HL Deb 20 August 1883 vol 283 cc1315-7

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."—(The Earl of Northbrook.)


said, that his view of the particular provisions of this Bill was much modified by the fact that the measure would come to a termination in December of next year. There were many controverted points connected with it, and points as to which they might naturally feel doubtful; but on the whole he thought that, as the Bill was to come to an early termination, the wisest plan would be to allow it to go forward very much as it was, reserving to themselves entire freedom, when it came to be renewed, or to be made a permanent measure, to move any Amendments which experience might dictate.

Motion agreed to; House in Committee accordingly.


said, he wished to invite the attention of the noble Earl who had charge of the Bill to a point of much importance to certain parts of Scotland. He believed that by this measure the conveyance of voters to the poll was made a corrupt practice, and that it put an absolute prohibition on candidates paying the expense of conveying voters to the poll. He now expressed no opinion as to the general expediency or wisdom of that provision; but he would mention that in the West of Scotland, and especially in some of the Islands, where the voters were of a comparatively poor class, it would amount to their practical disfranchisement not to allow them to be conveyed to the poll; and if such a prohibition were enforced the Government would be bound to establish a much larger number of polling places.


said, that Clause 47 provided for the conveyance of voters by sea, where they could not reach their polling places without crossing the sea, or an arm of the sea.


said, he was aware of that clause; but the difficulty was, how voters were to be conveyed, perhaps, 18 or 20 miles to the polling places? In such cases there was scarcely the least chance of the voters going to the poll at all. He himself would have to go 23 or 24 miles to the poll. The result would be the disfranchisement of a great number of voters, and to give the towns a great advantage over the rural populations.


said, the number of polling places was to be increased under Clause 46, by which, so far as practicable, every elector would have a polling place within a distance not exceeding three miles of his residence if there were 100 electors in the district. With regard to the point as to prohibiting the conveyance of voters to the poll, Clause 14 expressly provided that electors might combine together for the purpose of being conveyed to the poll.


said, that, in order to get a real expression of the opinion of the constituency, it was necessary to secure the attendance of a great number of electors at the poll; but that was incompatible with very narrow restrictions as to expenditure. He thought the multiplication of polling places would entail great additional expense upon candidates. He could not help thinking that the prohibition of conveyance would be a virtual disfranchisement of the poorer classes of the rural population.


said, he hoped the Bill would not have the effect anticipated. The expenses of providing polling places would be reckoned outside the maximum.


said, he believed the only real remedy for the difficulty which had been raised was one which had been always popular in that House, but unpopular in the other—namely, voting papers. He did not think there was any other way out of the difficulty without great expense. He imagined the result of the Bill would be very likely to show that there was very considerable disfranchisement in the less populous places, and that this would supply political force enough to bring about the introduction of a system of voting papers.

Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received To-morrow.