HC Deb 31 January 1887 vol 310 cc379-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend 'The Ballot Act, 1872.'"—(Colonel Saunderson.)

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

What is the object of the Bill? [A pause.] Unless the hon. and gallant Gentleman has the courtesy to explain the object of the measure, I shall be obliged to move the adjournment of the debate.


I have no objection to state the principle of the Bill. The Bill is intended to alter the Ballot Act, so as to prevent what sometimes now occurs at Elections—that is, voters being brought up to the poll and declared to be illiterate, although they are perfectly capable of reading the names of the candidates on the ballot paper; in order that pressure may be brought to bear upon them by those who know them and are in a position to influence them in the votes they give. I had intended that the Bill should apply to Ireland only; but I believe it may, with advantage, apply to the United Kingdom at large. I cannot speak from personal knowledge as to England and Scotland, but I can speak with such knowledge of Ireland. Being aware, as I am, that in Ireland voters are brought up to the poll who are perfectly competent to decide as to the vote they give, and yet are caused to declare themselves illiterate, so that others may discover how they vote, I have felt it necessary, in order to carry out the purpose of the Ballot Act, which is to enable a voter to record his vote without fear of any undue influence, to bring in this Bill. Unless some Bill of this kind is brought in and carried, elections, in Ireland certainly, will never be conducted in accordance with the principle which I believe this House wishes to enforce, and that is that a man shall give his vote free from any outside influence and control.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I should imagine it would be perfectly competent to put down the practices which the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has described by means of the Corrupt Practices Act.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I shall not oppose the introduction of the Bill; but I shall be bound to do so on the second reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Colonel Saunderson, Colonel Waring, and Mr. Macartney.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 138.]