§ Lord Wynford
did not apprehend much opposition to the Motion which he rose to make; but, if he met with any, it must come from some of his noble friends, who, notwithstanding the change which had taken place in the Constitution of the country, still retained an attachment to nomination boroughs. The course their Lordships were then called upon to pursue was quite at variance with the usual practice of the House—never to legislate upon any question depending upon circumstances to which each Member of the House had equal access, without previously obtaining all the information possible. It was one of their Standing orders, that, in matters of trade, no new law was to be introduced till it had been referred to a Committee, because their Lordships were not supposed to be so well acquainted with trade, as to be enabled to judge of the propriety of making alterations in the laws concerning it. He begged to ask, what new measure could possibly be submitted to their Lordships, containing so many local details, which all the Members of that House could, by no possibility, 1297 be acquainted with, as the measure now before them? Noble Lords might be acquainted with particular boroughs—they might know the state of property in and near them, and might be aware of all the circumstances entering into the consideration of prescribing the boundaries of those boroughs; but they could not possibly be otherwise than merely partially acquainted with all the boroughs in the kingdom—they could not have such a knowledge of all the boroughs, as to be enabled to say what were the proper boundaries for each. Their Lordships would perceive, that a constituency of a given number, which might in one place be independent, might, from a different state of property, in another place, be such as to make the other place a complete nomination borough, and render it unfit to possess the right of sending Representatives to Parliament. Without going any further, he had shown, he thought, that it was impossible to pass this Bill into a law, without making inquiries as to the state of property, the extent of the constituency, and the condition of the country in and immediately adjoining all the small boroughs. He did not say, that a similar inquiry was necessary for all, and he should, therefore, limit his Motion to those boroughs, the state of which, appeared to him, to render that inquiry necessary. To great towns, such as Manchester, Birmingham, and others, his proposition did not apply, for they possessed a constituency such as to render it impossible that they should become the instruments of any one person; or that any one individual, or any set of individuals, should be able to prevent the exercise of an independent choice of Representatives. But in places, possessing only 100, 200, or 300 voters it would depend on the state of property in the districts, whether they could exercise a free and unbiassed choice. Suppose, for instance, a place of 300 constituents, every one of whom rented property from the same person, would that place not be a nomination borough? He hoped therefore that their Lordships, before they proceeded to legislate, would appoint a Committee to inquire whether the different boroughs could exercise a free choice, and if, in any case, a borough could not, whether the boundaries prescribed to it, should not be altered and extended, so as to render the inhabitants of that town or district independent of any particular individual, In the six vo- 1298 lumes upon their Lordships' Table, they would find a statement of sixty towns, the constituency of which was under 300. He was sure that their Lordships who were anxious that the great measure of Reform should, now that it had become the law, be carried into full effect, would feel it necessary, that, with respect to every one of these sixty boroughs, there should be instituted an inquiry, such as he had adverted to. But there was another class of places to which he wished to draw their attention; those which, at present might contain more than 300 occupiers of premises of the value of 10l., which boroughs, in the year 1831, were returned as not possessing 300 inhabitants, who occupied premises rated at 10l. Their Lordships were aware that the principle of rating had been since departed from, and that, as the criterion of qualification, the supposed annual value of the premises had been taken instead; in consequence of which, several places were now represented as containing 300 persons, occupying houses of the yearly value of 10l. which were not included in the list previously prepared. In many cases, the Commissioners appeared to have proceeded on a principle which was hardly satisfactory, and had altered the position of some of these towns, in consequence of the yearly value being the criterion of qualification, from that in which they stood before, when the rating was the principle which guided them. Take, for instance, Evesham, which just contained the requisite number of houses to entitle it to the right of sending Members to Parliament, including the parts adjoining. The Commissioners had inquired as to the number of houses of the annual value of 10l.; and ascertained that there were five or six above the requisite number. But from whom did they obtain this information? From persons who were, doubtless, desirous that the borough of Evesham should have the privilege of sending Members to Parliament, who were willing to make the number of houses of the required value as large as possible; the Commissioners contented themselves with asking the Churchwardens and overseers of the town; according to whose statement it appeared, that the number of qualified houses exceeded 300 by a small number, without any addition from the country adjoining. This was a case which demanded inquiry it was fitting that their Lordships should 1299 know whether the representations of the Churchwardens and Overseers were correct, and whether, from a desire which they might possibly feel to retain the right of returning Members to Parliament, they might not have raised the value of this place a little higher, perhaps, than it ought to have been, were it impartially examined. He had no wish to deprive Evesham of its Members; all that he desired was, to render it independent, and make it worthy of exercising the trust to be reposed in it. There was another point to which he was anxious to call their attention. It appeared by the books and plans which had been laid before their Lordships, that the boundary lines of the small boroughs had been drawn in a most arbitrary way. There seemed no reason why, in some cases, the whole of one parish should be included, and the whole of another excluded; and in other cases, why a part of this parish should he taken in, and a part of that left out. He had no doubt that the Commissioners had exercised their judgment honestly and conscientiously, and that they had done that which they thought right, but that judgment was liable to error; and it was a principle of the Constitution, that no man's judgment should, in a case affecting the rights of another, be conclusive. He desired that the Commissioners should have an opportunity of proving that they had acted correctly, and had selected those boundaries most fit for the different boroughs. In none of their reports had the Commissioners, given any reason why the line was drawn differently now from what it was at first. If their Lordships looked at the reports they would find, that some of the Commissioners had taken in large tracts of uncovered country, because, they said, it might hereafter be built upon, while other Commissioners, in similar cases, had not taken in any additional territory. The Commissioners might, in both instances, be right; but the country was not bound to acquiesce in these arrangements, without knowing the grounds upon which the judgment of the Commissioners had been formed. Their Lordships would recollect the case of the borough of Arundel, to which was added Little Hampton. Having presented a petition on the subject, he proposed that Little Hampton should not be included in the borough, because that would convert Arundel, which was now an open, into a close borough. A noble Duke 1300 said, he was misinformed upon every one of the facts, and the noble Duke was sure, that, in justice to the Commissioners, he (Lord Wynford) would admit, that the course taken by them was perfectly correct. But how did the case turn out? The Bill went into the House of Commons with Little Hampton included in the borough of Arundel. A similar objection was made to it as that made by him; the question was referred to a Committee, and the result was, that part of Little Hampton was excluded from the borough. He proposed to refer the Bill to a Committee, to ascertain if the boundaries in other cases were correctly laid down; and, if it were right in the House of Commons to make an inquiry in the instance he had mentioned, it was equally right to institute an inquiry in other cases. He had no doubt that justice had been done to Arundel; but justice would not have been done if that inquiry had not been made. In all the smaller cases there were grounds for inquiry; but he would mention only three cases in which an inquiry was necessary. The general principle was, that no place should send representatives to Parliament which had not 300 10l. houses; at least the departures from that principle in this Bill were only the exceptions; the rule was still the same; and in all cases where it was possible there ought to be 300 houses, that being considered a number likely to establish an independent constituency. Now in the borough of Wallingford there were 206 10l. houses. The Commissioner acted in this case upon a right principle. He said "this is not enough;" and accordingly, other places had been added, some situated on the other side of the Thames in the county of Oxford, to the borough, by which means a constituency of 400 had been created. He approved of that. The borough had not been particularly remarked for the pure manner in which it had exercised the elective franchise, and he hoped there would be an improvement at Wallingford, by taking in more of the country. The Commissioners however acted upon a different principle at Wareham in Dorsetshire. That borough contained only 130 10l. houses; and the Commissioners ought to have taken in as much of the surrounding country as possible, for the purpose of raising the constituency. There were many places in the neighbourhood, Corfe Castle, for example, which would, if added, have almost 1301 made up the number of 300; but what had the Commissioners done? They had taken in a little bit of territory, which had raised the 130 to about 160; and the borough was left with a constituency of 160. He was sure that this could not be right, and that this borough could not be independent. If their Lordships left boroughs in this state, they would soon have another schedule A, and, instead of having settled this question, it would very soon be again brought under the consideration of Parliament, for the purpose of further purifying their system which then Lordships professed to bring by this Bill, to a state of the most perfect purity. There was also the borough of Tavistock, which had considerably less than 300 electors; and in that case the arrangement was a complete departure from the principle upon which the noble Lord who introduced this Bill in another place professed to act. He knew it had certainly upwards of 300 electors; but in 1831, it had considerably less than 200 electors. By a return in 1832, it was made to contain 230, or thereabouts; and now, by a late inquiry, and by a difference between the rating and valuing (though how the Commissioners ascertained the value of the houses was not stated), they had raised the constituency of Tavistock to 300; and thus confined the constituency to the parish of Tavistock, without taking in any part of the surrounding country, as was done in the case of Wallingford. But that was not all; there was a part of the parish of Tavistock, the inhabitants paying to the church and poor, called the manor of Cudlip Town, and he had reason to believe that it did not belong to the same person who owned all the other property it the parish of Tavistock,—this place was excluded from the boundary of the borough of Tavistock. Every one connected with that borough, must be desirous that that circumstance should be explained, and that it should be shown what impassable barrier there was lying between Cudlip Town and the other parts of the parish which rendered it impossible that its inhabitants, who went to the parish church should go to the poll for the borough of Tavistock on the days of election. The principle of scot-and-lot was, that those who paid scot and bore lot, should have the advantages of any privileges belonging to the place. Why then should the inhabitants of Cudlip town, who paid Parish 1302 and church rates, be shut out from the privileges enjoyed by all the other inhabitants of the parish of Tavistock? The Commissioners, said, that though Cudlip Town was part of the parish of Tavistock, yet it was separated from it. He wished they had described how it was separated, or, by some map, had shown its situation, and what were the circumstances which prevented its being, for all the purposes of an election, part of the borough of Tavistock. This, however, they did not tell. In all cases, the Commissioners had so drawn their plans, that it was impossible to say what other places ought to be added to any of the boroughs. The places they had added were mentioned, but not those they omitted. It would have been as well if they had given a sketch of the places within a few miles of each borough; so that the reason for preferring one place to another might have been at once explained. It would, too, have been no other than fair if the Commissioners had also stated to whom the different properties belonged, which would have enabled their Lordships to judge whether, by the addition of a place, a borough was likely to have an independent constituency. There was one other place he must refer to, Northallerton; which being an agricultural borough, to have acted consistently, the Commissioners should have preserved its agricultural character, particularly as there was a sufficient agricultural population around it to have allowed of their doing so. In other cases, the Commissioners had apologized for having added an agricultural population to a manufacturing town. And why, then, did they not act on the principle they thus acknowledged, when they had an opportunity of doing so, in the case of Northallerton? To that, however, they had added a weaving district, not because the weavers were rich, and the agricultural district poor—a case by no means uncommon in the present day—but because, as the Commissioners themselves stated, the parish of Bandon, which they had added to Northallerton, had a very poor population, all of whom were dependent upon two or three master manufacturers. Was it possible that these Commissioners could have acted rightly, and according to the spirit of the instructions they received, when, having an agricultural district at hand to annex to an agricultural borough, they passed over that, and annexed a district of an en- 1303 tirely different description? They had added, not only persons of an entirely different description to those of Northallerton, but persons who were dependent upon two or three master manufacturers. There was a larger class of boroughs in the arrangements, concerning which there were circumstances requiring examination. In the case of Barnstaple there was something very extraordinary. The Commissioners reported that the constituency was sufficiently large to support its independence, and, therefore Barnstaple did not require any addition; and they consequently, recommended, that the boundaries of the borough should remain as before. Notwithstanding this, however, there had been added to Barnstaple a considerable rural district consisting of one or two manors, lying entirely out of the ancient boundary of the borough. In the absence of all reasons for this course, it certainly was somewhat strange. The borough of Barnstaple did not happen to be the purest in the country; if therefore, it had not a sufficient number of voters, and if an addition had been made, with a view to introduce a new spirit of freedom and purity of conduct and disposition into the borough, he should have approved of it; but the voters of Barnstaple were so numerous, that they would completely swamp the new constituents, who instead of infusing into the old constituencies a purifying principle, would be acted upon by the corrupting influence of the borough. It was, therefore, unjust to cut off these voters from the county, and merge them in the corruption of a borough, which possessed in itself a constituency sufficiently large to preserve its franchise. Huddersfield was another place to which he would allude, which was a new borough. It was undoubtedly, a large town, and had it been an old borough, he should not have thought of enlarging its boundaries. But Huddersfield had no right to send Members to Parliament, except under this Bill; and if new boroughs were to be made, and there were any place in the kingdom equally entitled to send Members to Parliament, that place ought to have been selected instead of Huddersfield. He was prevented by illness, from attending the House when Huddersfield was placed in schedule C or he certainly should have endeavoured to substitute some other place for it. Though they could not prevent 1304 Huddersfield sending Members to Parliament, still it was in their power to regulate its boundaries. The Commissioners stated, that every house in Huddersfield except one, belonged to the same gentleman; but they were, notwithstanding, of opinion, that the ancient boundaries of the town ought to be the boundaries of the newly-created borough. No reason had been, nor could any be, given for this. If a Select Committee were granted they might add to this town a district which would remedy this evil. It occurred to him, that one reason assigned why this borough would be independent, notwithstanding it was the property of one individual, was this:—that all the houses in the town were held on long leases. The same thing was said of little Hampton; and the noble Duke opposite would no doubt, recollect the answers given to that argument at the time. It was very true, that the houses were granted on leases, but in every one of their leases there was a covenant which restrained the tenant from under-leasing or assigning, without the consent of the landlord. That circumstance gave a sufficient power to the landlord to command the votes of his tenants. A man must be very strongly pressed indeed to act in opposition to his landlord, when under such a, covenant. If he were anxious to have a nomination borough, he should desire no more effectual means to enable him to enslave his voters than the power of making such leases. This was a case which required examination. It was their duty to make Huddersfield an independent borough, and that would be acting in entire accordance with that principle of the Reform Bill. He had to apologize to their Lordships for having occupied so much of their time; but he felt it his duty to call their attention to this question. No time was lost that was devoted to making this measure, which was intended to be permanent a perfect one. But he was sure this measure could not be permanent, unless the whole of those anomalous cases he had referred to were examined and remedies applied to them. He had stated to their Lordships that the mode of inquiry he now proposed was consistent with the practice of Parliament; and had been adopted with success in the House of Commons in regard to this very Bill. He was sure, that the noble Lords opposite, who were so anxious to get rid of all nomination boroughs, and which 1305 could not be done unless those cases were examined into, would perceive the necessity of an inquiry. The only possible objection which could be made to his proposition was as to the time the inquiry would occupy; but, no time so employed could be lost. It was not, however, his wish that a general examination into all the smaller boroughs should take place. He was willing to confine the inquiry to the few boroughs he had mentioned. A few mornings devoted to the subject, the Committee making a report from time to time would enable their Lordships to legislate satisfactorily; without that information they could not legislate satisfactorily; on the contrary, instead of destroying nomination boroughs, they would create them. The people would at length discover, that their Lordships had not taker those precautions which were necessary to ensure the benefits expected from the measure of Reform. Whether that measure was calculated to produce those benefit he would not say; it had become the law of the land, and it was his duty to bow with respect to the opinions of the Legislature. But, unless an inquiry was instituted, such as he proposed, the public would soon find that the result of all those mighty preparations was merely a change and not an improvement—putting an end to some boroughs, and creating others; and transferring political power from certain individuals to others no better entitled to it. He begged leave to move that all the words after the word "that" be left out, and, that there be inserter instead, the words, "the returns and reports of the Commissioners on the boundaries of such boroughs as by the Report of 1832 are stated to contain less than 300 10l. houses, as also the borough of Barnstaple and Huddersfield, be referred to a Select Committee, to examine persons, papers, and records, and to repot from time to time their opinions as to what boundaries will secure to those respective boroughs independent constituencies."
§ The Duke of Richmond
did not feel necessary to follow the noble and learned Lord through his speech. The present was not the fit and proper occasion for discussing the questions relative to the different boroughs which the noble and learned Lord had introduced. He felt satisfied that the effect of such a Committee that which the noble and learned Lord 1306 had moved for, would be, either to extend the present Session of Parliament to a most inconvenient length, or to get rid of the Bill altogether, which he could not think was the object of the noble and learned Lord, who had said his object was to get rid of the nomination boroughs. The noble Lord might banish his fears on that subject, for he could assure the noble and learned Lord, that not one nomination borough would be left. The noble and learned Lord said, that the Commissioners had not given sufficient information, and he wanted information as to the properties of individuals connected with boroughs. But, if the noble and learned Lord meant to legislate with a view to a balance of interests, in reference to property which was continually changing hands, he would introduce a principle of never-ending change. He was also sure, that if the noble and learned Lord had been present on a former occasion, when this subject had been somewhat discussed, he would not have brought forward this Motion. He (the Duke of Richmond) would only add, not wishing to take up the time of their Lordships at the late hour which had now arrived, that he was ready at the proper opportunity, namely, when the boundary of each several borough came under consideration, to defend any alteration from the returns and reports of the Commissioners which had been made by the Government.
complained of the deviation from the Report of the Commissioners, with respect to the boundaries of the borough of Barnstaple, particularly as to including some of his property in the borough. He required that the Report of the Commissioners on this point should be read, which being done, and it stating, that they recommended the ancient boundaries to be preserved, he insisted that he ought to be informed why that Report was departed from.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that the boundaries of Barnstaple had been changed because the Commissioners had omitted to extend them equally on all sides of the town. It was found necessary to include Bolton on one side, and then it became proper to include Newport on the other.
§ Lord Wynford
was surprised at the manner in which an answer, or rather no answer, had been given to the observations he had offered on behalf of his Majesty's Government. He, however, was deter- 1307 mined the country should know that his Motion had passed away on no better opposition being offered to it. He would maintain, that Tavistock and some other boroughs, would henceforth be as complete nomination boroughs as ever they had been, and Tavistock never had returned anybody but the members of one certain family. After refusing his Motion on such insufficient grounds, the people would begin to suspect that there must be some particular reason why there should be no inquiry into the subject. He would not go to a division; it was sufficient for him to show that the Government had resisted his Motion for such inquiry.
§ Earl Grey
meant to oppose the Motion, for the simple reason, that it would not afford any benefit, and would only tend to produce delay. The case of Tavistock and of all the boroughs comprised in the Motion of the noble and learned Lord, would severally come before their Lordships for consideration, and if any inquiry was found necessary in any instance, the noble and learned Lord could then move for it, and therefore he felt that the whole of the present discussion was occupying the time of their Lordships unnecessarily, and was preventing the House from coming to a decision, which it was important should be made with as little delay as possible.
§ Motion negatived without a division.
§ On the original Question being put, "that the House do now resolve itself into Committee,"
said, he thought the present a fitting opportunity to offer an observation on the subject of the English Reform Bill, now passed into a law. He did not doubt but that the noble Lords opposite considered that Bill as the perfection of human wisdom, and therefore, perhaps, it was, that they had omitted the usual clause or provision, which Legislators of greater humility were accustomed to insert in Acts of Parliament—namely, that the Bill might be amended during the then Session of Parliament. The omission 1308 of such a clause was important, and was, he regretted to say, without remedy; for great inconveniences had already arisen in respect to the registration by Overseers of parishes. In some parishes there were no Overseers, and in such case the Bill had provided, that such parish should be added to the next smaller parish, for the purposes of registration. He would mention as an instance the case of the Forest of Dean, containing a population of 7,000 persons, and 8,000 acres of land, and the inhabitants of the small parish of Plaxley would, under the provisions of the Reform Bill, be obliged to sustain all the burthen of the registration of that district, as the Forest of Dean was extra-parochial. The parish would be unable to bear such a burthen. That was a part which required amendment.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that the inconvenience in question might be remedied by a provision in the Boundary Bill.
said, that great difficulties and much scandal in legislation might occur, if at a late period of the Session, it was in their power to alter bills passed in an early period of it, and which did not contain a provision to that effect.
believed, that a specific Act of Parliament, now in existence, rendered it unnecessary, for the purpose of amending a Bill in the same Session that it was passed, to introduce a provision into it to that effect, which was formerly the parliamentary usage, when the whole Session of Parliament was, according to a legal fiction, considered to be one day.
§ The House in Committee. Several Clauses of the Bill read and agreed to.
§ The House resumed—the Committee to sit again.