§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
My Lords, in moving the Resolution which shall enable your Lordships to give a second reading to the Bribery Bill, notwithstanding the Resolution passed by this House on the 2nd of May last, I am not aware that I can add much to the observations which I made to your Lordships on a former occasion, when the Bill was read a first time. When the discussion arose on Monday last as to whether there were any circumstances that would give this Bill a right to proceed, notwithstanding the Resolution to which I have referred, I stated that the main reason on which I grounded my appeal to your Lordships to read this Bill a second time was, that the writs for five boroughs had been suspended by the other House of Parliament, and that the issue of them mainly depended upon legislation on this question taking place. Before, however, touching upon that question, I must observe, that I think the Resolution to which we came in May last was misconstrued by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), when this question was last discussed. The noble Earl said that it was impossible to represent this measure as one of recent urgency, inasmuch as the circumstances on which it 1183 was founded had existed throughout the whole Session. Now, undoubtedly, if the word "recent," in the Resolution, applied to the word "urgency," I should agree with him; but I must say that I think that the House will be satisfied that the Resolution, either grammatically or intentionally, does not bear that construction. I am sure the noble Lord who drew the Resolution will bear me out in saying that this was not the intention of the Legislature, for I recollect that when he first gave notice of his intention to move the Resolution, I had a discussion with him in private, not only as to the object, but also as to the principle and the probable result of passing a Resolution of this kind; and I certainly understood him—otherwise neither I nor the Government would have been a party to it—that the word "urgency" was left free from being coupled in construction with the words that precede it. Besides that, I apprehend that, grammatically, the Resolution does not bear any such interpretation. The words of the Resolution except Bills from its operation when the circumstances which render legislation on the subject-matter expedient "are either of such recent occurrence or urgency as to render the immediate consideration of the said Bill necessary." It is, therefore, clear that the Resolution contemplates two cases—one, when the circumstances which render legislation necessary are of recent occurrence; and the other, when the measure is of urgency in itself. Now, I apprehend that the proceedings connected with the suspension of the writs in question are sufficiently well known to render it unnecessary for me to do more than re-state to the House the arguments which I advanced on Monday last; but I may add, that I did not quite accurately set out the grounds of the origin and intention of the other House of Parliament with respect to their Resolution referring to these writs. Early in the present Session a Bill was introduced by the Attorney General for the disfranchisement of such voters in the boroughs of Cambridge, Canterbury, Hull, Maldon, and Barnstaple, as had been proved before the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into those boroughs to have been guilty of bribery. After considerable discussion in the House of Commons these Bills were withdrawn, and upon their withdrawal a Resolution was passed—I believe without observation, at all events without a dissentient voice—that no writ for any 1184 of those five boroughs should be moved without seven days' notice having been previously given; it being distinctly understood by the House that the object of that Resolution was to give them time to consider any question that might be raised with respect to the issuing of the writ, pending the passing of this Bill, which was then before a Select Committee of that House, and which it was hoped would for the future put an end to the systematic bribery that had prevailed. That such is the view which the House of Commons took of the matter is an admitted fact, which no one will contravene; but I may mention in corroboration of the statement I have made, that Sir Wm. Jolliffe having given notice that he would, on Monday last, move the issue of a new writ for one of the boroughs, he was asked in the House of Commons whether it was his intention then to move the writ in pursuance of the notice. He replied in the negative, stating that he should postpone his Motion to a future day, in order to see what would be the fate of the measure for the suppression of bribery. I think that this occurrence, which took place only on Monday last, is conclusive with respect to the object which the House of Commons had in view when they passed the Resolution for suspending these writs. It was remarked on Monday last, by one of your Lordships, that the length of time consumed by the House of Commons in the discussion of this Bill, was in itself conclusive against your Lordships passing it in such haste as must necessarily be the case if it is passed before the close of the Session. I think, however, that there is not much validity in an argument of this kind with reference to any Bill, and especially with reference to a Bill that so peculiarly affects the constitution, and privileges, and character, of Members of the House of Commons. But I have often heard the very converse of this proposition made use of in this House as an argument against pressing Bills at the end of the Session. It has been said that Bills have been brought into the House of Commons at so late a period of the Session, and that so little discussion upon them has taken place, that it is quite impossible they can have been properly considered by that House, and that it is therefore wrong to press them on the consideration of this House. And if your Lordships are to be influenced by considerations of this kind, I think that this is a much better reason for postponing a Bill than that which was 1185 put forth on Monday last. We have not always been so unwilling to undertake the consideration of Bills of great importance, and to pass them through this House with great rapidity, and that, too, not under any pressure on account of the lateness of the Session, but even for the convenience of individual Members of this House. I will only state, as a simple matter of fact, that the second reading of the Oxford University Bill—one of great importance, no doubt—was taken in one day, and that, too, an early one after it had been brought up from the House of Commons, and that on the following day—a most unusual course—we went into Committee upon it, in order to suit the convenience of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby). These are matters of courtesy due from one side of the House to the other; and provided the public interests do not suffer, they may well be admitted. I merely mention the circumstance, to convince your Lordships that if for such a reason the Oxford University Bill was hurried through two important stages in this House, no complaint should be made at the Government now asking you to consider the Bribery Bill. I must say that I do think there is little reason for complaining that the same measures should now be taken with respect to a Bill that comes from the House of Commons, after being carefully considered not only in the ordinary form of a Committee of the whole House, but also by a Select Committee composed of many of the most competent Members of that assembly. It is really worth while to mention the Members who composed that Committee, in older to show that this is not such a crude and ill-digested scheme as it is represented out of this House, as well as in it. The Chairman of the Committee was Mr. Walpole, the Secretary for the Home Department under the administration of the noble Earl opposite; and amongst the other Members of the Committee were Lord John Russell, Sir Fitzroy Kelly, the late Solicitor General, the present Attorney General, Mr. Bright, Mr. Vernon Smith, Mr. Phinn, and Mr. Ball. These names are, I think, sufficient to show that the Committee was fairly formed from both sides of the House, and that it was competent to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion on this difficult and long-mooted question. It is no doubt true that an unusual circumstance, which all must admit to be inconvenient, took place in the House of Commons. Some very important alterations were made in it after 1186 the third reading; and these, no doubt—though on examination of the Bill they do not seem to affect its principle to the full extent which I apprehended when it first came from the House of Commons, have in one respect materially changed its character: it must, however, be remarked that this change is in the direction of diminishing some of its most stringent provisions. In order, therefore, to meet the difficulty which your Lordships feel with respect to passing this Bill, I shall, if your Lordships agree to the second reading, and we go into Committee upon it, propose to make it a temporary measure, and to limit its operation to two years; in order that, if any alterations which have not been sufficiently considered have crept into it, there may not only be time for their reconsideration, but that in fact their reconsideration may be forced upon Parliament. I think that making a measure of this kind temporary has on former occasions been attended with great convenience and practical benefit, and quite independently of the lateness of the Session I should have been prepared to recommend such a course. When Sir Robert Peel introduced an important alteration into the Grenville Act, the Bill which he proposed for that purpose received very careful consideration; but two or three years afterwards it was again brought before the House, and was passed in its present permanent shape, with such alterations and amendments as experience had shown to be requisite. lf, then, your Lordships consent to this Amendment, and pass this Bill for two years only, every danger will be obviated, and you will at the same time accomplish that most desirable object of providing by the best means in your power against the recurrence of that systematic bribery which has heretofore prevailed in the five boroughs to which I have referred. When I said that it was quite clear that the suspension of these writs had reference to this measure, I should have added that the Bill contained within itself conclusive proof on that head; for by the 15th clause, constituting a new officer in the election auditor, your Lordships will find that those five boroughs are specifically referred to, the appointment of the election officer being made requisite at an earlier period than elsewhere in these five boroughs, in order that the Bill may be brought into operation there when the suspended writs shall be issued. Although this Bill is no doubt in many respects of great importance, 1187 its provisions are by no means of a complex character. It is not like the Bills affecting the tenure of land in Ireland which were before the House at the latter end of last Session. Undoubtedly the character of those Bills was such that considerable time must be occupied in Committee if any bonâ fide opposition should be raised to their details. That, however, is not the ease with this Bill. Its provisions, though of great importance, are few in number, and there is not a Member of your Lordships' House who will pretend to say that if this Bill had conic before them in the middle of the Session, and when the attendance of Peers was usually greatest, the Committee upon it mould have been at all likely to last more than one night. Under these circumstances, there is no pretence for saying that there is no time to investigate the details of this Bill. And when your Lordships recollect tire complaints which exist within the walls of Parliament, and still more without them, as to the prevalence of bribery, which is believed to have extended of late years, I do not think that you are likely to refuse a second reading to this Bill, and to throw legislation over to another year; in the first place, because such a course would be very likely to be misrepresented in the country and in the other House; and, in the second place, which I know will be a stronger inducement to your Lordships, because you would be putting off for a year, if not for a longer period, a legislative measure which those who have had most practical experience in these matters believe to be most likely to cheek a system which has become so great a stain and disgrace upon the character of the constituency of this country. Even, indeed, if bribery has not extended as much as the public believe, it has from circumstances become much more patent to the world; and, therefore, as regards its moral effects on the country, much more prejudicial. I have no doubt that recent legislation has tended to bring before the public many practices which passed unobserved in past years. I believe that the amendment of the Grenville Act, which was passed by the late Sir Robert Peel, and to which I have already referred, was the first step to bring these cases of corruption more tangibly and obviously before the public eye; and I am confident that the measure which, at the instigation of Lord John Russell, was passed three or four years ago, and by which inquiry, by Royal Com- 1188 mission, was authorised to be made into the existence of corrupt practices in boroughs, under certain circumstances, had tended still more to bring these cases under the notice of the public. But if you say that there has been in reality, no, extension of corruption, but that we merely hear of it more now than formerly because the Legislature has made it more patent, I contend that the only conclusion deducible from that argument is, that the Legislature having heretofore brought these-crimes and offences to light, it becomes now more imperative upon Parliament to deal with them, and to endeavour to check them by the best means in our power.
I will now draw your Lordships' attention to the principal enactments in this Bill, and to the chief alterations that have been introduced into it in its passage. through the other House. One of the most important features in this Bill is, certainly one that should recommend it to your Lordships' favour. I have often heard it stated in this House that Bills entailing heavy penalties required the most careful consideration, and I think that is a valid argument. But, so far from increasing penalties, this Bill diminishes those which exist in every instance. The legislation affecting bribery has heretofore, failed in a great measure, as I believe, from the excessive weight of the penalties inflicted. They have been, especially as regards the poor voters, of so onerous a description, that there has been a feeling adverse to putting them in force; and I believe that the measures against bribery have failed as much from this cause as from any other. This measure, however, proceeds on a different plan; and,. instead of inflicting heavy penalties either on the person offering a bribe, or on the person accepting it, it proceeds on what I believe to be a much sounder principle of legislation, and one much better adapted to human nature, and rather endeavours to-render unattainable the objects sought by the briber and the bribed, than to punish those who engage in either the one crime or the other. Another provision in this Bill, and one which strongly recommends it to those who have sat on Election Committees, provides not merely for erasing from the list of voters the principals who have been found guilty of bribery, but for placing them on the registry of voters on a separate list, so that they shall be held up to the public remark and the observation of their neighbours. There has been, as cannot be unknown to your Lord- 1189 ships, great difficulty in dealing with this offence by Committees of the House of Commons, in consequence of its undefined character. In this Bill, therefore, an attempt has been made with great care, and a very considerable application of legal knowledge, to define the offence which it seeks to punish and prevent. As regards bribery, it commences by repealing—wholly in some cases, and to a large extent in others—the various Acts which have been heretofore passed with regard to bribery and corrupt practices; and the body of the Bill then contains a definition of what should be deemed bribery in future. The same course is taken with respect both to the offences of "treating" and "undue influence." Undoubtedly no part of this question is so difficult to deal with as the exercise of "undue influence." An attempt is, however, made to define it here; and if that definition he not perfect, it, at any rate, brings within its scope many of those forms of the offence which have heretofore passed scatheless, but which successive Parliaments have sought in vain to inclose within the meshes of their legislation. I now come to a provision of great importance—indeed, now that the declaration has been struck out of the Bill, the leading provision—that which relates to the appointment of the election auditor. That provision was introduced at the suggestion of Sir F. Kelly, the Solicitor General of the Government of the noble Earl opposite. The Select Committee to whom the Bill was referred took great care to invest him with such duties and powers as might enable him to attain the object for which alone he was appointed. The great object of appointing this officer is to ensure publicity, by requiring every candidate to send the bills of his election expenses to this officer. These bills will then be made accessible to the opposing candidates and their agents, and to the public generally, by the publication of them, which the election officer is authorised to make, in the newspapers. The commission of bribery, if any has taken place, will thus be made so obvious, as to render it probable that those who contemplate it will shrink from the exposure which will most likely follow its commission. In this Bill, the two very difficult questions of the payment of the travelling expenses of voters, and of their refreshments, are dealt with. All Members of your Lordships' House who have been formerly Members of the other House, and have sat upon Election Committees, must be aware that 1190 these questions have been two of the greatest stumbling-blocks to Election Committees. One Committee has given a decision that the payment of one was legal and the other illegal, or vice versâ, according to the individual views of the Members of the Committee who sat upon each case. The present Bill, however, provides that in future the payment of travelling expenses shall be legal, and that all payments for refreshments shall be illegal. I readily admit that questions may arise as to the propriety of these provisions. Some may say that while the travelling expenses ought to be paid, the charges for refreshment should not be allowed, and others may bold the contrary opinion; but, one way or the other, your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that it is most desirable that a decision should be come to, and that these conflicting views, which have hitherto led to the greatest possible embarrassment, should be put an end to, by deciding the legality or illegality one way or the other. I have already referred to a provision of this Bill which was introduced in Committee in the House of Commons, but struck out after the third reading, by which a declaration was provided to be taken by Members elected to the House of Commons declaring their freedom from all acts of bribery. It is unnecessary now, as this declaration is no longer in the Bill, to express any opinion as to the wisdom or danger of such a provision; I will, therefore, only say that there are two clauses in the Bill, the 33rd and 34th, which provide for a declaration not to be taken by Members of Parliament, but by candidates previously, which ought to follow the removal of the other clause, or which ought to be greatly altered or entirely omitted. I appeal to your Lordships not to refuse your consideration to this measure, and not to refuse to pass this Resolution, by which you will preclude all discussion, and shut the door peremptorily against the second reading. It by no means follows, if you agree to this Resolution, that you should subsequently pass the second reading, if on listening to the arguments, and hearing all that can be said for and against its provisions, you are satisfied that it is not such a measure as would meet the objects we all wish to attain. But what I wish is that, when a measure of this kind is brought from the other House of Parliament, you will not at once say you will not entertain it. When the writs for five boroughs are suspended, with a view to the passing of this measure, how can it 1191 be said that it is not one of urgency? I ask your Lordships to give to this measure that latitude which is extended by the Resolution of the 2nd of May to Bills of this description, and that you will consent to entertain the Motion for the second reading of this Bill. The noble Duke moved to resolve—That the Suspension of the Writs for five Boroughs by Order of the House of Commons, until new legislative Precautions shall have been taken to prevent the Recurrence of the System of Bribery which was proved by Royal Commissioners to have prevailed in those Boroughs, is (within the Meaning of the Resolution of this House of the 2nd May last) a Circumstance a such Urgency as to render necessary the immediate Consideration of a Bill brought from the House of Commons on the 31st of July, intituled, An Act to consolidate and amend the Laws relating to Bribery, Treating, and undue Influence at Elections of Members of Parliament;' and that accordingly it is reasonable that the said Bill be allowed to be read a Second Time this Day, if the House shall think fit so to order.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, that in rising to oppose the adoption of the Resolution which had been proposed by the noble Duke, their Lordships were not to expect that be would go into the question of the Bill itself. On the contrary, he thought it was desirable that the whole of the discussion should turn upon the question of their Lordships' Resolution of the 2nd of May, because the merits of the Bill had nothing to do with the question. The discussion was, whether this citadel be fitly considered a Bill of that urgency that it should come within the spirit of the exceptions of the Resolution passed by their Lordships on the 2nd of May; and whether their Lordships were, therefore, prepared to set aside that Resolution. He believed it was perfectly plain and expedient that the Resolution of the 2nd of May should he supported, because it must be evident not only to those who had considered the matter in that House, but also to those who had considered it out of the House, that it was necessary that a limitation should be put to the time when measures brought up from the other House should be taken into discussion. If that be the case, he trusted they would consider the question dispassionately and not with party views, for it was not a party question; be trusted they would support that principle which, if once adopted in a case like the present, would conduce more to improve the legislation of both Houses of Parliament than any other measure that could be adopted. He asked their Lordships not to pass the Resolution which had been moved 1192 by the noble Duke, first, because the Resolution itself was an improper Resolution for their Lordships to adopt; and secondly, because it was a proposition to set aside the Resolution of the 2nd of May without sufficient reasons for so doing. He did not mean the slightest disrespect to the noble Duke when he said the Resolution was of a character that should not, under any circumstances, be adopted by the House. It stated that which was not borne out by the fact; and which, therefore, would put that House in an improper position as regarded the other House of Parliament; and on that ground alone the Resolution was one that should not be adopted. The noble Duke's Resolution stated that "the suspension of the writs for five boroughs was ordered by the House of Commons until new legislative precautions should have been takers to prevent the recurrence of the system of bribery." Now, the House of Commons had never said anything that would in any way justify their Lordships in resolving that the House of Commons had declared that the suspension of those writs was to continue until there was new legislation. The only Resolution the House of Commons had come to with respect to these writs was, that no Motion should be made for the issuing of those writs except on seven days' notice. When that Resolution, was proposed, an Amendment was moved that no new writ should be issued until the 30th of December, and it was afterwards moved that no new writs should be issued until the 30th of June, which latter would have had the effect of postponing the issue of the writs for one month; but both those Amendments were rejected, and the Resolution with regard to the seven days' notice was passed. [See APPENDIX] Whether the House of Commons was right in suspending the writs was a great constitutional question, into which he would not now enter; but he would say that instead of acting as they were represented to have acted by the Resolution, the House of Commons merely came to what, under the proceeding they had themselves adopted, was a proper Resolution, namely, that in order that no hurry and surprise should take place with regard to moving for writs, seven days' notice of such Motion should be given. He would assert boldly—and he thought no one could controvert theassertion—that it would be unparliamentary, and contrary to a good understanding between the two Houses of Parliament, if either House should resolve that any de- 1193 termination of the other had been come to upon grounds which were not specifically stated by that other. Yet that was what the present Resolution did, and it would be offensive to the other House if their Lordships were to say that that House had done so. But, suppose the House of Commons bad come to such a Resolution as was stated in the Motion before their Lordships—that they would suspend the issue of the writs until legislation should have taken place—the moving of that Resolution as a ground for their Lordships' proceedings would be an improper manner of addressing their Lordships' House on the subject, and on that ground alone he would appeal to their Lordships to resist it; for how could it be considered but as an unfair pressure on their Lordships, if the House of Commons had said they would not do a particular act, except their Lordships should pass a certain measure on the subject. It was not fitting that this Resolution should be put upon the minutes of their Lordships' House, first, because the House of Commons bad not done that which it was stated they had done; and next, if they had done it, they would have put an improper pressure upon their Lordships as a reason for a legislative proceeding in that House. Having made this preliminary objection, he would now ask their Lordships to consider whether this Bill could be fairly brought within the meaning of the "urgency" contemplated by their Lordships' Resolution. The noble Duke had said that it was never intended by the noble Baron who proposed the Resolution that the word "recent" should govern "urgency;" and that it could not grammatically do so; but he (Lord Redesdale) certainly intended that it should govern both "urgency," and "occurrence." The question they had to consider was, whether this Bill could be fairly considered to come within the Resolution of the 2nd of May. The question of bribery was one that had been treated over and over again by Parliament, and could not be considered as a question—though important in itself—of "urgency." A delay for another year, before a new Bill on the question of bribery was made the law of the land, was one that could not be considered to constitute a case of "urgency." They had passed the Resolution in order that their Lordships should have time for the discussion of important Bills, and the consequence of passing it was, that a number of Peers had made up their minds to leave town. And what they were now asked to 1194 do was, that a Bill which had been brought into their Lordships' House on Monday should be read a second tune on Thursday, when the fact of the Bill having been introduced could not have been known to a number of Peers who had left town. Therefore, unless the case of urgency was made most clear, they would be setting aside the whole effect of their Resolution if they allowed this Bill to be pressed forward. The effect of rescinding this Resolution would be, that any party who could at the close of the Session command a majority in the House would be able to declare whether they considered a question to be of urgency or not. He, therefore, asked their Lordships not to agree to the Resolution of the noble Duke, and urged upon them to recollect what the effect would be of their introducing important Amendments into the Bill, and what consideration could be given to them by the other House of Parliament. He did not think it would be proper that they should send back to the other House a Bill affecting it, with Amendments, at a period of the Session when there would be unquestionably the smallest possible attendance of Members. For these reasons, and being convinced that their Lordships would by refusing to agree to this Motion, do much to give effect to the principle of the Resolution of the 2nd of May, he must say non-content to the Motion of the noble Duke.
THE EARL OF ABERDREN
My Lords, my noble Friend has not referred to the provisions of the Bill before the House, and it is not my intention to do so; but I wish to make a few observations upon the Resolution to which my noble Friend thinks it indispensable that we should adhere on this occasion. Now, I think your Lordships would do well in the present case to relax your adherence to that Resolution—which I admit has produced salutary effects, and which will still produce salutary effects if you treat it as it deserves. The Resolution itself involves no question of principle; it was adopted for the mutual convenience of Members of this House—of both Houses of Parliament, I may say—and so it must be considered and treated. Every effort has been made, in this House and elsewhere also, to effect the object aimed at by this Resolution. Only the other day, a very important Bill which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was dropped by him in consequence of the existence of this Resolution—I mean a Bill for the abolition of the usury laws. It has since been introduced in this 1195 House by a noble Friend of mine, and has been originated in this House in consequence of the existence of that Resolution, notwithstanding the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given notice of the Bill. Therefore every means has been taken to carry into effect the spirit of the Resolution as it was understood when proposed. But your Lordships should be cautious how you apply too stringently the provision which the noble Baron desires to interpret as belonging to this Resolution. Rely upon it that if you proceed in a manner so arbitrary and so completely without qualification, it is impossible to expect that the other House of Parliament will consent to act under the compulsion of a Resolution of the House of Lords, and it may lead to serious differences between the two Houses of Parliament. I am happy to say that hitherto there have not been any very serious differences between the two Houses of Parliament; indeed, nothing is more wonderful, nothing is more astonishing, than the continuing harmony of the two Houses of Parliament in the conduct of the legislation of the country. It seems hardly possible that between two bodies, each possessing such powers as the two Houses of Parliament do, so little difference, so little of contestation, should arise—and this is only owing to mutual forbearance, and to the deference of each House one to the other. If ever serious difference should arise between them, it will be an event not only deeply to be deplored, but which cannot but lead to the serious injury of the Parliamentary constitution of the country. I say that if this Resolution were to be enforced in the arbitrary manner proposed by my noble Friend, it would be an outrage upon the privileges of the House of Commons; for to tell them that they shall not send up a measure after a certain day is not far short of an insult to that House. As a means for the reasonable expedition of measures brought before you, they have acquiesced, and no doubt will acquiesce hereafter, in the Resolution, and expedite business, as we shall equally do, with the view of meeting the spirit and object for which the Resolution was affirmed; but anything further than this would be at variance with the privileges of the House of Commons—with what has been their practice, and probably will be still their practice, if you give to this Resolution that fair and liberal interpretation according to which only it can exist, and according to which I believed it would be considered, or I would never have agreed 1196 to it. I wish to avoid the possibility of leading to a serious difference between the two Houses, and I wish also to avoid the exercise of an arbitrary and unreasonable assumption of authority on the part of this House. I deny altogether the constitutional character of the reasons assigned by the noble Lord—of the Session being too far advanced, and the probability of there being too thin an attendance of Peers. Wishing to avoid these difficulties, I think your Lordships ought to agree to the Motion of the noble Duke. If there be too thin an attendance in your Lordships' House, it is no reason whatever for refusing to agree to the Motion. It is a reason, no doubt, to influence the convenience of your Lordships, but not to limit or abrogate the discretion of the House of Commons in the transaction of the business before them. I therefore entreat of your Lordships not to look upon this as an arbitrary Resolution which you have laid down, and to which you will adhere—not as a case of sic volo, sic jubeo. No one will deny that this is a measure which would justify your Lordships in taking it at least into consideration; for, as my noble Friend near me has said, you may if you think proper on full consideration reject the second reading of the Bill. That is perfectly intelligible and within your competence; but to interpret this Resolution as an arbitrary rule in the manner proposed by my noble Friend opposite, is a thing likely to lead to most serious and mischievous consequences.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, the noble Earl had altogether and very prudently abstained from taking the slightest notice of any of the observations that had been made by his noble Friend who opposed this Resolution. Not one word had fallen from the noble Earl in refutation of the statement that was made by my noble Friend, that this Resolution was one which it was impossible for their Lordships, with propriety, to accede to. It attributed to the House of Commons that it had passed a Resolution which it had not passed, and it attributed to them motives by which they were not influenced. If their Lordships had passed such a Resolution they would have failed in the courtesy which they should always wish to see reciprocated between the two Houses of Parliament, and yet it was proposed to make such a Resolution the basis for legislation in their Lordships' House, though by recognising such a Resolution they would in fact compromise the independence of their own legislative powers. It was not right to say by this Resolution 1197 that writs bad been suspended until their Lordships should have legislated upon the subject, for that was not what the House of Commons had done. What they had done, and what was very natural for them to do, was, that, while this Bill was pending, and it was uncertain under what system of law the elections would take place if the writs were issued, they suspended the writs until they should see if Parliament were about to legislate upon the subject; but for the House of Commons to say that they would indefinitely postpone the issue of the writs for those five boroughs until the House of Lords should assent to a measure they had sent up to them, would be to adopt a principle so unconstitutional that neither this nor any other house of Commons had ever dreamed of enunciating it. Their Lordships must observe that the proposition contained in the Resolution was not that the writs should not be issued until the House of Lords had decided whether or not they should pass this measure, or whether Parliament should or should nut pass this Bill, but that the writs should not be issued until fresh legislation had taken place. Their Lordships were called upon, therefore, not only to consider the Bill, but to pass it. They were in duresse with regard to their legislative powers, and they were to be compelled to pass it in the form sent up from the House of Commons, or, at all events, they were not to introduce any Amendments to which the House of Commons would be indisposed to assent; for the House of Commons might not choose to agree to any Amendments which their Lordships might make in the Bill, and in that case legislation would equally fail, and the writs would be indefinitely suspended. Now, what was the real state of the case? The House of Commons had refused even to suspend the writs to the 30th of December, and, anticipating an earlier Session than this, had refused to postpone them till the 30th of June. Indeed, if he were not mistaken, at that very moment there was a Motion pending in the other House for the issue of writs to the whole of these five boroughs. It was quite true that the noble Lord holding the high office of President of the Council announced in the other House his opinion, that these writs ought not to be issued until legislation had taken place; but the experience of the Session led him to the conclusion that what one Member of the Government announced as his view was not necessarily the view of any other Member of the Government. It was quite pos- 1198 sible that the view of the noble Lord the President of the Council might be declared by others of his colleagues to be "wholly unconstitutional," and even "sheer nonsense." Even if it so happened that the whole of the Members of the Government should, marvellously, be of one opinion—what security was there that that opinion would be in accordance with the views of the House of Commons? He must say this, that the House of Commons had never come to such a Resolution and had never affirmed such an opinion as this Resolution, which their Lordships were called upon to affirm, attributes to the House of Commons, and attributes to them in order to make it the basis of your Lordships' legislation. The noble Earl opposite had shown great prudence and discretion in abstaining from referring to these matters; but would their Lordships pass them over now that this objection had been taken? Would they, with their eyes open, declare that the House of Commons had done that which they had not done, and take as the basis of their legislation a supposed Resolution of the House of Commons, which, if the other House had passed, would be an infringement of the privileges of their Lordships? Would their Lordships so far stultify themselves as to adopt such a course? The noble Earl had abstained from entering into the merits of the Bill itself, and he should follow the example of the noble Earl; but the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) had said that the Bill had in many of its details the sanction of high authorities, and that it bad passed through a Select Committee. The noble Duke had reminded their Lordships what distinguished authorities had sat upon that Committee, but he had neglected to say that, when it came out of Committee, the House of Commons had not so great a respect as the noble Duke seemed to have for those high authorities, inasmuch as they had totally altered the measure, and, up to the very last moment, had made material and most important alterations in it. The noble Duke had himself intimated that he did not consider that at this period of the Session the House of Lords could fairly and properly consider and discuss the measure so as to make it as perfect as it might be made. If they were to overrule their Resolution and to pass this Bill in deference to the House of Commons it was certainly with some pleasure that he found the noble Duke prepared to make it a temporary measure, which was only to be passed for one or two years. But why should it be 1199 made a temporary measure? Manifestly because there was not time to make it as perfect a measure as it ought to be. He admitted the prudence and discretion of the noble Duke, and thought he was quite right in thinking that, if the Bill was to be taken as it was and considered at all, it should only be passed for two years, and that, having faith in the House of Commons, they should not enter upon what could be little more than a partial discussion, occurring at a late period of the Session, when but few Peers were likely to be in attendance. The noble Duke said, "Make it a temporary measure, because you have not time to make it a perfect measure." [The Duke of NEWCASTLE denied that he had made any such statement.] The only reason he could conceive for not amending the Bill, so as to make it as perfect a measure as possible, was, that they had not time maturely to consider the principles of the Bill. If that were the only proposition, he might perhaps be inclined to accede to the proposal of the noble Duke, to pass the Bill as it was, for the space of two years. But what did the noble Duke propose to do further? Taking it as a temporary measure, the noble Duke told their Lordships that there were two clauses in the Bill which he wished to expunge and to alter, and he proposed then to send the Bill, as amended, to the House of Commons. Now, the object and intention of the Resolution of their Lordships were to give to that and the other House of Parliament full time to consider measures passed at the close of the Session. If their Lordships were to waive their privileges, and assent to the passing of the Bill in violation of their own Resolution, and were to make Amendments in the measure, what would be the effect? The Bill would go down to the other House to be considered towards the last day of the Session, and it would be considered by perhaps forty or fifty Members, after having been passed by 200 or 300. He must say that this would be a most extraordinary mode of showing deference to the House of Commons; they would, in reality, be enabling the Government of the day to set aside the opinion of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and to do what they thought fit with any measure introduced into the House, provided they delayed to introduce it till towards the close of the Session. He thought that to pay proper deference to the House of Commons they ought not at this period of the Session to amend a Bill 1200 of this nature, and send it down, as amended, to he discussed in the House of Commons in the middle of the month of August. The noble Earl at the head of the Government said the Resolution of their Lordships was one which had produced and was calculated to produce very salutary effects; but how could it produce salutary effects unless it were adhered to? It was the knowledge that it was a Resolution of the House of Lords, and one which the House of Lords would adhere to, which alone could produce the salutary effect of hastening the legislation of this and the other House of Parliament. If, however, they were not to adhere to the Resolution, and were to suffer Members of that House to leave London, and go down into the country in the full assurance that they had passed a Resolution which would secure them from the possibility of dangerous measures being agreed to in their absence, and if the Government were then to say a measure was one of urgency, and that the Resolution of their Lordships must be set aside, so far from having a salutary effect, it would be a mere trap for noble Lords in that House, and would utterly fail in the effect which was intended upon the other House of Parliament. The noble Earl had talked about the arbitrary application of this rule. Now he (the Earl of Derby) knew nothing so arbitrary as the application of this rule just as the Government thought fit. If the Resolution was to be acted upon systematically and regularly, there could be nothing arbitrary in it; but if it was to depend upon a chance majority of one or two in a House of twenty or thirty Members whether the rule was to be applied or not, then, indeed, it would become an arbitrary decision, and a decision which must produce, instead of a salutary, a most mischievous effect. The noble Earl seemed to think it most astonishing and marvellous that there should be a general concurrence of opinion and good understanding between their Lordships and the other House of Parliament, and hoped this would continue to be the case; but at the same time he thought that the most dreadful consequences would result if their Lordships were to fail to show due deference to a measure of the House of Commons which had come up with a unanimity of assent. Now, what was the unanimity of assent given by the House of Commons? The unanimity of assent given to the measure upon the third reading was this—a material provision was struck out, and after that material provision was struck out the 1201 unanimous assent of the House of Commons was given by a majority of seven in a House of 200. Could it be contended, then, after the House of Commons had devoted six months discussion to the Bill, and a majority of seven only had decided that it should pass at all, that it would show a want of deference to that House if their Lordships were to fly in the face of the recorded opinions of the other House, simply because they were humbly of opinion that a Bill which had taken the House of Commons six months to consider, which had been greatly altered upon inquiry, and which had passed at the last moment by a majority of seven only, was deemed worthy of something more like discussion and deliberation than could be given to a Bill brought up with such haste and at so late a period of the Session as this? It had been brought up with such haste that it purported upon the back of it to have been printed upon—a day not in the calendar—the 31st of June, instead of the 31st of July. On the 3rd of August they were called upon to take the principle of the Bill into consideration, and on the 4th to examine its details; they must then send it back in the second week of August to be discussed again in the House of Commons. "But," said the noble Earl opposite, "this Resolution does not involve the adoption of the second reading of the Bill. Do what you like with regard to the second reading of the Bill, throw it out if you think fit." That, the noble Earl thought, would not indicate disrespect of the opinion of the other House; but if their Lordships, without any expression of opinion, as to whether the majority of 107, or the minority of 100, were right, simply ventured to say that they would like a little more time for considering the Bill, that, according to the noble Earl, would be a great violation of deference to the other House. Now, he (the Earl of Derby) looked at the matter in just the opposite point of view from this. His chief objection to the second reading was an objection as to time, and time only, and as to the necessity of adhering to the Resolution which that House had adopted as the rule of its proceedings, he said that there was everything in favour of the second reading of a Bill relating to the privileges of the other House, which came up to them with the favourable prestige of having received the assent of that House. Although he trusted they would exercise their right of discussing its principle and examining its details, yet much weight attached to it, inasmuch as it had received 1202 the approval of the other House. The measure was one of a very complicated character—much more so than the noble Duke seemed to think—and it involved penal consequences, and many serious and delicate questions; but he did not propose now to enter into its merits or demerits. He did not pretend to be able to do so. He had not had time to consider the Bill in detail; and he confessed he had not gone through and examined all the changes and vicissitudes to which it had been exposed in its progress through the other House. But, if it were not for the Resolution of this House, and if there had been proper time, he should say let the Bill be taken up and considered deliberately, and see if it can be amended; and if it is incapable of amendment, let it by all means be applied as a remedy for what everybody admits to be a great and crying evil. But his objection was, that since their Lordships had passed this Resolution, upon the faith of which Peers had left London, upon the faith of which their Parliamentary proceedings had been founded, and upon the faith of which Bills had been introduced in that House rather than in the other House of Parliament—since they had laid down this Resolution, which was likely to he most beneficial both to that and the other House of Parliament, but which could only work efficiently by their showing their determination to adhere to it, even at the risk of some trifling inconvenience—he should certainly advise their Lordships not to waive that Resolution in the present instance. If, indeed, this were a measure of paramount urgency, by the delay of which the best interests of the country might suffer—if it were anything affecting our foreign relations or influencing the vigorous prosecution of the war in which they were now engaged—not a single word would have been said on the subject, nor would the Resolution have been pleaded in bar to it. But this was a measure to which none of these considerations would apply; it was comparatively unimportant whether it were passed in the course of this year or the next; it was the very case, in fact, upon which their adherence to the Resolution they had passed could fairly be tested, without disrespect to the other House of Parliament, and without inconvenience to the interests of the country. Deeming it to be most important that the Resolution should not be set aside without due cause and upon full consideration, and believing that the ground for so doing asserted in the noble Duke's Resolution was inconsistent with the facts, and that, 1203 even if it were consistent with them, it would be a most improper ground for their Lordships to act upon, he should certainly say No, with his noble Friend, to that Resolution.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, he should certainly give an unhesitating vote—not in favour of this Bill, for that was not the question before them—but in favour of making this an exception to the just, proper, and expedient general rule which their Lordships had adopted on the proposition of the noble Baron (Lord Redesdale). In proposing the adoption of this rule, he had never understood the noble Baron to say that it was to be adopted as an inflexible Resolution, liable to no exception; but if he had so meant it, he ought distinctly to have stated it, and if he had done that, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) believed the Resolution would have met with a very different reception from that House, and certainly from the other House of Parliament. The noble Baron, however, in his argument in support of the Resolution, and in the express terms of the Resolution itself, admitted that he did not intend it as a rule without an exception, for he had introduced into a provision that a case of recent occurrence or urgency should be a proper exception from the rule; and with that necessary and proper qualification, the Standing Order was unanimously adopted by that House. The Resolution was, that, after a certain period of the Session—and, for convenience' sake, a certain day was named—their Lordships would proceed with no Bill except in a matter of urgency. The question at issue, therefore, was, was this Bill from its nature and subject a measure of urgency, or was it not? He maintained that it was a measure of urgency; and the argument lay in a nutshell. If the noble Baron (Lord Redesdale) had so framed the Standing Order as not only to make an exception in it in favour of a measure of urgency, but had gone further, and attempted in express words to define what was a question of urgency, and if their Lordships had agreed to the Resolution in that shape, the definition which in that case must have been adopted must have been one that would exactly have included a Bill of this description—a Bill which the other House of Parliament in the exercise of its discretion had sent up, affecting its own peculiar interests and privileges. The noble Baron would admit that the interests and privileges of the other House were concerned 1204 in the present Bill. Another criterion of urgency would have been, that the measure was intended or calculated—or, at all events, endeavoured—to put an end to an evil that was universally admitted to exist. Well, this Bill sought to mitigate, if it could not entirely remove, an evil which everybody in both branches of the Legislature and in the country admitted, and held it to be the duty of Parliament to endeavour to check. So that there were two marks of urgency visible on the face of this Bill. Not only was this Bill directed against an evil which was eating like a festering canker into the very heart of our representative system, but unless the remedy it proposed was adopted, there would ensue this important consequence—that, as the representation of a certain number of boroughs had been suspended in anticipation of some steps being taken for this purpose, those boroughs must now be left entirely unrepresented, or they must be liable to be misrepresented, for want of a corrective to the existing corruption. It was clear, therefore, that this Bill came within the category of the exceptions contemplated by the Standing Order; and lie might add, that there was a danger that the universally admitted and serious evil against which it was levelled might be incurred within the next three months if they did not pass this Bill. But he went further, and if this was not a measure of urgency, he would ask the noble Baron what was a measure of urgency? Again, if the noble Baron did not intend to admit of cases of urgency, why did he not openly state it at the time the Standing Order was under discussion, and arbitrarily say that after a certain day in the calendar no Bill of whatever nature should be allowed to be considered, and that the action of the Legislature was to be chained down, for the House of Commons, although in a question affecting its own rights, and affecting the fair, honest, and true representation of the people, would not have its measures considered by their Lordships? He said, then, that this was a case of urgency; and this, he believed, would be the opinion, not of the other House only, but of the country. In regard to what had been said, that the Resolution moved by the noble Duke made an incorrect recital of the facts with regard to the proceedings in the other House, it was clear that in saying that the House of Commons had suspended the writs of five boroughs, the Resolution merely expressed the obvious interpretation that must be 1205 placed upon that fact by any man of common sense, namely, that it was the object of the other House, as it was their duty, to endeavour to secure that the returns from those boroughs where the writs had been suspended, should be as free as the ingenuity and skill of Parliament could contrive from the corruption which the noble Earl opposite acknowledged unfortunately to exist in many boroughs. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) knew too well that many previous Bribery Bills had been passed, and had failed; and it would be presumptuous to say that this Bill provided what so many former Parliaments and wise legislators had failed to discover —namely, an effectual and complete remedy for bribery. But that was no argument against their giving a fair consideration to a Bill which had been sent to them from the House of Commons, which, he believed, would tend to the correction of some portion, at least, of a flagrant evil. The noble Earl opposite had said that noble Lords had left town under the conviction that no "dangerous" measure would be introduced in their absence; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) thought it too much to say that a Bill to put down bribery and corruption was a dangerous measure. If there was anything dangerous in this Bill, let the noble Earl point it out; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) must say that he thought noble Lords, knowing that a Bill was likely to come up designed to suppress corruption and improve the representation of the people, would have only done their duty if they had remained at their posts to consider it, and remove any lurking evil that might be found in a measure having so important and beneficial an object as that of putting an end to the evils by which too many elections were characterised. The noble Earl had also alluded to the fact that this Bill, notwithstanding the great labour which had been bestowed upon it, had not passed the other House by a very large majority, and that it would not have been very dissatisfactory to a great number of people if it had been lost. He really thought, however, that if their Lordships waited to pass a Bribery Bill until they should have one sent up which gave general satisfaction, they would have to wait for ever. They had all seen advertisements of quack doctors, announcing that they had discovered universal specifics, which not only cured and eradicated every complaint, but were most pleasing to the palate of the patient at the same time.
1206 Now, if their Lordships were sanguine enough to think that they would discover a panacea for bribery sufficiently stringent for its entire removal, and likewise agreeable to the taste of all candidates, past and future, he was afraid they were indulging themselves with a very pleasing hallucination; but, in the meanwhile, bribery and corruption would remain in rank and fatal luxuriance. All they were asked to do on the present occasion was to defer so far to the opinion of the House of Commons as to consider whether this Bill would not go some way towards the extirpation of a most serious evil, and whether it should not be allowed to be put in force for two years at least; seeing that the experiment might enlighten their Lordships and the other House as to the best means of coping more effectually with the scandalous abuses disgracing our representative system. Upon these grounds he trusted that their Lordships would consent, even by way of exception, to consider the present Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said that, after the clear and able speeches of the two noble Lords opposite who opposed the present Motion, he should not have troubled their Lordships with any explanations of his own, had it not been for the speech of the noble Marquess who had just sat down. The noble Marquess had commenced by stating very clearly what was the question before the House; but the rest of his speech consisted in a denunciation of the evils of bribery, and a not very just insinuation that those who did not agree in the Resolution of the noble Duke were not so alive to those evils as he was. This Bill was on the whole not a bad Bill, though far from perfect; but the question was, whether they should adopt the noble Duke's Resolution. The noble Marquess had not attempted to show that the Resolution was really true in fact or correct in reasoning, and, for his part, he maintained that the Resolution stated what was not the fact, and was most erroneous and dangerous in reasoning. The noble Marquess said, that the House of Commons and the public thought this Bill an urgent measure. Now he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had occasion to know that the greatest difference of opinion existed, both in and out of the House, with regard to this Bill. Many of the most eminent Reformers in the House of Commons. as well as men known for their zeal in that cause out of the House, and for their exertions to secure purity of election, thought 1207 that it would not be undesirable that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of reconsidering this measure. His objection, however, to this Resolution was, that it was an ignominious departure from the Resolution which their Lordships had deliberately arrived at. The Government seemed suddenly struck with the extreme urgency of this question; but how came it that they had not been alive to its urgency at an earlier period of the Session? The first Bill relating to this subject was brought in by Sir F. Kelly, and was printed on the 21st of February. Shortly afterwards the Government Bill was introduced—on the 24th of February, he believed—but nothing more was done with regard to either of them during the whole of the month of March, except to read them sub silentio a first time. It did not seem as though they were considered so very urgent then, for, though the Reform Bill had then been withdrawn, and several other Bills cleared out of the way, it was not until the 10th of April that these Bills were referred to a Select Committee, which, again, did not sit for the despatch of business, important business at least, until the 6th of May. The noble Duke had told them of the great value of the labours of that Committee; but, as the noble Earl opposite had observed, he did not state what was the opinion of the House of Commons on that point. In the proceedings of the Select Committee he found that they had divided no less than nine times on important questions; and so little weight was after all attached to the decision of the Select Committee, that seven days had been spent in the Committee of the whole House, and no less than twenty-eight divisions had taken place on the most important parts of the Bill; and in general the majorities had been very narrow indeed. On these divisions Gentlemen of the most opposite political opinions voted side by side—a fact which showed that they were not the result of any factious opposition to the Bill, but that the difficulties of the subject had led to its receiving the greatest care and deliberation; and when it was pretended that the House of Commons would be angry at their not suspending their rule to make way for this Bill, it should be borne in mind that it had only been finally carried through that House by a bare majority of seven. The subject was so complicated and difficult, that men who usually agreed together differed on its most important points, and therefore the Bill required the 1208 greatest consideration and deliberation. Therefore, if ever there was a Bill to which the Standing Order moved by the noble Baron (Lord Redesdale) was applicable, it was the present. It was a measure exactly like the Irish Lands Bill, which had been postponed last year for a similar reason, and like many other Bills which both Houses from time to time postponed on account of the lateness of the Session. It was said, in this case, that there were five writs suspended. Well, that was no new discovery. Why was not this argument used when Sudbury was disfranchised? It was no argument to say that Parliament could not proceed to business until the vacant seats had been filled up; because Parliament had this Session dealt with most important questions—affecting peace and war—and all the while the seats continued vacant. Why, then, could they not wait for another Session, until this subject could receive proper consideration? This was, therefore, no question of urgency, and to depart now from their rule would derogate from the character, the dignity, and the reputation of that House. The noble Marquess asked, what was a question of urgency? He could tell him that the Bill for the continuance of the Board of Health, introduced the other evening, was one, as, without that Bill, the functions of an important department of the State would have lapsed; and therefore it was right that the rule of the House should be suspended in favour of such a measure. But to suspend it for a Bill of this kind, which had occupied the attention of Parliament for several years, and which required the greatest care and sifting, would be quite absurd. The mode in which that House had secured the respect and estimation of the public was by acting with dignity, consistency, and character; but if they were to pass deliberate Resolutions and then lightly set them aside, either from caprice or at the beck of a Minister, their authority must be seriously weakened and impaired.
said, that if the noble Marquess who had last spoken had thought right to preface his remarks by saying, that after the speeches of other noble Lords on the same side of the question he would not have risen but for the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) who preceded him, how much more necessary was an apology due from him (Lord Brougham) for presuming to follow noble Lords who had supported this Motion, especially after that 1209 most convincing, most unanswerable—and (with all respect for his noble Friend who had just sat down) unanswered, and only unanswered because it was unanswerable—speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne). He must appeal to the acuteness and the candour of his noble Friend who had just sat down, who, if he looked at the Resolution moved by the noble Duke, would see that there was no ground for the assertion that it stated anything that was not the fact as to the intentions of the House of Commons or as to the urgency of this Bill. There could be no doubt that the House of Commons had suspended the writs of these five boroughs until new legislative precautions had been taken against the recurrence of bribery and corruption; but it was a great mistake to suppose, as had been supposed to-night, that this Resolution affirmed that the order of the House was to suspend these writs until Parliament legislated. The very form of the words used by the noble Duke in the Resolution excluded the supposition that he intended so to represent the proceeding that had taken place in the House of Commons. The only object of the other House was that the poll should not be opened in these five boroughs, where corruption might again be practised as it had been too much practised of late—where those abominable scenes of corruption which had been reported upon by Commissions and by Committees as having been almost habitual, might again be renewed if the writs were issued for a new election—the only object of the House could be not to allow the poll to be again opened in these five places until it had had an opportunity of taking measures to prevent the repetition of such abominations. He would ask any plain thinking man this question, and would abide by the answer he would make—for what purpose, with what possible design, could the House of Commons have suspended these writs? The suspension could only be temporary. No man imputed so absurd, so ridiculous, not to say unconstitutional a design to that House as the perpetual disfranchisement of these five boroughs. The very word "suspension" showed that that could not have been the intention—because suspension inferred that something was to follow. If it had been, the other House would have acted as it had done in the case of Sudbury, and have issued a Commission before proceeding to disfranchisement. Well, as the suspension was meant only to be temporary, how long was it to last? 1210 Until when? Could any man stretch his imagination so as to fancy that anything else could have been in the contemplation of the other House when it delayed the ssuing of the writs, except this, namely, the amendment of the laws relating to bribery and corruption, so as to take some security against the future recurrence of the same abuses that had previously taken place in the exercise of the elective franchise. He, therefore, looked upon it as perfectly clear that the fact was that the House of Commons delayed issuing the writs with no possible, with no conceivable, purpose except that in the meantime, and before a new election should be had, the laws respecting bribery and corruption might he made more stringent and more effectual. If any one who had examined the provisions of the Bill should be of opinion that it could not produce any good, and should say, "I have considered the measure, and I hold it to be utterly impossible that its provisions can effect any cure or any material diminution of the evil on all sides and universally complained of," then, undoubtedly, such a person would have a right to say, "There is no need of inquiry, there is no need of delay, there is no need of going on with the Bill at all. Let the House of Commons issue the writs, and welcome. If the evil must be submitted to, the sooner the writs are issued the better, because no one desires that five boroughs should for ever be deprived of representatives in Parliament." But no one whom he had heard argue, either out of the House or in it, at all pretended that the case was hopeless, or that it was perfectly evident that none of the provisions of this measure could secure any diminution of the evil complained of. On the contrary, all who had addressed themselves to the subject said, "Let the House wait, and inquire, and examine it more at leisure at another time." It would be a great evil to delay indefinitely, or to delay even to another Session, the filling up of so material a portion of the representation of the people in the other House as ten Members for five places—some of them, no doubt, of very little importance. He spoke without any disrespect to his noble Friend the noble Earl when he said that, if a borough about which he knew a great deal were never to have a writ issued to it, he should comfort himself under such a visitation; but Hull, Canterbury, and Cambridge were important places, and all these were to be practically disfranchised by the suspension of their 1211 writs. It would be said that the House of Commons might issue these writs even if their Lordships refused to take into consideration the second reading of the Bill. No doubt they could; but would it not be better, seeing the great disposition which prevailed among all parties to seek for a remedy, and to apply one upon which they were agreed—would it not be better, more courteous to the other House, more befitting their position as lawgivers upon this important matter, more useful for the public interest, and more useful for Parliament, and for the character, privileges, and dignity of Parliament, involved in the purity of Parliament and of election—would it not be infinitely better that their Lordships should help the other House to apply this remedy, and should not give up all hopes of the remedy being available until they had well tried it, and were convinced that it could work no cure? His belief was, that much of this Bill was calculated to produce a good effect. He thought that the appointment of an election auditor was a most valuable improvement. He wished he could say the same of a clause respecting what he would venture to call bribery and treating under a disguised form—that of travelling expenses and refreshments, though to a limited extent. He well knew that when a Bribery Bill was sent up to that House about half a century after the first Bribery Bill, in the reign of George II., limiting the power of paying travelling expenses to voters, it was thrown out at the instigation of Lord Mansfield, upon his statement that the authors of the Bill did not know what the existing law upon the subject was, because that law made the payment of travelling expenses bribery, and there was no occasion for an Act to make it so or to declare anything upon the subject. He (Lord Brougham) grieved to say that this Bill ran counter to that opinion, and authorised the payment of travelling expenses and the giving of refreshments. ["No!"] He was reminded that the Bill only permitted the payment of travelling expenses, but he apprehended that if a person might be brought to the poll, he might have all needful refreshments on the road; because, if not, he would not be able to benefit by the payment of his expenses. and could not be brought to the poll at all. He had also seen, with great regret, that the declaration was confined to certain persons—agents and others. He wished there had been a declaration of a more stringent nature and a more gene- 1212 ral form, and one applicable to candidates at the time of taking their seats, and which might be administered compulsorily during the election. These were amendments which might be proposed in Committee, if their Lordships read this Bill a second time; but he confessed that, however strongly he might be in favour of such amendments, he should be very slow to propose or to ask their Lordships to assent to them, for the reason hinted at by his noble Friend the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), that it would lead to the sending down of the Bill to the other House with these alterations at a time when the persons who might reasonably be expected most usefully to take them into consideration would probably not be there. At the same time, he held that their Lordships had a perfect right to deal with this measure as with any other which came up to them, and he thought that they grievously mistook the nature of our constitution, and lamentably forgot the history of that House in regard to Bills of this kind, who thought for a moment that their Lordships ought not to exercise the fullest discretion in regard to such a measure, to enter upon its consideration with the greatest latitude, and to amend it if they thought fit. The first Bribery Bill that ever came up to that House, in the year 1729—the 2nd George II—received very great alterations in that House; the best clause in the Bill was inserted there, and the penalty, notwithstanding the soreness of the other House in regard to money matters, was, if his recollection served him, increased from 50l. to 500l. When the Bill was sent back to the House of Commons, it was urged that the Lords had no right to interfere with an Election Bill; but Mr. Pulteney, afterwards Lord Bath, said that it was perfectly clear that it was within the province of the House to deal with the Bill, though an Election Bill, "especially because," said he, "it is a Bill touching the criminal law of the country." So in the case of this measure he (Lord Brougham) held it to be their right to deal with it exactly as they would with any other measure received from the other House; but it was quite another thing whether they should, in the exercise of a sound discretion, make alterations at this period of the year, and send back the Bill with those alterations. He inclined to think that they ought to abstain from doing so, and to postpone what he thought would be a great improvement of the Bill until another occasion, when—from what had been stated 1213 by the noble Duke, who only suggested that the Bill should be passed temporarily—they and the other House would have full time to consider these amendments. Though he considered this Bill to be, as it now stood, a great improvement of the law, he held that the only effectual means of preventing bribery would be by laying the axe to the root—inflicting an infamous punishment upon the person bribing as well as upon the person bribed. Considering who were generally the bribed and who the bribers, he had far rather visit the offence upon the briber than upon the person bribed.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 41; Not Contents, 33: Majority, 8.
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Lord Chancellor DUKES.||Canning|
|Effingham||Stanley of Alderley|
|Somers VISCOUNTS.||Say and Sele|
|List of the NOT CONTENTS.|
|Derby||Colville of Culross|
Resolution agreed to.