HC Deb 17 July 1890 vol 347 cc69-71
MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to irregularities in connection with the last election of Guardians of the poor for the township of Runcorn; whether he is aware that a considerable number of qualified electors received no voting papers; that many mistakes in the distribution and collection of voting papers occurred owing to the fact that the numbers of the houses in any street were not entered on the papers; and that the persons employed by the Returning Officer to assist in the counting of the voting papers were two of his own sons and the Workhouse Master, who had been for many years his own clerk; whether the irregularities affected the result of the election; and whether the Local Government Board made inquiry into the conduct of the election so as to fix the responsibility for and prevent the recurrence of such irregularities?


I have received complaints as to irregularities an connection with the last election of Guardians for the township of Runcorn. At the election five Guardians were to be elected, and there were nine candidates. I am not able to give the precise number of persons who were entitled to vote in the election, but it must have been very large, as one candidate received as many as 946 votes. In communications which I have received from one of the candidates it is alleged that in 37 cases there was a failure either to distribute or to collect voting papers. I have made inquiry as to each of these cases, and find that in some of them a satisfactory explanation has been given. For instance, there are cases where persons had left the house in respect of which they were assessed prior to the election. In others the collectors were unable to obtain an answer when they called with the voting papers. There are other cases in which mistakes have occurred through inadvertence in preparing the voting papers or other wise. It is, however, to be observed that in the public notice which is given of the election the attention of the electors is distinctly called to the fact that if any voter fails to receive a voting paper on the day of the distribution, or if any voting paper is not collected through the default of the Returning Officer, or any person employed to collect the voting papers, the voter is entitled to attend at the place fixed by the Returning Officer, and there personally hand in a voting paper filled up by him. I learn from the Returning Officer that in one case a messenger, who asked for voting papers for certain electors, was informed that if the electors wished to vote it would be necessary that they should attend before the Returning Officer for the purpose. In none of the cases, however, did the elector avail himself of this right. It is impossible for me to say whether the result of the election would have been affected if the persons in the cases referred to had availed themselves of the right to which I have alluded. I have no definite information as to whether or not the sons of the Returning Officer and the Workhouse Master assisted the Returning Officer in counting the votes, but the officer was entitled to have assistance in this duty, and it does not appear to me that there was any objection to the employment of these persons. It is a matter for regret that irregularity should have occurred in any of these cases, but I am not satisfied that there was any wilful neglect, and after full consideration the Local Government Board arrived at the conclusion that the cir- cumstances were not such as to require that the heavy expense of a new election should be incurred.