§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
, in moving to insert after Clause 27 a clause enabling any voter for a county or borough to give his vote by a voting paper instead of personally, said that the principle was not a new one, having been introduced into the Reform Bill of 1859, which did not proceed very far in the other House. Although the plan was not then adopted, there had been some experience of its operation. The system had been for some years in practice in the election of Boards of Guardians, and he was not aware that there had been any complaints of its operation. The votes were given without difficulty, and the parties had an opportunity of exercising their best judgment. There had also been some experience of the working of voting papers in the election for Members for the Universities. This was a most important experiment, and it had been most successful. If he could show their Lordships that the difficulty of voting for the election of Members of Parliament under the present system was so great as to act as a positive disfranchisement of parties intrusted with the franchise, he should, he thought, make out a strong case for the adoption of his Amendment. He would, in the first instance, call their Lordships' attention to the very small number of voters who were able under the present system, from various causes, to tender their votes at elections, in comparison with the number registered on the electoral roll. He found from a singular Return presented to the House of Commons that at the last General Election very little more than half of those entitled to vote actually recorded their votes, the number varying from one-half to one-third. At Liverpool, out of 20,600 entitled to vote, only 14,600 voted. In the City of London, out of 15,500, only 10,900 voted; in Manchester, out of 21,000, only 14,900 voted; in Finsbury, out of 25,000, only 706 13,600 voted; in Marylebone, out of 23,000, only 11,600 voted; in Lambeth, out of 27,700, only 11,700 voted. In the counties there was an equally large proportion of the registered electors who abstained from voting, the last contested elections for South Lancashire and Middlesex being striking examples of it. In Middlesex, out of 13,700 on the register, only 6,000 polled. The explanation of this was that many persons, unless they took a very strong personal interest in election contests, or felt it their duty to vote, did not care to undergo the inconvenience, and in some cases the personal danger, of presenting themselves at the poll; and many, again, were physically incapable of bearing the excitement and crowding attending going to the polling-booth. The option of using voting papers was the obvious remedy, and it would be peculiarly advantageous to the new class of electors, to whom the loss of part of a day was a serious matter, by enabling them to vote without any pecuniary sacrifice. This provision was the more necessary, as the Bill contained a clause prohibiting the payment of the expenses of conveying voters to the poll. In Ireland there had been a recent striking example where the military had been employed in guarding voters proceeding to the poll, which would not have been necessary had the votes been taken by voting papers. He was satisfied, moreover, that the use of voting papers would have a wholesome effect in promoting purity of elections. He was not, indeed, so Utopian as to expect that bribery would thereby be put an end to altogether, but it would be made infinitely more difficult. He hoped that though the Government had met with a defeat on this point in the other House, they had not changed their opinion with regard to voting papers, and he was glad to find that the principle was embodied in the Scotch Bill, which had passed the second reading in the House of Commons. He had brought forward the subject very imperfectly, but he had done so from a sense of duty. If an election could not be carried on unless at the risk of tumult, intimidation, drunkenness, and, in fact, a variety of evil consequences, which had the effect of preventing nearly one-third of the voters from coming to the poll, he thought he had said enough to justify him in bringing this proposal before their Lordships. It was a proposal which was most deserving of their Lordships' serious consideration.
After Clause 27, moved to insert the following clause:—
Any voter for a County or Borough may, in compliance with the Provisions hereinafter contained, give his Vote by a Voting Paper instead of personally.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I confess I was very desirous, in the first instance, of hearing the opinions of noble Lords on the question submitted to them by my noble Friend. For my own part I have no hesitation in saying that to the principle of voting papers I give my unqualified adhesion. I believe it to be a principle eminently calculated to do away with many of the disadvantages of our present system of elections; and, if properly guarded as respects fraud and personation, I think it would enable the infirm, the aged, the sick, the timid, to give their votes without concealment of their opinions, while it would save them from the disturbances, the possible riot, and, at all events, the tumult of a contested election. I think it is also a mode which would enable persons to give their votes irrespective of any undue solicitation or influence. ("Oh!") I know it may be said, on the other hand, that it will encourage undue influence; but I believe if due precautions are taken with regard to the circumstances under which the signature is attached that objection may be entirely obviated. But, even though some difficulties may arise from fraud and personation, still, I think, and have thought for many years, that the system of voting papers is eminently advantageous to the public service. The provision of voting by voting papers was introduced by the Government of which I had the honour to be at the head in their Bill of 1859, and very elaborate clauses were framed for the purpose of securing the voters and the public from possible abuse. Again, in the course of the present year, Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that they might introduce the same principle in the present Bill, but in a more concise form, by embodying in a single clause, mutatîs mutandis, those provisions which I venture to think have been found eminently advantageous in the case of the Universities. The House of Commons has assented to the introduction of that principle with regard to the University of London, as well as the other Universities, but have hesitated to apply it to counties and boroughs. For my own part, I do not see why the same principle might not be safely extended to counties and 708 boroughs—more especially to counties where there must be a considerable number of non-resident voters. Voting papers, too, would diminish the expenses of elections. I think the best trial of the system was made in the case of the Universities, because a very large proportion of the electors were non-resident, and its advantageous working has been shown in the recent election for the University of Oxford. I am not speaking now with reference to the result of that election, because I believe on that result it had no practical effect; but the fact was that at the late election in the University of Oxford the electors who recorded their votes were more than double the number that have usually come to the poll at previous elections. Nor have I heard the slightest complaint of any abuse in connection with the system. It was entirely new and worked by persona utterly unacquainted with it, but I have not heard that any inconvenience arose or any disadvantage was sustained; and certainly there was an enormous diminution of expense, even though double the usual number of electors recorded their votes on that occasion. I think that it is primâ facie evidence in favour of the practicability of applying this principle to places where there are a considerable number of non-resident voters. I do not think it ought to be so limited; but if your Lordships are disposed to do so, it might be applied to counties alone; but I am perfectly ready to go further. It would, I am convinced, do away with a great amount of tumult, bribery, and disturbance, and I believe that with it the community at large might frankly and freely give their votes according to their consciences, inclinations, and opinions. I hold, therefore, that the principle might be beneficially extended both to counties and boroughs. With regard to the particular scheme of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) I am not prepared at once to give my assent to its details. In point of fact I have not been able to consider those details, and I should like to have an opportunity of comparing them with those which provided for the same object in the Bill of 1859. I know that in that Bill very great pains were taken to obviate every possible objection, to insure that there should be no doubt as to the authenticity of the signature, and to guard against fraud in every possible respect. There was even the obligation of transmitting the voting paper in a registered letter, which was no doubt 709 an insignificant check, but still it was a check upon persons desirous of availing themselves of the privilege. My Lords, if the question, as I understand it, be simply the adoption of the words that "any voter for a county or borough may, in compliance with the provisions hereinafter contained, give his vote by a voting paper instead of personally'," and if "the provisions hereinafter contained" are to be subjected to subsequent discussion—say on bringing up the Report—perhaps my noble Friend would be content to act upon that understanding—I am prepared to give my cordial support to the proposal, as I believe it would be eminently advantageous. It was rejected in the House of Commons by a comparatively small majority; but I do not believe that the question was brought before them in such a manner as to enable the House to have a full and dispassionate inquiry. Upon the whole the decision was taken very hastily, and I should not be sorry that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of again debating this proposal, of re-considering the judgment they have passed upon it, and of seeing whether it would not be possible to introduce into this great measure of Parliamentary Reform provisions equally beneficial to the voter and to the community at large.
EARL DE GREY
said, he was not surprised to find that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to support the Motion of the noble Marquess, because in doing so they would be acting in perfect consistency with the course they adopted both in the present year and in 1859. At the same time he confessed that he was somewhat surprised at the conclusion of the noble Earl's speech, from which it appeared that he and his Colleagues had not considered the details of the noble Marquess's scheme, though in substance it had been on the table of their Lordship's House for a considerable period. The noble Earl said he had not considered the details of a question which turned to a very great extent on details, and of which the general principle could not be adopted without the minutest attention to details. He hoped their Lordships would not take the same view of the matter, whatever their opinion might be as to the desirability of such a proposal, but that they would insist on having a definite scheme before them, whether it should be that of the noble Marquess or any other. The noble Marquess rested his first argument on the fact that this system of voting papers had been in force for some time in 710 the election of Poor Law Gardians, where it had worked satisfactorily, the noble Marquess never having heard any complaints. Now, he (Earl De Grey) was of a totally different opinion, for he had heard many complaints from different parts of the country as to the operation of the system, and he trusted that before the discussion closed the noble Earl at the head of the Poor Law Board (the Earl of Devon) would state what he knew of it. He was surprised that the noble Marquess should have offered that argument, because the scheme of the noble Marquess himself was much better, and therefore the argument derived from the election of Boards of Guardians was more likely to have a prejudicial effect on the proposal than to serve it. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) rested his case very much upon the precedent of the Universities; but there appeared to be the broadest possible distinction between the case of the Universities and that of counties and boroughs. He was not at all sure that the system of voting papers worked well, even in the Universities; but then it was quite clear that in the Universities there was a large body of non-resident voters, who were not open to corruption or undue influence of any kind. A very different state of things, however, existed in counties and boroughs. Then the noble Earl said that by the present Bill the system of voting papers was extended to the London University. Well, there was no constituency to which the system was more applicable than to the University of London, because, unlike Oxford or Cambridge, it had no resident members. But in the counties and boroughs you were dealing with a large body of residents and a small minority of nonresident voters. Their Lordships were told that by adopting this plan they would give facilities for voting to the infirm, the sick, and the absent. He (Earl De Grey) admitted this at once; but he ventured to think that, however desirable it was to afford such facilities, they ought not to be given if the door would be thereby opened to intimidation and bribery. Then the noble Earl said that the timid would be allowed the opportunity of voting without inconvenience, and that much of the turmoil and excitement of an election contest would be got rid of. Well, but only the other night the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) objected to the proposal of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), because he said it would introduce tameness 711 and take away all the spirit of an English election. Now, he did not think we need be at all afraid of this result, but if it came to pass at all it would be in consequence of such a proposal as that now before the House. No doubt these timid gentlemen were entitled to consideration; but he confessed that in their case, as in that of the sick and infirm, he did not think that for their benefit a system should be adopted which was open to serious objection on general grounds. As to the electors in counties who resided at a distance from the polling-places, the true remedy was an increase of polling-places. While this system would, of course, afford greater facilities to non-resident voters there, it would also increase, to a serious extent, the facilities for creating faggot votes, to be held by non-resident electors. For himself he should be sorry to see a large infusion of the non-resident element either into the counties or the boroughs. He heard with great surprise the statement of the noble Marquess, that this system would put an end to intimidation. Probably, the noble Marquess meant that his timid friends would then be able to vote without fear of being hooted at, or, perhaps, having a rotten egg thrown at them. But he did not think that serious disturbances were characteristic of English elections. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] At all events, while the noble Marquess was afraid of intimidation in this way, he was opening the door to intimidation of a much more subtle and serious character. The plan proposed by the noble Marquess was that the voter should sign a voting paper in the presence of a justice of the peace, and then it was to be at once transmitted to the returning officer. This scheme had been described by one of its warmest and ablest advocates, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne) as being a scheme for taking the poll into the magistrate's drawing-room. No doubt this was the effect of the scheme; but so far was he from thinking this an advantage, that it seemed to him to describe a most un-English and most undesirable state of things. The results could not possibly be good. Take the case of a magistrate who was a large landlord, a large employer of labour, or a large proprietor of houses. Such a man, if so inclined, had only to say to those over whom he had influence, "Come and sign your voting papers before me," and you would set up the most perfect machinery for individual intimidation which 712 could possibly be devised. He was happy to say that he was not one of those who believed that at the present time intimidation largely existed in this country; it had greatly diminished, and was, he hoped, rapidly passing away. But he could not conceive any scheme more calculated than this was to re-introduce intimidation. By the adoption of voting papers they would be placing strong temptations in the hands of men who were strong partizans to abuse their power. This plan, in fact, would have all the disadvantages of secret voting, without those advantages which, as the advocates of the ballot alleged, belonged to that system. But there was another mode in which this voting was to be taken. In case the elector was unknown to the magistrate, a third person, known to the magistrate, was to intervene; and this person would inevitably be an election agent. The voters, many of whom would require to be told how to fill up their voting papers, would be brought into close connection with the agent, who would then be able to exchange his £5 note for actual value received in the shape of a voting paper. At present, if money were paid before the vote was given, there was some doubt whether that vote would be given on the right side. On the other hand, if money were promised to be paid after the vote was given, there was no guarantee for its payment, and in this way a double check was maintained upon bribery. But the voting paper system introduced an absolute certainty, and the money might be paid secretly and quietly, and the voting paper transmitted through the post to the returning officers, without any one having the means of ascertaining what was going on. When bribery was conducted on a great scale under the existing system, as at Wakefield and Lancaster, it always became known; it was rumoured about that a stranger with a lot of money was staying at a certain inn and an inkling of what was going on was quickly obtained; and no great difficulty was found in tracing the offenders. But here the election agent had only to take the voters outside the town to some magistrate who knew the agent but not the voters, and then the £5 could easily be handed over in exchange for the vote without anybody being the wiser, and it would be almost impossible to discover or convict those who were guilty of bribery. There was another serious objection to this proposal. He himself was a justice of the peace, and 713 had the highest respect for his fellow-magistrates; but nothing was so likely to place them in a false position as to bring them directly into contact, as magistrates, with the machinery of an election. Almost all the magistrates were politicians and party men, and this proposal placed temptations in their way to which they ought not to be exposed, and also subjected them to attacks and criticisms upon their proceedings and upon the course they had pursued in respect to these voting papers, which, he thought, would tend much to lower their character and position as magistrates. This was true not only of county but borough magistrates; they were for the most part much more connected with cliques and parties, while their scruples might be less than those of the county magistrates. Thus you would open the door to a great amount of undue influence and intimidation, and you would weaken the authority of magistrates all over the country by exposing them to charges of this description. There was another objection entitled to considerable weight. The system of voting papers would afford the greatest possible facility for the creation of faggot votes in the counties. The 40s. freehold was a very low franchise, and it was very easy for persons to possess themselves of it, merely for the purpose of voting in counties with which they had no other connection. He did not object to those who had this franchise exercising their votes, but he did not think it desirable to encourage a class of voters, not otherwise connected with a county, and not likely to have its interests at heart. Under the present system practically a man could not give his vote in a large number of counties or boroughs, because at a General Election, when polls were going on simultaneously they could not go all over the kingdom for the purpose of recording their votes; but under the system now proposed to be established, great political associations—Conservative, Liberal, or Radical—might get a large number of votes in a great number of counties, and the voting papers might be sent out from the Carlton or the Reform Club, so as very seriously to affect the character of the elections, and greatly to interfere with the fair and just exercise of the right of voting by those who properly belong to the county. Another great objection to the system was the confusion and difficulty it would introduce into the conduct of elections. This was not a theory 714 of his own, but he had arrived at it from a study of the Amendment of the noble Marquess. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury said that the elections at the Universities had worked satisfactorily, but Sir Roundell Palmer, counsel to the University of Oxford, stated in "another place" that during the late election he was inundated with letters and telegrams upon various points of difficulty which arose out of the voting paper system. So under this clause all sorts of questions would be raised—some, perhaps, frivolous questions—by election agents at the poll, to be decided by the returning officer, who might not be the most competent person to decide them, and the result would be great confusion and difficulty. He was convinced this system would lead to all sorts of election dodges. For instance, when an election was running close, the close of the poll was near, and a candidate had a small majority, his agent would set to work to put all the questions allowed by law to electors, and delay their voting so as to keep his candidate at the head of the poll if possible. All kinds of wranglings might be got up as to the validity of a voting paper, and as to its being filled up in due and proper form, and he was confident that great practical inconvenience would result. If men who were members of the University of Oxford did not fill up voting papers in proper form, what would be the case when they had to be filled up by untrained men like many of those who would have the franchise under this Bill? It seemed to him that the arguments against this measure were more weighty than those in its favour. Above all he trusted they would not adopt an abstract general principle without knowing what were to be the details of the scheme. If he had succeeded in showing anything, he had shown how much depended upon details. He did not think the system was a good one under any circumstances; and it might be made almost infinitely bad if the details of the arrangement were imperfect. We were now arrived at the 2nd of August, and Monday, as we were reminded the other night, would be the 5th; and there would be some difficulty in settling the details of a new scheme in time to send the Bill down to the other House.
§ LORD CAIRNS
My Lords, most of the objections which the noble Earl who has just sat down, has urged against the scheme now before the House, have been stated before, and have been answered. The two 715 with which he concluded are really a fair specimen of the general character of the objections to this proposal and seem to give some degree of plausibility and soundness to arguments urged against the adoption of some scheme such as is now proposed. The noble Earl said that the greatest possible confusion would be introduced into elections by the system of voting papers, and he appealed to what took place at the University elections. Sir Roundell Palmer as counsel to the University of Oxford, was deluged during the continuance of the election for that University, with applications as to points of law which arose with regard to voting papers. I should have thought it a wonderful thing if, with a system entirely new, and never tried before, there had not been communications daily and hourly with counsel respecting the proper form of procedure. Has the noble Earl had no experience of an election for a borough or county, and had no opportunity of observing what points have to be settled by the counsel for one of the candidates or for the returning officer every hour of the day? With our regulated and well-known sytem of voting many questions arise which have to be decided on the spur of the moment; and your Lordships would not expect a system of voting by papers to be free from questions which would have to be dealt with by professional men as they arose. The noble Earl says that "dodges" and wrangles will be resorted to in order to delay the recording of votes, and he illustrated the point by narrating very truly what has often been observed, namely, that towards the close of a closely contested election the agents in their zeal will endeavour to occupy time by putting questions to voters with a view to delay them in giving their votes. But it so happens that a system of polling papers must be absolutely free from any wrangling of this kind. With personal polling, when a man comes up to give his vote, you must settle the questions which arise before the vote is accepted or refused, and you cannot pass them over; but if any objection be raised to a voting paper it can be just as well settled after the close of the poll, and not a second need be occupied in discussing the matter.
§ LORD CAIRNS
I will read that on this point, although I do not commit myself to the wording. 716Any candidate at an election may inspect any voting paper received by the returning officer and compare the same with the counterfoil before the vote contained therein is recorded, and may object to the same on the ground of its not being in conformity with this Act, and the returning officer may allow or disallow the objection so made as he thinks just.Is there a word in that which implies that this is to be done before the close of the poll? [Earl GRANVILLE: Before the voting paper is recorded.] But the voting paper is there, and the point can be discussed afterwards, and the poll proceeded with. Any question can just as well be discussed the next day as on the day of election. I say this is one of the merits of the system. I am quite willing to weigh every objection which can be urged against the plan of the noble Marquess, but it lies on those who oppose a system of this kind to show that there is some valid objection why it should not be adopted. Provided there are proper checks and safeguards to prevent fraud, you ought not to impose upon any voter that he should spend time and suffer trouble and anxiety in going to the poll when he states, as he would in any other matter of business, what is the vote he desires to record. I maintain that this is a proposition which so completely commends itself to one's reason that it ought to be accepted unless some tangible objection be brought against it. The first and greatest objection is that voting papers will tend to the creation of "faggot votes," the very name of which raises a certain amount of odium. There was a time when the creation of faggot votes was a very useful operation—when county constituencies were very small and a few votes would have greatly influenced the result of an election, and when persons would consequently be willing to go to the trouble, the expense, and the inconvenience of creating such votes; but if you have to deal with large county constituencies such as those which we at present have, and with the still larger ones as they will be created by this Bill, I venture to say that no person in his senses would undertake a work always so inconvenient and always attended with so much trouble and expense, especially when it is remembered that it is a game that can be just as well played by both parties. The idea, therefore, that the creation of faggot votes will be promoted by the adoption of voting papers is to my mind an idea which has no foundation to recommend it. It is next urged that the adoption of this plan will promote bribery, 717 and that it would be a very easy matter for a person wishing to bribe to hand over a £5 note in exchange for the voting paper. But how is bribery now carried on? Do the Reports of Commissioners appointed at various times to inquire into these matters show that the money is paid beforehand, and that bargains are made quietly across a table in a manner that can be traced and detected? From the experience which we can all have gained from records of matters of this kind we know that the payment is made afterwards; and the mode in which that payment is now detected is quite as likely to lead to a detection of bribery committed in the case of voting papers as it is to the discovery of these practices when committed with open voting at the polling-booth. As long as the practice itself is not checked or put an end to, I am afraid that bribery will be committed just as frequently under the present system as it would be if we adopted the proposal before your Lordships. Beyond, therefore, the dogmatic assertion that bribery can be managed better by means of voting papers than under the present system, we have nothing to show that bribery would be increased by the adoption of these clauses, or to prove that any person would undertake to make exchanges of £5 notes for these voting papers. But, says the noble Earl (Earl de Grey), a large landed proprietor could easily have recourse to intimidation, and induce his tenants to sign the paper in his drawing-room, and it could then be transmitted to the returning officer. But, my Lords, if any large landed proprietor or any one possessed of the power is desirous of intimidating those whom he can influence in that way, that intimidation can be resorted to just as easily under the present system. If he does not exercise it in one way he will in another; if he does not exercise it in his drawing-room he will outside. My noble Friend opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), in laying these clauses before your Lordships, referred to the case of voters who desired to avoid exposing themselves to the risk attending public disturbances, but, says the noble Earl opposite, our elections are perfectly free from annoyances of this kind.
§ LORD CAIRNS
Then I suppose I may take it that the noble Earl does acknowledge the existence of such disturbances. At all events, if we can trust the reports 718 that were furnished, there were some elections not very long ago which, to say the least, were characterized by an absence of tameness, while at others it would occasionally have been disagreeable to have intervened even as a spectator. Have we any right to compel a man who is prepared honestly and faithfully to record his vote to run the gauntlet of an infuriated mob or to submit to disfranchisement? I cannot understand the argument that a poor man must make his way to the poll through rotten eggs and brickbats in order to testify—if he survives — that he has sufficient public spirit to become a martyr, when necessary, to the welfare of the State. Now, my Lords, I wish to say a word or two on the subject of expenditure. Your Lordships are free to a considerable extent from considerations which influence persons in "another place" on that score; but still your Lordships cannot fail to have observed the increasing expenditure of the country in this direction. The House of Commons have thought it right to introduce a clause which prohibits the payment of the expenses of conveyance in boroughs, but it leaves the candidate practically to bear the expense of conveyance in counties. Now, I wish to know whether it is a desirable thing to continue an expenditure in this country on a scale which results in thousands being lavished in an election for a large constituency—an expenditure without which no man has a chance of success, and which has now been declared illegal. The noble Earl says that polling-places ought to be increased, but that course would also be attended with a large expenditure, while the present system could not be done away with unless you erect polling-places opposite men's doors. In no case, my Lords, are you likely, I apprehend, to sanction those expenses being thrown upon any general county fund. But the objection on this score to the present system does not apply merely to the case of the counties. Even in the case of boroughs of any considerable size voting oftentimes involves not merely trouble and occasionally danger, but frequently time and expense; and if the expenditure of time and money can be avoided by any legislation on our part, it is our duty to afford relief to the voters. I think that the objections urged by the noble Earl opposite, therefore, vanish into thin air when you come to consider the advantages which are to be obtained from a system such as that suggested by my noble Friend. But, 719 says the noble Earl (Earl de Grey), your clause will place the magistrates of this country in a very invidious position—it will bring them into contact with the electors and oblige them, whether they wish it or not, to interfere in political matters. That objection is one well worthy the consideration and attention of your Lordships' House, but it would lead, not to the rejection of the clause, but to the substitution of some other check instead of the magistrates. In 1859 it was proposed that the voting papers should be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who should be householders, and who should be bound to give their names and addresses. This, therefore, is a very simple matter, and if your Lordships think that the services of the magistrates ought not to be resorted to in the case of the voting papers, nothing would be easier than to recur to the provision suggested in 1859 — a provision which to my mind would be quite as effectual a cheek. As to the time of the year at which we have arrived, though I think that that was an extremely good reason why we should not proceed to investigate an entirely new system of re-distribution, I cannot see that it is any ground for the rejection of such a proposal as this, which I feel sure is well worth acceptance and trial at your Lordships' hands.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cairns) has stated with great perspicuity and force the arguments which may be urged in favour of this proposal; but when he says that we regard our present system of polling as one of the elements of our Constitution, I must say that I think that view is held by scarcely any noble Lord on this side of the House. The question before us is one which I think ought to be decided by full and fair argument; and I am perfectly willing to admit that there are certain advantages at first sight in favour of such a proposal as this. The noble and learned Lord said truly that one of its effects would be a diminution of election expenses. That cannot be denied; and I give him the full advantage of the argument. My Lords, to a certain extent also, but only to a certain extent, the use of voting papers may diminish risk and intimidation. I do not think we could hope that it would entirely put an end to them, because there would still be a large attendance of voters and non-electors at the polling-places, and the same influences that now operate would still prevail in causing 720 popular excitement. The noble and learned Lord rather ridiculed the idea of my noblo Friend (Earl de Grey), who alluded to the case of timid voters being obliged to run the gauntlet of being pelted with rotten eggs; and the noble and learned Lord asked, whether it was a part of our constitutional system that voters should be exposed to those outrages? Not only do I not hold it to be a part of our Constitutional system, but if any plan could be devised by which it would be put an end to I should be very glad, because I think it a disgrace to the country. The advantages to which I have referred might follow from the introduction of voting papers; but when you come to consider changes proposed in a system which has long been established, and which has been found to work well, you ought to see whether any advantages which those changes would bring about might not be overbalanced by disadvantages. The most objectionable practices in connection with elections are bribery and intimidation. Now, after listening to the noble and learned Lord, I cannot find that he has answered the arguments of my noble Friend on this head. The noble and learned Lord said, "Whatever you do, there will be bribery and intimidation." I admit it; but the question we have to consider is, whether voting papers would not afford greater facilities for bribery and intimidation? My noble Friend argued that they would; and I do not think the noble and learned Lord has answered that argument. At present, no doubt, bribery very often takes place after the election, because the payment is made then, the briber being assured that the vote has been given; but under the voting paper system he would have an assurance of the way the vote was to be given before it was recorded. It is obvious, therefore, that this system would facilitate bribery. Then, if we look at the machinery the noble Marquess proposes, it is not at all satisfactory. I apprehend that it would be very difficult to propose any machinery which would not be open to objection. At all events, we have not got such machinery in the plan before us. The agent of a candidate might see the voting paper after it had been attested, and even get possession of it; but whether he took it into his own custody or left it with the voter he would have an assurance as to the way in which the voter was going to vote. It appears to me that would be a great encouragement to bribery, and I think it would 721 also afford facilities for intimidation to landlords or employers, or any other parties who might exercise influence over voters. I may mention that I have heard from a very considerable number of gentlemen connected with Ireland that they have great apprehensions as to the introduction of voting papers leading to an increase of intimidation in that country. [A laugh.] A noble Lord laughs; but I venture to say that, with the priest on one side and the landlord on the other, scarcely a voter in the rural parts of that country would give an independent vote under the system of voting papers. I think that what my noble Friend (Earl do Grey) said as to the way in which objections might be taken to the voting papers is another point which has not been answered. One other argument against the system is the facility which it would afford for the manufacture of faggot votes. You may have clubs or societies which would make a practice of buying up 40s. freeholds for parties who would have no connection with the county, and the votes of these parties may, by means of voting papers, be sent in a mass to the polling-places. I would express a hope that your Lordships will not come to what I cannot but think would be a hasty conclusion in favour of this clause. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) admitted that there was some force in the objection to the employment of justices in attesting these voting papers; and he suggested, as a substitute for that part of the plan, attestation in the presence of two householders. But can the noble and learned Lord think that the selection at hazard of two householders would afford a proper security? The objections to which I have referred illustrate the exceeding difficulty of carrying out the scheme in a satisfactory manner; and therefore I hope your Lordships will hesitate to give it your approval.
LORD DE ROS
said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) who had just spoken had argued that the use of voting papers in Ireland would increase intimidation in that country. He was astonished that the noble Earl with his knowledge of Ireland should have used such an argument. He (Lord de Ros) begged to recall their Lordship's attention to what an Irish election was. In England the first step taken, preparatory to an election, was to withdraw all the troops from the place or confine them to their barracks. In Ireland, on the contrary, the first step 722 taken was to call out every soldier that could be had, not to act in aid of the civil power—because there was no such thing as civil law in an Irish election—but to replace it. The noble Earl stated that intimidation would be increased; but he (Lord de Ros) asked were not the aged, the infirm, and the timid voters to be considered, or were they still to go to the poll by a road which would probably have a horse pond at one side and a pile of stones at the other, while they would very likely see the protecting detachment of cavalry attacked by volleys of stones. He assured their Lordships that that was by no means an exaggerated statement of what took place at an Irish election. When it was urged that there was little or no question of intimidation in England, he begged to remind their Lordships of the recent disclosures at Sheffield, and of the intimidation practised by tailors nearer home. He believed that the proposal commended itself to their Lordships' approval.
§ LORD CLONCURRY
said, that the violence at Irish elections did not take its rise in the locality. There was an organized system of sending peripatetic mobs to Irish counties, in order to coerce the voters. There were certain well-known ringleaders of those organized mobs, and individuals such as Alderman John Reynolds, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Lane Joynt had great experience in their organization. To a great extent these mobs were drawn from a well-known body—the coalporters of Dublin. Before he had the honour of a seat in their Lordships' House, he was entitled to vote in two or three counties, and thus had personal experience of the way in which these matters were carried on. Upon one occasion, some years ago, in the county of Limerick, a personal friend of his—the late Wyndham Goold—was a candidate, and was opposed by a notorious person named Ryan, a miller, who stood on what virtually were Riband, though he called them Repeal, principles. The right-hand man of Mr. Ryan, his gutter-agent in fact, was the same Mr. Lane Joynt who had recently been made Justice of the Peace, and Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Dublin. On that occasion part of Mr. Lane Joynt's tactics, he being the manager of the election, consisted of delay. Some of the coalporters, he believed had not come down in time, and hence the great thing was by delay to hinder as many persons as possible from recording their votes for Mr. Goold. Accordingly, the 723 bribery oath was tendered to all the respectable voters who came to the poll. This, their Lordships might not be aware, was a lengthy proceeding. To read out the bribery oath occupied from five to six minutes, and if the person reading it had any inducement to read slowly, ten minutes could easily be consumed in the process. The bribery oath was tendered to him and to others, who naturally felt with him that it was a deliberate insult. Being compelled in this manner to stand in the polling-booth longer than he would otherwise have done, he had the opportunity of watching the action of Mr. Lane Joynt, at whose instance the oath was administered. In the case of every frieze-coated voter who came to the poll, and who would not submit to his dictation, or to that of the coalporters and mobbites, he saw Mr. Lane Joynt give a nod towards the voter as he left the booth, indicating that something was to be done to him, and thereupon his right-hand man, Cullen, with a piece of chalk marked a cross upon the back of the frieze-coated voter. There was an old man named George Boyle in whom he felt an interest, and as this man was going out of the court he saw Cullen put the mark upon him. He knew at once what that meant—it was a signal to the mob outside to waylay and beat him. Having an interest in the old man, and wishing to protect him, he ran out of the court, and saw Boyle going up the street and Cullen following him. He lost sight of them at a corner about 200 yards from the court-house, and when he reached the spot he saw Cullen pounding the poor old man against the curbstone. He rushed at Cullen and collared him, threatening to inform the police and have him put into gaol for so gross an outrage. Cullen turned round upon him, and tried to push him down; but he found that was not so easy to be done. So he asked, "Are you a policeman? Do you belong to Limerick?" And while he was in the act of explaining that, whether he was a policeman or not, he would not allow such outrageous violence to take place, a friend came up—who could corroborate what he had now stated to their Lordships—and said, "Every man is a policeman when the peace is broken;" whereon the Dublin coalporter slunk off—for, happily, there were in Ireland some persons who did entertain that opinion. From that short narrative their Lordships might infer how elections were carried on in Ireland. He was convinced that a very 724 large proportion of the Irish Members now occupying seats in Parliament would never have been returned if local feelings, local interests, and local wishes had been exclusively consulted.
§ THE DUKE OF CLEVELAND
said, that the amusing speech their Lordships had just heard was really a little wide of the question, inasmuch as the present Bill did not apply in any way to Ireland, and though, no doubt, the principle of voting papers if adopted for England might be extended hereafter to Ireland; it was not then necessary for their Lordships to consider what might be the effect of the Amendment on the state of intimidation in that country. It was quite true, as had been stated by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) that the expenditure at county elections had been excessive, and hence any measure which would have for its object to reduce that expenditure ought to receive the support of the Legislature. One great source of expenditure it would certainly obviate—that incurred in bringing non-resident voters into the county in order to give their votes. It would also save the time and trouble of the voter; and their Lordships should remember that all voters in every constituency should have the power of recording their votes without inconvenience. It was said that if polling-places were multiplied, much of the expenditure and inconvenience of county elections would be avoided. But it must be borne in mind that it was impossible to multiply polling-places without increasing the cost of the staff in attendance at those polling-places. There must be agents to look after the voters, and those agents must be paid by somebody. On the other hand, there could be no doubt that by the use of voting papers the influence of agents over the scattered voters would be very much diminished. As to the question of intimidation, he did not believe that this species of influence, which was happily on the decline of late years, could be in any way increased by voting papers. In the counties there was very little bribery, though there might be some intimidation; but the influence of landlords over their tenants was a species of pressure which it would be difficult to remove by the use of voting papers. The adoption of that system would certainly enable persons infirm, or of retired habits, who now were unable to give their votes, to exercise the franchise. Many would fill up their papers in due form and send them in who shrank in 725 person from the turmoil of an election. When we were about so largely to increase the constituencies of the kingdom, it certainly seemed but reasonable that facilities for recording their votes should be afforded to all who were desirous of doing so. He thought it was of essential importance at the present moment, when the constituencies were to be so much enlarged, that the principle of that proposal should be affirmed, and for that reason he should give his vote for that principle, reserving his opinion on points of detail connected with the safest and most effectual means of carrying it out.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
My Lords, I think that the advantages which would result from the use of voting papers—the advantages as regards both the limitation of expense, and the reduction of intimidation, if not, indeed, also as regards the reduction of bribery—are advantages that are not denied on either side of the House. The only question really at issue is this—whether the objections to the proposal of my noble Friend below me (the Marquess of Salisbury) are not greater than the advantages which would result from its adoption; and I thought that point was very fairly and temperately stated by my noble Friend on the front Bench opposite (Earl de Grey)? It appears to me that the objections to the proposal of my noble Friend below me really resolve themselves into two, for in all these cases it is as fair as it is desirable to argue from experience and what we know. Now this procedure by voting papers has been tried under two systems—and only under two, as far as I know—namely, first of all in the Universities, and, secondly, under the Poor Law. The objection which has been made, and which was taken by my noble Friend opposite to the University system, was, I think a very fair objection in many respects. He stated, and truly stated, that at the last election for Oxford University, Sir Roundell Palmer was overwhelmed with legal questions which arose in regard to the use of these voting papers. But if I remember rightly, the point on which almost all these questions at the University election arose out of the proxy system, which is in force under the University Act, and the main point on which they hinged was the personal acquaintance with the voter which was to be vouched for by the proxy. I have always thought, and I expressed my opinion when the Bill was passing through Parliament that that was a very unfortunate 726 provision, to introduce into that Act, and I believe that experience has shown that it has given rise to an infinity of legal difficulties. But the House will observe that this objection does not apply in the smallest degree to the proposition now before the House. There is no proxy who is to take a part in the matter under the scheme of voting papers which is proposed by my noble Friend. The voting papers will go direct to the returning officer and will be recorded by him. Therefore I think that this disposes of one great class of objections which has been urged. But there is a second class, of objections which may be fairly brought forward from the experience of the Poor Law system, and I think that these clearly resolve themselves into this—that the voting papers, after having been signed and attested, as my noble Friend proposes, are left in the hands of the voters; and, that it constantly happens under the Poor Law system, that, for various purposes, these papers are collected by agents, whose business it is to collect them, or are forged or tampered with, thus leading to great fraud and abuse. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, if my noble Friend's Amendments are carried precisely as they are at present framed, there would be an opening for fraud in this particular direction. But I would venture to suggest to him this Amendment—that when the elector goes before the magistrate, and the magistrate there and then receives his signature to the paper, and attests it, from that moment the paper should not pass back into the voter's hand, but should be forwarded direct from the magistrate to the returning officer to be applied by him on the polling day. This, it seems to me, would be an effectual answer to all the objections which have been urged on this particular point, derived from the experience of the election of the Poor Law Guardian, and would completely close the door against anything like the fraud, the tampering, or the mere trafficking in these votes which might otherwise occur. There have indeed been objections raised as to the facilities which this plan would give to the manufacture of faggot votes, and to personation. I think these objections were answered by my noble and learned Friend below me (Lord Cairns). I go so far as to admit that there might possibly be some facilities given under this Amendment to the creation of faggot votes and to personation; 727 but it would only be in the same proportion relatively to the increase of these enormous constituencies, and just as you add to those constituencies so will such facilities arise. But I do not see that in any other sense this proposal will increase those facilities. I wish also to point out another answer to the argument frequently used with respect to bribery. We know very well that bribery mainly takes place during the last hours of an election, when the price of votes rises to an almost incalculable value, because towards the close of the poll a very few votes may possibly decide the election. But if a considerable proportion of votes have been tendered by means of voting papers, no one can tell with any certainly what the real state of the poll is, and it will become far more difficult, as it seems to me, for such an impure traffic as often now exists to go on. Therefore, in this point of view, I think that the use of voting papers is an influence that directly neutralizes bribery in that most critical period of the election when it is most rife. Those, in a few words, are the answers to some of the main objections urged on the other side of the House. I will only say this further—that you are now dealing with a very altered state of circumstances, You will have enormous constituencies to deal with. Take the case of Leeds, where, if I mistake not, you raise the number of electors there from 7,000 or 8,000 to some 27,000 or 28,000; or, of Dundee, where you raise the number from 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 to some 24,000 or 25,000. Under these circumstances a personal canvass becomes absolutely impossible, and personal voting becomes very difficult. It is therefore only reasonable that Parliament should give every facility that can be afforded for the due registration and transmission of votes. The evidence adduced, in regard to personal voting and the voting by voting papers in the case of Vestries and Guardians of the Poor, before the Select Committee of this House which sat seven or eight years ago, and of which my noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) was the Chairman, all showed that just in proportion as you multiply your constituencies, so you must give them some facilities of this kind to record their opinions. There appears to be an impression on the part of some of my noble Friends opposite that the use of voting papers for party purposes would be rather more favourable to this side of the House than to the other. I do not believe there 728 is a more unfounded opinion than that. I believe this proposal would be valuable—as has been already pointed out—in the interest of property and of education, of age, infirmity, and sickness, and finally to those who are too timid to go in person to the poll; but I do not believe it would produce the smallest effect as regards the balance of political power. And I can say this, not on my own authority, but on that of a gentleman than whom there can be no better authority in this country—I mean the Secretary to the Liberal Association for the City of London—I remember that in the evidence which he gave before the Committee to which I have referred he urged most strongly upon the Committee the great importance at Parliamentary elections of allowing voting papers to be used. It is impossible to have a more trustworthy or, I believe, a more intelligent opinion than that of Mr. Sidney Smith on such a point. I do not believe that this Amendment would operate in any party sense. If I thought it would do so I should certainly decline to vote for it; but, believing that it will be beneficial to all classes, all parties, and all interests in this country, I shall heartily and readily give it my support.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble Earl who has just sat down must, I think, have imperfectly heard the observations of noble Lords on this side of the House. Neither of those two noble Lords said that the system of voting papers would tend to diminish corruption, or that it would be more favourable in its operation to one party than the other.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he had only stated generally that there appeared to be an impression on the minds of noble Lords on the other side of the House that the system of voting papers would operate more favourably on the one side than the other.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I have troubled your Lordships so often in the course of these debates that I will only offer a few-observations. I object to this abstract principle altogether, and I understand that it is only on the abstract principle of the Motion that we are called upon to vote on this occasion. Three sentences will express all that I desire to say against this proposal. I object to it because it greatly tends, notwithstanding the Regulations proposed, to increase the tendency to personation. I object to it in the next place because it will greatly aggravate the practice 729 of bribery, by making it safe. I object to it in the third place because it will have a tendency to increase very greatly the practice of intimidation. I observe that the noble Earl opposite smiles at my enumeration of these reasons. I need not mention the person who first used them; but I will not quote the author for fear of being charged with that personal recrimination which has so much prevailed during these debates, or having some other hard word hurled at my head. They are, however, pregnant and comprehensive, and they include within themselves the real objections to these proposals. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) was inclined to deny the tendency of voting papers to increase bribery, but I think it would have that effect, because it would render bribery more safe. It is alleged that we never hear of money being given before an election; but that is exactly why this system will increase bribery to such an extent—by rendering such corrupt transactions more easy and practicable. My noble Friend (Earl de Grey) has objected to the scheme because it will tend to great confusion at elections and delay at the close. Now, one of the greatest improvements made by the Reform Bill was the abolition of the practice of employing counsel at an immense expense on the hustings. At present, all that is asked of the voter is, "Who are you?" "Are you the same person?" and "Have you voted before?" But by the scheme of the noble Marquess it is proposed that before the vote is recorded any candidate, or his agent, may inspect the voting papers, compare them with the counterfoils, and object to them on certain specified grounds. The parties must consequently be entitled to employ counsel for these purposes; and let your Lordships imagine the effect of such pleading at an election for Birmingham, and say whether it will not cause confusion, and delay the close of an election. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) says that the Government have not had time to consider this question, but that they will probably be able to make a great improvement in the details. I think, however, the clause so objectionable for the reasons I have given, and I am so certain that it will lead to the adoption of the ballot, that I shall object to the clause on the abstract principle. It is very hard upon those noble Lords who may be wavering in opinion, and who wish to consider how the plan may be carried out, that they should be called 730 upon to vote "Content" or "Not-Content," to the proposition, when they are told that the details of the plan upon which so much depends, have yet to be thought over and considered by the Government, and they are therefore quite uncertain what shape the details and regulations of the scheme will ultimately assume.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, the Bill proposed largely to increase the number of electors. It had been shewn from statistics in a recent article in the Edinburgh Review that in twelve boroughs containing the largest constituencies, and together comprehending 130,000 electors, less than 55 per cent voted at the then last election—that was to say one-half of the constituencies practically disfranchised themselves. Whereas, from his experience of the Poor Law Board he could state that the system of voting papers at elections for Boards of Guardians, even conducted in the unsatisfactory manner they were, at a cost so small as to prevent the adoption of the most obvious and not very expensive precautions against abuse and fraud, had greatly increased the number of votes. At the election for Guardians for St. Pancras, for instance, the votes had been more than doubled by the adoption of polling-papers. If, therefore, the object of their Lordships was really to enfranchise as large a number of persons as possible, he maintained that, after allowing a margin for a certain amount of personation consequent upon the use of voting papers, the adoption of the system would yet afford a much juster representation to constituencies than existed under the present system.
§ On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 114; Not-Contents 36: Majority 78.732
|Cambridge, D.||Bathurst, E.|
|Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Bradford, E.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Carnarvon, E.|
|Cleveland, D.||Dartmouth, E.|
|Marlborough, D.||Derby, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Devon, E.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Exeter, M.||Effingham, E.|
|Salisbury, M. [Teller.]||Eldon, E.|
|Westminster, M.||Ellenborough, E.|
|Abergavenny, E.||Fortescue, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Clinton, L.|
|Grey, E.||Colonsay, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Colville of Culross, L.|
|Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire.)||Congleton, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Delamere, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Denman, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||De Ros, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||De Saumarez, L.|
|Morton, E.||Digby, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Dunsandle and Clanconal, L.|
|Powis, E.||Egerton, L.|
|Romney, E. [Teller.]||Feversham, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Stanhope, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Stradbroke, E.||Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)|
|Verulam, E.||Hatherton, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Heytesbury, L.|
|De Vesci, V.||Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Exmouth, V.||Lyttelton, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Melville, V.||Northwick, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Overstone, L.|
|Stratford de Redcliffe, V.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Strathallan, V.||Raglan, L.|
|Templetown, V.||Redesdale, L.|
|Carlisle, Bp.||Rivers, L.|
|Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.||Saltoun, L.|
|Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Bagot, L.||Sondes, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Cairns, L.||Strathnairn, L.|
|Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)||Templemore, L.|
|Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Walsingham, L.|
|Churston, L.||Wharncliffe, L.|
|Clarina, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Wynford, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Belper, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|De Grey, E.|
|Granville, E.||Camoys, L.|
|Kimberley, E. [Teller.]||Clermont, L.|
|Minto, E.||Cranworth, L.|
|Morley, E.||Foley, L. [Teller.]|
|Portsmouth, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Spencer, E.||Houghton, L.|
|Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Bolingbroke and St. John, V.|
|Halifax, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Monson, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Mostyn, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Romilly, L.||Taunton, L.|
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
THE MAUQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that he proposed to read the clause, pro formâ, and to defer the consideration of the details until the Report.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had entirely misunderstood the course suggested. The noble Earl had condemned in strong terms the conduct of the Government in dealing with this clause, as if these Regulations had been proposed by the Government. But the proposition did not arise from the Government. The Government were prepared to go on with the consideration of the Regulations at once, and they merely suggested delay because they gathered from some remarks which had been made that their Lordships were not prepared now to enter upon the discussion of the details.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he did not think his complaint at all an unreasonable one. Their Lordships were entitled to know what course the Government intended to pursue with regard to the Regulations.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that the Government were ready to express their opinions upon the Regulations proposed by the noble Marquess, and they had only suggested that the discussion should be taken upon the Report, because they thought that would be for the convenience of the House. He was unable to understand on what ground the Government was attacked.
said, that if the consideration of the clause was adjourned till the Report, there would be no opportunity of re-considering the Amendments that might be introduced, except at the last stage of the Bill, and he was convinced that unless they were extremely careful in settling the details serious difficulties would result. He must express his extreme surprise that the Government seemed so little disposed to assist the House in the matter. It seemed to him that when the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had made up his mind to recommend the House to adopt the scheme, the 733 Government ought also to have been prepared to go at once into a careful consideration of the details in Committee; for the Regulations proposed by the noble Marquess had been on the table some days. Their Lordships had a right to complain of the conduct of the Government, that they should now be unprepared to state what course it would be advisable in their opinion, to adopt in the settlement of the details of the clause. It would be extremely difficult to discuss these points properly in Committee without such assistance from the Government; but he should be prepared to do this if it was necessary.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he was extremely obliged to the noble Earl for his advice, but could not concur in the view he had taken. This was not a question brought forward by the Government. The clause of the noble Marquess embodied a principle to which the Government had given their support in the other House. It was not accepted by the other House; and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) had brought forward the question as an Amendment, and had given notice of Regulations for carrying out the principle. He (the Earl of Derby) was asked somewhat irregularly, before they had heard the objections to the proposal of the noble Marquess, whether he assented to the proposal or not, and his answer was that he accepted it in substance, and should be ready at any time to discuss the particular details which the noble Marquess sought to introduce. They had given a general assent to the proposal of the noble Marquess; but, because they were not prepared at once to enter into every detail, they were told they failed in their duty to the House.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
said, as far as his experience went, he never saw a Government conduct a Bill in such a way. His noble Friend near him (Earl Granville) very naturally asked what the Government had to say to the Amendments moved in their own Bill. The noble Earl at the head of the Government had said with respect to the Amendment of the noble Marquess that he was prepared to assent ex animo to the proposal in principle, but that he had not had time to consider the details, and he would like, before the Report, to see how the scheme should be carried out. That showed that the Government, not having made up their minds, wished for time to consider how the principle might be carried into effect.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that he was quite prepared to go on now; or to have the clauses now read pro formâ and discussed afterwards on the Report.
§ LORD CAIRNS
said, he was not quite sure that he understood what noble Lords opposite desired. What he was anxious about was that they should not do anything which was likely to be misunderstood by Members of the Committee who were present a short time since, but had left the House under the full impression that the course to be adopted was this—that these clauses were to remain in print until the Report, and that upon the Report the Government were to give a distinct expression of their views on the details of the plan, and the Members of the House to have an opportunity of stating their opinions upon those details. If they went through the clauses now, they must either do so pro formâ, and then no serious attention would be given to them; and if they went through them step by step that would not be consistent with the understanding upon which many noble Lords had left the House. His opinion was that they would be all better prepared to discuss the clauses on the Report.
EARL DE GREY
said, he did not think that any such understanding had been come to. He and other noble Lords had stated that they hoped their Lordships would not take that course, and they on that side were no parties to any such understanding. The Committee was the proper place for dealing with questions of detail, and it was the business of every noble Lord, and especially of the Government, to give their opinions upon the details of all clauses proposed in Committee, and not to hand them over to the House to be dealt with at a later period.
§ LORD ROMILLY
said, that, after the decision which had been come to, it was the duty of both sides to endeavour to carry this scheme into execution, and he felt satisfied that they were disposed to do so. He did not quite understand what was meant by passing the clauses pro formâ. He agreed with the suggestion that they should not pass these clauses at all; but that they should be printed for the purpose of being introduced upon the Report or upon the re-commitment of the Bill, after they had received the consideration of Her Majesty's Government.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
suggested that they should rest satisfied with the clause 735 which had been adopted, and postpone the consideration of the rest.
§ This course agreed to.
§ Clauses 28 to 32 inclusive agreed to, with Amendments.
§ Clause 33 (Payment of Expenses of Conveying Voters to the Poll illegal).
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, that the clause prohibited the payment of expenses for conveying voters to the poll, and enacted that—If any such Candidate, or any Person on his behalf, shall pay any money on account of the Conveyance of any Voter to the Poll, such Payment shall be deemed to be an illegal Payment within the meaning of 'The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854.'He wished to know what was the penalty attaching to such payment under the Act in question, and whether it would vitiate the election? It could not have been meant that any person acting on behalf of the candidate, and making such a payment, should vitiate the election, and he should, therefore, suggest to insert after the words any other person "with his privity" or on his behalf.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that if there was a case of bribery, and the payment constituting it was made with the consent of the sitting Member, he would be liable to the penalties provided in the Act.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that the offender must not only represent himself as acting on behalf of the sitting Member, but must be acting on his behalf and must have authority so to act, or his act must be afterwards recognized.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
asked, whether there would be any objection to add the words he had suggested?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
thought it better not to add them, as they would only create a doubt where none existed.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 34, 35, 36 agreed to.
§ Clause 37 (Receipt of Parochial Relief).
§ THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
moved an Amendment—And the Overseers of every Parish shall omit from the Lists made out by them of Persons entitled to Vote for the County and Borough in which such Parish is situate, the Names of all Persons who have received Parochial Relief within Twelve Calendar Months next previous to the last Day of July in the Year in which the List is made out.The noble Earl stated that they were able to do so easily, because under a recent 736 regulation of the Poor Law Board a list of those who had received relief was supplied half-yearly to overseers. The Reform Act did not require this of the overseers, but merely said that those who had been in receipt of relief should not be registered.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
said, hat what the noble Earl had stated was correct, and accepted the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed, to.
§ Clauses 38 to 42, which regulate the Election in the University of London,
§ THE EARL OF POWIS
moved an Amendment for the purpose of assimilating the elections to those for the other Universities by enabling the poll to be kept open for five days instead of three days, by excepting Ascension Day as well as Sunday, Christmas Day, and Good Friday, by allowing the poll to be kept open later than four o'clock in the afternoon, and by investing the Vice Chancellor with discretion to open three polling-places instead of one.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, it was important the provisions as to elections should be the same at all the Universities, and, though he would rather have reduced the number of days from five to three for the other Universities than have raised those for London from three to five, he would, for the sake of uniformity, accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 43 (Residence for Electors of the City of London extended to twenty-five miles).
§ LORD CAIRNS
said, that the clause as originally proposed by the hon. Member for the City (Mr. Crawford) was slightly different from the clause in its present form. By the old Reform Bill the franchise in London was given to occupiers and freemen who were liverymen residing within seven miles of the City. It was, however, evident that, from the alterations which had taken place of late years in habits of residence, the area must be considerably enlarged, or a great number of these voters would be disfranchised. Mr. Crawford proposed a clause extending the area to twenty-five miles; but the House, apparently under a misapprehension, believing that it was intended to refer to freemen generally—a body upon whom 737 they did not look with much favour—struck out that portion referring to the freemen who were liverymen, adopting the remainder, which related to the occupiers. Now, these liverymen were an important class, and had paid heavy fees on joining the guilds to which they belonged, corporations which possessed large property in London, and whose interests would remain unrepresented unless their members were allowed to vote. He therefore proposed the restoration of the words struck out by the other House.
§ Amendment agreed to; words inserted.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 44 and 45 amended and agreed to.
§ Clause 46 (Corrupt Payment of Rates to be punishable as Bribery).
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
moved the omission of the word "corruptly," as a limitation which might possibly lead to the defeat of the object they had in view.
§ LORD CAIRNS
remarked, that if the word "corruptly" were left out a man paying his rate through his agent would be liable to disfranchisement. He suggested the insertion of the words "otherwise than of the proper monies of such voter."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Word "corruptly" struck out.
§ On Question That the Clause as amended stand Part of the Bill?
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that with the view of guarding against such a case as that suggested by Lord Cairns it would be necessary to substitute some word for the word "corruptly."
§ After some conversation, it was agreed to postpone the consideration of the word to be inserted to the Report.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
EARL DE GREY
proposed to insert a clause after Clause 46, which, he said, was rendered additionally necessary by the recent decision of their Lordships with regard to voting papers—(Returning Officer, &c., acting as Agent, guilty of Misdemeanour.)No Returning Officer for any County or Borough, nor his Deputy, nor any Partner or Clerk of either of them, shall act as Agent for any Candidate in the Management or Conduct of his Election as a Member to serve in Parliament for such County or Borough; and if any Returning Officer, his Deputy, the Partner or Clerk of either of them shall so act, he shall be guilty of a Misdemeanour."—(Earl De Grey.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.738
§ EARL STANHOPE
proposed to insert after Clause 46 a clause of which he had given notice. It had reference to the existing limitation of the duration of Parliament at the demise of the Crown. Blackstone, in his Commentaries, said—The dissolution formerly happened immediately upon the death of the reigning Sovereign, for he being considered in law as the head of the Parliament (caput, principium, et finis) that failing, the whole body was held to be extinct.It appears, then, that our ancient lawyers did not value this provision from any supposed Constitutional advantage, but only from a fanciful analogy between a living creature and the body politic. As a creature cannot continue to live when deprived of its head, so it was argued must a Parliament cease and determine when the Sovereign is no more. Soon after the Revolution, however, there was a change in the law. The Act 7 & 8 Will. III., c. 15, continued the existence of Parliament for a term not exceeding six months from the demise of the Crown; but that Act being embodied in the subsequent Act of Queen Anne had been superseded by it, and was now among the statutes repealed. The 6 Anne, c. 7, was "An Act for the security of Her Majesty's person and Government, and of the succession to the Crown of Great Britain in the Protestant line." Clause 4 of that Act provided that the existing Parliament at the demise of the Crown, might continue "for and during the term of six months and no longer." Such a provision might give rise to considerable inconvenience and detriment to the public weal, and he thought it required alteration. What, he proposed was to make the dissolution under such circumstances permissive, not compulsory, leaving it to the option of the Ministry to dissolve the Parliament or to continue it to the time when it naturally expired. It might be desirable to have a new Parliament; but, on the other hand, if they took the case of a new Sovereign who wished to retain the Ministers in office at the time of the accession, and to pursue exactly the same policy as his predecessor, inconvenience might arise from the dissolution which the existing statute made obligatory. He thought he could quote several instances of inconvenience having resulted from the existing law; but he would confine himself to citing one. In 1818 there was a General Election, and the new House of Commons worked in perfect harmony with the Ministers of the day, and, in 739 accordance also, he might add, with what seemed to be the feeling of the country. That Parliament sat till 1820, and in all probability would have sat for four years longer but for the decease of the Sovereign. King George III., as was well known, had long ceased to take an active part in the affairs of the State, as was sufficiently shown by the appointment of a Regent. Nevertheless, at great inconvenience and with loud complaints on all sides, Parliament was unavoidably, and without any possible alternative, dissolved. He need not trouble their Lordships with any further illustrations; there could be no stronger instance than the one he had just alleged, and he had now, he thought, sufficiently indicated the object which he had in view. He did not propose in any degree to limit the Prerogative of the Crown, the exercise of which would, as in other cases, be optional upon the recommendation of Ministers. But he believed the proposal to render the measure optional instead of compulsory was one that had in its favour plain practical advantages, and he therefore ventured to recommend it to their Lordships.
Moved, after Clause 46, to insert the following Clause:—
(Demise of the Crown not to dissolve) Parliament.)
Whereas great Inconvenience may arise from the Enactments now in force limiting the Duration of the Parliament in being at the Demise of the Crown: Be it therefore enacted that the Parliament in being at any future Demise of the Crown shall not be determined or dissolved by such Demise, but shall continue so long as it would have continued but for such Demise, unless it should be sooner prorogued or dissolved by the Crown, anything in the Act passed in the Sixth Year of Her late Majesty Queen Anne, Chapter Seven in any way notwithstanding."—(The Earl Stanhope.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
If I am called on suddenly to give an opinion upon the Motion submitted by the noble Earl, I should certainly say that it has considerable advantages in its favour, and, for my own part, that I do not perceive any disadvantages in the way of accepting the proposal which he has made. At the same time, as the question raised is one of a Constitutional character, it is one upon which I should be unwilling in the name of my Colleagues to pronounce a hasty assent. On the whole, I am disposed to believe that the advantages of the proposal overbalance any theoretical objections which might be raised against it. But I would 740 ask the noble Earl himself whether, as the point at issue is one of Constitutional moment, he does not think that it is one hardly fitting to be introduced into a Bill which professes to deal with the Reform of Parliament only. If my noble Friend, on reflection, is disposed to press this clause with a view of submitting it in the present Bill for the consideration of the House of Commons, I certainly shall not think it my duty to throw any obstacles in the way. At the same time I invite him to consider whether, as the subject is not very closely connected with the provisions of the Bill, and as it is one which the House of Commons will no doubt wish carefully to consider, it might not be desirable to withdraw the clause at present, with a view of embodying it hereafter in a separate Bill.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
thought that the clause proposed was at least as germane to the present Bill as it would be to any other. Its subject-matter was intimately connected with the Representation of the People.
said, the Septennial Act (1716) had originated in their Lordships' House, and it was very desirable to make this clause part of the present Bill.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, the advantages of the clause seemed to be clear and manifest, and he thought the present peculiarly a time for introducing improvements in the constitutional forms relating to the Representation of the People. He was not at all willing to give up the present opportunity on the chance of effecting the same object by means of a separate Bill. He hoped, therefore, his noble Friend at the head of the Government would forgive him, under these circumstances, for not acceeding to his suggestion.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
said, he rose to propose to substitute for Clause 47 of the Bill a clause which, instead of merely allowing Members to be transferred from one office to another without vacating their seats, would do away with the necessity for re-election in all cases of Members of Parliament accepting any office under the Crown now tenable by law with a seat in the House of Commons. When the Reform Bill of 1832 was in progress, the expediency of making this change in the law had been considered by the Government of that day. He could not say whether the question had been formally brought before 741 the Cabinet; but he could assert from his own distinct recollection that it had been seriously considered at that time by the leading Ministers in the two Houses of Parliament,—that they had been convinced of its being most desirable to alter the law in the manner he now recommended, and only abstained from advising Parliament to do so because they were of opinion that, in the face of an opposition so bitter and so powerful as that with which they had to contend, it was inexpedient to make any proposal which was not absolutely necessary, and would afford a plausible handle for attack. On this ground, and on this ground only, it was determined in 1832 to abstain from attempting to introduce into the Reform Act a provision to the same effect as that which he now proposed, though it was anticipated that much inconvenience would result from its absence in the altered circumstances that would arise from that measure. Experience had shown that inconvenience to have been even greater than was anticipated. Before the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, a large number of seats were at the absolute disposal of the Government for the time being; no difficulty therefore could arise as to bringing any Member of the Administration into the House of Commons, nor could serious inconvenience be caused by the failure of any person appointed to office to secure his re-election. But, since 1832, the case had been greatly altered; and it must be well known to all who were acquainted with the political events of the last few years that the existing law on this point had produced much inconvenience. Cases, were known to him, and, he had no doubt, to the noble Earl opposite, in which appointments that would have been greatly for the public advantage had been prevented, because it had been found that the re-election of persons on whom it was desired to confer offices under the Crown could not be reckoned upon. Other cases had arisen in which persons who had been brought into the Government had failed to get re-elected, and other seats had to be found for them by arrangements open to no slight objection. These difficulties would be increased by the change which was about to be made in the constitution of the House of Commons by this Bill. In his opinion, it would be highly desirable to give to the Crown facilities for filling the great offices in the State with the best men that could be found for them without depending for seats for them on the caprice 742 of particular electoral bodies. But, if they were not prepared to go so far as this, they ought, at all events, to avoid throwing needless difficulties in the way of making a good selection of persons to hold these offices, by repealing the law which made the accepting them vacate the seats of those on whom they were conferred. An additional reason for doing this was afforded by the Motion carried a few evenings ago by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns)—indeed, this arrangement was almost a necessary consequence of the clause which that noble Lord had introduced into the Bill, because a Member elected by the minority of what had been called a three-cornered constituency would almost inevitably lose his seat if required to offer himself for re-election; all such Members, therefore, would be almost debarred from office without the clause he proposed. The existing law was moreover inconsistent in itself, and would be rendered still more so by the clause as it stood in the Bill. What could be more inconsistent or absurd than the law which made the acceptance of office by a junior Lord of the Treasury or Admiralty vacate the seat of a Member of the House of Commons, while no such consequence followed from his accepting the much more important and more lucrative office of Secretary to one of these Boards, or of Under Secretary of State? Within the last few days they had virtually put an end to the necessity of re-election, with regard to one office, by abolishing the office of Vice President of the Board of Trade, and instituting for it a new Under Secretary. The offices of Secretary to the Government Boards and of Under Secretary of State did not vacate the seats of those who were appointed to them, because owing to the form of the appointment they were not considered to be offices under the Crown in a technical sense, but there was no real distinction between these and other political offices, either in their character or in the tenure by which they were held; it was absurd therefore to apply a different rule to these two classes of offices, with respect to the vacating of seats by their acceptance. But the clause as it stood in the Bill would actually make the absurdity greater than at present. It provided that the seat of a person appointed to one of the offices enumerated in the Schedule should not be vacated if at the time the appointment took place he held another of these offices. Now, the Schedule 743 referred to did not, of course, include the offices which might by the existing law be accepted without vacating a seat in the House of Commons. This absurd consequence would therefore follow from the enactment they were asked to pass: if a Member of the other House, holding the office of a junior Lord of the Treasury, were suddenly promoted to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would not incur the necessity of going to his constituents for re-election; but if his promotion were somewhat less rapid, if he were first advanced from being a junior Lord to being Secretary of the Treasury, and then, after ever so short a tenure of the latter office, promoted to the still higher one, his seat would be vacated. This could hardly be intended, but such undoubtedly would be the effect of the Bill in its present shape; and such was the absurdity into which they would be led by maintaining the existing law, which applied a different rule as to vacating seats to different political offices when there was no earthly reason for doing so. The truth was, this system had never been deliberately adopted by Parliament; it arose by mere accident in the course of a strife as to whether placemen should be admitted into Parliament at all. No doubt the compromise by which that strife had been settled had been an excellent one, in so far as it limited the number of the Servants of the Crown who could sit in the House of Commons, and to this limitation it was most important to adhere; but he maintained that for the efficiency of Parliamentary government it was essential that there should be no useless check upon the power of the Crown to select the fittest persons to fill the high offices of State. With these views he ventured to submit to their Lordships the substitution of the clause of which he had given notice.
An Amendment moved to omit Clause 47, and insert the following Clause:—
Whereas, by the existing Law there are some political Offices of which the Acceptance does, and others of which the Acceptance does not, vacate the Seats of Members of the House of Commons, and it is desirable to establish a uniform Rule on the Subject; and whereas the necessity for the Reelection of Persons entering into the Service of the Crown is sometimes highly injurious to the Public Interest: Be it enacted, That no Member of the House of Commons shall vacate his Seat by the Acceptance of an Office which does not now disqualify him from sitting in Parliament if re-elected."—(The Earl Grey.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
thought that the course adopted by the House of Commons 744 on this question—a question which more especially concerned the House of Commons than it did their Lordships' House—was a rational and a sound one—namely, that where a person had been returned to Parliament with the full knowledge of his constituents that he was a person holding a high office, and consequently that he was a member of the Government, and should subsequently change to another office being still a member of the same Government, it should not be necessary for him to present himself for re-election. But, on the other hand, to propose, as the noble Earl did, that a person who had been elected—say for Liverpool—as being wholly independent of the Government and perfectly free to devote the whole of his time and attention to his duties towards that constituency, but who after his election accepted an office which bound him hand and foot to the Government, and not only deprived his constituents of a great portion of the time and attention which he had intended to devote to their service, but also to a certain extent crippled independence of judgment—to propose that such a person should not have to go before his constituents in order to know whether, in those altered circumstances, they were willing to continue him as their representative appeared to him a proceeding which considerably trenched on the constitutional rights of the electors. No doubt the course which the noble Earl recommended would be exceedingly convenient to the Government, who in arranging their distribution of offices were sometimes in doubt as to whether, if particular persons were selected, they would be able to secure their scats in the other House; but, on the other hand, they ought not to interfere with the rights of the constituencies in the manner to which he had referred.
§ LORD TAUNTON
said, that the measure before their Lordships was necessarily to a great degree an experiment, and that there was one part of that experiment to which he looked with considerable anxiety,—namely, its effect upon that union between the Executive Government and the House of Commons, which was one of the most important elements in the practical working of our Constitution. The question therefore was not confined to the Government but affected the interests of the public. He did not think there was much chance that a Member who had been elected while holding office under one Government and therefore maintaining their principles would 745 be likely to betray his trust by joining another Government holding different principles, and he therefore did not see why he should present himself for re-election on transferring his services from one department to another. The result might be that a Member of the other House particularly suited for the head of a vacant department might be passed over on account of the uncertainty of his re-election, and a Member of their Lordships' House appointed in his stead. This would lead gradually to a separation between the Executive Government and the House of Commons which might be productive of very evil consequences. His noble Friend had done good service in bringing the subject before their Lordships, and he thought their Lordships might insert the clause and give the House of Commons an opportunity of considering it.
§ LORD CAIRNS
said, that in his opinion no stronger arguments could have been introduced in opposition to the clause than those which the noble Baron had brought forward in its favour. He agreed in every word he said as to the extreme importance of the Executive being in connection with and possessing the full confidence of the House of Commons; but how did the Executive possess that confidence except by having a majority in the House, and also from the circumstance that every Member of the Government enjoyed in his own person the full and perfect confidence of the constituency which returned him to Parliament? The purport of the noble Baron's remarks was that the inconveniences of the present system consisted in the uncertainty of re-election, and the danger that a Member of the Government would be rejected. If there was no danger there was no inconvenience. But what would be the position of the Executive towards the House of Commons if one-half or three-fourths of the Government were sitting for constituencies who would in all probability reject them if they went down for re-election? There was, of course, always a remedy for this state of things in a Vote of Want of Confidence; but setting that aside they might, if they passed this clause, have a Government, half the Members of which were afraid to face their constituents, and who yet might hold their seats in the House of Commons and profess to govern the country, although they had lost the confidence of their own constituents. Nothing would more tend to sever the connection and confidence between the Executive and 746 the House of Commons. He agreed that the question was one mainly for the House of Commons; but he thought their Lordships would be taking a step as much at variance with the Constitution of the country as could be imagined if they expressed the opinion that Members of Parliament might become members of the Government without presenting themselves to their constituents for re-election.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
thought the present system was a relic of the time when the Crown and the House of Commons were looked upon as two antagonistic powers, and when the theory was that a person appointed to an office under the Crown might be looked upon with a certain amount of jealousy by his constituents. But now that the Government were identified with the House of Commons, the reason for this jealousy no longer existed. Experience had now shown that this practice was inconvenient not only to the Government, but to the country. There ought to be no obstructions in the way of the proper man being put in the proper place.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
said, that the adoption of this clause would have the effect of sweeping away that venerable fiction of the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, and there would then be no means of vacating a seat in Parliament.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
agreed in the opinion that a mere change from one Ministerial office to another should not vacate a seat; but he thought that when a Member accepted office for the first time it was but reasonable and natural that his constituents should have an opportunity of deciding whether they would continue their confidence in him as their representative.
would point out to their Lordships that not one of those noble Lords who objected to the Amendment had shown why the rule of vacating a seat should not apply to the Secretaries to the Treasury and Admiralty and the Under Secretaries for the Home Office, the Colonies, and India. The reason, as he had before stated, was simply the accident that they were technically appointed by others, and not by the Crown, although in reality their offices were completely political and under the Crown. It the principle was good why not apply it to all? It was absurd at that time of day that their legislation should be so inconsistent with itself. There was a great difference between the 747 circumstances of the present time and that to which the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had referred. He (Earl Grey) would remind their Lordships that when the noble Earl was appointed Secretary for Ireland in 1830 he lost his election, being defeated at Preston by Mr. Hunt. It was a very great loss to the Government of that day to be deprived of the services of the noble Earl—and how was that loss met? The King was considered to have the personal appointment to one of the seats for Windsor. The King accordingly used his influence with the Member in question, who vacated his seat and the noble Earl was elected. It had sometimes happened that determined efforts had been made to prevent the re-election of newly-appointed Ministers, who had only been able to re-enter the House of Commons by certain Members being induced to vacate their seats—an arrangement of very questionable propriety. If power were given to the Crown to bring into the House a limited number of public servants—a plan which he thought would be a very good one—there would be no necessity for his proposition; but he contended that, as things stood, its adoption would enable the government of the country to be more conveniently carried on.
§ On Question That the Clause stand Part of the Bill? Resolved in the Affirmative.
moved to insert a clause prohibiting all persons employed in the Civil Service or any other Department of the Government, except those holding offices tenable with seats in Parliament, from voting or interfering in elections. What he proposed was in effect to apply to all the branches of the Public Service the rule which was already imposed on officials in the Excise, Customs, and Post Office, which, at the time the Act was passed, were the only departments in which a large number of public servants were employed; but circumstances had changed, and there was now a large body of public servants to whom the prohibition did not apply. But the same reasons that prevailed to prevent Revenue officials from voting must be applicable to the other services of the Crown. In the other House, during the progress of the present Bill, a proposal was made to repeal the existing prohibition, but both the present and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer urged conclusive reasons against it, and it was rejected by the House. Now 748 every word they had said against repealing the existing law as regarded persons employed in the Revenue Departments, applied in favour of extending the law to all other branches of the Civil Service. The Bill of last year contained a clause disqualifying persons employed in dockyards, but he thought all persons engaged in the Civil Service should be disqualified. One of the best features of our Public Service was that the great body of officials were not ousted when a change of Government occurred, whereas in America the contrary was the case, the consequence being great corruption and party virulence. The possession of votes, however, by public servants tended to detract from their neutrality, and there was a danger of their combining and exercising pressure on a considerable number of Members of the House of Commons in order to obtain from the Government concessions which were not for the public advantage. Instances were not wanting that showed the existence of this danger. One of the most remarkable occurred lately, in the case of a naval officer in Portsmouth, who wrote a letter recommending the persons in the Government service there to combine together in order that their influence might be brought to bear upon their Members for the redress of some grievances; and he was informed that, notwithstanding the stringent rules against it, Members were now induced to make most pressing applications to the Admiralty, in order to obtain advancement for particular persons, and he feared that if many persons engaged in the Public Service in a humble capacity enjoyed votes the practice would be greatly extended. Consistency required that the law wisely passed by our ancestors with regard to the only considerable class of public servants then in existence should be extended to other classes.
Moved, after Clause 47, to insert the following Clause:—
Whereas all Persons employed in the collection of the Revenue are now by law prohibited from voting or interfering in Elections, and there is no Reason for making a Distinction between this and other Departments of the Public Service: Be it enacted That this prohibition shall extend to all Persons employed in the Civil Service of the Government in any Department, except those holding Offices tenable with Seats in Parliament."—(The Earl Grey.)
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
opposed the clause on the ground that this Bill was au enfranchising and not a disfranchising 749 measures, and on that ground, if on no other, he should oppose the Amendment. But he also objected to it because it would disfranchise a class of persons as well educated and as competent to exercise the franchise as any body of men in England; and, thirdly, because it would be most invidious at the present moment to make an exception in the case of these persons, against whom no imputation, as far as he was aware, had ever been brought in respect of the way in which they had exercised the franchise. He could not conceive a more insulting act to this very useful body of men than to disfranchise them.
§ On Question? Resolved in the Negative.
§ Clauses 48 and 49 agreed to.
§ Clause 50 (Temporary Provisions consequent on Formation of new Boroughs).
§ THE EARL OF DEVON
moved to insert at the end of the clause the following words:—In the Case of a Parish wholly or partly situated within the Limits of a Borough constituted by this Act the Revising Barrister in revising at any Time before the summoning of a future Parliament the List of Voters for the County in which such Parish is situate shall write the Word 'Borough' opposite to the Name of each Voter whose Qualification in respect of the Premises described in the List would not after the summoning of a future Parliament entitle such Voter to Vote for the County; and at any Election taking place after the summoning of a future Parliament the Vote of every Person against whose Name the Word 'Borough' is written if tendered in respect of such Qualification shall be rejected by the Returning Officer.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 51 agreed to.
§ Clause 52 (General Saving Clause),
§ THE EARL OF DEVON
proposed in page 18, to omit from "the" in line 20 to "sheriff" in line 21, and insert—From and after the passing of this Act the County Palatine of Lancaster shall cease to be a County Palatine, in so far as respects the Issue, Direction, and Transmission of Writs for the Election of Members to serve in Parliament for any Division of the said County or any Borough situate in the said County; and such Writs may be issued under the same Seal, be directed to the like Officer, and transmitted in the like Manner, under, to, and in which Writs, may be issued, directed, and transmitted in the Case of Divisions of Counties and Boroughs not forming Part of or situate in a County Palatine, and any Writ issued, directed, and transmitted in manner directed by this Section shall be valid accordingly.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.750
§ Clause 53 agreed to.
§ Clause 54 (Construction of Act).
§ LORD CAIRNS
, in order to give effect to the decision of the Committee the other night, moved to add at the end of the clause—Provided that so much of Clause 78 of the last-mentioned Act as provides that nothing in that Act contained shall entitle any Person to vote in the Election of Members to serve in Parliament for the City of Oxford or Town of Cambridge in respect of the Occupation of any Chambers or Premises in any of the Colleges or Halls of the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge shall not apply to the Franchises conferred by this Act.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
re-minded the noble and learned Lord that an understanding was come to the other evening that an opportunity should be given to the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) of bringing forward the Proviso which he had put on the paper.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
said, that the persons to whom the clause referred had no interest whatever in common with the towns. The proposal of the noble and learned Lord would either alter the representation of the towns or it would not. If it did not, there was no reason for making the proposal; if it did, it would create the greatest ill-feeling between the towns and the Universities, and would be an unmitigated evil.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
asked the noble Earl opposite, whether he had received any communication from the Universities with regard to this subject? because he had been informed that several of the most distinguished professors had expressed a very strong opinion as to the disadvantages attending the proposal, apart altogether from the political view of the case.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that no communication from the Universities had been made to him on the subject.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
reserved to himself, on the part of the right rev. Prelate, the right of reviving the question on the Report. He would be glad if the noble Earl would have the kindness to communicate with persons in the Universities in whom he placed confidence, in order to ascertain what they thought would be the effect of this provision.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Words added to the clause.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.751
§ Clause 55 agreed to.
§ LORD CAIRNS
moved to insert a Saving Clause as to the Dissolution of Parliament—Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained, in the Event of a Dissolution of Parliament taking place and Writs being issued before the First Day of January, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine, for the Election of Members to serve in a new Parliament, such Election shall take place in the same Manner in all respects as if no Alteration had been made by this Act in the Franchise of Electors, or in the Places authorized to return a Member or Members to serve in Parliament, with this Exception, that the Boroughs by this Act disfranchised shall not be entitled to return Members to serve in any such new Parliament.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 55 (Interpretation of Terms).
§ THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
proposed to add the following words:—Where a Borough Rate or County Rate is levied as a separate Rate and not paid out of the Poor Rate, the term 'Poor Rate' shall for the purposes of the Franchises conferred by this Act, be deemed to include such Borough Rate or County Rate.The noble Earl said the principle of the Bill, founded upon personal rating, was in his opinion a sound one, but it was only right that there should be uniformity of application in all cases. The abolition of composition in boroughs would give rise to great difficulty in levying the rates in some of these boroughs; and he hoped that before the final passing of the Bill some scheme would be adopted by which the difficulty might be met. Under the new system, a vast number of the small householders would have to be proceeded against for the recovery of the rates, and in this manner they would be literally forced on to the register. He thought there should be some arrangement by which the payment of the rate should be voluntary, and if not paid voluntarily within a certain time that then the person should be disqualified.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
said, that the remarks of the noble Earl opened up a very wide question into which he would not enter. It was sufficient to say, with reference to the Amendment, that the term "poor rate" had been altered at the out-set, in order to assimilate it to other parts of the Bill. Properly, the poor rate included the county rate; but there were some cases in which the borough rate or the county rate was raised separately. The Amendment would prevent a want of uniformity which would otherwise prevail, 752 and therefore the Government would adopt it.
§ Motion agreed to; Words added; Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule agreed to with Amendments.
§ House resumed.
§ The Report of the Amendments to be received on Monday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 282).