HC Deb 12 May 1886 vol 305 cc829-55

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)

, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the conduct of Returning Officers at the last General Election had so far influenced public opinion as to the necessity of amending the law relating to the scale of charges allowed to these officials that it was quite unnecessary for him to plead any justification for the introduction of the Bill. No doubt, Sheriffs looked upon a General Election as a sort of golden harvest, or a Heaven-sent opportunity which permitted them to fleece the unfortunate candidates who had the courage to offer themselves for Parliamentary honours. The Corrupt Practices Act had done a good deal to purify the conduct of elections in Ireland; but he maintained that the Schedule of Returning Officers' charges attached to the Act of 1875, was a blot on the Statute Book, inasmuch as it allowed too large a margin for the charges which Returning Officers were entitled to receive at Parliamentary Elections. In every case at the recent Election in Ireland the Sheriffs asked for the full amounts which the Schedule authorized them to charge. In almost every instance where it was possible to do so the Returning Officers employed their own friends, and had solicitors and agents at every polling station where there were 300 or 400 electors. At one place in Kilkenny, where the number of electors on the Register was only 327, the Returning Officer had two polling booths, at each of which a solicitor was stationed. One booth was provided with a solicitor and two clerks; the other with a solicitor and a clerk. Such a state of things ought not to be allowed to exist. So long as it was tolerated the representation in that House could not be in any degree perfect, inasmuch as the poor man was prevented from attempting to contest a seat in Parliament. The Returning Officers, knowing that in many cases their accounts would not bear scrutiny, struck off 50 per cent; but notwithstanding this the accounts were far too high. For example, £3 3s. was charged for the erection of polling booths. He was satisfied from personal inspection that they could not have cost more than 5s. each. The fact was that these Schedules of charges belonged to the bygone days when the longest purse won the battle. That condition of things no longer existed; they were now living in democratic times. Parliament was in a large measure democratic in its character, and the cost of entering the House should be made democratic and popularized. It was absurd to have restrictions of this kind, their effect being to hinder any man who had a wish in this direction from aspiring to Parliamentary honours. The principal clause, the backbone of the Bill, was the clause which would prevent the recurrence of what he might call the fraudulent contests which had disgraced Ireland in the late Elections. Of 78 contests in Ireland 50 were of this character. They had been simply forced on the people for the purpose of putting the Nationalist candidate to needless expense. A glance at the Register would have shown those bogus candidates the futility of coming forward. In 21 of these contests the num- ber of votes recorded for the so-called Loyalist candidate did not exceed 300, while the minimum number was 30. On the other hand, the number of votes recorded for the Nationalist candidate ranged from 1,330 to 7,300. In East Kerry the Conservative candidate polled 30 votes; the Nationalist candidate polled 3,169. In West Clare the Conservative candidate polled 289, the Nationalist 6,763. In nearly every case the Loyalist candidate did not venture to address the electors, nor to employ a representative at any of the polling stations. In his own constituency the work of the Loyalist candidate began and ended by his handing in the nomination paper to the Sheriff, the object being simply to put the Nationalist candidate to unnecessary expense. Elections would not be pure so long as this state of things was allowed to exist, and he hoped the provision made in the Bill to meet cases of this kind would be adopted by the House. It placed a penalty on the bogus candidate who wantonly came forward in order to put an opponent to unnecessary cost, and the constituency to the trouble and vexation of a contested election, when by consulting the Register it could easily be seen what the state of Parties was, and the probable chances of success. He trusted the House would accept the measure, and pass it by such a large majority as to insure its becoming law.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Tuite.)

COLONEL KING - HARMAN (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

said, he agreed with the hon. Member that the 7th clause, on which the hon. Member so greatly relied, was undoubtedly the backbone of the Bill. It deserved the serious attention of the House, because it seemed to him to be calculated to deprive minorities of the right of expressing their opinions at the polling booths at all. It was an attempt to introduce an innovation which he hoped the House would guard itself from permitting to pass. It was perfectly true that in many of the elections in Ireland the numbers polled by the minority candidate were exceedingly small. They knew very well, however, by the number of voters who polled, taking the whole of the contests together, that the Nationalist candidates did not, as a matter of fact, poll one-half of the voters on the Register. This was proved by figures which were absolutely incontestable. Supposing, however, for the sake of argument, that many of the candidates who went to the poll were certain not to poll a large number of votes, was that any reason why the Loyalist portion of the inhabitants should not have an opportunity of expressing their opinions? It seemed to him that, bad as the system of intimidation and oppression prevalent in Irish elections was now, the passing of this clause penalizing the minority candidate would lead to greater intimidation and oppression in the future. At the last Election the Nationalist candidates affected to treat the minorities with great contempt. If it were a question, therefore, that the candidate who did not poll more than a certain number of votes should be liable to pay the expenses incurred, he put it to the House whether it was unlikely that intimidation would be brought to bear on the voters in order to swell the majority and to cause voters to stay away from supporting the minority candidate. The scale of charges in the Bill seemed to him to have been proposed in a somewhat harum-scarum fashion. For instance, the hon. Member said that £3 3s. was too much to pay for polling booths; but the Schedule of his Bill allowed £4 4s. Comparing these charges with those in the Bill of the Government relating to elections in Scotland, he found that the Government allowed £7 7s. for the same object. The hon. Member spoke of candidates having the courage to offer themselves to the constituencies, and he desired that no candidate should present himself unless he was perfectly certain of obtaining a majority. The intention of that Bill evidently was to oppress and to snuff out the minority and prevent them from expressing their opinions. He begged, therefore, to move as an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Colonel King-Harman.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

said, he had no hesitation in saying that if that measure passed the expenses of elections would be reduced by about 35 per cent. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down was anxious that the minority should have a chance of showing how many supporters it had. So were they; indeed, they would have been sorry if this Bill had been law last year, for then they should not, probably, have known how many supporters the so-called Loyalist minority had. He could assure the House that the Nationalist Party had been very much pleased last year to see the number of supporters which their opponents could bring to the poll at the elections in Ireland. In Kerry they polled 30 votes to the Nationalist candidates' 5,000. In South Mayo, 75 votes to the Nationalist's 4,900; in East Tipperary, 196 to the Nationalist's 4,064; in North Cork, 102 to the Nationalist's 4,982; and so it was all along the line. He would put this question to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet, who said that the Nationalist candidates did not represent one-half of the voters—If 5,000 voters represented less than half the voting population in a constituency, what proportion would 30 voters represent? That was an arithmetical calculation, which he would recommend to the consideration of the hon. and gallant Member. Under that Bill the expenses of election would be cut down so much that the amount which the unsuccessful candidate would pay would hardly be more than the share he had to pay now; while, on the other hand, he would be prevented from mulcting his successful opponent to the tune of some £400 or £500, merely in order to enable him to trot out his 60 or 70 voters. The hon. and gallant Member said it was proposed by the Bill that the candidate who failed should pay everything; but that was not the case. It was only the candidate who ignominiously failed who would have to do so. This Bill allowed every candidate to take his chance at the polls; but if a candidate who got 30 supporters as against 5,000 took his chance at the poll it was only reasonable that such a gentleman should pay for it. Therefore, the Bill provided that if a candidate only got half of the number polled by the successful candidate he would have to pay the whole cost of the election; but they would not have any objection if the House desired to reduce the proportion to one-third or one-fourth. Instead of preventing the constituencies from being properly contested, the Bill would compel elections to be so conducted that the real opinion of the constituencies would be shown by the result. He desired to call the attention of Liberal Members to the fact that this provision would have a very great effect in doing away with those three-cornered contests which did so much injury to the Liberal Party at the last General Election. He asked the House, and especially the Radical and Liberal portion of it, to support the general principle of the Bill; and when the measure got into Committee its promoters would be ready to listen to any reasonable proposal for the modification of its details.


said, he accepted the principle of the clause fining bogus candidates; but thought it would be rather hard to make a man pay the whole of the expenses unless he polled half as many votes as the successful candidate did. If one-third or one-quarter were substituted for one-half, the House might be disposed to assent to the proposal. A great many of them had had experience of bogus candidates, and he himself among the number; and if this Bill had been in operation, he should have had no expenses to pay for his election.


said, he wished that the principle of the Bill should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, as many men in England had suffered from the want of explicitness in the law dealing with that question. He was of opinion that all the requirements of the case would be fully met if the proportion of voters entailing the cost of the election on an unsuccessful candidate were made, as had been suggested by, the hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macfarlane), one-third instead of one-half as proposed by the Bill. He was of opinion that hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side of the House ought to lend their aid to every attempt made to promote the purity of elections, because he was quite sure that the aim and desire of the electors generally was in that direction. Morever, it was well-known that electoral corruption did not generally proceed from the Liberal side, but was rather to be looked for on the part of those who belonged to the Conservative Party. [Cries of "Oh!"] Well, then, it usually came from the men who represented the money-bags. Therefore it was that he should do everything in his power in favour of any measure, the principle of which was the promotion of purity of election as well as the purity of the candidates themselves. No one in that House would be inclined to dispute the statement that the charges of the Sheriffs throughout the English divisions of the constituencies were made on a scale that left great room for improvement; and he should give his vote for the second reading of this measure in the hope that it would be made applicable to the United Kingdom generally.

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Dublin, College Green)

said, that the object of the Bill was to prevent sham candidates putting the constituencies to the expense, trouble, and delay of a contested election in cases in which they knew that they had not the slightest chance of being returned. An election ought to be a grave and a serious affair, instead of which, in many instances, it was an absolute farce. Such proceedings were an outrage on the constituencies. It was an insult to the community and to the constituencies that candidates should be put forward who had no chance of success, and who by such action put the honest and bonâ fide candidate to the trouble and expense of a contested election. In Ireland they had a good deal of that kind of thing—of these sham candidates polling a ridiculously small number of votes. Those who put themselves forward in such a position did no good either to themselves or their cause. They had only had the poor satisfaction of putting the National candidates and the National League to expense and trouble. In such a matter as an election of a Member to sit in that House such tricks, stratagems, and devices should not be permitted, and the matter ought to be so regulated as to be made a very serious thing for all concerned. After the last Election the Nationalists were naturally very much rejoiced at the results, seeing the large majorities they had secured. But what did they find? They found that a series of ingenious calculations were got up by the friends of the defeated candidates to show that, in reality, they were the victors and the Nationalists the defeated. All the dead and absent men were all calculated as having voted for the defeated candidates. They were told that intimidation had kept thousands away from the polls. Well, where was the intimidation, and how was it exercised, and were these gentlemen, so intimidated, the brave "Loyal minority" who were to line the ditches? Were these the brave, bold men who were buying Snider rifles? Why, the whole story of this intimidation was nonsense and humbug. It was a plea put forward and used simply to deceive people; but he had a very poor idea of the intellect and good sense of the people who could be deceived by such nonsense as the suggestion that men were intimidated from coming to the poll with the Ballot to guard them. If it was under the old system there might be some excuse for such suggestions; and yet here they found that the brave Loyal minority could not muster up courage enough to come to the poll and drop their ballot papers into the box. But let them look at the thing from the other point of view. If it was the "Loyal minority" who had secured the thousands at the poll and the Parnellites the hundreds, he would like to know would they not hear that the voice of the country had spoken most eloquently on their behalf? He did not think it needful to say very much on this subject, on the merits of which all were united. They all desired that elections to Parliament should be honest and bonâ fide transactions, and that no sham or bogus candidates should interfere for the mere purpose of worry, trouble, and annoyance. As to those men who did not secure one-half of the number of votes carried by their opponents, he thought the penalty proposed was too severe. They wanted to meet the case of men who knew in their hearts that they had no real chance in the election. That was perfectly fair, and the principle must commend itself to the good sense of every honest man. No one could object to it except those who meant to play again the game they played before, which he hoped would not receive the approbation of this House. They suffered more in Ireland than in England in this matter; but if the English Members wished to have a similar measure extended to England they were perfectly ready to aid them.

MR. T. ROBINSON (Gloucester)

said, he would have been pleased if a Bill had been introduced to put the subject of Returning Officers' expenses on a better footing for the entire Kingdom. This was not a Party question, and he would support the principle of the Bill.


said, some reference had been made to intimidation during the recent elections in Ireland, and it had been charged against the Representatives of the Northern constituencies that they had spoken of the Loyal electors having been intimidated. He desired to state that neither he nor his Friends had ever said the Loyal minority had been intimidated. That minority required stronger measures to intimidate them than had yet been invented. What they had said was that there existed in Ireland an intimidation society, otherwise known by the name of the National League, and that that Society had succeeded in terrorizing and dominating the minds of those who were subjected to its sway in Ireland, the existence of that organization absolutely precluding the Irish people from expressing their deliberate opinions as to who should be their Representatives. He would simply instance the manner in which the candidates were chosen at the last Election in Ireland, and in doing so would mention the case of the hon. Member for West Clare. That hon. Gentleman was elected for the West Clare Division without, he believed, ever having seen the constituency. The Nationalist Party wanted to get hold of a representative Protestant, to show that at least some portion of the Protestants of Ireland sympathized with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell); and, not being able to find one in Cork or Kerry, or Munster or Connaught, they were at least enabled to pounce upon him in Enniskillen. They brought their candidate from that place, and he was informed by a gentleman resident in Clare that he was never shown to the constituency until after the Election was over, when the hon. Member was produced—he (Major Saunderson) hoped to the satisfaction of the electors. This was what he called a bogus candidature. The Loyal Party undoubtedly undertook to fight some of the constituencies in the South and West of Ireland without much hope of success. This he did not for one moment attempt to deny; but he wished to say that what they wanted to do was this—they wanted to give an opportunity to the constituencies to record, if they chose to do so, their votes in favour of Loyalist candidates; and he might add that they wanted to do something more—they desired to show how many Irishmen would vote for the hon. Member for Cork; and, although they did not attempt to act so unfairly as to count those who abstained from voting at all as being on their own side—they had never made that assertion—they considered that they acted with perfect fairness in stating that those who abstained from voting did not record their votes for the hon. Member for Cork. He did not think that even the ingenuity of hon. Members below the Gangway would enable them to suggest that those abstainers really did vote for the hon. Member for Cork. The result was that more than 113,000 electors did not vote for the hon. Member for Cork at the last Election, and he thought this was something gained; while in the very City which that hon. Member represented, there were no fewer than 7,000 abstainers from voting. Although he admitted that the Loyalist candidate for Cork did not get many votes, he, nevertheless, was of opinion that it was a point of considerable value to have shown, as they had thus been enabled to show to England and the rest of the United Kingdom, that in the very City which the hon. Member for Cork represented as the head of the Separatist Party, there were 7,000 electors who had refrained from recording their votes in his favour. It had been said that the backbone of the Bill before the House was the fine it would impose on the merely bogus candidates. On this point he might say that, in the constituency he represented, he had been opposed by the whole force of the Nationalist Party and the Radical Party; but he was enabled to beat his opponent by almost the proportion mentioned in the Bill as that which would impose the fine referred to. Still, he should be very sorry to enforce such a provision, even against a Nationalist, if that Nationalist wished, in the constituency which he had the honour to represent, to display his weakness. Every great cause which ultimately triumphed had a beginning. If they precluded any Englishman, Irishman, or Scotchman from advocacy of a cause which might become a great one at the beginning, when he was not likely to find many supporters, they would be taking away one of the greatest rights that could be claimed in either country—a right which he, for one, did not wish to deny to those who sat below the Gangway, nor to anyone else. He therefore hoped the House would pause before giving its sanction to such a measure as that now under discussion. It admitted what would be an absolutely new principle in Parliamentary elections, the adoption of which would have the effect of preventing an Englishman, Irishman, or Scotchman from coming forward to seek the representation of a constituency under the penalty of a heavy fine if he happened to be unsuccessful in polling the exact proportion of voters named in this Bill.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

said, he was not one of those who were animated by an excessive desire to be severe on unsuccessful candidates, and he thought that the proposal in the Bill to place the burden of the expenses of election upon a candidate who polled less than one-half of the number of votes polled by the successful candidate was open to serious objection. He was, therefore, glad to hear from those who were in charge of the Bill that they did not insist upon this particular proposal, but were willing to modify it in Committee. He could not have supported the proposal as it stood, because he should be sorry to say that his opponent in East Aberdeenshire, who would have been mulcted under this Bill, was by any means a bogue candidate. He was an honourable candidate, who had a right to lay his principles before the constituency, although he had not a sufficient number of followers to save him from the penalties inflicted by this Bill. In principle, he (Mr. Esslemont) supported the Bill, because he thought that a fine—or, rather, the burden of the expenses—should fall upon candidates who were manifestly coming forward with no idea or expectation of anything else than simply to bring about a vexatious opposition, and inflict an unnecessary expense upon the popular candidate and upon the constituency. It was a great pity, on the other hand, that anyone should be restrained, under reasonable circumstances, from vindicating before a constituency the principles which he held. He ventured, therefore, to hope that the Bill would not be opposed in principle, but that it would be so amended in Committee as not to deter bonâ fide candidates from taking the field. The House was not met to discuss very much the unfortunate circumstances of those in Ireland who were not successful at the last Election, or to account for their want of success on any special principle. But they were all agreed that the expenses of elections ought to be minimized to the lowest possible scale, so as to secure that elections should be carried on in the interests of the country. As far as the expenses of elections were concerned, he should be inclined to go a good deal further than the proposals of this Bill. He saw no reason—so far, at least, as Scotland was concerned—why the Registrar of each parish should not take the poll, so that the expenses in each parish should not exceed £5. With such a simple system of ballot as they now had, there was no great necessity—and the law did not require it—that they should have legal assistance at great expense in every parish. The ballot ought to be so simple and so easily worked that it would require no great legal acumen to carry it out. He hoped that the official expenses connected with elections would not only be brought as low as they were fixed in the Schedule of this Bill, but that they might be made lower. He believed that the principle of the Bill was approved of on both sides of the House, and he hoped, therefore, that it would be agreed to without a division. If a division were taken, he should record his vote in favour of the Bill, on the assurance that those who brought it forward would accept in Committee the Amendments which had been foreshadowed in the debate.

MR. JOHNS (Warwick, Nuneaton)

said, the principle of the Bill was most admirable, and ought to be supported. It was not a question between Nationalists and Loyalists, but of doing away with bogus candidates. He hoped that this Bill was only a first instalment, and that the second instalment would be the application of the principle to England and Scotland. His idea was that the charges levied on the candidates should be upon a percentage system, and he would try to introduce this change in Committee.


said, he strongly objected to the principle of this Bill. He objected to the principle of every Bill which was made applicable to Ireland alone. The state of things in Ireland would have been very different now if this pernicious plan had not been adopted of excluding Ireland from some Bills and passing other Bills for Ireland alone, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) never would have occupied the position he held in that House. All Bills should apply to England and Ireland alike. [Mr. T. D. SULLIVAN: What about coercion?] The Coercion Acts ought to have applied to the whole Kingdom. This was the main and the only principle on which he objected to the Bill before the House. With regard to the question of the Sheriffs' expenses, he felt sure that no Member of that House would object to a proposal by which they could be reduced; but he doubted whether the Bill under discussion would really effect the reduction it contemplated. In the first place, he thought the proposed reduction with regard to the cost of polling booths was a great mistake. They had already found the accommodation afforded by the polling booths insufficient. They found, that a great many persons were crowded into small booths, and that the arrangements for marking the ballot papers were so bad that even educated men could hardly find room for the points of their pencils; while the rest of the arrangements were so faulty that they greatly facilitated the desire exhibited by Gentlemen below the Gangway to ensure the freedom from secrecy of the ballot by enabling a number of gentlemen who had no business there to loiter about the rooms. To his own knowledge, in many districts the polling booths were crowded from morning to night by people who had no more business there than he had. [An hon. MEMBER: Where?] It occurred all over the country; and he thought it undesirable that anything should be done which would have the effect of further limiting the accommodation then afforded. With regard to the presiding officers, he held that they were already amply paid; and he would point out that there was no difficulty in getting gentlemen to undertake the office. In his own constituency the proposal of the Bill would make a difference of no less than £54 additional expense for Returning Officers alone, there being 18 polling districts, which, at £3 3s. extra each, would amount to the sum named, while the travelling expenses at some of the stations would be small, because the Belfast and County Down Railway would convey all the officers from the different districts, and bring back all the ballot boxes. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had spoken of the object of the Bill as being to inflict a fine on bogus candidates, so as to prevent the setting up of bogus candidates. He did not think bogus candidates would be found in the ranks of those who were sneered at as representing the landlord party, because too much care was being taken to deplete their money bags, so that there need be little fear of their entering into heavy expenditure for sham purposes. But how would it be in the case of men who were advocating new opinions and ventilating new ideas? How, he asked, would it be in the case of the working men candidates in many of the districts where they had not as yet shown themselves, but which they might desire to contest, if they were to be fined in the manner suggested by the Bill, because they might not be able to succeed in at once persuading a large number of electors to give them their support? How would it be possible to get the great labour question fairly put before the constituencies? They must either trust men who were not to be trusted, or run the risk of imposing a ruinous fine on those whom they got to contest the districts. He did not propose to contest very violently the principle of the Bill, if that principle were that election expenses should be reduced; but he would oppose the Bill on the ground that it ought to be applied to the whole of the United Kingdom, and not to Ireland only. It would be much better if the matter were taken up by Her Majesty's Government, and a Bill introduced by them in such a form that it would be applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom.

SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

wished to ask the Lord Advocate, whether the Government were likely to make the Bill applicable to England, because there was on the Paper a Bill on the same subject relating to Scotland which was not yet printed? He had just been told so at the Vote Office, where he had asked for a copy of it.

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)&c.) (Clackmannan,

said, there were two Bills on the Paper to-day. One of them, not printed, was given Notice of by his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen; but when the Government took the matter up his hon. Friend did not persevere with his Bill. The Government Bill had been printed for weeks.


said, there was evidently a misunderstanding about this Bill, because when he inquired he got the very same answer, that the Bill was not yet printed.


Perhaps I may be allowed to explain——


Order, order; Sir John Swinburne.


said, that as he had been a considerable sufferer at the late Election he would give this Bill his most hearty support, and if the Forms of the House allowed, he would move in Committee to make it applicable to England. Working-men candidates would favour such a Bill more than others, because, before submitting their claims to a constituency, they were well aware of the amount of support they were likely to obtain. In the North of England working-men candidates suffered very severely from having men put forward without the remotest chance of election.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)

said, that the Irish Members had good reason to be gratified with the reception which the Bill had received on both sides of the House. They would be only too happy to see the Bill extended to England if English Members so desired; but the history of the Returning Officers' Expenses Act of 1875 had something to do with the Bill being introduced as applicable to Ireland alone. When the Bill of 1875 was introduced by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), Mr. Butt, on behalf of the Irish Representatives, protested against its application to Ireland, and it was agreed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it should not be extended to Ireland, and so passed its second reading. The late Mr. M'Carthy Downing, however, in Committee, and behind the backs of the majority of the Irish Party, got the Bill applied to Ireland. At no time consequently had the Irish Members agreed to the principles of the Returning Officers Act of 1875; and last year when they moved in the matter they got a pledge from the Government that when the subject came up again Ireland would be dealt with. He and his Colleagues were in almost entire agreement with the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Down. That hon. Member's points were all such as might be dealt with in Committee. The hon. Member was in error in supposing that the Bill would increase the Returning Officers' fee for polling booths to £5 5s.; because the hon. Member had not noticed that all the expenses for ballot boxes and mileage were proposed to be taken away, and thus, to a large extent, the Bill diminished the cost. If the hon. Gentleman, before speaking, had examined the Bill more at large he would have perceived his error. The fact was the "Loyal minority" had been misled in regard to the Bill by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman), who had not appeared previously in the House for a long time, and had on his re-appearance to-day assumed the leadership of that minority. Perhaps, now that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet perceived that the Bill would be extended to England, he would see the advantage of allowing it to proceed. The hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) had spoken of the Clare election; but he should be more careful before he indulged in reckless statements, which he was so fond of making; for the truth was that the Clare Convention was attended by delegates from every district of the county, and the County of Catholic Emancipation unanimously adopted the candidature of the Ulster Protestant (Mr. Jordan.)

MR. HOLMES (Dublin University)

said, he was surprised at the readiness with which the principle of this Bill had been adopted by hon. Members on the Liberal and Radical Benches. He thought it was conceded that the principle of the Bill was to be found in the second sub-clause of Clause 2, and he agreed with an hon. Member that the principle ought not to be regarded from a Party point of view. It would be admitted by every one that the principle involved was an innovation—nothing resembling it was to be found in existing legislation, and he believed that nothing resembling it had ever before been submitted to the consideration of this House. It was not merely an innovation—it would be found on examination to be a very dangerous innovation. In so saying, he was looking at the principle, not alone from the Tory point of view; but from the point of view in which questions of this kind were usually regarded by Liberals and Radicals. That House had over and over again engaged in legislation for the purpose of enabling the free will of the people to be expressed at a General Election. It seemed just as important that candidates desirous of advocating particular principles should have an opportunity of doing so without any risk of penalty. It had been said that it was desirable to keep away bogus candidates; but his difficulty was how to find out whether they were bogus candidates or not. He was satisfied that they never could apply as a test the number of votes a man might receive from a constituency. He thought it would be admitted by everyone that the limit in this Bill of one-half the number of votes would be no test. He admitted the number was a matter which might be left till the Committee stage; but he personally found a difficulty in defining any number which would be a fair test. The real question was this—was the candidate coming forward in good faith to support principles in which he believed, and with regard to which a number of men in the constituency might share his belief? When labour candidates first came forward in England they received very little support; but they were not bogus candidates in any respect. They were desirous of seeing how far their opinions were supported, and as election after election passed they obtained favour among the constituencies. One of the things to be expected from Democratic constitutions was that a greater variety of opinions would spring up, and that instead of having two great Parties they might have three or four. They could understand that a person knowing he had but a small minority of followers in a constituency might think it well to introduce his views to that constituency in the hope that as time went on those views might permeate the greater portion of the electors. So much as to the principle. On a secondary matter, he pointed out that the security deposited with the Sheriff now was based on the fact that the unsuccessful candidate should pay half the expenses. If this arrangement were altered to make the unsuccessful candidate pay the entire amount the security must, of course, be increased. That provision would not bear hardly on those who had money to spare, but on those who had not. Every Member of the House was interested in keeping down the Sheriff's expenses as much as possible. Any amendment of the Schedule of the Act of 1875, by which the Returning Officer's charges would be amended, was not unreasonable. It was desirable that the Sheriffs should be indemnified; but he was opposed to their getting one penny beyond the amount necessary to indemnify them. The Schedule to that measure did not specify the sum the Sheriff was, under all circumstances, to receive, but the maximum amount; and there was provision for taxing the Sheriff's bill by means of a satisfactory tribunal, there being an appeal to a County Court Judge in Ireland. It might be that the maximum charges fixed by the Schedule were too great; but it occurred to him that the House would be a very bad tribunal sitting in Committee to decide that question. The Government, he thought, should consider this Bill as they had considered the Bill in regard to Scotland; or it might be dealt with by a small Committee, which would go into details, and if necessary take evidence. He did not see his way, however, to support the principle of the Bill, and therefore could not vote for its second reading.


said, he apprehended that the question the House ought to consider was not whether the principle of the Bill was an innovation—which it no doubt was—but whether it was a desirable innovation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who had last spoke did not think it a desirable innovation. He agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument to this extent—that they could not draw a hard-and-fast line which would decide in every case whether or not a candidate was bogus. The Bill did not enact that a man should not become a candidate un- less he was certain of receiving a certain number of votes. All it enacted was that a candidate who was not satisfied that he should get a reasonable proportion of votes should not put his opponent to the expense of a contest. He thought that a safe and just and an equitable rule. The right hon. and learned Gentleman argued that the Bill would press against working-men candidates. That House, he hoped, would give no more encouragement to working men, as far as unreasonable contests were concerned, than to any other candidates. All that working men could require was that they would be made equal to their social superiors before the law. In Ireland, at the last Election, they had to deal not merely with individual bogus candidates, but with a universally extended organization—[cheers]—of bogus candidates. It appeared that the notion held by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh who cheered (Major Saunderson) of a bogus candidate was that the description did not apply to one who got only 30 votes, while his opponent received 6,000; so the House need not concern itself with the views of the hon. and gallant Gentleman on this subject. Candidates were put forward in Ireland who had not the smallest hope of getting more than an infinitesimal fraction of the votes of the constituency. The Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union not merely put constituencies to the turmoil of contested elections in hopeless cases, but they did so without any pecuniary risk to these bogus candidates, and some of their candidates engaged in contests at a pecuniary profit. ["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] He was himself personally aware of one case of the sort; and he would fearlessly state the fact in the House, that one of the candidates who was put up to contest one of the divisions of the County of Cork made a profit of considerably over £100. [Cries of "Name!"] He made that statement from his own personal knowledge. [Renewed cries of "Name!"] His Colleague to whom he referred was Dr. Kenny. When these things happened he apprehended it was high time for the House to inquire into the matter. It had been said that the effect of Clause 2 of the Bill would be to necessitate an increase in the amount of security to be lodged by a candidate. That, he thought, was a mistake; because it had been invariably found that the deposit was far in excess of what the election could legitimately cost. When once the House had ascertained that the machinery for Parliamentary elections was used to give trouble and annoyance to political opponents, and to impose large expense upon them, it was the duty of the House to interfere and see that the machinery should be no longer put to that illegitimate use. As to the second branch of the question, there seemed to him to be a general concurrence of opinion in the House.


I agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down that the general effect of the discussion, in spite of what at first promised to be one or two rather heated passages as to the interpretation of the last elections in Ireland, has been to develop a very strong concurrence of opinion in all parts of the House. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) even, who objected so much to one of the sub-sections of the Bill, said his dissent only arose on points which could be satisfied and removed in Committee. So I understood him. [Colonel WARING: As regards election expenses.] Yes; but this Bill is, in its substance, a Bill for the reduction of expenses. On that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway, and on this side of the House, are of the same mind. There has been almost complete unanimity of opinion in all quarters of the House; and it is perfectly natural, and almost inevitable, that it should be so. Of course, we all, whether the majority or the minority, are interested in getting election expenses reduced to the lowest possible level. Some objection has been taken by hon. Gentlemen to the fact that this Bill deals especially with Ireland. One hon. Gentleman expressed the benevolent wish that even Coercion Acts might be extended to England and Scotland and Wales. We on this side of the House may be excused for dissenting from that view; but the truth is that under the existing state of the law a difference is made between the different parts of the United Kingdom. For example, the Returning Officers Act of 1875 does not extend to Scotland; and as Her Majesty's Government, in the present Session, is to ask the House to alter the system of election expenses in Scot- land, it would be very difficult for us to resist a Bill for reforming election expenses in Ireland merely on the ground that it affected only one part of the United Kingdom. I confess my opinion at first rather turned in the direction indicated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Holmes), that there are points in the Bill which might be with advantage referred to a small Committee, because the virtue of this Bill, apart from the disputed clauses, lies in the Schedule, and the Schedule refers to minute details; and it is rather an open question with me whether Parliament possesses the necessary information in order to settle the scheme without taking evidence. It might be found upon investigation that some Sheriffs were able to show that they have actually been put to costs payable by themselves for expenditure inadequately provided for by the Schedule which now exists; and Irish Sheriffs are not in such easy circumstances at present that it would be desirable to impose upon them any risk of being put to personal expense. However, I have listened to the course of the debate, and it has become pretty clear that Gentlemen from Ireland, both above and below the Gangway, feel that they know enough on this subject to decide in Committee upon the terms and details of the Schedule in this Bill. That being so, and being a matter which really concerns Gentlemen from Ireland, it is no longer my intention to insist upon a reference of the Bill to a Select Committee as a condition of our assent to the second reading of it. Upon the clause which has given rise to so much interesting discussion I feel rather more reserve; because there is no doubt, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh has said, that it is an innovation, and I, for one, have so often been in a minority in my life that I am not inclined to put a penalty on any person who happens to be in a minority. I think, however, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, when he said the effect of this clause would be to deny the right of taking one's chance at an election unless you were perfectly certain of a majority, is not quite accurate. It is clear that is not the intention of the clause, and I do not think that a clause in that sense would be accepted by Parliament. The hon. Members below the Gangway, I believe, are ready to assent to a change in the proportion of the votes which would be required to exonerate an unsuccessful candidate from liability; and though I cannot feel that the effect of the clause would be what was stated by the hon. Members from Ireland above the Gangway, still it does introduce a very remarkable change into the principles of our electoral proceedings. It would be very difficult to justify the extension to Ireland of that change, unless we were prepared to extend it to England as well. I am bound to say, at the same time, that it appears to be perfectly certain that if we had a Bill embodying this principle of the pecuniary liability of bogus candidates with regard to England, if put to the test of a division this afternoon, such a Bill would be carried. A good deal has been said as to the definition of a bogus candidate. We, ourselves, in the Bill brought in by the Lord Advocate dealing with the case of Scotland, define a certain kind of bogus candidate, but not the kind referred to by the framers of this Bill. The Bill of my right hon. and learned Friend is to the effect that when a candidate, generally known as a carpetbagger candidate, ventures to invade Scotland, then the persons who sign his nomination paper shall be liable, conjointly with the candidate and with each other, for the charges payable to the Returning Officer by such candidate. The question of bogus candidates arises in various shapes and various conditions; but that is one way of dealing with this particular form of candidate. The question of the exact proportion of votes which shall constitute the unlucky candidate a bogus candidate is, I confess, somewhat difficult to determine; but I am clear that whatever the proportion is it ought to be the same in all the three parts of the United Kingdom—I mean so long as we continue our existing system of legislation. One method of dealing with a familiar form of bogus candidate has been referred to; but I should prefer to see it dealt with by the proposal for a second ballot. I believe that that would be the most effectual check on such a candidature. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Who would pay for the first?] There are other proposals for dealing with a similar evil. From these illustrations I have given of the difficulties surrounding the question of the bogus candidate I think it will be seen that we ought to move with considerable caution. I, therefore, must not be understood as pledging the Government when the Bill reaches Committee to accept, without further precautions and reservations, the principle which is laid down in the second subsection of Clause 2. I do not think I have anything to add to these remarks, beyond saying that, in the circumstances I have described, Her Majesty's Government felt themselves unable to offer any resistance to the second reading of the Bill.

MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD (Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities)

said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had told them that any legislation on this matter ought to apply to the Three Kingdoms, and not to Ireland alone; and it was, therefore, quite evident that he did not immediately expect that their Irish Friends below the Gangway would have an opportunity of making their own laws. As a Member for Scotland, not elected by ballot, he might say a few words on this question. The right hon. Gentleman had truly said that the definition of a bogus candidate was a very difficult matter. He (Mr. Macdonald) did not think that that difficulty would ever be satisfactorily got over by fixing a proportion to sums of money or averages; because they might have many cases in which a candidate, representing general political opinions, might, in consequence of some special question arising in the constituency at the time of the election, or about which in that constituency there was a strong feeling, find himself in a considerable minority. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) mentioned that this Bill would have a great effect in preventing three candidates contesting one seat. Was it always to be supposed to be desirable to exclude the possibility of there being three candidates for a seat? Were there not questions—such as the great Liquor Question—that sometimes so agitated the community that up to the day of the poll it was extremely difficult and uncertain to guess how the vote would go with three candidates, two of whom might be Liberal, and one Conservative? Was the least successful of the three to be held to be a bogus candidate because, forsooth! his number was not a third of the number of the successful candidate? They might have many similar cases; but what struck him most forcibly about this sub-section of Clause 2 was that it went directly in the teeth of all the principles they had been endeavouring to establish for many years in regard to the freedom of the voter to conceal altogether until he went to the poll for whom he intended to vote. He knew that many who would vote for this Bill would be prepared to vote against canvassing or against voters being asked to pledge themselves for one particular candidate before the election. Well, if it was a sound principle to put down canvassing and pledging, how on earth, while they voted under the ballot, could anyone ascertain whether the principles which he had been pressing on the community were making progress unless it was tested at the ballot box? If unsuccessful, then was he ever afterwards to be denied the right of impressing those principles on the community, or of showing, from time to time, by the polling at an election, that there was an increasing minority in favour of his views? He would ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway whether they considered that taking divisions in this House, when they had no expectation for a moment of carrying them, was a bogus proceeding or not? Were Irish Members prepared to say that progress towards success upon their part of the principles they had in view had not been made by taking divisions which were practically, according to the view of the House generally at the time, bogus divisions? [An hon. MEMBER: They cost nothing.] They cost time and shoe-leather. They had heard of a certain proceeding called Obstruction, of which they had seen very little this Session; but he presumed Obstruction meant bogus working against the House carrying on its Business; and he was sure no Irish Member would get up and say that he did not consider that a most valuable weapon for influencing public opinion in his favour; for he understood that the sole reason, not for giving the Irish a Legislature of their own, but for the Irish not sitting in this House, was that their presence here was looked upon by the Prime Minister as a very great obstruction to the Business of the other parts of the Kingdom. Therefore, he must say that as regarded the principle of this Bill, which was entirely contained in sub-section 2 of Clause 2, he could never give it his support. If he could see, or if any Member could show him any possible criterion by which they could possibly fairly test a bogus candidate, then no one would be more in favour of the principle than he; but it was because he saw that in endeavouring to stop what, undoubtedly, was an evil they would create greater evils that he was decidedly against the principle of this clause. One evil most certainly would follow, and that was that in the case of candidates where there was considerable doubt in regard to both candidates as to how the vote would go, so far as the proportion fixed by the Act was concerned, then they would have the greatest temptation to corruption and bribery on the part of both candidates, because they would introduce into the question of election a direct money interest to be fought for at the poll. The losing candidate would have an interest to do what he could to bribe over, say, 40 or 50 electors, so as to get his proportion of one-third or whatever it might be, and the other candidate might do the same thing in order to get the proportion of two-thirds. It might thus become a mere question of money and of debauching a constituency. As regarded the remaining parts of the Bill, he and all Scottish Members could give hearty concurrence to the proposal to have a Schedule of expenses for limiting the expenses, and also to the principle that the Sheriff or Returning Officer should be fully indemnified for reasonable expenses, but should in no case receive any profit out of that duty. But while that was perfectly correct, that was no reason for having separate Bills on the subject for the Three Kingdoms, and he thought there should be a Bill applicable to the United Kingdom. Their view was that the proper course to take was to assimilate the law of Scotland in regard to this matter to that of England, except so far as it might be desirable to make such alterations in the Schedule necessary from the different circumstances of the two countries. He trusted that, as a result of this debate, they would have applied, as regarded Returning Officers' expenses, one principle for the whole of the United Kingdom.

SIR JAMES P. CORRY (Armagh, Mid)

said, that he did not rise for the purpose of opposing the second reading of the Bill before the House, for he believed that in whatever part of the House they sat they were all agreed that the expenses of elections should be made as small as possible. All that he took exception to in the Bill was the 2nd sub-section of the 2nd clause. This, he thought, at all events in its present shape, would work most injuriously; and he therefore hoped that the hon. Member who brought in the Bill would consent to omit that clause. He only wished now to refer to a remark of the hon. and learned Member for South Derry (Mr. T. M. Healy) as to the omission of Ireland from the Returning Officers Act of 1875. When that Bill, which was in charge of the then hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), was introduced into the House it included Ireland; but most of the Irish Members were not satisfied that Ireland should be so included, and therefore Ireland was left out. That was one of the great misfortunes in the use of separate legislation for different parts of the United Kingdom. He had much rather that matters of interest to all the Three Kingdoms be dealt with all together, and he thought it unfortunate that Ireland should be excluded from the Act in question. The Chief Secretary said that he had at first been in favour of referring the Bill to a Select Committee, and that he had since changed his mind. He (Sir James P. Corry) thought there would be great advantage in referring the Bill to a Select Committee, when the Schedule might be examined. He had a telegram in his hand from a gentleman who had served the office of Sheriff at a contested election in Ireland; and this gentleman, to whom he had sent a copy of the Bill, said that the proposed changes in the Schedule were totally inadequate, and he was prepared to give evidence to that effect before a Select Committee. He thought, therefore, that it would be well if the Government would, under all the circumstances, consent that after the second reading the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. The proceedings begun, that Committee need not be long, and then in a short time the whole matter might be disposed of. He did not personally desire to oppose the second reading; but he hoped that the Government would see that the 2nd clause required modification. He thought that clause, as it stood, would defeat the object of many gentlemen who wished to stand as candidates. There was another point. An hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. M. Healy) had said that some of those who stood against his friends at the last Election had received a pecuniary consideration for so doing, and had made money out of the transaction. But he was told by gentlemen who could speak with authority on the point that the hon. Member had been entirely misinformed; and he must say that he thought that before making a statement of such a kind as that he had referred to, hon. Members ought to take care that their information was correct. In conclusion, he desired to say that he had no objection to the second reading, provided that the 2nd clause of the Bill, as it now stood, underwent modification in Committee.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 174; Noes 56: Majority 118.—(Div. List, No. 95.)