§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, in view of the fact that appeals for funds to conduct the next General Election are being openly made to the rich, he will, in order to enable candidates to stand whose private means are small, introduce a Bill to secure to the constituencies full freedom in the selection of candidates, by throwing the necessary expenses of Parliamentary Elections upon the entire community?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I suppose when my hon. Friend speaks of throwing the necessary expenses of elections upon the entire community he means the local community. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Yes.] I am not in a position to enter into any engagement with respect to the introduction of any Bill dealing with this subject; but I am friendly to the principle of such a Bill as that indicated in the Question. I should be glad to vote for it on any appropriate occasion. I would go one step further, for I think it very hard on the working 673 classes, in a country which is so liberal as to make provision for a number of political pensions to salaried public officers, which pensions are often held by men of birth and station, that in the same country, when labouring men desire to return a Member of their own class, they should have to pay the expenses of his election and likewise support him, at least presumably, while in the discharge of his public duty.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
asked the right hon. Gentleman, If he was aware that a Bill had already been introduced by the hon. Member for Central Finsbury (Mr. Howard Spensley) providing for a renewal of the ancient and Constitutional practice of the payment of Members of Parliament; and, whether he would be disposed to give facilities for that Bill being brought before the House, so as to give them an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am afraid the same consideration which prevented me from giving any encouragement to the introduction of a Bill on the subject of the necessary election expenses must prevent me giving any pledge with regard to affording facilities for the Bill referred to.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)
reminded the Prime Minister that there stood on the Orders for Thursday a Bill which provided for the reduction of the scale of Returning Officers' charges by about 35 per cent lower than they were at present. If that measure were adopted it would reduce the cost of elections in a very material degree, and he asked the Prime Minister whether the Government would support that Bill?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That I take to be a different case. So far as I understand the matter, there was an agreement on the subject of Returning Officers' charges in Ireland, and I am under the impression that there is a similar agreement with regard to Returning Officers' charges in Scotland; but there has not been the same careful provision made in the existing law in the case of Ireland and Scotland as in the case of England. If that is so, I should regard a case of that kind as proper to be dealt with.