HL Deb 07 May 1863 vol 170 cc1283-90

, in moving that the House should go into Committee on this Bill, stated the principal provisions of the measure.


said, he did not intend to oppose the Motion for going into Committee, nor did he wish to take any notice of the earlier clauses of the Bill, partly because they related principally to the internal regulation of the House of Commons, and partly because he believed (with the noble Earl on the cross benches) that any provision which might be made for the purpose of preventing bribery at elections would prove in the end little better than waste paper. There were two clauses, however—the 7th and the 10th— to which he entertained serious objections in their present shape. With regard" to the 7th clause, he regarded it as an unjust and unnecessary provision. Supposing a person conscious of having committed a grave offence against the Corrupt Practices Act, for which he was liable to penal consequences, were to appear voluntarily before an Election Committee; and, while criminating some other person, were to criminate himself also, but with respect to a matter wholly alien to the subject of the indictment pending against him, neither justice nor necessity required that he should be relieved, not only from the consequences of his evidence given against himself, but likewise from those of any action which he might hare committed during the course of the election. Again, with regard to the 10th clause, although the House of Commons had been in the practice of suspending writs, usually for purposes of inquiry, and not for punishment, for one, two, or even three years, yet the suspension of a writ for five years, by a Resolution of the House of Commons, under the authority of an Act of Parliament recognising it as a right belonging to the House of Com- mons, irrespective of any reference to their Lordships' House, would be an unconstitutional aggression upon the rights and privileges of their Lordships. It seemed to him, that if the 10th clause were passed as it now stood, the House of Commons might as well be empowered to suspend a writ indefinitely, or, in fact, to disfranchise a borough altogether. The clause was objectionable, because it suspended a Resolution of the House of Commons, not only over the Parliament then sitting, but over succeeding Parliaments, and deprived the Crown of its constitutional right of issuing a writ of summons to the particular borough which had been condemned. The constitutional objection would, perhaps, be lessened if, as had been proposed, the Report of the Commission in regard to corruption in any borough were laid before the House of Lords as well as the House of Commons, and if their Lordships were called upon to pass a Resolution on the subject. He confessed, moreover, that he had grave doubts whether, when a borough had been convicted of corruption so great as to deserve disfranchisement for five years, it would not deserve to be disfranchised altogether. Moreover, he did not see, that at the end of five years, there would be any security that the constituency would be purer than at the beginning. On the contrary, the voters who had been denied their usual dole daring these years would probably be ravenous at the end of the period, and anxious to make up for lost time. As to the 11th clause, which threw the cost of the Commission of Inquiry on any district found guilty of corruption, he held it to be singularly objectionable, and should move that it be struck out.


said, that beyond doubt the 10th clause was open to the objection that it would enable the House of Commons to legislate without obtaining the consent of the other House of Parliament. He objected altogether to the principle of legislating by Resolution. The power would be very likely to occasion a conflict between the two Houses, and the clause had better be altogether expunged from the Bill.


reminded the noble Earl in charge of the Bill of the suggestion he offered the other evening, that the clause disqualifying agents from voting, which was in the original draught of the Bill, and had been struck out by the other House, should be replaced. If he met with any support from their Lordships, he should be disposed to move the re-insertion of that provision, which had been recommended by a Select Committee. Another excellent proposal made by the same Committee was, that the penalties of bribery should be extended to municipal as well as Parliamentary elections. The disqualification of agents would do much to check bribery and to lessen the complete subjection of candidates to the attorneys. No doubt, many of the latter were very respectable persons; but it was the class of small provincial attorneys who did the chief work during elections, and who always incurred great expense. They sometimes heard talk of "territorial" tyranny, but there was really no tyranny equal to that of the small attorneys in country places. They knew all the little secrets of property, and exercised their power often most unscrupulously. He quite agreed with the noble Earl opposite as to the injustice of the clause directing that places where bribery had been detected should pay the costs of the Commission of Inquiry. The only analogy, or supposed analogy to the proposition, was the regulation whereby the hundred was answerable for the expenses of a riot. But whilst it was possible for the inhabitants of a hundred to put down a riot, how could a borough possibly put a stop to bribery?


explained, that he had not said it was difficult to prove agency, but that it was difficult to make a clause disqualifying paid agents effective. He had found how difficult this was from his own experience; because it was well known that agents were in the habit of coming forward and declaring that their services were gratuitous — that they had received nothing and expected nothing. He remembered the case of such an agent, whose services were alleged by him to be gratuitous, receiving unexpectedly, and of course to his greatest surprise, shortly after the election, a present of £500.


said, it was perfectly true that where the briber and the bribed persons were each equally desirous that money should pass from one to the other, it was extremely difficult to punish bribery. But as matters now stood, an attorney might send in his Bill for services. He thought if it were rendered illegal to take a fee, a considerable bar would be set up against bribery. As it was, a number of persons, messengers and others, were hired at elections, ostensibly for the sake of their services, but really for the sake of their votes. As to the 10th clause, he agreed that it was a very questionable policy to depart from the usual course in the case of suspending a writ and to proceed by Resolution, instead of by a Bill passed by both Houses and sanctioned by the Crown. He agreed with the noble Earl and with the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, that the best course would be to strike out the clause altogether. It was difficult to imagine a case where bribery was proved against a borough in which a penal suspension of the writ would be more effectual than a statutory disfranchisement.


said, that according to the present law the Speaker directed a writ to issue for a reelection whenever there was a vacancy in the representation; whilst the Crown issued the writs for a new Parliament. Supposing a dissolution took place during the five years' suspension of a writ, would not the present measure be an encroachment on the prerogative of the Crown?


said, there could be no foundation for the doubt which had been expressed by the noble Earl, because the Resolution to which this clause referred would derive all its authority from an Act of Parliament which would receive the sanction of the Crown; and therefore the suspension would not take place by virtue of the Resolution, but by virtue of an Act of Parliament.


said, that the answer of the noble and learned Lord was conclusive as far as it went; but practically the suspension would be by the Resolution and not by the Act of Parliament. As the Bill appeared to sanction an encroachment on the prerogative of the Crown, he should like to know whether the consent of the Crown had been obtained for its consideration.

Motion agreed to; House in Committee.

Clause I agreed to.

LORD LYVEDEN moved to insert the following Clause, to follow Clause 1:— If any Person, either during any Election or within One Month previous to such Election, he employed as Agent, Attorney, Poll Clerk, Messenger, Doorkeeper, or in any other Capacity for the Purposes of such Election, in consideration of any Money, Retaining Fee, or other Payment made or promised or agreed to be made in respect of such Employment, such Person shall be incapable of Voting at such Election; and if he give any Vote at such Election, his Vote shall be void.


repeated the opinion he had before expressed, that the clause would be of no efficacy.


proposed to substitute for the clause a proposition whereby any one who had voted at an election should be ipso facto disqualified from recovering money for any services rendered by him at such election.


said, that from having had the misfortune to be engaged in many contested elections and from having served on several Election Committees, he was in a position to state, that if a check was to be put on the practice of corruption, it was necessary to disqualify agents from voting. He would even say it was desirable to go further and prevent the candidate, by law from paying any part of the voters' expenses.

On Question, Whether the said Clause shall be there inserted? their Lordships divided:—Contents 52, Not-Contents 66; Majority 14.

Resolved in the Negative.

Canterbury, Archbp. St. Asaph, Bp.
Westbury, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Abercromby, L.
Belper, L.
Devonshire, D. Castlemaine, L.
Newcastle, D. Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)
Saint Albans, D.
Somerset, D. Cranworth, L.
Dacre, L.
Townshend, M. Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
Airlie, E. De Tabley, L.
Belmore, E. Ebury, L. [Teller.]
Caithness, E. Gardner, L.
Camperdown, E. Lismore, L. (V. Lismore.)
Clarendon, E.
Cowper, E. Lyttelton, L.
Devon, E. Lyveden, L. [Teller.]
Ducie, E. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Durham, E.
Grey, E. Monson, L.
Macclesfield, E. Mostyn, L.
Saint Germans, E. Panmure, L. (E. Dalhouse.)
Strafford, E.
Verulam, E. Rivers, L.
Yarborough, E. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Eversley, V. Suffield, L.
Sydney, V. Truro, L.
Wenlock, L.
Durham, Bp. Wensleydale, L.
London, Bp. Wodehouse, L.
Rochester, Bp.
Richmond, D. Amherst, E.
Rutland, D. Bandon, E.
Bantry, E.
Bristol, M. Beauchamp, E.
Normanby, M. Cardigan, E.
Carnarvon, E. Clarina, L.
Catheart, E. [Teller.] Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.)
De Grey, E. Clinton, L.
Derby, E. Colchester, L.
Desart, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Granville, E. Conyers, L.
Hardwicke, E. De Ros, L.
Harewood, E. Egerton, L.
Home, E. Feversham, L.
Lanesborough, E. Harris, L.
Lonsdale, E. Kenyon, L.
Lucan, E. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont)
Mayo, E.
Morton, E. Northwick, L.
Romney, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough)
Rosslyn, E.
Russell, E. Portman, L.
Shrewsbury, E. Ravensworth, L.
Tankerville, E. Redesdale, L.
Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Doneraile, V.
Hardinge, V. Saltoun, L.
Hawarden, V. Scarsdale, L.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) [Teller.] Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Sondes, L.
Oxford, Bp. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Aveland, L. Taunton, L.
Berners, L. Tenterden, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Tredegar, L.
Walsingham, L.
Chelmsford, L. Wynford, L.
Churston, L.

Clauses 2 to 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 (Suspension of Writs).

EARL RUSSELL moved to substitute, in line 14, the words "both Houses of Parliament," for "the House of Commons." The noble Earl (who was very imperfectly heard) was understood to combat the idea that the change involved anything unconstitutional. It might he said that it infringed the prerogative of the Crown; but the same argument applied to the Acts for disfranchising Sndbury and St. Alban's, because the Crown had a right to send writs to those boroughs. It was plain, however, that when the Royal Assent was given to those Acts, the Crown agreed to an alteration in its prerogative to that extent. It might be asked, "Why not proceed by Act of Parliament?" An Act of Parliament took more time, and the object in view might be defeated by delay. It might also be said, that if it was right to suspend a writ for five years, it was right to disfranchise the place altogether. In five years, however, a great change might be effected in the character of a borough; and besides, there were some towns—Hull for example—of great commercial importance, which it would not be right to deprive altogether of its representatives in the House of Commons.


opposed the clause, on the ground that to suspend a writ of election for a period of five years upon a mere Resolution, and not by Act of Parliament, would be a grave innovation, which would not be justified by any advantage that would be likely to arise from it. It would be quite as constitutional to provide that in future any measure brought before Parliament relating to certain subjects might be passed by a Resolution of the two Houses, instead of by Bill. Of course, if the Crown were to assent to such a measure, it could not complain of an infringement of its prerogative; but such a step would be an immense change in the Constitution. He should oppose the clause.


could not admit that the course proposed was unconstitutional, or that there was any difference in principle between proceeding by Resolution of both Houses, and the legislation in the case of the Jews, which had been assented to by their Lordships, which gave the other House of Parliament the power of dispensing, by its own Resolution in the case of the Jews, with the ordinary oaths taken by Members on taking their seats in that House.


said, that the chief objection of his noble Friend (Earl Grey), in which he shared, was that their Lordships were now asked to set a dangerous precedent for no possible object. Practically, there would be only one discussion, and yet it was one of those subjects that required the greatest deliberation. Party feeling was easily evoked in such cases, and there was therefore the greater danger in dispensing with the ordinary safeguards of due deliberation.

On Question agreed to; Amendment made.

On Question, that Clause 10, as amended, stand Part of the Bill? their Lordships divided:—Contents 26; Not-Contents 92: Majority 66.

Clause struck out.

Westbury, L. (L. Chancellor.) Durham, E.
Granville, E.
Russell, E.
Devonshire, D. Saint Germans, E.
Newcastle, D. Stratford, E.
Somerset, D.
Sydney, V.
Bristol, M.
Townshend, M. Belper, L.
Dacre, L.
Caithness, E. Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
De Grey, E.
De Tabley, L. Mostyn, L.
Ducie, E. [Teller.] Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller.]
Ebury, L.
Harris, L. Rivers, L.
Meldrum, L. (M. Hunttly.) Suffleld, L.
Richmond, D. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Rutland, D.
Saint Albans, D. Calthorpe, L.
Castlemaine, L.
Normanby, M. Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)
Airlie, E. Chelmsford, L.
Amherst, E. Churston, L.
Bandon, E. Clarina, L.
Bantry, E. Clinton, L.
Beauchamp, E. Colchester, L.
Belmore, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Camperdown, E. Conyers, L.
Cardigan, E. Cranworth, L.
Carnarvon, E. De Ros, L.
Cathcart, E. Egerton, L.
Clarendon, E. Feversham, L.
Cowper, E. Kenyon, L.
Derby, E. Lismore, L. (V. Lismore.)
Desart, E.
Devon, E. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Ellenborough, E.
Fitzwilliam, E. Lyttelton, L.
Grey, E. [Teller.] Lyveden, L.
Hardwicke, E. Monson, L.
Harewood, E. Northwick, L.
Home, E. Panmure, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Lanesborough, E.
Lonsdale, E. Portman, L.
Lucan, E. Ravensworth, L.
Macclesfield, E. Redesdale, L.
Mayo, E. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Morton, E.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. Saltoun, L.
Romney, E. Scarsdale, L.
Rosslyn, E. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Shrewsbury, E.
Tankerville, E. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Verulam, E.
Yarborough, E. Sondes, L.
Saint Leonards, L.
Doneraile, V. Stratheden, L.
Eversley, V. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Falmouth, V.
Hardinge, V. Taunton, L.
Hawarden, V. Tenterden, L.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Tredegar, L.
Truro, L.
Walsingham, L.
Oxford, Bp. Wenlock, L.
Wensleydale, L.
Abercromby, L. Wodehouse, L. [Teller.]
Aveland, L. Wynford, L.
Berners, L.

Clause 11 struck out.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Monday next; and Bill to be printed us amended. (No. 94.)

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