HL Deb 12 April 1839 vol 46 cc1316-7
The Earl of Wicklow

said, that in the last Session of Parliament he had asked a question of the noble Viscount opposite as to the intention of Government to introduce some measure for the purpose of improving the system of Parliamentary registration in Ireland, on which occasion he had received from the noble Viscount a very satisfactory answer. But, unfortunately, the result did not answer his expectation, He now thought it right again to introduce the subject, because he saw that in the other House of Parliament a bill had been introduced by the Lord Advocate for the purpose of improving the mode of registering voters in Scotland; and he believed that a similar measure was intended to be brought in by her Majesty's Attorney General with reference to registration in this country. Now, if it were considered necessary that such a bill should be introduced for England or for Scotland, those who were well acquainted with the mode of registration in Ireland, or who had paid any attention to the subject, must be convinced that a measure of a similar nature was infinitely more necessary for that country. A bill on this subject had been introduced in the House of Commons last Session, but it did not come up to their Lordships' House. It failed, he believed, because Ministers had affixed to it a kind of explanatory clause with respect to the nature of the qualification, a clause that was, as he conceived, totally unnecessary. It involved a disputed question of much importance; and, in consequence of that clause having been introduced, the bill failed altogether. He found, however, that the Lord Advocate of Scotland had taken a different course. He had introduced two bills—one for the improvement of the mode of registration, and the other to define the qualification that gave the right of voting. The qualification in Ireland, if it proceeded on the principle adopted in the new Poor-law for that country, would, he was convinced, answer much better than the present system. Where the registration merely depended on the oaths of individuals in a country so demoralized as Ireland unfortunately was, it was impossible that gross perjury should not be committed. What he desired was, that the Registry Act should be amended, even supposing the qualification to remain as it was under the present bill. He wished, therefore, to impress on the mind of the noble Viscount the necessity of introducing some measure on this subject. The registration, under the Reform Act, would expire next year; and he trusted that in the mean time something would be done to put an end to that gross system of perjury, which was so disgraceful to the country, and so repugnant to every just and proper feeling. The noble Earl concluded by inquiring whether her Majesty's Ministers meant to introduce, as they had done last Session, a bill for the improvement of the registration of voters in Ireland?

Viscount Melbourne

said, it was not the intention of her Majesty's Ministers, as at present advised, to introduce any such bill.

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