HL Deb 16 March 1880 vol 251 cc1076-8

Order of the Day for the Second Beading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was one to do away with an ancient monument in the shape of a property qualification at present required under the existing law for members of Municipal Corporations. That qualification was that in burghs of four or more wards the candidate should be rated at over £30, or be able to declare that he was worth £1,000; and in the case of burghs of less than four wards, the candidate should be rated at £15, or be worth £500. This was productive of muck inconvenience, especially in small boroughs, in some of which it had been shown that no less than one-eighth of the whole constituency were prevented from being candidates for municipal offices. The object of the Bill was to make the qualification for a seat in the Council the same as that of the voters for a Town Councillor—namely, occupation for 12 months of premises in the borough, full ago, rating to the poor rate, and actual payment of the rate. This would be a much more simple qualification than one of those that now existed, for it was, under many circumstances, very difficult to ascertain whether a man was or was not worth £1,000; and the present qualification opened the door to dishonesty by affording a temptation to persons to take an over-sanguine view of their position. Another objection to the existing system was that it restricted the body from which people could be chosen to fill municipal offices. Such things were certainly out of accord with the spirit of modern legislation; and it was absurd that a man who was qualified to sit in Parliament should not be qualified to have a seat in the local Corporations. Earl Russell, speaking in 1835 on the Municipal Corporations Bill, said, with reference to the qualification upon which the House of Lords had insisted, that he had from the first been opposed to such a qualification, and that— The principle for which he contended was one which must, sooner or later, be adopted by the Legislature in respect to elections of this kind; for it is a principle so sound in itself that it may be left to work its way. If you leave it to the elector to choose a person of sufficient abilities and character, you leave it to him also to choose a person of sufficient property when property is required. In conclusion, he would move the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)

On Question? Resolved in the Affirmative.

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