§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he believed that the measure would meet with the acceptance of their Lordships. He trusted their Lordships would give it a favourable consideration on the ground that it was one of the very comparatively small company of Bills which had as yet reached them from "another place" that Session. Including Provisional Orders only 21 Bills had yet come up from the other House to their Lordships; whereas, he understood that their Lordships had forwarded 54 to the other House. The present Bill had had the support of three Secretaries of State, and upon its own merits also, it well deserved a second reading. Soldiers, sailors., Revenue officers, and postmen, all now had the right to exercise the franchise, and it was only fair and just that that right should be extended to the Police Force. He, therefore, hoped their Lordships would give the Bill a second reading. The police, as a rule, were respected by all but the evildoers. There was no body of men in this country who were more law-loving and more worthy of the great trust of the franchise, and there was reason to believe that they felt deeply the fact of their being deprived of it. He would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl of Harrowby.)
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, he did not rise to oppose the Bill; but he confessed that he thought it required a 4 very great deal of consideration. The nature of the duties of the police were such as to make it a serious question whether it was consistent with those duties whether they should be admitted to the franchise. He admitted that, as a body, the police would bear a not unfavourable comparison with other classes who now possessed the franchise; but supposing that, at a contested election, there was a disturbance in which the police were called upon to act for the restoration of order, surely, it would be better that that duty should be performed by a body of men taking no part in the election, and quite independent of either Party, than by a body of men who took part in the contest, and were interested on one side or the other. He called attention to the position of soldiers in the Army as being a case analogous to that of the police.
THE EARL OF MILLTOWN
said, he wished to point out that the Royal Irish Constabulary were not included in the Bill, although every word which had been said in praise of the Police of Great Britain could be said with greater force in favour of the Royal Irish Constabulary, to whom not only the Government, but every respectable man, woman, and child in Ireland, owed a deep debt of gratitude. He was sure that by their omission from the provisions of that Bill, there was no intention of casting a slur on that excellent body of men; but he trusted that they would hear from the Government that it was their intention, at the earliest opportunity, to introduce a Bill dealing separately with the Royal Irish Constabulary and putting them on an equal footing with their brethren in England and Scotland.
§ LORD BRABOURNE
gave a warm support to the Bill, but said, that he only rose in consequence of the remark of his noble and learned Friend (the Earl of Selborne) with regard to soldiers. With great submission to the noble Earl, he would remind him that recent decisions in the Registration Courts had established the right of soldiers to vote at Parliamentary Elections, if duly qualified. What this Bill proposed to do was, not to give votes to men because they were policemen, but to enact that, if otherwise duly qualified, they should not be disfranchised on account of their being policemen.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, he wished to explain that his remarks were not applied to policemen generally, but only to those who might be on duty during elections.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.