that certain specific Amendments were desirable, and there was one particular Amendment which he thought most desirable, and which he believed he would be able to convince the Government they ought to give. If they refused to give that particular Amendment, then he thought the Bill would do more mischief than it would do good in those parts of Ireland with which he was directly interested. He had never seen the advantage of having paid election agents, and of having election committee rooms held in public-houses. Other electioneerers seemed to have different ideas, and were of opinion that it was desirable, in an election contest, to indulge in extravagant expenditure. He was satisfied that if the Bill, in its present state, were passed into law, its results would be disastrous to the Whig Party in the North of Ireland. He knew, by experience, that a great number of the electors were lukewarm and careless; and unless some influence was brought to bear upon them—he did not mean unfair influence—but unless some influence was brought to bear upon individual electors a large number of them would never go to the poll at all. He did not claim to possess the gift of prophecy; but he had a strong personal opinion that, if the Bill were passed, it would be altogether disastrous to the Whig Party; while, with regard to the Irish National and popular Party, they did not require to come into contact with the electors at all, being confident in the strength of their views. Since the last General Election some experience had been gained of the way in which the law was administered in Ireland. At one time it was thought that the so-called Liberal Party would be disposed to administer the law fairly in Ireland; but, since then, they had had experience of packed juries and partizan Judges, which had very considerably opened their eyes. In order to show what sort of men the Irish Judges were, and to justify the want of confidence felt in their administration of the law, he would only relate 1977 one incident that occurred at the last Assizes. A man named Finnigan was put on his trial for an offence committed against a land agent on a particular Sunday in July. But the man was able to show, by producing the books of a large firm in Glasgow, that he was in Glagow upon that particular day; and, therefore, it was impossible that he could have been in the county of Monaghan. But the Judge upon the Bench told the jury that it was quite possible for the informer to have made a mistake as to the day, and that it might have been some other day, and, therefore, that they ought to find him guilty of the charge. Under such circumstances, when a Judge sitting upon the Bench administered justice in that way, the Irish Party were justified in declaring their objection to have the rights and liberties of the Irish people con-trolled by Judges of that stamp.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) occupied an unique position among his Colleagues. He was an Ulster man born and bred, and in the matter of election expenses the characteristic shrewdness of an Ulster man did not desert him. It was this quality, perhaps, which prevented him from publishing his election expenses. He (Mr. Richardson) could not find fault with that, however, because he saw that his own expenses were not returned. The only remark he had to make was, that he knew what they were himself, and he knew that they were a great deal too much. His only comfort was that the expenses of those other Gentlemen who contested the county of Armagh must have been larger still. However, after what the hon. and learned Attorney General had laid before the House in regard to the large expenditure which had been incurred in contesting constituencies in that abandoned Province of Ulster, he would appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman to allow the Bill to apply to Ireland, so as to give the Ulster candidates and Ulster constituencies some protection against excessive expenditure. In regard to what the hon. Member for Cavan said, that the Bill, if passed into law, would be disastrous in its effect upon the Liberals of Ireland, that might be true, or it might not; but, whether it were true or not, he agreed with the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney), that it was most 1978 desirable the law, both in England and Ireland, should be the same.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he was surprised to hear the speech they had just listened to from an Ulster Member. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Richardson) asked that this law should be applied to Ireland, in order to save the Ulster Whigs from illegal and immoral expenditure. Now, he (Mr. Callan) knew something of the county of Armagh, living, as he did, upon its borders, and knowing a good deal in regard to the circumstances which attended the election of the hon. Member who had just sat down. Pure Ulster Whig as the hon. Member was, his election agent had shown great discretion in not returning the election expenses of the hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Callan) saw, some time ago, in a number of Punch, a picture representing an inebriated man standing outside a public-house. He was a Scotchman. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] He was glad to hear that cry of "Hear, hear!" from the Scotch Representative of an Irish constituency. Well, this inebriated Scotchman was accosted by a friend in this way—"Sandy, where have you been, and what are you doing?" "Oh! I am getting on right well"—but the remark was made in a somewhat drunken tone—"I am very prosperous indeed." "Why, Sandy, how is that?" "Well, I am a temperance lecturer." "What! a temperance lecturer, and you in that state?" "Well, my brother is the temperance lecturer, and I am the awful example." He could only apply this story to the Ulster Members; and he could assure the House that when the corruption of Ireland was totalled up, the Whig Ulster Members would be found in every shape and form, the most awful examples of the corruption they denounced. Who were the worst examples of corruption in 1880 and at other General Elections? In 1869 who was the only Member representing an Irish constituency unseated for illegal and corrupt practices? It was the hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. Whitworth), the Prime Minister of the temperance movement. If the Bill had a Preamble to it, reciting, "that whereas corrupt practices have extensively prevailed," it could not be said that they had prevailed extensively in Ireland; because in 1880 there was only one Petition presented, and that had rela- 1979 tion to a Whig constituency. And in what Whig constituency was it proved that corruption did prevail? It was the borough of Dungannon, and the Member unseated was the hon. Gentleman the present Representative of the County of Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson). A Whig par excellence represented it, who lost his seat for illegal and corrupt practices. Even in this case, the expenses of the hon. Member were subscribed for him by the pure and incorruptible Radicals now sitting below the Gangway. Those pure and incorruptible Radicals below the Gangway subscribed and paid the expenses of the only Member for Ireland unseated in the last General Election for illegal and corrupt practices. Now, he (Mr. Callan) knew something of illegal and corrupt practices. [Mr. CAINE: Hear, hear!] He heard the cry of "Hear, hear!" from the Liverpool ironmaster.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he intended to refer to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine). Now, he (Mr. Callan) had gone through the ordeal of an Election Petition. He believed the expenses against him were subscribed, one-half by the United Kingdom Alliance, represented by the hon. Member for Scarborough; and the other half by gentlemen who belonged to the Irish National Land League. He had great satisfaction in saying that he beat both of them, and that Mr. Baron Dowse, having tried the Petition for six days, stated that the election was a pure election. The learned Judge, in delivering his judgment, said—I know something of the House of Commons, and something of the practices of that House; and I must say that if a Petition was presented against every Member of the House, I do not believe, if the law were to be strictly carried out as it stands, you would have a House of Commons at all.In that opinion he (Mr. Callan) fully and entirely concurred. In regard to the present Bill, what was it to do? One condition was that every candidate must appoint an election agent, and must be responsible for the acts of that agent. At the present moment, a candidate could go down and address a constituency, place his political career before that constituency, and be returned or 1980 rejected, as a good many persons were. But if a man was rejected, what was the result? He was not responsible for the acts of anybody but himself. Candidates were not obliged to be responsible for the acts of agents, because they need not appoint them unless they wished. But the hon. and learned Attorney General said that a candidate must appoint an election agent, for whose acts he must be held responsible. Now, he (Mr. Callan) did not believe that he could find in Ireland, or in any county in Ireland, so fit and so capable an election agent as himself. Then, why, in the name of common sense, should he be obliged to appoint some nincompoop as his agent, and be responsible, and probably unseated, for his acts? Not one single valid reason had been brought forward to show why this Act should be extended to Ireland. He knew that the hon. and learned Attorney General had a perverted mind upon this point, because he judged the Irish constituencies by his own acts, and those of his own constituency, which was the most corrupt constituency in England, and had long been a bye-word throughout the country. Every man knew that the return of the hon. and learned Gentleman had only been won by the indirect acts of his agents, and by the exercise of corrupt and undue influences. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
Do I correctly understand the hon. Member to charge another hon. Member of this House with indirectly using corrupt influences to obtain a seat?
§ MR. CALLAN
replied in the negative. He had made no such charge, because he was aware that, although there was an Election Petition against the hon. and learned Gentleman, he was declared to have been duly elected. Therefore, he had not attempted to go behind the opinion of the Judges. He was only speaking of the general character of the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency; but in regard to the hon. and learned Gentleman personally, he did not desire to go behind the opinion of the Judges. In regard to the Irish constituencies, there had been a unanimous concurrence of opinion from 1869 until 1880 that, as far as bribery or corrupt influences were concerned, they were perfectly pure. He thought that the House ought to be guided by that fact; 1981 and as, in the opinion of the Irish Judges, the Irish constituencies were pure, they ought not to extend the Bill to Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 243; Noes 31: Majority 212.—(Div. List, No. 119.)
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he wished to ask the Prime Minister what course he intended to take to-morrow, after the unexpected course the debate had taken that evening in regard to the present Bill? It was anticipated that the House would have gone into Committee, and have made some progress with the Bill. This expectation had, however, been defeated, and they had only been able to get into Committee. He would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman if he still intended to take the Committee upon the Bill to-morrow, with probably only an hour or so for its consideration; and if he intended to proceed with so small a portion of the Bill before going on with the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill? He had understood the right hon. Gentleman to accept the position pointed out by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), that it would be inconvenient for the House to have the two Bills before it at the same time. He would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman if he intended to go through with this Bill before he took up the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill, or whether, if he took this Bill tomorrow, he intended to go on with it also on Monday; and if he proposed to take it de die in diem before proceeding with the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill?
said, he proposed to take the Lord Alcester and Lord Wolseley Annuity Bills to-morrow. He apprehended, however, that there would be a considerable amount of time available to-morrow after these Bills were disposed 1982 of; and he did not think it could be better occupied than in getting on with the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill. To-morrow, at 2 o'clock, he would be in a position to inform the right hon. Gentleman what course he proposed to take with regard to the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill.
§ SIR WILFEID LAWSON
said, he should have a word or two to say tomorrow upon the principle of the Annuity Bills. On a former occasion they had only discussed the question of the desirability of conferring pensions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.