HC Deb 15 May 1885 vol 298 cc615-6

asked Mr. Attorney General, If his attention has been called to the following notice issued by the authorised agent of the Dorset Conservative Association, Shaftesbury Division:—

"Private and Confidential.

"Dorset Conservative Association, "Shafteshury Division,

"Newland Offices, Sherborne, "11th March, 1885.

"Dear Sir,

"Having regard to the 9th section of the Representation of the People Act, 1884 (the last Franchise Act I, the duties of the overseers of the different parishes are considerably extended, so far as they relate to entering on the rate hook the name of every man entitled to be registered as a voter who is an inhabitant occupier of any dwelling house in their respective parishes within the meaning of that Act. It therefore becomes important that we should see that the overseers to be appointed in vestry during the present month shall be men who will see that the Conservative voters are properly entered.

"With this view, I would venture to suggest that steps should be taken in order to secure, as far as possible, the appointment of overseers who are themselves Conservatives, and that you shall see that some one attends the vestry with that view.

"I would venture to remind you that vestries hould return, previous to the 25th March, to he justices of their division, a list of men qualified to serve as overseers, and this list should contain not less than three names. It is customary for the justices to prick the two top names in such list, unless there is some reason assigned to the contrary. You will, perhaps, bear this in mind, and see that those you wish appointed are proposed first.

"I need hardly say, if any notion of the step I advise becomes known to 'the other side,' you may have difficulty in carrying out the suggestion, and therefore I must ask you to receive this letter in the strictest privacy.

"Yours faithfully,


"Chief Agent;"

and, whether such notice is a violation of the Corrupt Practices Act?


inquired whether the Attorney General saw any primâ facie objection to what was, on the face of it, the object of the Circular—namely, that Conservative voters should be properly entered?


in reply, said, he had received several copies of the Circular, and he did not understand that its authenticity was denied. He regretted that there were no provisions in the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act to deal with such a case as this; because when the Act was passed it was not contemplated that the appointment of overseers would be made a subject of political contest. Perhaps it would be enough that attention had been called to the subject, as he was sure no one would like to see overseers turned into political agents.