HL Deb 10 July 1868 vol 193 cc981-4

in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said that its only object was to extend to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge the same facilities in the employment of voting papers at elections which had already been granted to the Scotch Universities and the London University.

Moved," That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Clinton.)


said, he doubted the propriety of the relaxation proposed. The subject of voting papers in relation to the two Universities had been largely discussed during the passage of the English Reform Bill, and provisions had been inserted by which two checks against personation were retained—which were that the voter should be personally known to the magistrate in whose presence the voting paper was signed, and that the voter should be further identified by the person who presented his proxy. Now, he understood that the object of the Bill was to do away with the second security. Under the plan now proposed it was quite clear that any man who had no reason to believe the contrary could solemnly declare —although he had no knowledge of the voter—that he believed the voting paper to be signed by him; and this seemed to offer facilities to agents for obtaining voting papers by scores. It seemed to him that this was one of those checks which were necessary on the voting paper system, and therefore he thought the Bill proposed an experiment of a doubtful character. Still, as a similar method had been adopted in the Scotch Reform Bill, and it had received the sanction of Her Majesty's Government, he would not oppose the Second Reading of this measure.


said, that if the security were necessary it ought to be taken in the Scotch Bill.


said, the Bill put the English Universities on the same footing as the Scotch Universities were left by the Scotch Reform Bill.


said, the Act by which voting papers were introduced at the Oxford and Cambridge Universities was applied to the University of London by the Reform Act of last Session; but it was thought desirable in the latter case to relax the provision which required personal knowledge of the voter in the person who presented the voting paper. The circumstances of the London University were materially different from those of the other Universities. In the latter there wore a large number of resident members who were acquainted, generally, with the members of the constituent body; but in the case of the London University there was no such resident body, and the voters were scattered all over the country. If in their case the same restrictions were imposed as existed in the case of the older Universities, so few Members of the London University would be able to vote that there could scarcely be said to be a fair representation of the University. It was this difficulty with respect to London which was really the cause of the Bill being introduced; and then it was represented that to avoid distinction the other Universities must be placed upon the same footing.


It is desirable that your Lordships should exactly understand the position in which this question stands with reference to the Scotch Bill. In the Scotch Reform Bill, which has passed the House of Commons and has also passed your Lordships' House, you have already provided that the Act regulating the elections for the English Universities shall, with respect to voting papers, be applied to the Scotch Universities; but with this exception— Except so much of that Act as requires that the person delivering the voting paper shall make attestation of his personal acquaintance with the voter. You have therefore already enacted in the Scotch Bill that a University voting paper may be handed in without the attestation of the person handing it in that he is personally acquainted with the voter. I nave no doubt there is a good reason for making that exception in the case of the Scotch Universities, and no doubt there is equally good reason for extending it to the case of the London University. Then the question you have to consider is this—if you make exceptions for the Scotch and London Universities, can you possibly maintain different regulations for Oxford and Cambridge? It was the feeling that that could not be done which led to the introduction of this measure. A little misapprehension has arisen with regard to the Amendment of the Scotch Bill, which at first sight seems connected with this, but is really quite different. In the Scotch Reform Bill as it came up from the other House there was in the Schedule a form of attestation to be signed by the magistrate who received the voting paper, and who had to declare that he was personally acquainted with the voter, who signed it in his presence. Your Lordships struck out the words which made the magistrate declare his personal acquaintance with the voter, and the words so struck out have been re-inserted by the House of Commons. With that Amendment your Lordships to-night have agreed; but this is quite a different matter from the Bill, which will apply to the English Universities, and assimilate them to the others.


said, the circumstances of the Scotch Universities were different from those of the English Universities. There was a comparatively small resident body, and it would disfranchise a large number of voters if they could not transfer their voting papers except to personal friends—a restriction which, it seemed to him, did not provide much security against personation.


approved the relaxation on the ground that it offered a precedent for introducing voting papers generally. He did not see why any voter, as well as a member of a University, should not go before a magistrate who knows him, and fill up a voting paper, which might be tendered in the same way as a graduate's voting paper.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.