HL Deb 22 March 1880 vol 251 cc1233-40

Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Lord President.)

LORD DENMAN moved that the Bill be read a third time that day three months, saying that it was contrary to the spirit of the Ballot Act that any expenses should be incurred for the conveyance of voters; and the retention of the clause for allowing expenses in Cricklade, Aylesbury, East Retford, and Shoreham, could do no harm; while allowing candidates to pay conveyance expenses, in places distant from each other, might be very inconvenient. And as the Ballot Act would expire only at the end of December, 1880, he hoped that the Government would not renew this Bill only till 1881, when the Ballot Act would expire. He believed that all Election Petitions might be disposed of before December, 1880. He believed that voters might be conveyed by one candidate and vote for his opponent.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Lord Denmun.)


characterized the measure as re-actionary and retrograde. It was unnecessary and mischievous. It would reverse the legislation which was well discussed and well considered in 1867. There had been no demand for such a change as was made in the Bill. In 1872, the provision of the Act of 1867 preventing the employment of conveyances in counties was extended to the municipalities. Before the Select Committee which sat in 1875 this very question was raised; and the result was the expression of an opinion that in most boroughs the polling places could be so conveniently selected as to render unnecessary the use of vehicles for the conveyance of voters, and that a penalty should be attached to payments made by the candidates for that purpose. So that, after experience of the working of the Municipal Act from 1872, and the Parliamentary Election Act from 1867, the Committee came to the conclusion that the law should not only be maintained, but enforced by penalties. Yet, in 1880, though the existing Act continued till 1881, they were asked in a hasty and ill-considered, measure to put an end to a provision which had operated for so many years with great satisfaction to the public. He maintained that if the Bill were passed rich candidates would have undue ad- vantages over poor ones; and bribery, under the cloak of the practices sanctioned by the Bill, would unquestionably prevail.


said, he had no idea that there would be any discussion on the matter, seeing that the law was in a very unsatisfactory condition when the Government was implored to bring in a Bill. He was bound to say that it appeared to the Government to be not an unreasonable thing in itself to deal with the question. The law was not observed anywhere in reality because it was uncertain, and there was no penalty attached to its breach. Anyone who had witnessed the late election at Southwark would have seen just as many cabs as had ever been employed at an election. The case was the same at Liverpool, where, he believed, both sides recognized the necessity of employing cabs, and came to an agreement that each should use as many as they thought proper. Why was that? It arose from the necessities of the case. Many working men were called upon to give their vote at a considerable distance from their work; and he thought that the working man need not be deprived of a ride which he could only enjoy once in five or six years. The Government had been called upon to deal with the question for a short period in one way or another; and they did not see their way to make the employment of vehicles more penal than it had been before, and they thought it best to make the practice legal for the short time which elapsed before the new Parliament assembled. With respect to the Committee which had sat on the subject, that Committee had reported that some change was necessary. They were now met by a Motion which was not upon the Paper, and which took them by surprise; but the House of Commons had passed the Bill, and, as it mainly affected that branch of the Legislature, he hoped their Lordships would not accede to the Amendment, but would pass the Bill.


said, that as he knew persons who were candidates and could not afford the expense of conveying voters to the poll he had been against the Bill; but he had since seen reasons to change his mind. After the explanation which had been given, he was quite justified in proposing to withdraw his Amendment. The reasons just given by the noble Viscount convinced him that he ought not to further oppose the Bill.


said, that the noble Viscount had not touched the point of the increased expenses of elections which this Bill would cause, and which would make it still more impossible for poor but able men to get into Parliament.


said, that he had heard no argument which should induce the noble Lord opposite (Lord Denman) to withdraw the Amendment.


said, that he thought with the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) it was idle to have a law forbidding the practice, and no penalty to enable the magistrates to enforce the law; also noble Lords often conveyed voters to the poll.


said, that looking to the fact that the conveyance of voters was not allowed at municipal elections it was quite as absurd to allow the practice to exist at Parliamentary elections.

Amendment (by leave of the House) Withdrawn.


said, that as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Denman) had withdrawn his Amendment he would move it.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Earl of Kimberley.)


I regret that any opposition has been raised to the measure. The course proposed to your Lordships is most unusual, for it is very inconvenient to have a Motion of this kind brought forward without any Notice on the third reading of a Bill, and more especially as it does not appear to me that this Bill is of the importance which noble Lords opposite seem to attach to it. As to the argument which has been drawn from the practice of municipal elections, there really is no analogy between municipal and Parliamentary elections; for, in the former, the electors have not to go any distance, for they all vote in wards. Noble Lords know very well, from their own experience, that there are cases in boroughs where the distance between electors and the polling booths is to be counted by miles. Then we are told that it is in the interest of the rich that these conveyances are used. But, my Lords, that is a fallacy. It is the working classes who benefit by them, and avail themselves of the convenience. They very often only have half-an-hour or an hour in which to get their dinner, and in that time they also have to vote; and should they not be able to record their votes in that time, they are, to a great extent, disfranchised. That, I am sure, cannot be the wish of your Lordships. This is a Bill which comes up from the House of Commons, the Members of which are greatly interested in it. It was brought forward in consequence of a feeling on both sides of the House that something should be done to put an end to the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. The noble Lord who addressed us a few minutes ago talked about the increased expense; but the fact is, there will be no increased expense, because in all elections, ever since the Corrupt Practices Bill originally passed, the law has been set at defiance, and cabs and conveyances have been used in which voters are conveyed to the poll. But the disadvantage of it is that you are violating a law, according to many high authorities, which you cannot enforce, because no penalty is attached to it. The general feeling was that to avoid continuous Petitions, and all those disagreeable circumstances which sometimes attend an appeal to the people, the best thing to do would be to come to a determination whether the practice should be legalized or the reverse. There was a general opinion in the House of Commons—certainly not a Party opinion—that it should be legalized; and I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not support the Amendment of the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley).


said, that the Bill had only come before their Lordships' House on the 18th of the present month, when they were called together at an unusual hour, and they were necessarily precluded by shortness of time, and the small attendance of Peers present, from giving the measure the attention which it demanded. The question was one which they might fairly ask for a little more time to consider, and this was not the first Bill that the House had been asked to carry through all its stages without having had an opportunity of discussing it. He would oppose the Bill.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 39; Non-Contents 24; Majority 15.

Cairns, E. (L. Chancellor.) Bateman, L.
Blantyre, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Leeds, D.
Northumberland, D. Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)
Richmond, D.
Rutland, D. Chelmsford, L.
Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)
Hertford, M.
Colchester, L.
Beaconsfield, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Beauchamp, E. Denman, L.
Cadogan, E. de Ros, L.
Feversham, E. Dunsany, L.
Hardwicke, E. Ellenborough, L.
Redesdale, E. Elphinstone, L.
Waldegrave, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Cranbrook, V. Norton, L
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Silchester, L. (E.Longford.)
Melville, V.
Sidmouth, V. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Templetown, V.
Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
St. Albans, L. Bp.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Ashford, L. (V. Bury.)
Bedford, D. Greville, L.
Hammond, L.
Lansdowne, M. [Teller.] Keane, L.
Kenry,L. (E.Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Dartrey, E. Lawrence, L.
Granville, E. Monson, L.
Ilchester, E. O'Hagan, L.
Kimberley, E. [Teller.] Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
Northbrook, E.
Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)
Blachford, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Braye, L. Thurlow, L.
Foley, L. Wentworth, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 3a accordingly.

On Question, "That the Bill do pass?"


said, that, according to his experience, this was the first time that upon the Motion for the third reading of a Bill there had been a division, there having been no division upon any earlier stage. The Bill had been brought forward by Her Majesty's Government, and taken notice of by one of the principal Members of the Opposition; and yet it had now been met by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) with a side wind, and what he might call a sort of ambush, as the Motion for its rejection was made without any Notice whatever, and without the noble Earl having intimated his intention of doing so at its earlier stages.


begged leave to say that the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack had no right so to describe his Motion, as no ambush whatever had been contrived, and the noble and learned Earl should withdraw the word. He (the Earl of Kimberley) intended the Motion to reject the Bill to be a protest against Bills being pushed through that House just in the last days of an expiring Parliament. On the occasion of the second reading of the Bill the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook) got up and moved the second reading in, he thought, one sentence. There were about four or five Peers on that (the Opposition) side, and about the same number of Peers on the other side. It had been said, and he (the Earl of Kimberley) admitted that the proceeding he took was unusual. He meant it to be so, and he did not regret what he had done, for he thereby protested most emphatically against the manner in which the Bill, as well as the Hypothec Abolition Bill, had been pushed through the House, especially when they had been meeting as early as 2, 3, and 4 o'clock.

Moved, "That Clause 3 be struck out of the Bill."—(The Lord Denman.)


said, there was no one in the House who was more jealous than he of the privileges of their Lordships, and he had taken exception to the manner in which the Hypothec Abolition Bill had been hurried through at the last moment; but the reason why he had taken no objection to this Bill was because it was sent up by the Commons and related to a matter affecting: particularly the interests of that House. He thought that, in the face of a General Election, such a question as this was proper to be dealt with if the Commons thought so. There was a declaration that the conveyance of voters was illegal: but no one was able to enforce any penalty. To leave the law in such a state at the present moment was open to objection, and the Commons had passed this Bill to settle the question, and no franchise was in any way affected by it. He did not think there was any very strong objection to the Bill in the other House.


considered that the noble Earl was mistaken in his facts, as though the Bill passed through the other House when very few Members were present, there were several divisions which were very small, considering the power of Her Majesty's Government, and the result was that the Government were obliged to give up the provisions affecting Scotland and Ireland. This was exactly a case in which the House of Lords might come to the assistance of those who were strongly opposed to the Bill.

Motion negatived.Bill passed.