§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Reduction of amount required in uncontested election by Third Schedule of 38 and 39 Vic. c. 84).
§ MR. HEALY
said, this Bill proceeded on a wrong assumption. He thought it would be apparent to the mind of the Government that if a Sheriff had to deal with an election that was uncontested the amount to be paid to him should 776 not depend upon the number of voters in the constituency. For his own part, he would prefer that the Bill should provide for a fixed sum, as had been proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). According to the 3rd Schedule of the Act passed in 1875—If at the end of the two hours appointed for the election, not more candidates stand nominated than there are vacancies to be filled up, the maximum amount which may be required is one-fifth of the maximum according to the scale.This Bill, however, proposed to alter the proportion to one-tenth; and that appeared to him to be altogether too high. He had himself a proposal on the Paper to make the sum required as security one-twentieth of the maximum according to the scale; but he thought it better that they should give the Sheriff in the case of an uncontested election a lump sum of, say, £20 or £25. Why should he get security at the rate of £100 for every 1,000 electors, and £50 for every 500? There was no reason whatever for the difference, because the trouble would be precisely the same in both cases. If the Government were not disposed to accept the Amendment he was about to move, let them accept the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork — that, instead of receiving security according to a graduated scale, £20 should be given. Considering that the Sheriffs in Ireland had only to issue a notice at a cost of 10s., and to pay railway fares to a similar amount, he thought that was quite enough security for them.
In page 1, line 22, to leave out the words "one-tenth," in order to insert the words"one-twentieth."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'one-tenth' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART-WORTLEY)
said, on consideration, he thought it better to adopt the proposal of the hon. Member or the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell).
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE
said, it would, perhaps, be better 777 if the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) were to continue his Motion to leave out the words "one-tenth."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he should like to understand exactly what the Government proposed to do in this matter. He could understand the contention of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the contention of the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) with reference to uncontested elections in Ireland; but the state of the case with regard to England was very different. Were they to understand that the only security required from a candidate, in the case of an uncontested election in England, was £20? Certainly, he considered that some explanation of this extraordinary proposal was necessary.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Mr. GORST)
said, that in England £25 would cover all the expenses of an uncontested election. The hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) proposed that where in England, Scotland or Ireland an election was uncontested, the amount of security to the Returning Officer should be £25.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he was aware of the nature of the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan. His contention was that £25, or twice that sum, would not be sufficient in the case of an uncontested election in a large borough to meet the preliminary proceedings. No case had ever been submitted to the late Government with regard to England or Scotland. The Bill had been brought in entirely to meet the case of Ireland.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, it frequently occurred that more candidates wore nominated than could be elected, and that one or more of them were withdrawn.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, the argument of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) did not apply, because the Schedule provided that if at the end of the two hours appointed for the election not more candidates stood nominated than there were vacancies to be filled up, the security might be required.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he agreed with the opinion expressed by the hon. and 778 learned Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). He was quite satisfied of the impossibility of working an election in any large borough for the sum mentioned. It was certainly impossible for the Returning Officer to make the necessary arrangements in the case even of an uncontested election for £25.
§ MR. HEALY
said, that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) had remarked truly that large boroughs had been done away with. He would point out to the Committee, what seemed to have escaped the notice of some hon. Members, that this was not a question of the expenses of an election; it was merely a question of the amount of deposit which by way of security the Returning Officer might require in the case of an uncontested election. If the Sheriff could show that he had incurred a greater expense than the amount received, he could recover it from the candidate, who was always liable to him. But this Amendment simply applied to elections such as he had known, and where the payment of £18 or so to the Sheriff, where there were only a very few electors, would be a gross imposition. He repeated that the legal liability of the candidate would remain for any sum that was due over and above the deposit; it did not take away an atom of his responsibility, and the Sheriff could claim from the candidate any sum that he might consider himself entitled to. The Amendment proposed simply that if at the end of the two hours appointed for an election, not more candidates stood nominated than there were vacancies to be filled up, the amount which the Returning Officer might require as security should not exceed £25.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, if the Committee would consider the amount which the Parliamentary Elections Act allowed the Returning Officer to charge in the case of an uncontested election, they would see that the £25 proposed was an ample deposit. The Returning Officer could only charge three guineas, and the rest of the items related to the polling clerks and assistants. The charges would at the outside amount to £18, and it was proposed that the maximum amount of the Returning Officer's secu- 779 rity should be £25 in the case of an uncontested election in any borough.
§ MR E. N. FOWLER (LORD MAYOR)
remarked, that there would be 26,000 electors in the City of London, and he should like to hear how the Returning Officer would deal with a case of that sort?
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, this Bill only applied to cases where there was no contest. It was of no use to speak of the cost of polling clerks and matters of that kind, because under the circumstances they would not be required. He was convinced that the Sheriff would always take care that out of the £25 proposed by the Amendment there should always be £24 clear profit for himself. In his own case he expected there would be no contest; but if he had to advance a larger sum than the actual expenses, there would be no chance of his getting anything back.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he wished to point out what would be the result of the amount which the Government had adopted. In preparing the Act, the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) ignored Ireland altogether, and made a scheme as between England and Scotland, dealing with England in Part 1, and with Scotland in Part 2. The Committee were in this position in consequence—they were getting into a muddle with regard to the Bill before them. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) would be carried; then there would be an Amendment with regard to England, and another with regard to Scotland. He regretted the absence of the late Lord Advocate, who, he thought, ought to have been in his place to justify his arrangement of giving Part 1 to England and Part 2 to Soctland.
§ Question, "That the words 'one-tenth' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, "That '£25' be there inserted."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Page 1, after Clause 2, insert—