§ (Mr. Attorney General, Sir William Harcourt, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Charles Dilke, Mr. Solicitor General.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 26th June.]
§ [ELEVENTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Illegal Practices.
§ Clause 6 (Certain expenditure to be illegal practice).
In page 3, line 28, after the word "Act," to insert the words: — "Any person who shall lend his own carriage, or provide other carriages to convey voters to or from the poll shall be guilty of an illegal practice, but this shall not prevent any person using his own carriage for the conveyance of himself and any other person in company with him to vote."—(Mr. Joseph Cowen.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he quite admitted that the Attorney General had great difficulty in framing a clear definition with regard to the conveyance of voters; but he thought they must have some sort of restriction placed upon the practice of lending carriages to be used systematically in order to carry electors to the poll. The Attorney General would probably remember the fact that 1875 this was a moot question at the time of the last Reform Bill. He (Mr. Labouchere) recollected that there existed then a very strong feeling that the conveyance of voters to the poll ought to be made an illegal practice; but this was not carried, because it was felt by a large number of county Members that they would be placed at a very great disadvantage if the lending of carriages were prohibited, because, as a matter of fact, the people who owned private carriages in the majority of cases were Conservatives. He was certain that if there were what might be called a carriage franchise there would not be so many Liberals sitting in that House, while certainly there would be exceedingly few Radicals. There was no doubt it was an enormous advantage to a candidate to be able to send electors to the poll in carriages. He did not mean to say that a man who was taken to the poll in a carriage would vote for the candidate who conveyed him there; but it was probable that, under the circumstances, he might not vote at all. Speaking as a borough Member, he could say that, as a rule, the Conservatives in the neighbourhood of his borough sent in a large I number of carriages which were systematically used to carry electors to the poll, and that practice was not confined entirely to the more wealthy class, because, as the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had told them, in the borough which he represented, all the butchers were Conservatives, and lent their carts for the purpose of taking people to the poll to vote for the Conservative candidate. From the Conservative point of view, he regarded it as perfectly right to vote against any restriction being placed on the lending of carriages; his difficulty was in understanding how Members of the Liberal Party could vote against such restriction. It was a clear advantage to the Conservatives, but it was a clear disadvantage to the Radicals. Hon. Members knew this very well. He was speaking to Gentlemen, every one of whom had taken part in elections, and when it was seen that the Conservatives all rallied to oppose the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), they all knew it was very much to their interest that the 6th clause should not be passed in its present form. They might take it also as a matter of fact that when Radical 1876 Members voted for it, it was equally for their interest that the clause should be altered. Carriages were used at elections purely for Party purposes. There were more Conservatives than Liberals, and very few Radicals at all, who had carriages; and consequently the clause, in its present shape, would give an advantage to Conservatives as against Liberals, and an advantage to Liberals as against Radicals. He trusted the Attorney General would make some concession in this matter. He did not want to pin his vote to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle, and he was quite sure that if the hon. and learned Gentleman would intimate his willingness to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), his hon. Friend would, with the view of not impeding the progress of the Bill, be quite willing to withdraw the present proposal. But there must be some restriction placed upon the systematic lending of carriages in large numbers by candidates or committees, because hon. Gentlemen on those Benches could not understand what was the distinction between the case of a man being allowed to lend a dozen or 20 carriages to a candidate, and the candidate himself being allowed to hire them. The lending and hiring of carriages for electoral purposes appeared to them to be precisely the same thing in principle, because it gave a distinct advantage to the rich man over the poor man.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he was sure the Committee would have heard with regret the tone in which the hon. Member for Northampton bad just spoken. The hon. Member, no doubt, expected, by his mode of treating this question, to obtain a few additional votes; but it must be evident to hon. Members opposite that if the rest of the Bill were to be discussed in the same spirit, there would be little chance of its being finished for some time. For his own part, he should not imitate the example of the hon. Member. They were asked to prevent a man lending his carriage to a neighbour for the purpose of taking him to the poll. But, lie asked, was there any corruption in a man lending his carriage for that purpose? [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] If that was the opinion of the hon. Member he did not think it would be useful to take up more time in the hope- 1877 less attempt to convince him to the contrary. But there were persons outside that House who were not of his opinion; persons who looked upon the proposal of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) as an attempt to interfere with individual liberty. He trusted it would never be said that a person who acted in good faith should not be allowed to convey a voter to the poll in his own carriage. As the question had been fully discussed, he had no wish to detain the Committee any further than to say that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle were carried, it would very much influence his views with regard to the Bill as a whole.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he could not think that the tone in which the hon. Member for Northampton had supported the Amendment was calculated to facilitate the progress of the Bill. If the adoption of that Amendment had been a matter of difficulty before, the speech of his hon. Friend had made it impossible. But, looking at the principle which the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle contained impartially, and without any Party view of the question, he was bound to say it was one which Her Majesty's Government could not accept. The 6th clause had now been under consideration for three days, and the whole subject of conveyance had, in his opinion, been very fully discussed. Under those circumstances, he hoped the Committee might be allowed to come to a decision on the present Amendment without the expenditure of further time. The object of the Government in introducing this clause was two-fold; first, they wished to prevent corruption as it was accomplished by the hiring of carriages; secondly, they wished to prevent the incurring of great expense, because in the matter of expenditure the rich candidate had a great advantage over the poor one. But when it was proposed to make it the law that a man should not be permitted to lend his carriage—where, he asked, would that principle end? He thought the corruption involved in a man taking another to the poll under such circumstances was of very small extent, and certainly there was no increase of expense occasioned. Voluntary effort could not be checked. If a man possessed a large amount of 1878 eloquence, of talent, or influence, it was impossible to prevent his using them in furtherance of his own candidature. There was one view of the question, however, which he would lay before the Committee, which he hoped would meet the objection taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which he would himself wish to see carried out. After the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), it was rather difficult to propound that view to the Committee, seeing that his hon. Friend had spoken from a Party point of view. But he could assure the Committee that the suggestion he had to make had nothing of a Party character about it. A person might possess 40 or 50 carriages, and it was possible he might say to a candidate—"I will lend you all my carriages; I ask no payment to-day." That proposal might be accepted, and thus, by the indirect action of the person who owned the carriages, there would be a preponderance of carriages on one side; and although there might be no payment at the time, yet, sooner or later, the candidate, or other persons on his behalf, would be asked to make good the cost. To guard against that he had thought it right to prepare a sub-section, to the effect that—A person shall not let, lend, or employ for the purpose of the conveyance of electors to or from the poll any public, stage, or hackney carriage, or any horse or other animal kept or used for drawing the same, or any carriage horse or other animal which he keeps or uses for the purpose of letting out for hire, and if he lets, lends, or employes such carriage, horse or other animal, knowing that it is intended to be used for the purpose of the conveyance of electors to or from the poll.A person acting contrary to this provision would be guilty of an illegal practice, and liable to the penalties provided. There would be a Proviso to the effect that nothing in this sub-section would apply to any carriage horse or other animal lent to a person for the purpose of conveying himself to the poll. The whole object of the proposed sub-section was to prevent that which was really objectionable in the conveyance of persons to the poll—namely, the employment of carriages and animals with the probability of their being paid for by-and-bye. He trusted that this proposal would commend itself to hon. Members on both sides of the House, as affording a solution of the difficulty 1879 that had been so long under consideration.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was not going to discuss the proposal of the hon. and learned Attorney General on that occasion. His object in rising was to say that the question of conveyance had now been before the Committee for three days; and he looked upon it as rather extraordinary that, at the last moment, a new sub-section dealing with the subject should be produced by the Attorney General. He thought that there had been ample time, during the three days' discussion which had taken place, for the Government to have made up their minds. For his own part, he altogether objected to discuss the alteration proposed by the Attorney General until he saw it in print. He thought that it would have been better to bring forward the proposal in the form of a now clause; at all events, it would be a waste of time to discuss it on that occasion.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he would readily join in any request which the Committee might think it right to make with regard to the proposal of the Government. Unless the Committee wished to pursue the subject then, he was quite willing to accede to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The delay in bringing forward the clause was due to the desire of the Government to ascertain the wishes of hon. Members; and they believed they had at last succeeded in drawing a clause which would meet the requirements of the case in a satisfactory manner.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was sorry his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had made the statement they had just listened to, because he did not think it would tend to advance the Business of the Committee. They were now engaged upon a particular Amendment, which had been strongly urged upon the acceptance of the Committee by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and the proper course was to proceed to dispose of that Amendment. But, in order that the Government might be assisted to do something, a sop was now thrown out to the Committee in the shape of the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal. If that proposal had emanated from anyone else than the Attorney General, the hon. Member who made it would 1880 have been immediately called to Order. He ventured to submit one remark upon the clause of the Attorney General—namely, that it would facilitate more corruption of the kind they were considering than anything else which could be devised. There was nothing to prevent one voter hiring a carriage for the conveyance of himself, and then taking a large number of his friends with him. Great difficulties were presented by the clause proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman; and he would ask him not to go into these minor and petty details, and then there would be a much better chance of getting to the end of the Bill.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he took no Party view of this subject; but he considered that the proposal was one of very considerable importance. He was not going to discuss the Amendment of the Attorney General; but he would take the opportunity of pointing out that it met only one part of the question then before the Committee—namely, that part of it which related to the job-master. He admitted that the proposal of the Attorney General would meet that one difficulty; but they were now upon a question of private carriages. The hon. Member for Northampton had spoken as if carriages were an article of luxury; but that was not always the case. By far the larger number of "carriages" were used for purposes of trade and business. If he might be permitted to refer to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), he would suggest that when it came forward the word "persons" should be substituted for "person;" and he was glad to see that his hon. Friend assented to that view of the case. It was not reasonable that a farmer should, on election day, be limited to carrying a single person to the poll.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that, although they were asked to make provision for the prevention of the hire of carriages, there was another plan by which corruption could be effected, and that was the purchase of carriages. The Bill did not prevent a man purchasing any number of carriages. and he might do that on the understanding that when he had made use of them they should be taken back at a certain price. It appeared to him that there was great scope for corruption in an arrangement 1881 of that kind. It was quite practicable for a man to buy both horses and carriages, and then return them in the manner he had described. He trusted the Attorney General would consider the necessity of meeting that particular form of corrupt practice. ["Divide!"]
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the principle involved in the Amendment before the Committee was too serious and important to be stifled by cries of "Divide." He thought the question raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) was not to be disposed of by references to the particular phraseology of the Amendment, or by offering to support the Amendment which followed it on the Paper. The question they had to decide was as to whether the principle which the Committee had already adopted should be applied logically, impartially, and completely. The Committee had accepted the principle of prohibiting the conveyance of voters to the poll in hired carriages; and hon. Members on those Benches asked that that principle should be extended to the prohibition of carriages that were lent for the same purpose. The working of the carriage system at elections was this. Two or three days before the election took place, a circular was sent out to all the carriage-owning friends of the candidate, asking how many carriages they would place at the disposal of the committee on the polling day. In reply to this circular, carriages were sent, decorated with the colours of the candidate, the servants wearing rosettes, &c. The carriages were thou apportioned to the various districts precisely in the same manner as hired cabs. He and his hon. Friends contended that a man who, by his social position or family influence, could command a largo number of private carriages, had a distinct advantage over the candidate who did not occupy the same social position, or whose political opinions were, perhaps, not in harmony with the carriage-owning class. They said that under the present system, which compelled a working man to vote either in his breakfast or dinner hour, and under which tho polling places were at a considerable distance from his residence, there was a great advantage to a man who possessed the means of locomotion. The Committee had prohibited the hiring of carriages, and he asked that the principle should be extended 1882 impartially to the lending of carriages It appeared to him that when the Attorney General said that the ownership of carriages was one of the effects of wealth which they could neither disregard or neutralize, he was placing wealth on the same level with the possession of brains. But the object of the Bill, as he understood it, was to destroy, as far as possible, the influence of wealth in their electoral proceedings. The Government said, in effect, that the man who was in possession of sufficient money to be able to give 200 guineas for the permanent ownership of a carriage might permit that carriage to be used for the promotion of his eleotion; but they said, at the same time, that the man who could only pay two guineas for the hire of a carriage for that purpose should not be allowed to do so. That proposition need only be stated nakedly to the Committee, and its weakness would then be manifest. He was satisfied that if this question were settled on the principle proposed by the Government the settlement would not be a permanent one, because the working classes of the country would not be content to see such an obvious advantage given to the wealthy candidate. He appealed to all sections of the House to remedy this manifestly one-sided legislation; and he was sure the Attorney General could easily construct a clause that would put a stop to the practice of placing at the disposal of Committees a large number of private carriages on the day of election, which was quite as objectionable as placing at their disposal a large number of cabs.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, that the discussion which had taken place on this Amendment had been extremely valuable, although it had not been entirely characterized by the absence of Party feeling. He thought it would have been well if the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had taken to heart the observations of the Attorney General, who had recommended that the discussion should proceed without any tinge of Party feeling whatever. The hon. Member, however, had not followed that recommendation. Moreover, the hon. Member appeared to have departed somewhat from the issue before the Committee. He had said that one of the objects of the Bill was to prevent the carriage of voters to 1883 the poll. That was quite true; but then the hon. Gentleman proceeded to draw a very strange analogy between that and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), the object of which was to prevent the lending of carriages. Now, the argument introduced by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, as to the advantage being entirely on the side of those individuals who were in possession of carriages, was altogether wrong and fallacious. He (Baron Henry de Worms) represented a large constituency of working men, and he was able to say that in that district there were more Liberals who polled in waggons and carts than there were Conservatives who polled in carriages. If the hon. Member could see corruption in Conservatives going to the poll in carriages which cost 200 guineas, he would like to know whether he would say there was corruption in driving Liberal voters to the poll in coal waggons? In point of fact, the two cases were in principle identical. There was some plausibility in the argument that the result of an election might be influenced by the wealthy class who had carriages, simply by the latter being drawn up under the windows of the committee room, ready to take voters to the poll; and the lion. Member argued, with that show of purity which characterized the Liberal Party, that they would not avail themselves of similar advantages if some wealthy Liberal, anxious to promote the Liberal interest, were to place his carriages at their disposal on the day of an election. But not only had he seen a great number of Liberals carried to the poll in carts, but he knew that a great number of rich Liberals had placed their carriages at the disposal of the Liberal Committees. He entirely denied that there was any predominance of carriages on the side of the Conservatives; on the contrary, he asserted that there were quite as many carriages in the possession of Liberals as in the possession of Conservatives; and he maintained that if the Conservatives had any advantage from lending their carriages, the Liberals also, even the extreme Radicals, could adopt that less fashionable but more commodious vehicle, the cart.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, so far from his being, as had been stated, opposed to the proposal of the Attorney General, he entirely agreed with it. 1884 The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had discussed this question as if it related only to the rich man's carriage, and, no doubt, he spoke with perfect accuracy with regard to the boroughs in his district on voting day. He could assure him, however, that he had seen in the boroughs in which he had been present on election days a much greater number of what might be called poor men's carriages being used by the committees than he had of rich men's carriages. There were a certain number of men who took a lively interest in the polling, and who lent their carriages; but, as a rule, the Conservatives were not those who took the keenest interest in it. Costermongers carts and flys were often largely used at elections. Therefore, he did not think this matter should be debated as if it were entirely a question of rich men's carriages. It would be impracticable to say, in the case of Irish counties, for instance, that a voter driving to the poll should not convey other voters with him, and he was sure it would be equally so in many places in England. But his hon. Friend wished the Government to adopt one of two Amendments on the Paper as offering a systematic way of getting rid of the difficulty; but lie did not see how it would be possible, even if it were right to do so, to prohibit the lending of carriages to committees. He thought that his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had gone as far as possible in that direction, in the proposal he had sketched out. No doubt a number of decisions would turn on the point as to whether the lending of carriages was occasional or systematic; but he thought it would be a danger to the Bill to adopt the proposal of the hon. Member.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, the Government were guilty of inconsistency in opposing the Amendment, and he thought their inconsistency was made more clear by the Amendment of which the Attorney General had given Notice, because it placed a restriction on a man's using his property as he had a perfect right to do, so long as he did not use it for an improper purpose. They were told in the case of the election of a Member of the Government at Hastings that the Liberals were using carriages of all kinds, as well as banners and other insignia; and according to the description given, 1885 the town looked as if the occasion were that of a Royal visit. He had no doubt that this was the dying effort of the Government in favour of the system they were about to put an end to. To be consistent, this clause should say that a man should not lend his house, nor have any bill exposed on his premises. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South - West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had declined to discuss the proposed Amendment of the Attorney General, and he (Mr. Lewis) would not then go into the question; but he trusted the quiescence of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench was due to the fact that they considered discussion inopportune, and not to any sympathy on their part with the proposal, because if it were intended that a jobmaster should not lend his vehicles to friends on polling days, it amounted to such an encroachment on the liberty of the individual as he should have thought even the Attorney General would not have suggested. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) believed that in the interest of his theory of liberty and purity of election, a man should not be allowed to lend his carriage to take a friend to the poll. Well, he desired to go to a Division on the Amendment of the hon. Member, and it would then be seen to what extent the very remarkable principle which it contained had the sympathy of the Committee. Hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House were by no moans impelled by any question of inconsistency to follow the hon. Member.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, they were not there to discuss the question from any Party point of view; but they were there as reasonable men of business to discuss a matter they were all concerned in. If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General would accept either of the Amendments on the Paper he (Mr. J. Cowen) should be ready to support that Amendment; but the hon. and learned Member did not seem inclined to do that. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had expressed the matter properly when he had said that the letting of carriages or the lending of them would open the door to corruption, for if a jobmaster lent his conveyances to a candidate or his agent, 1886 there would be little difficulty in finding a means by which he could be repaid for his act of kindness. The persons they were trying to strike at were the large manufacturers, colliery proprietors, railway companies, and persons who had a large number of conveyances at their command, which they could make use of at an election, and, by so doing, largely influence the result. He had no desire to prolong the proceedings of the Committee, and should be willing to alter the language of his Amendment, if he could make it meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen around him.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had no doubt of the sincerity of the conviction that compelled the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) to make this proposition; but he desired the Committee to consider whether they were not endeavouring to do that which was really impracticable—whether they were not creating offences which would render the conduct of an election absolutely impossible? It would be a different thing altogether if the offence were only to apply in cases where it was committed with the knowledge of the candidate; but the Committee knew perfectly well that there were always a large number of persons at an election who would endeavour to bring about the employment of vehicles, without the knowledge of the candidate, or his agents. Such persons as these would never be able to understand the extraordinary provisions which wore sought to be incorporated into this Bill. It appeared to him that if this condition were inserted in the measure, no single election would be able to withstand a Petition if it were presented against it. It would be impossible to conduct an election in such a manner as to prevent some enthusiastic partizan or another, lending a carriage of some kind to a voter, whether it was a costermonger's barrow or some other vehicle, for the purpose of taking a neighbour to the poll. The corollary of the suggestion was that an election day in this country should be a day of national fast and humiliation. The public-houses were to be shut up, persons were not to go out in their carriages, and the livery stable-keeper was not to go on with his ordinary business. The livery stable-keeper was not to be allowed to earn money on the election day. He was to be deprived of the 1887 means of earning his living, and he (Mr. W. H. Smith) was not sure that even the eating house keeper would be allowed to take in customers. The result of all this would be that the Government would succeed in producing a code which would be disregarded on all sides, and would have to be repealed in the course of a year or two.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he wished to make a final appeal to his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, who must have observed ere this that the proposal he had made was not likely to command the assent of the Committee in such a way as to meet, at all events, the objections on the Liberal side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. W. H. Smith) had, no doubt, indicated very clearly that the effect of this Bill would be to put a stop, during the election day, to some of the ordinary amenities of life. On the day of the election, nobody, however distantly associated with the candidate, was to be allowed to treat his friend, or do anything which by any means could be construed into a corrupting influence. If they enabled gentlemen by means of their carriages to take their more humble neighbours to the poll to vote for a certain individual, they were simply empowering gentlemen to that extent to exercise a corrupting influence. They could not possibly prevent some slight influence of this kind being exercised—an influence which might not be considered absolutely pure. What he understood they were trying to do in this Bill was to prevent the employment of carriages as an undue influence for the purpose of directing the action of voters. He (Mr. Rylands) did not hesitate to say—and it was well that this should be understood—that unless this clause was amended in the way now proposed, it would be quite competent for a candidate to buy up all the second-hand carriages in his neighbourhood from the different carriage proprietors for the purpose of conveying electors to the poll. Of course, if such a thing as that were done some convenient mode could easily be found by which the conveyances could be re-sold to their original proprietors. Such a thing was quite possible under this Bill, and to his mind the Government were bound to deal with the question in such a way that if 1888 a man used his own carriage he should be precluded from purchasing or acquiring possession of any other conveyances for the purpose of the election. He thought that if they did away with the use of conveyances at all they should do away with the facilities that individuals might have for using their own conveyances. He trusted the hon. Member for Newcastle would withdraw the Amendment, and allow them to take a Division on that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Leake).
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, they had only got to the 6th clause after the long period they had devoted to the measure. The subject they were now discussing had been quite fully debated, and a majority of almost two to one had declared in favour of saving their own pockets, and practically disfranchising a portion of their own constituencies. He deeply regretted that they had arrived at that decision, although he had, at the same time, admitted that there was a great deal to be said in favour of limiting the inordinate expenses of elections. So far as he was capable of understanding the Amendment, if it was carried it would be perfectly legitimate for a man to convey one elector to the poll; but it would be a crime or a misdemeanour for him to convey two or three. With all possible respect to the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen)—and there was no man in the House whose ability and independence he had a higher opinion of—he considered that the proposal was not one which the Committee should accept.
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
(who rose amidst cries of "Divide") said, if the Committee would allow him to say a few words upon this subject he would promise not to intervene for more than a few moments. He did not often trouble the Committee, and therefore he trusted that, with their usual courtesy, they would grant him their indulgence. He entirely sympathized with the object of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, but believed that as the proposal was drawn it would go very far beyond that object. It would be simply intolerable if an elector was not to be allowed to convey his neighbour to the poll on the morning of an election. In his own case, for instance, he should 1889 be prevented from taking his own son with him in his carriage to the polling place. What he should propose to the hon. Member for Newcastle would be this—that after the word "carriage" he should insert in his Amendment "but this shall not prevent any person from using his own carriage for a single journey during the day." The effect of the Amendment, unless these words were inserted, would be to allow an elector to take a neighbour before breakfast to the poll, another after breakfast, another at lunch time, and another at dinner time, and in this way to make as many journeys as he possibly could, provided that he did not take more than one person at a time. The object of the hon. Member for Newcastle was, no doubt, to obviate the advantage which the rich man had over the poor man by the fact of his possessing carriages.
§ MR. W. LOWTHER
said, he wished to have a very simple question answered. Take, for instance, the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. J. Howard), who might go to the poll in his carriage. He would be driven there by his coachman, and consequently the coachman would go with him; would he and the coachman, if the latter voted, be guilty of a corrupt practice?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he hoped he was correct in understanding that the Attorney General intended to bring up a new clause on this subject. Would the Committee excuse him for suggesting to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General that the principle involved was one of great importance, and the principle to which he wished to allude was this—that the system of uniformity in the franchise had never yet been admitted into the electoral arrangements of this country. He was happy to say that during the passing of the last Reform Bill, with the concurrence of a large number of Gentlemen who then sat on the opposite side of the House, he (Mr. Newdegate) succeeded in adding a number of seats to the county constituencies. This was done in opposition to the Leaders on both sides of the House, and he hoped the Attorney General would not forget this fact in drafting his clause. In the county constituencies of this country there was a union in the representation of labour and property—if such property was dis- 1890 tinguished from a mere working man's property—and in framing his clause the hon. and learned Member would have an opportunity of either abandoning or continuing that distinction which was yet characteristic of the Constitution of the country.
§ MR. SHEIL
said, the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) had informed the Committee that the aim of his Amendment was to strike at the wealthy colliery owners and manufacturers; but he would remind the hon. Member that in Ireland they had neither the one nor the other. He (Mr. Shell) should vote against the Amendment.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
remarked, that he had had no opportunity for some time of saying that which he was anxious to say—namely, that as it was the general wish of hon. Members on that side of the House that he should not persist in his Amendment, he would withdraw it, and let the decision be taken upon the next Amendment on the Paper, which was not quite so strong as his.
Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Amendment be withdrawn? [Cries of "No, no!"]
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. LEAKE
said, he had on the Paper the following Amendment, to insert after Sub-section (c) the following words:—No person shall lend a carriage or horse to any candidate, election committee, or agent, or to any other person for the purpose of conveying voters to and from the poll, and every person lending or borrowing a carriage or horse for the conveyance of voters to or from the poll shall be guilty of an illegal practice; no carriage licensed to ply for hire, and no carriage or horse kept or ordinarily used by any jobmaster or other person for hire, shall be used by the owner to convey voters to or from the poll, and any owner who shall so use such carriage or horse shall be guilty of an illegal practice, and anyone who shall lend or borrow such carriage or horse for the conveyance of voters to or from the poll shall be guilty of an illegal practice.1891 This Amendment had somewhat changed its complexion since they had entered the House, in consequence of the promise of the Attorney General to bring up a clause. That promise was perfectly satisfactory to him (Mr. Leake) and those who thought with him that the lending of carriages ordinarily kept for hire should be prohibited. Therefore, so far as that part of the Amendment which referred to carriages and horses kept by jobmasters was concerned, he should not propose it. However, with few words, he begged to put forward the first part of his proposition. It was aimed, as the Committee would perceive, at the systematic lending of private carriages to any candidate, election committee, or agent, for the purpose of taking the voters to the poll, which was an evil all Members very seriously suffered under. The use of carriages in this way involved the employment of men on the boxes to show the drivers where the voters were, and it originated a large number of electioneering oppressions which Members desired to put a stop to. It seemed to him impossible, in the present feeling of the Committee, to altogether prohibit the private use of a man's own carriage or conveyance. The difference between his proposal and that of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) was that he left intact the power and privilege of a private owner to take voters to the poll from the beginning to the end of an election, so long as he took them himself. Seeing that his (Mr. Leake's) proposal contained that limitation, he thought the Committee would have no difficulty in accepting it.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
rose to Order. He wished to take the Chairman's opinion upon this point. The hon. Member had stated that he intended to confine his Motion to the first part of the Amendment on the Paper. Would the hon. Member be in Order in adopting such a course?
said, he was hesitating as to whether he was not obliged to stop the hon. Member, as his proposal very much resembled an Amendment which had just been negatived.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he would call the Chairman's attention on that point to the marked difference between the proposal of Ids hon. Friend and that which the Committee had just negatived. The Amendment of the hon. 1892 Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) proposed that any person who lent his own carriage or provided any other carriage to convey voters to or from the poll should be guilty of an offence; whereas his hon. Friend said that no person should lend a carriage or horse to any candidate, election committee, or agent, or other person for this purpose. There was nothing in the Amendment which had been negatived by the Committee. He admitted that later down there was a portion of the Amendment which had been negatived, and which, if it reflected the general character of the Amendment, would make the proposal out of Order; but there was certainly a distinction between the proposal to lend a carriage to a candidate, or agent, or committee, or any other person and using one's own carriage.
I did not say the Amendment was entirely out of Order. I said it resembled very much the Motion just negatived, and that I was hesitating whether I ought not to point out to the hon. Member that resemblance.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
suggested that in the interest of saving time it would be as well to allow the first part of the Amendment to be put. It was clear that the question raised by the Amendment must be formally decided by the Committee, though it was immaterial whether it was decided upon the present Amendment, or upon that of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen). He hoped the Division was now prepared to go to a Division upon the question.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he hoped the Committee would not think of taking a decision on this Amendment, because it was not in accordance with the ground upon which the House of Commons was usually in the habit of coming to a Division—namely, the ground of common sense. If it passed this Amendment, it would be solemnly and deliberately, in the face of the country, enacting a most transparent sham. It would be ridiculous to say that no person should lend a carriage or horse to any candidate.
In page 3, line 28, after sub-section (c.), to insert the words, "No person shall lend a carriage or horse to any candidate, election committee, or agent, or to any other person for the purpose of conveying voters to or from the poll, and every person lending or borrowing a carriage or horse for the conveyance of voters to or from the poll shall be guilty of an illegal practice."—(Mr. Leake.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he had been going on to say, when interrupted, that the Liberal section of the House of Commons appeared to be anxious to redress a fancied inequality between the rich and the poor man; and they, therefore, came forward with every appearance of generosity and liberality to say that they would prohibit the use of carriages at elections, because they imagined that the rich man who would convey voters to the poll in his own carriage would, as a rule, lean to the Conservative side, whereas the poor man, who had no carriage in which to drive a voter, would, in most eases, belong to the Liberal Party. They imagined that while the Conservative voter would be driven to the poll, the Liberal voter would have to trust to his legs to get there. That was the ground upon which the Liberal Party, headed by the Attorney General, were assuming their present noble attitude. They proposed to solace their consciences with this Amendment, to which he would draw the attention of hon. Members not belonging to the Liberal Party.No person shall lend a carriage or horse to any candidate, election committee, or agent, or to any other person for the purpose of conveying voters to or from the poll, and every person lending or borrowing a carriage or horse for the conveyance of voters to or from the poll shall be guilty of an illegal practice.That was to say, that a man owning a carriage or carriages could convoy voters to or from the poll as much and as often as he liked, and so long as he did not go through the form of lending these carriages to the candidate there should be 1894 nothing improper in the practice. Let them mark how absurd this would be. The use of carriages would be as free and unrestricted as possible. The Attorney General, if he were a candidate, would have six or seven carriages, and would be able to convey any number of voters to the poll so long as he did not "lend" a carriage or horse to any candidate, election committee, or agent. Would those who supported the Amendment explain what they meant by the word "lend?" Did it mean that there was a legal document, or a formal offer of the use of the carriage for the day, or for a certain time for a consideration; or did it mean nothing at all, and that the owner of the carriage might convey voters to the poll as often as he pleased, as long as he did not go through the form of lending it to a candidate, election committee, or agent? Did not every hon. Member see the humbug of this matter? They had the Liberal Party, as he had said, with the Attorney General at its head, saying that they wanted to put a stop to this distinction between rich and poor, and under cover of this sham they were saying that they had put a stop to the inequality, and that henceforth the rich and poor man would be placed on an equality. If, after this exposure of their intentions, the Liberal Party insisted on this Amendment, they would only be increasing the confusion which upon these questions they were covering themselves.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he had stated that the Government could not accept the principle contained in this Amendment, and he was rather surprised to hear the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) attack them and the Liberal Party as he had done on the ground that they were adopting this Amendment as a sham. They had stated that they could not endorse the views entertained by the hon. Member who had brought forward the original Amendment, and that a Division should be taken upon the present Amendment in order to gather the views of the Committee upon the matter. He trusted that hon. Members would now allow them to proceed to a Division.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
wished to point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney Gene- 1895 ral that it was of no use making appeals to the Committee if he did not stick to his guns. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had continued in the position in which he was on Tuesday when the Committee separated, there would have been no difficulty about this question at all, as they were quite prepared at that time to go to a Division. What, however, had happened now? Why, when the hon. and learned Gentleman was challenged by hon. Members below the Gangway, he put forward the extraordinary statement that he was in the hands of the Committee, and that he wished to follow not the principle which the Government had hitherto adopted, or any principle that was in his own mind, but simply that which might be agreeable to the Committee. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman threw down on the Table an Amendment which was exceedingly objectionable to him (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) and to hon. Members sitting near him; but in all probability, when it came to be argued, it would be found to carry out the views of hon. Members below the Gangway on the other side of the House. However, it was not to say this he had risen, but simply to protest against this backwards and forwards policy. Surely the hon. and learned Member had had plenty of time to consider the matter, and to make up his mind what he was going to do.
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE
wished to ask the Mover of the Amendment whether he considered that a person who lent a tricycle to another person for the purpose of proceeding to the polling place would come within the scope of the Amendment?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 244: Majority 190.—(Div. List, No. 155.)
§ Whereupon the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, being come with a Message for the House to attend the Lords Commissioners, the Chairman left the Chair.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
resumed the Chair.
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners;—
The House went;—and being returned;—
Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to several Bills.