HL Deb 07 June 1847 vol 93 cc179-81

The EARL of EGLINTOUN moved the second reading of the Bill to remedy abuses in the mode of electing the Representative Peers of Scotland. After the admissions which had been made on all sides of the House of the necessity of some alteration in the present system, he anticipated no opposition to the Bill. In England, a Peer had only to prove his descent from his predecessor to obtain his title and privileges; in Ireland it was equally necessary to prove that his predecessors had exercised the functions of a Peer; but the Peers of Scotland were alone in the enviable position of having nothing to prove; but this laid the matter open to every species of misrepresentation, fraud, and even forgery. The only thing at present which gave the right to vote was being on a roll, which was made out at the time of the Union, and laid before their Lordships' House. That roll was, no doubt, right and correct at the time; but after a lapse of 140 years many rights had become extinct or dormant, and many new claims created. The Bill now before the House proposed to purify this roll, and remove from it all those who had not exercised their rights during the present century. It did not in any way interfere with the rights of any one who might claim hereafter or prove their right to any of these Peerages. In Ireland the right was considered perfect if it was not challenged within a year after the death of the last holder; hut in Scotland there was no limit whatever. It was proposed in this Bill that in the event of any Peer protesting against any vote, that that vote should be sent up to the House for adjudication, and retained or struck off the list accordingly. He would not detain the House by going through the details of the Bill, but had to say, in reply to the objection that had been raised against it, that the proper mode of procedure was not by legal enactment, but by a resolution of the House—that that point had been most carefully considered by the Committee to whom the whole question had been referred—and that the present Bill was the consequence. In fact, in 1832 an attempt had been made to stop the abuses complained of by a resolution of the House, which had turned out to be totally ineffective; and he therefore trusted the Bill would at once he read a second time.


was willing to admit the necessity of some measure to meet the evils of which the noble Earl complained. He was fully aware that the greatest abuses existed in respect to this matter. He had, however, considerable doubts whether the course proposed was, under all the circumstances of the case, the proper one. He was disposed to think that it would be better to proceed by a resolution of the House, directed to the Lord Clerk Registrar. If it were said that this course had been before tried without much success, he would remind their Lordships that the reason why their former resolutions had not effected their object was, that they had never been properly framed. Having expressed these doubts, he should not, however, oppose the second reading of the Bill.


said, that an enactment was indispensable. When an elec- tion was to take place, the Peers were summoned by the authority of an Act of Parliament under which they claimed to vote; and resolutions only could not give the Lord Clerk Registrar the power to refuse a vote so tendered.


supported the Bill, and complained that the Resolutions of 1832, to which a reference had been made, were brought forward as a legislative enactment, and that he had been compelled by the opposition he met with in introducing them to modify them into resolutions.


entirely agreed with the noble Earl who had just sat down. It would hardly be believed that in Scotland when a name was called out, if two persons answered to the name, the returning officer took the vote of both. Under these circumstances, he for one felt indebted to those noble Lords who had directed the attention of Parliament to the subject, and should give the measure his cordial support.

Bill read 2a

House adjourned.