§ MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General if he will ascertain who was responsible for the payment out of voluntary contributions of the travelling expenses of the fifty-two unemployed who were given special leave, in anticipation of their usual holiday, to go to London for the purposes of voting in the municipal elections; and if it is his intention to prosecute such person or persons under Section 7 (1) (a) of the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883.
§ *THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir JOHN WALTON, Leeds, S.)
The information necessary for answering the 1295 earlier portion of the Question was given yesterday by the President of the Local Government Board, † Assuming these facts, there is not, in my opinion, any infringement of the section.
MR. T. L. COEBETT
Were the subscribers consulted before the sums collected from them were devoted to a purely Party purpose?
§ *SIR JOHN WALTON
The hon. Member must ask the President of the Local Government Board. The facts are not within my knowledge.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN
Is it not a fact that some of the members of the Committee who authorised this expenditure were themselves candidates for the election to which the unemployed travelled to vote, and, if that is the case, does it not constitute an infringement of the section?
§ *Sir JOHN WALTON
I can only deal with the question of law on the facts before me, and on the facts I am clear that there is no infringement.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
Would the President of the Local Government Board be able to give information with regard to the facts?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. JOHN BURNS, Battersea)
If the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question I shall be pleased to give him all the available information. I may tell him, however, that, in answer to a Question yesterday, i did, at considerable length, place all the available information at the disposal of the House.†
§ VISCOUNT TURNOUR
DO I understand the Attorney-General to say that it is not illegal to pay the expenses of persons going to vote in municipal elections?
§ *SIR JOHN WALTON
It is illegal to pay the expenses of persons going to 1296 vote provided that the payment is made with the view of procuring the election of a particular candidate. In this particular case I understand that a sum of money was provided to enable these men to go to London on their furlough, and not to procure the election of any candidate. The mere fact that money is provided to enable men to exercise the franchise, unless it is given by or in the interest of one of the candidates, is not an offence.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Is it not the case that the furlough coincided with the date of the election, and that the people who authorised the payment happened to be candidates? If that be the fact, and if that be not an offence under the law, will the Government make it an offence, as it obviously ought to be?