HL Deb 13 July 1837 vol 38 cc1894-6
Viscount Duncannon

moved the second reading of the Parliamentary Electors Bill. The object of the Bill was to enable those who were entitled to exercise the franchise under the Reform Bill an opportunity of doing so without paying the rates up to a later period than within six months of the time at which they claimed to vote, the law at present obliging them, as their Lordships were aware, to pay up to the time at which they voted.

Lord Redesdale

opposed the Bill. They had been told that it was not the intention of Government to bring forward any measure this Session upon which a difference of opinion was likely to arise, and that they would proceed only with such measures then in progress as were required for the public service; and yet their Lordships were now, on the eve of a dissolution of Parliament, called upon to pass a Bill which created a very considerable change in the elective franchise as established by the Reform Bill. He had originally opposed the Reform Bill; but as it was now the law of the land, he would uphold its provisions as far as he could, while he should at the same time most decidedly object to any innovation upon, or change in its principles. He should therefore move that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.

The Marquis of Westminster

defended the Bill. He had been always of opinion that the Reform Bill, in requiring the taxes to be paid up to the period of voting, was so far objectionable. The present Bill would remedy that evil; and if he did it alone, he would divide the House on the motion of his noble Friend.

Lord Brougham

thought their Lordships ought to pass the Bill. Experience had proved that a vast number of persons, whom it was intended by the Reform Bill to vest with the elective franchise, were deprived of that advantage by the rate-paying clauses—not from any unwillingness on their part to pay up those taxes, but from a temporary inability to do so, It was not intended by this Bill to break through the principle of the rate-paying clauses of the Reform Bill, but merely to mitigate their severity, and thereby extend the elective franchise.

The Earl of Harrowby

considered this a main alteration in the Reform Bill. which had been declared by those who had introduced it a final measure, particularly as regarded the franchise. Now this Bill, according to the noble and learned Lord, was for giving an extension of the franchise. The ready payment of taxes was considered as a test by which it might be judged whether persons claiming a right to vote did or did not possess that degree of respectability which persons ought to have who were to be intrusted with the franchise; while this Bill, according to what had been stated by the noble and learned Lord, would confer the franchise on persons who could not stand that test, and were not therefore fully qualified to enjoy the franchise.

Lord Brougham

When he spoke of the extension of the elective franchise, it was not in the ordinary sense in which that phrase was used: he had not used it in reference to a class of persons differently qualified. The noble Lord had said the Reform Bill had been introduced as a final measure. There was no such thing. No work of man, legislative or otherwise, was final; and no one would be so absurd, much less those who had introduced that measure, as to say that when passed it was so perfect and absolute in all its parts as to be above the test of all future legislation.

Viscount Duncannon

begged to observe that this Bill applied only to those who had been once on the registry.

The Earl of Haddington

said, that the noble and learned Lord had observed that there was no work of man, legislative or otherwise, which could be looked upon as absolutely final; and it would, no doubt, be the height of presumption in that or the other House of Parliament to affirm anything to the contrary; but, subject to that necessary observation and restriction, he was sure their Lordships had heard those who had introduced the Reform Bill say, at least a dozen times, that it was to be a final measure. It had been admitted that by that Bill the franchise was pushed to its greatest extent in order to render the measure final, particularly as regarded that portion of it, and he would therefore oppose any proposition which was at variance with the principles upon which the elective franchise had been so established.

The House divided on the second reading of the Bill:—Contents 55; Not-con-tents 66: Majority 11.

Bill put off for three months.

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