§ The Earl of Radnor moved the third reading of the Polls at Elections Bill.
The Marquess of Salisbury
said, that he had some Amendments to propose to this Bill. He should propose, in the first place, to divide the booths, so that no greater number than 200 electors should poll at any one booth; and if the candidates requested the sheriff still further to divide the polling places, he might increase their number, so that not more than 100 electors should be compelled to vote at any one booth. This latter division to take place on the candidates undertaking to pay the additional expense. He should, in the next place, propose that all the electors, before voting, should take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, if so required, and that the clause abolishing the necessity for taking these oaths should be struck out of the Bill. He further proposed, that the power given to the returning officer to adjourn the poll should be exercised, not merely when the proceedings "were obstructed by any riot or open violence," as the words now stood in the Bill, but when the proceedings were "interrupted by any 713 riot, open violence, or obstruction whatsoever." The words now in the Bill were not sufficient for the purpose intended. The 8th Clause of the Bill now gave his Majesty in Council power to declare and direct that other places besides those now used, should be polling places. He perfectly approved of giving the power to his Majesty in Council, but he wished that power to be exercised, not on the representations of any individual, but of some respectable body. He proposed that the justices assembled at Quarter Sessions should alone have the power of making such representations; and they might be, in the first instance, applied to by any candidate, or other person desirous of having additional places appointed in which to take the poll. By the Resolution of the Quarter Sessions, his Majesty could be better guided than by the representations of any one individual.
The Earl of Radnor
had no expectation of this Bill giving rise to so many Amendments, and to so much discussion, and as there was very important business waiting for their consideration, he was willing, if their Lordships wished, to adjourn this debate now, and to meet early on Tuesday—say 12 o'clock—for the purpose of going on with it ["No, no; go on now"]. He was opposed to the Amendments proposed by the noble Marquess. In the first place, he thought oaths administered at the time of an election, and in the midst of its excitement, were rather a profanation than anything else. An election booth was certainly the last place in the world where a solemn appeal of that sort should be permitted. As to the Amendment relating to the number of booths, he begged to observe, that this was a Bill relating to borough, and not to county elections. As to the Quarter Sessions first hearing and deciding on the application, the noble Earl was understood to say, that as the business of Quarter Sessions must now be conducted in open court, he had little objection to the Amendment.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, that if the Amendment of his noble Friend was carried, as to the introduction of the words "obstruction whatsoever," it would be in the power of any candidate whatever to gain time, and delay the election by creating some "obstruction" to the polling. The words were far too general.
The Earl of Falmouth
objected to the Clause which gave the same number of 714 hours' polling for winter and summer. It might be well enough to close the poll in winter at four o'clock; but he proposed, that from the 1st of April to the 1st of October, the poll might be kept open to six o'clock.
The Earl of Radnor
said, that these were the hours fixed by the Reform Act; and surely if there was sufficient time in winter to take the poll before four o'clock, there must be sufficient time in summer.
§ The Duke of Richmond
hoped that the noble Earl would not consent to the Clause which empowered candidates to put the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. These oaths were never administered, excepting for the purpose of giving some political advantage to either the one candidate or the other; and he hoped that the House would not allow them to be put for such purposes.
The Earl of Wicklow
approved of the Amendment suggested by the noble Earl (the Earl of Falmouth). He had heard no arguments which could induce him to make so great a change as the abolition of these oaths would make. But independently of that objection, he was opposed to the present Clause, because it was partial in its operation. It abolished the oaths in borough elections, but not in those for counties. Me thought such oaths ought to be abolished altogether, or not at all.
§ The Earl of Ripon
agreed with the noble Duke, that nothing was more desirable than the abolition of unnecessary oaths. He would oppose the Amendment.
The Bill was read a third time. The Marquess of Salisbury then proposed, as an Amendment, that the Clause dispensing with oaths be omitted.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the Clause proposed to be omitted stand part of the Bill.
§ Contents present 47; Proxies 36;—83 Not Contents 48; Proxies 13.—61.—Majority 22.
§ Bill passed.715
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Melbourne||Saye and Sele|
|Brougham and Vaux||Foley|
|Plunkett||Bishop of Bristol|
|Ilchester||Bishop of London|
|Clanricarde||Bishop of Hereford|
|Richmond||Bishop of Limerick|
|Ripon||Bishop of Chichester.|
|Bishop of Norwich||King|