House Of Commons
Wednesday, April 2, 1851.
Minutes.] NEW WRIT.—For Coventry, v. George James Turner, Esq., Vice-Chancellor.
PUBLIC BILL.—2a Audit of Railway Accounts.
Compound Householders Bill
Order for Committee read.
said, he thought the House had decided that it was favourable to the principle of the measure, although there was considerable difference of opinion as to the mode of working it out. He objected to the mode proposed by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) in the Bill now before them. Th3 proper mode for a person in the situation of a compound householder to adopt would be to make his claim in the time prescribed by the Reform Act. The householder's claim should be made to the overseer before the 25th of August in each yeah This would be a much simpler process than that proposed, for if the claim were a fair one, the party could find no trouble in being put on the Register. There were in many parishes about four or five rates made in each year, and to be compelled to claim at the making of each rate was 4 Very troublesome matter.
did not admit the validity of the objections made by the hon. Member (Mr. Henley), but he would not be at all averse to availing himself of any proper suggestions. He was not insensible to the difficulty there existed in legislating on some of the points which the Bill embraced. He thought they should at once go into Committee on the measure, and they would have an opportunity of considering the nature of the Amendments proposed.
House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
said, that in clause one, it was proposed to insert after the words "full amount, "the words" on account of any rates in respect of such premises."
objected to the Amendment on the ground that compound householders did not pay the full rate. A compound householder of 10l. paid less rate than a householder who was not a compound one, and the parties were not on the same footing, He would have no objection to do away with whatever technical difficulties prevented compound householders from being placed on the Register; but the Amendment proposed would, he thought, affect the principle of the Reform Bill, by lowering the standard of qualification. The question as to whether the franchise ought or ought not to be extended, was a large one, and it was not proper to nibble at it in this way.
said, the objection of the hon. Member (Mr. Henley) was based on the assumption that compound householders paid less rates than others. This, however, was not a valid objection, for the principle of the Reform Bill was this, that every occupier of a house of the yearly value of 10l. was entitled to the franchise, no matter how that person might be rated.
maintained that the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster had not fairly stated the principle of the Reform Bill, for the principle of the Reform Bill was to connect the value with the rate paid. Compound householders to be entitled to the franchise ought to pay rates in the value of 10l. per annum.
did not think that the question as to the amount of rate paid was one which would be likely to arise, for most compound householders were parties who paid from 15l to201. of annual rent. The alteration proposed was grounded on the provisions of an Act passed during last Session of Parliament for the rating of small tenements. By the seventh section of that Act, it was provided that the occupier of a tenement should be entitled to the franchise, notwithstanding any arrangement which might be made by the landlord regarding the rates. This Act perfectly recognised the principle of the Bill he now proposed. The qualification of the voter was the occupancy of a house of the yearly value of 10l.; and any arrangement whereby overseers might for their own convenience consent to take a less amount of rate, was not held to prejudice the claim of the occupier.
wished for some test of the value of tenements, and that was found in the amount of rate paid.
said, the provision of the Reform Act was, that every person who occupied a house of the clear value of 10l. per annum was entitled; the franchise. Now, in many parishes it so happened that a vast number of persons occuying houses of more than the value of 10l. did not possess the franchise. In Lambeth there were 39,500 persons rated for the poor, and there were scarcely any of them who were not rated at more than 10l. of annual rent, and yet in the parish there were only 13,000 voters. In j the parish of Finsbury there were 15,800 I voters, and upwards of 37,000 persons rated, and of these 37,000, almost everyone paid more than 10l. year. In Marylebone there were 16,800 electors, and 39,000 I persons rated to the poor. He might with. I safety say that all of these 39,000 were: rated at more than 10l. per annum. In the Tower Hamlets the difference was still greater, although there might be fewer rated above 10l. in proportion than in the I other parishes. The number of voters in the Tower Hamlets was 19,000, and the ratepayers 73,000. He submitted that if they carried out the principle of the Reform Act, they must enfranchise that large body of ratepayers who were assessed at; and above 10l., but who were at present deprived of the suffrage.
said, the question before the Committee was not whether compound householders should have the benefit of the Reform Act, but whether they should have the benefit of the composition of rates. What was that benefit I but a reduction of the amount paid? And if so, it was perfectly clear that if they gave parties the benefit of that composition, they would reduce the qualification. He also objected to the use made of the word "tendering," for a door would be opened to an enormous amount of fraud. A person without the slightest amount of proof that he occupied premises might tender the rate, and if he had proof of such tender, he would be entitled to be placed on the Register. Thus a person might tender the rate for his ten compound householders, who would be placed on the Register in virtue of the tender, without there being sufficient security that these parties had a boâa fide residence and qualification. Unless some other provision were made than what was afforded by the Bill, they would have parties coming out once a year, tendering portions of the rates, in order to qualify themselves, and those parties too, who had no connexion with the property. Then, again, who was the officer to whom the tender was to be made? Every overseer and every churchwarden was qualified to receive the rates, although there was only one who could be qualified to say whether a party were a ratepayer in the proper sense. But the proof that a party had really made a tender to one or other of these various officers, would be sufficient to qualify him. When he thus saw a manifest intention to lower the franchise to those parties by giving them the benefit of the composition for rates under the Small Tenements Rating Act, he could not conceive but that this was an attempt, under cover of this Bill, to lower the franchise, and expose the constituent cies, especially in large towns, to a perfect influx of fictitious voters, who would not be tenants but nominal tenants.
I regret that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) has found it necessary to introduce these words. I understand that the proposition is to obviate the inconvenience occasioned to voters, and which actually does deprive them of the right of voting by reason that they are called on at every fresh rate either to tender again or pay the rate. I understand that to be the evil which the Bill is intended to remedy. On the second reading of the Bill, the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) said he was willing to remedy that inconvenience; he only wished that these compound householders should not be in a better position than persons who were rated to the full rate. I find that the words of the Reform Act are these:—
But what my hon. Friend now proposes is, to change the words of the Reform Act—to leave out the words, "the full amount of the rates due in respect of such premises," and put other words in the place of them, which would have the effect of enabling a person to acquire the franchise, by tendering the amount which would be paid by the landlord, although much less than ought to have been paid by the occupier himself. Would that be sufficient to show that the occupier was sufficiently solvent to be placed on the rate book? I do not deny that there is great force in the argument of my hon. Friend, and that a person claiming to vote under such circumstances might be sufficiently solvent; but I think this is a proposition which goes entirely beyond the Reform Act, and one which would give to the person claiming to vote, an advantage greater than that possessed by the person who paid the full amount of the rates. The proposition before the Committee was designed to put the compound householder in as good a situation, but not in a better situation, than the person who paid the full amount of rates. I do not think that the Committee ought now to introduce into the Bill a new principle not contemplated when the measure was introduced; and I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets will not persevere with his Amendment."It shall be competent for the person rated to h e relief of the poor in respect of such premises to claim to be on the registry, and upon such occupier so claiming, tendering the full amount of the rates then due, the overseers of the parish are hereby required to put the name of such occupier upon the register for the time being."
said, he was afraid the observation of the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not lead the Committee to suppose that his proposition for reform would be one which would satisfy the country. He (Mr. Bright) understood it was a common thing in Committee to introduce a clause to remedy some other matter than that which was strictly considered the question, and it was for the Committee to consider whether the proposition introduced by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was worthy of adoption. He understood that the measure was rather to declare the law than to enact the law, because he understood from his hon. Friend that with regard to the metropolitan constituencies, it was not customary to con- strne the existing law so as to shut out the compounders; but in other places it we customary to shut them out, and he could point to a borough in the north of England where, within fifteen years, there had been an increase of 10,000 houses, but in con sequence of this law there had been no increase of the voters. It must be admitted on all hands that the system of compounding was a very beneficial one for the parochial authorities, because they found it prevailed almost everywhere, and the tendency of the authorities was to increase it. Where the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) said this was a measure to increase the franchise, his argument could only apply to those whose rentals amounted to just the 10?.; but he knew that in the borough he had referred to, the system of compounding was applied to houses of the value of 181. a year. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) who, he believed, had no unfriendly feeling towards the Bill, said the words proposed would establish a principle very different from that which the Bill originally intended; hut he would ask him if this system of compounding continued to spread over the country, if he was willing to allow that system to disfranchise those on whom the Reform Bill intended to confer the franchise? The noble Lord at the head of the Government interpreted the Bill as was wished by hon. Members on the other side of the House, that the person should be on the Register when the full rate was paid which was written opposite the particular house. Now, there had been contrary decisions on that question. He considered that in all matters in which the franchise we? concerned, the interpretation of the law should be liberal; and when the ease of the forty-shilling freeholders came before Chief Justice Tindal, he stated that it was the intention of the law, and it was the spirit of the constitution of the country, that all the laws which affected the franchise, and particularly in reference to the Reform Bill, should be construed liberally, and with a view rather to extend than to limit the franchise. Now here was a case in point. He said that the payment of the amount which the parochial authorities had arranged with the landlord should be received in discharge of the rates for certain premises, should be held to be a discharge of the whole rate. Not to give the franchise under these circumstances would be to act in contravention of the Small Tenements Act, which passed last Session, and which preserved the franchise of all persons rated at above 6l. He thought they ought now to settle the law, which was to some I extent uncertain, and thereby give the franchise to some thousands of persons well qualified to vote, and to deny whose right, he was sure, was not consistent with the safety of the institutions of the country.
had not expressed any opinion as to whether it might not be desirable to make the alteration suggested, and thus give the franchise to the numerous class of persons to whom reference had been made. What he said was, that it was understood, on the second reading of the Bill, that the words of the Reform Act, were to be adhered to. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire concurred in that view; and many hon. Members who came down to oppose the second reading, assented to it on that condition. No notice was given that any alteration of this kind j would be proposed. He certainly had received no notice. But the hon. Member for Manchester seemed to have had some intimation on the subject. What he (Lord John Russell) now said was, not that this I alteration was a wrong one, or unfounded in principle, or not likely to be beneficial in its operation, but that in point of fairness it ought not to have been introduced without notice.
whilst anxious: to extend the principles of the Reform Act, wished the Committee to consider whether the proposition now before them would not create great injustice in the parochial burdens throughout the country. The present measure, if passed, would—have a material effect in placing persons on the burgess roll the municipal towns. He had not the slightest objection to any measure that would practically increase the franchise of the country—he believed such a measure would be wholesome and good; but he objected in the strongest manner against any attempt by a side wind to place persons on the Register who did not conform to the provisions of the Reform Act. He trusted the hon. Member would withdraw the Amendment, and thus relieve him from the painful necessity of opposing it.
thought this Bill showed the necessity of the noble Lord coming forward with a measure which would do away with the necessity of paying the rates and taxes for the purposes of the franchise. The younger Member for North Warwickshire had stated that the measure would open a wide door to abuse; but the hon. Gentleman did not consider that by the present state of the law hundreds of thousands of persons were shut out from the franchise. At the present moment, the compounders might be put on the existing rate; but the complaint was that they were obliged to claim for every rate, and, as there might be four or five rates in a year, it was impossible for them to keep pace with the requirements of the law.
contended that the Committee was not bound by any understanding which might have been come to between two hon. Members, but that each hon. Member was perfectly at liberty to propose such amendment as he might think desirable. He approved of the alteration suggested by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and should give it his support; but thought the better course would be for the hon. Member to withdraw it for the present, and give notice of his intention to propose a clause on bringing up the report.
said, there had been no understanding upon the subject but what the Committee was fully in possession of. He had distinctly stated on the second reading that he had no objection to the principle of the Bill, so far as it related to the removal of technicalities standing in the way of the due and proper exercise of the franchise. This proposed Amendment, however, went further than that; it extended the franchise to parties who at present had no right to it, and as that was not within, the scope of the Bill, as it was originally understood, he should oppose it; but he hoped that course would be obviated by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets withdrawing the Amendment.
said, the hon. Gentleman had correctly stated the object of the Bill, and all that the proposed Amendment would do was to declare what was the meaning of particular words in the Reform Act. With the distinct understanding, however, that hereafter there would be no objection to the introduction of a Bill to accomplish the object which the Amendment had in view, he would readily withdraw it.
said, the tendencies of three parties out of four in that House were to extend the franchise; and as the noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated that he would bring the subject forward next Session, he (Lord R. Grosvenor) thought it would tend to economise the time of the House if this Bill, and also the measure proposed by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King), were withdrawn altogether, and that they should postpone these questions altogether until next year, when a measure would be brought forward on the responsibility of the Government.
said, the proposition of the noble Lord was, that the House was to do nothing, and that they were to wait for the Government doing something. Now, they had no security that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would bring forward any measure next year; and he hoped that the House would not accede to the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord R. Grosvenor) to drop this measure.
hoped that the accusation which had been brought against him, of being opposed to the extension of the suffrage, would be considered as neutralised by the support which he was about to give to the Bill. At the same time, he thought that the effect of the measure would be greatly to facilitate the manufacture of fictitious voters who had no regular connexion with the constituencies at all. It had indeed been shown that this took place to a considerable extent under the present system; and he thought they ought not to encourage the intrusion of such foreign influence. The people of Birmingham would not like a wholesale importation of Manchester men but the effect of this Bill would be to bring into Southwark or Lambeth a number of persons who did not belong to it, but who only took lodgings of a sufficient amount to satisfy the requirements of the law. He did not think that sufficient precautions were taken to ascertain whether the claimants actually resided in the borough in which they claimed to vote; and he did not think that would be sufficiently provided for by leaving it to the revising barrister's court. If the scheme of the hon. Baronet were adopted, the franchise might be obtained by lodgings in a borough on a particular day. He proposed to insert these words in the clause, "In case the claimant himself should pay the rates." That, he admitted, would not be an adequate safeguard; still, it would be adequate sort of security against the unjust inroads on the privileges of others proposed by this Bill.
said, the very object of this Bill was to prevent those persons whose rates were compounded from being obliged, if they desired to be on the Register, to pay the rates themselves. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate) had better at once openly admit that he was entirely opposed to the Bill. Not one single franchise would be gained by the people if the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman were adopted.
said, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was under a misconception in supposing that any number of persons had taken lodgings in the borough of Lambeth to qualify themselves to vote at the last election.
objected to the Amendment.
explained that his intention was to prevent such abuses as had been carried on in the borough of Lambeth; and having drawn attention to the subject, he did not wish to press the Amendment.
It was notorious that the last election for the borough of Lambeth resulted in the turning out of the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Hawes), and the seating of the Solicitor for London, Mr. Charles Pearson, owing to the circumstance of there having been placed on the Register a number of persons qualified only by being lodgers, and by having compounded for the payment of rates with householders. There was no society in the borough of Lambeth for expunging the names of such parties from the Register. Thousands of such persons were on the Register at the election which took place in 1847.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
said, he would for the present strike out the clause altogether, with the view of its being reintroduced on the bringing up of the report. The first clause had been so much altered that he considered this course necessary, with the view of giving him time to consider what would be the effect of those alterations before he asked the House to adopt the second clause.
said, the hon. Baronet had asked the House to deal with his measure in a very irregular manner. Would it be a convenient course to discuss an important portion of the Bill on the bringing up of the report?
Clause struck out; Preamble agreed to; House resumed.
Bill, as amended, to be considered Tomorrow.
County Franchise Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
in moving the Second Reading of the County Franchise Bill, trusted ho might claim the indulgence of the House; for he felt that he did it under somewhat peculiar circumstances.: He must say, he deeply regretted that, in the majority which had voted in favour of the introduction of this measure, the names of Her Majesty's Ministers did not appear; for he was confident that no one thing could have tended more to strengthen Her Majesty's Government and make them popular in this country than to have given a good substantial proof of their desire to extend the franchise by supporting this very simple and just measure. He had been blamed by one or two hon. Gentlemen for having pressed the House to a division upon that occasion, and having thus exposed Her Majesty's Ministers to the mortification of a defeat; but he begged to assure those hon. Members that he had never intended this Motion to he a mere show, a sham, a flash in the pan, but a reality. He had felt that great interests were at stake—that the great cause of free trade was in danger, owing to the great diminution which had already taken place in our county constituencies; at the same time, he had never had the least intention of embarrassing the Government in any way, much less of endangering its existence. Could it be supposed that he could wish to see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire occupying the post which the noble Lord now occupied? Certainly, if he wished to see a sudden, violent, and complete revolution effected in our institutions, and if he, wished to see protection established as the means of bringing about such a revolution, then, perhaps, he might wish to see the hon. Gentleman and his party upon the Treasury benches. Now, he must say, that they who advocated this cause of reform stood in a much better position in consequence of that decision than they had ever done before; for the principle of a substantial extension of the franchise had been admitted, not only by a majority of two to one of the Members of that House, but also by the subsequent statement of two of the most eminent and distinguished statesmen. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, who voted against the measure, at the same time, said—
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, who, after having heard the discussion, abstained from voting, also expressed sentiments of a similar charater. But he had had the satisfaction of having since had the avowal of both the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman; and he was pleased to find that the noble Lord appeared to be actually in advance of his Cabinet upon this question, for the noble Lord said that he had prepared an outline of a plan, but that, after various discussions among the different Members of the Cabinet, they had all concurred in the opinion that it was not advisable to introduce such a Bill this Session: and the noble Lord added, that he confessed he came to that conclusion, having originally held a different opinion, but that he came to that conclusion in conjunction with all his colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon also stated that, upon his part, there could be no objection to an extension of the franchise; but he, at the same time, said that the greatest caution was requisite. He (Mr. King) was sure the House would fully concur with the right hon. Gentleman that, in any extension whatever of the franchise, the greatest caution was required. It seemed to him, when he heard those statements, that the good genius of our country was hovering over the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet, and that they who, once acting together, had brought forward the Reform Bill, and thus, humanly speaking, had saved the country from anarchy and confusion, were about to unite again to produce another Reform Bill of almost equal importance. It seemed, also, a good omen to have had such an admission made by the only two surviving Members of that Cabinet, that the work, as it were, of their own hands had been weighed in the balance by them, and had been found wanting. It appeared to him, that the duty of considering what should be done in this matter had now indeed become urgent. It had become a question for the noble Lord to consider whether he could keep the whole country in a profound state of ignorance as to what kind of plan he was likely to produce after a lapse of twelve months. It certainly would be an anomalous and singular state of things for the noble Lord not only to show a willingness to agree to the principle, but to admit that he had formed the conclusion to produce a plan, which, however, they were not to discuss for twelve months to come. He must say, that he was most thankful even for such an avowal as that, when he recollected that it was made in the midst of great financial difficulties, caused by a surplus in the revenue and a corresponding deficiency in the Budget, aggravated, no doubt, by the zeal which had been created and fostered respectively by the letters which had been written—the one to the Catholic laity from the Flaminian Gate, in the city of Rome, the other to a Protestant bishop from Downing-street, in this metropolis. But every liberal Member must feel himself somewhat in the same position as that so truly described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, when he said that it was impossible for him to say whether he approved or disapproved of the outline of the plan which the noble Lord was likely to bring forward; for it must be equally impossible for any Member of that House to form an opinion upon it. While they all knew that the Bill before the House would, in some counties, very probably double the number of electors, they had no assurance whatever from the noble Lord whether his Bill would double them, or would only add a half or a quarter to the number of those whom he admitted to be an unobjectionable class. The avowal which had been made by the noble Lord must, in the end, most assuredly alienate from himself, his party, and his Government, the whole of the great Tory party. The Tories would do the noble Lord in future no more yeoman's service. He must rest for his support upon the Whigs, the Liberals, and, as in the time of the Reform Bill, upon the people of England. He (Mr. King) had, for his part, great confidence that the noble Lord would produce, when the time came for redeeming his promise, such a scheme as he had declared to be necessary, and as would satisfy the people of England; that he would append to his Reform Bill another Schedule A, and disfranchise that wretched class of small borough constituencies, which, from their utter insignificance seemed to be incapable of that sort of public virtue which characterised the larger electoral bodies. If that wretched, contemptible, and most mischievous class of boroughs, which only just escaped disfranchisement at the time of the Reform Bill, should be removed from our electoral system, on which they were a blot and a stain, and if the pocket counties, which were in the hands of a few individuals, should be remodelled by the noble Lord, he would occupy a position, as the Reformer of the Reform Bill, as honourable and elevated as that which he had gained twenty years ago. At all events, he was sure of this, that unless when the time came the noble Lord should propose a very large and extensive measure of reform, he would not be able to carry it; for, unless he enlisted upon his side the sympathies of the great body of the people of England, his Bill would be thrown out elsewhere. It was time, then, for them all to unite to put their shoulders to the wheel, and it was time for the noble Lord, if possible, to put himself at tile head of the movement for extending the franchise, The noble Lord the other day had felt constrained to resign office, and he retained it now only because another noble Lord was unable to form an Administration. The only party, therefore, on whom he could rely wore the Liberals; and did it not, then, behove them, if they wished to strengthen the Government, to adopt enlightened liberal principles that should unite them all? When the Irish Franchise Bill was introduced, the noble Lord stated that the number of occupiers above 80l. in Ireland was 313,224, from which number several reductions had to be made. The population of Ireland amounted to about 8,000,000. Now, if he took the county population of England (deducting the boroughs), it amounted to about 9,125,131, and the number of occupiers between 10l. and 50l. was 319,558, from which very considerable reductions, however, had to be made also. But when he took into consideration the wealth, the intelligence, and, above all, the amount of taxation which was paid by the people of England, in comparison with those of Ireland, he must say that the people of England were not so well represented as the people of Ireland. But he begged hon. Gentlemen not to be alarmed at the numbers which it was thought would he admitted by this Bill into the constituencies, for, as he had before said, very large reductions had to be made from that number of 319,558. For example, many who were returned in counties as the occupiers of houses between 10l. and 50l. were the actual owners of such houses. There were also many who, by the assistance of freehold land societies, had purchased 40s. freeholds, and were already upon the re- gister; and there were also many large owners who had land in different parishes who retained portions of that land, such as woods, in their own holding, and were thus returned as so many separate owners. De-ducting the boroughs, he found that in 1841 the county population amounted to 9,125,131; adding to that 15 per cent for increase in the population since, he had a total county population at the present time of 10,493,900. Then, if he took the number of electors, which then amounted to 484,073, and added to them 15 per cent, in order to keep pace with the population, it would augment the number of electors to 556,683 in 1851; but instead of that they only amounted to 461,413, showing an actual decrease of 95,270 in the counties. Applying that same rule to the boroughs, he found that in 1841 their population amounted to 5,870,007, and, adding 15 percent, the present population would be 6,750,007. The electors in 1841 amounted to 328,636, and again adding 15 per cent, he found that the number now ought to be 377,931; but instead of that it had actually increased (while the counties had decreased) to 378,384. At the time of the census in 1841, one out of every eighteen had a vote both in the counties and boroughs; but now, while in boroughs the proportion continued nearly the same, in counties it had decreased to one in twenty-two. He trusted that there might be no delay in granting a measure of this description; for delay was greatly to be regretted in making concessions of popular rights. That which to-day would be accepted as a boon, to-morrow would be extorted as a right. Look at the history of coercion so long continued, and concession so long postponed in Ireland, and they would see that a large portion of the benefit which concession was justly calculated to produce was altogether lost. Again, let them look at the question of disfranchising East Retford; a reform so paltry and insignificant as that had the effect of staying all reforms for a long period; but in 1830 the noble Lord admitted that a much larger measure was necessary than he had originally contemplated. He might say that in truth postponement, refusal, and delay had been invariably the characteristics of the Tory party, and that greater reforms than were at first asked had always been ultimately extorted. If they took the reign of Charles I. it was followed by Cromwell and the Commonwealth; and in our own time George IV. was fol- lowed by William IV., when the country obtained the Reform Bill; and finally, Victoria, and the triumph of Free Trade. In France Louis XVI. and XVII. were succeeded by Napoleon and the first revolution; and Louis Philippe by another Napoleon and another revolution. There were some remarkable words uttered by that great man Louis Philippe in 1804, when Due d'Orleans, which showed how much in 1848 he had forgotten his early instruction. He said, Le moyen de rendre les revolutions plus rares, ce serait de rendre les reformes plus faciles. He trusted that the noble Lord in 1851 would not forget these remarkable words, uttered in 1804, and enunciated by himself in 1831 and 1832. The noble Lord should consider what must be the effect produced by delay upon the minds of those who wished to be put on the same footing as their fellow-citizens. There could be only one feeling with respect to a measure like the present, simple in its principle, easy to be carried out, and "by which it was proposed to enfranchise a class so totally unobjectionable that nobody had dared to assail their characters, and yet it was said that they were not to enjoy that franchise which was enjoyed under similar circumstances by their fellow-citizens. The consequence must be, that if the ancient prejudices of a great obstructive party, or if hereditary prejudice combined with hereditary privilege operating on any body elsewhere, should delay, or refuse an instalment of this debt of justice, the result must be that every man who would be enfranchised by that Bill, and who would have a voice in the election of those who taxed and legislated for him, would feel that the voice of reason and justice had been disregarded, and that popular outcry and agitation might very properly be had recourse to."I do not think any reasonable objection can be alleged against the class of persons whom the hon. Member proposes to introduce into the county constituencies. I admit at once they are a class of persons who, if intrusted with the elective franchise, would probably use it with intelligence and integrity."
Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
thought that the Bill would confer upon a very large and very important portion of the community that Parliamentary franchise from which they were at present unjustly debarred. It would grant the franchise to a large number of professional men, who were now entirely excluded from the franchise. It would confer the franchise upon civil engineers, medical men, and others of a similar grade in society. It might be said that it was within the power of every individual, by an outlay of between 40l. and 50l., to acquire a freehold Parliamentary franchise. That was quite true; but such purchases were only made by those who might be called jobbers in the Parliamentary interest. But it was to secure votes to those who did not come within that category that he was anxious that this Bill should be passed into a law. The people had shown, by their habits of order, by their increased love of education, that they were worthy to be entrusted with the elective franchise. This extension, he felt assured, would give security to property, and an additional stimulus to the industry of the people.
had been in great hopes that his hon. Friend who had moved the second reading of this Bill would have been content with the opinion which had been already expressed by the House, and would not have pressed further, during the present Session, the progress of a measure which he perfectly understood his hon. Friend to have undertaken in a bonâ fide spirit. In the few observations which it was his intention to address to the House, he should refrain from discussing the principle of the measure which had been brought forward; but he might state in passing that he entirely concurred in the opinion expressed by his noble Friend at the head of the Government, that the class whom his hon. Friend sought to enfranchise were perfectly worthy of it, and that it was not upon the ground of any unworthiness on their part that he at present opposed the further progress of this Bill. Looking at the conduct of the people of this country, and the proofs they had given of their ability to exercise more extended franchises than they at present enjoyed, he must say that in his opinion the time had come when an extension of the franchise might safely be conceded. But his opinion was, that if they were to meddle with the Reform Bill, there must be a complete union among those who desired to extend that great measure. And his noble Friend, in the former debate upon this measure, had most distinctly given the House and the country to understand that not only in his opinion had that period arrived, but that had other measures not intervened to throw the discussion of such a proposition as he was disposed to make, so late into the present Session of Parliament as to afford no prospect of its being carried, he himself would this Session have introduced such improvements upon the Reform Bill as would be consistent with the principle of that Bill. But what had happened? Circumstances had occurred which had brought measures under discussion of which he defied any one to predict with certainty the termination—measures too in which the people of this country were for the moment as deeply interested as they would he even in the discussion of the Reform Bill. He alluded, for instance, to the measure with reference to the assumption of Ecclesiastical Titles, to those connected with the Financial arrangements of the country, and that relative to the admission into Parliament of Members of the Jewish persuasion—a measure, allow him to say, which must he brought forward, to which the House was pledge, and which he held they ought to discuss even previous to any general measure for an alteration of the Reform Bill. But his noble Friend had gone further than that, and had stated that if he held the same position next year that he now held, it was his full intention to bring before the country such a measure as he should think consistent with the principle of the Reform Bill, and required by the necessities of the case. Now, if any man in that House were entitled to have confidence placed in his statements, it was his noble Friend, for of no man could it more honestly be said that he had never shrunk from redeeming his pledge, and that pledge his noble Friend would redeem when the proper time came. He thought if the franchises were to he extended, it should be by one general measure affecting all the different franchises at one and the same time; and he strongly deprecated these bit-by-bit reforms, which could bear no fruits in their isolated forms, but which, if brought forward as a general measure, would insure the support and co-operation of all parts of the communication', and would acquire a force out of doors which would enable it to be carried by a large majority. Therefore, he earnestly entreated his hon. Friend upon the present occasion not to press his Motion. He had admitted to his hon. Friend that he agreed in the principle which he would urge in so far that the class in question was worthy of the franchise. He had admitted that it was the intention of the Government to extend the franchises of the people generally. lie believed, as he had said before, that the people had shown themselves entirely worthy of such an extension, for, at a time when other countries were convulsed with revolutions, the people of England, in perfect confidence that the onward progress of reform was making silent but sure advances, remained quiet, the friends of law, the friends of order. He earnestly recommended his hon. Friend behind him to remember that all reforms must be carried by union among reformers. He warned them, if they were to have dissension among themselves—if measures were to be brought forward from time to time, first upon one subject and then upon another, interfering with that great constitutional measure upon which the representation of this country was founded, that there was a party occupying a most legitimate position in the country, who, not seeing the same necessity for reform that they did, looked not only for the downfall and overthrow of the Reform Government, but also for the disruption of that great party through whom all reforms could alone be carried. He told the Reform party that they were the only party in the country who had the will to carry reform, but that they could have no power unless they would act in combined union. He called upon them then to combine, and follow the banner of him who, twenty years ago, had led them to one of the greatest reforms that any country had ever received at the hands of any Government, and who would, if allowed to use his own time and to exercise his own discretion, lead them to still further victories in the constitutional struggle. He was confident that his noble Friend would do that if the Reform party would combine together; but, on the other band, if they withdrew from him that confidence to which he thought he was justly entitled at their hands, and from time to time brought forward isolated measures of their own to extend the franchise, then their endeavours, so far from being successful, might end in a discussion which would have the effect of stopping further measures of reform for a considerable period, and might lead to the placing of the affairs of this country in the hands of those who were opposed to all reforms. The only result of introducing measures such as this must be disappointment and delay, and for these reasons he entreated his hon. Friend not to press his Motion for the second reading of the Bill upon the present occasion.
thought it a matter for consideration whether the sense of the House should be taken on the second reading of the Bill after the division in which the hon. Member for East Surrey, who had introduced the measure, had been so successful. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) placed the matter on a totally different footing. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government had spoken only as strongly and strenuously in the first instance as had the right hon. Gentleman now, it would, with the majority the supporters of the Bill then had, have perhaps been unadvisable to take a division even on that occasion. But, as the case at present stood, it seemed much more advisable that the party favourable to reform should place the whole responsibility on Her Majesty's Government, and, after the pledge so distinctly given by the right hon. Gentleman, should leave the matter in their hands, relying on their honour, and the statement the House had heard of an intention to bring forward, not merely a measure meddling, as it was expressed, with the Reform Act, but a great measure of electoral reform, which would be satisfactory not only to the party which the right hon. Gentleman desired to identify with the Government, but also to a great party outside. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the fact that the hon. Member for East Surrey had got the principle of his measure admitted. [Mr. Locke King intimated dissent.] The hon. Member had certainly obtained a division of the House in favour of the subject; and what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) distinctly said was, that the class proposed to be enfranchised would perform their duties with intelligence and integrity, and that he believed them worthy of the elective franchise. If that were not admitting the principle of the measure, it was hard to say what would be so. He was therefore disposed to leave the subject in the hands of the Government. But his right hon. Friend had gone much further, and placed the House in such a position that it was now a mere matter of expediency what should be done. Looking to the benches of the House as at present filled, and hearing the opinion of the Government that this measure must be opposed, was it advisable for the representatives of the Reform party to hazard a division which they must feel perfectly confident would go against them? On these grounds he suggested that his hon. I Friend the Member for East Surrey should not press the Motion to a division. He would rely on the promises made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War on behalf of the Government. It was to be regretted that the measure intended had been so long delayed; and the reasons alleged did not sufficiently justify the postponement of a general measure of electoral reform.
could not avoid concurring in the sentiment just expressed by the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), that it would be inexpedient to press the second reading of this Bill to a division. He had voted with the hon. Member for East Surrey on the former occasion, but without feeling the remotest distrust of the intentions of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in whose promise to introduce a measure early next Session to extend the franchise he reposed every confidence. The hon. Member for East Surrey, whose Motion had elicited those promises, was entitled to the thanks of all the Reformers in the country. But he concurred greatly in the observations of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) and the hon. baronet (Sir B. Hall), though he thought there was nothing to be regretted in the division which had occurred, or the debate which had arisen. The hon. Member for East Surrey would incur a serious responsibility if the Motion were pressed to a division now; the advantage gained by the former division would, it might be feared, be lost.
said, he thought they were wandering from the matter under discussion. They were not met to discuss whether they should divide or not, but whether they should go on with the Bill, and not simply whether it was desirable to bring forward an important question when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in the House. He had no expectation at all that a measure of that kind could be smuggled through the House, nor did he think it desirable that it should be. It would be far better to turn their attention to the measure itself, than to what had taken place on the last discussion, or what would be the result of a division that day. He had listened with considerable gratification to the speech of the right hon. Secretary at War. He was frank in his declaration of something to be done; and from the tone of his remarks, it might be supposed that it was to be something considerable. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not hitherto indulged the House with anything so distinct. On the last occasion he had agreed that, to a certain extent, the class of persons sought to be introduced to the franchise by the measure of the hon. Member for East Surrey might be so introduced consistently with the spirit of the Reform Bill, and with the good government of the country; but he had concluded by expressing a very decided opposition to the Bill itself and to its principle. He had intimated that there was some constitutional reason why the franchise, which was suitable and proper for boroughs, should not be so for counties—a distinction which appeared to arise in the noble Lord's mind from some extraordinary veneration for that arrangement of our electoral system by which one class of Members represented boroughs and another counties, thus arraying the industry of the boroughs against the territorial influence of the county representation. As the noble Lord had not signified his approval in the slightest degree of the extension of the 10l. franchise to counties, the hon. Member for East Surrey was justified in bringing this specific proposition before the House, to have it faily discussed; for if, during the recess, the noble Lord considered the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and this particular question, he would be much assisted in the conclusion to which he might come by a full and fair discussion in the meantime on the principle of this Bill. He would, therefore, urge that they should go to the consideration of the Bill itself, to determine whether it should pass, or whether its principle was a good one, and proper to be introduced into a general measure. It was agreed that they were to take another step in advance from the platform of the Reform Bill; for it was only a minority in that House who opposed all progress. The right Hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) objected to this Bill, because it was only a part of the question, and thought it would be better to deal with it as a whole. There was some force in that objection; but when the hon. Member for Montrose brought forward his Motion, which embraced the whole question, which proposed not only to give a large extension of the franchise, but to accompany it with certain arrangements which seemed absolutely necessary for giving proper efficiency to a new Reform Bill, the Government complained that the proposition was so enormous that it was impossible for the House to adopt it, or even to discuss it on the Motion of an independent Member. Therefore, his hon. Friend (Mr. L. King) had brought this forward as one branch of the great subject; and he hoped the discussion would have some effect in clarifying the mind of the noble Lord when he came to consider it as a whole. Let the House look at the question in this light: it was not in any degree a question of principle as regarded the suffrage; for all that the Bill proposed had been adopted with regard to half the electors in England and Wales, and to the whole of those in Ireland. It was merely a question of limits, not of the suffrage itself—a proposal to extend the suffrage already permitted in boroughs to those living beyond their limits in the counties. Were the opposers of this Bill prepared to say that beyond the limits of the boroughs there was less industry, frugality, intelligence, virtue, or any of those qualities on which they professed to base the extension of the franchise, than there existed within the boroughs? Hon. Gentlemen opposite were expected to represent those connected with agriculture. Were those they represented to be left to a 50l. franchise, while those who were represented in the boroughs had representation with an occupation as low as 10l. a year? It was said that this measure, if carried, would give increased influence to the protectionist and territorial party. If such were to be its effects, he would not object to it on that ground. A measure of this kind ought not to be looked at as a means of placing Whigs or Protectionists in office, but to be taken on its own principle, and with reference to the particular class of persons intended to be enfranchised. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) said he thought those persons most worthy of the franchise. If so, was it not a great and undeniable grievance to exclude them? The constitution clearly was, that all who could safely be entrusted with the franchise should exercise it; and if the Government thought that these persons were entirely worthy of the franchise, and would exercise it with propriety and safety to the country, it was the duty of the noble Lord, if he undertook the question, to include them in his Bill, and admit them to the franchise. He had no strong opinion on the question of division; he had not on the former occasion. If the noble Lord would tell the House, with a frankness which he hoped he would recover on this question, but which seemed to have abandoned him for the last five years, what kind of proposition he would bring forward—for when he (Mr. Bright) was asked for great confidence, he liked to know what he was asked to confide in; and looking at the speeches of the noble Lord on this question, leaving out of view his antecedents twenty years ago, there was no reason for believing that he was about to submit such a Reform Bill as would excite the enthusiasm of the country, or such as his right hon. Colleague on a former occa- sion had alluded to; and until the House knew whether the Government proposition was to he a large and generous or a small and peddling one, he must persist in his support of this Bill. If the noble Lord would give the House some kind of outline of the principles on which he intended to found his measure—for he had already revolved it in his own mind, and stated that he had been prepared to submit it to the Cabinet this Session—he should say that, under the circumstances of the business in this Session, and it being impossible for a question like that to be carried without the assistance of Government, there would be no objection to this Bill being withdrawn or negatived, only on the express understanding that the noble Lord had this question under consideration, and would give his early attention to it. A great many hon. Gentlemen behind him were in a difficulty. They had voted for the introduction of the Bill, and consequences had followed—he would not say had resulted from that vote—which he, among the number, very sincerely regretted. The question was whether they should again divide? He was certain that those who thought it really important that the franchise should be extended would find all their measures promoted by a single-minded, undeviating following out of the principle which on this question they had adopted. The noble Lord himself had been once an independent Member of that House, and used to bring forward questions of reform; but he had never thought himself obliged to hide his light under a bushel, and put out his Reform Bill, because the Minister asked him to do it as a convenience to the Government. The noble Lord was not so bad a tactician as not to know that all measures carried by Governments were carried because they were obliged to do it. If independent Members put their opinions in the background, the result would be that nothing would be done, and hon. Members might as well go home, and allow Ministers to carry on, not only the government, but the executive of the country. He would rather see a bold and comprehensive measure of reform brought forward by the. noble Lord than by any one else; but the noble Lord had not sufficiently explained his views. It was desirable that he should do so; as then it might not be necessary to go to a division.
wished to express his hope that the hon. Member for East Surrey would divide the House on his Motion; but at the same time he (Golonel Sibthorp) certainly should not support the hon. Member, because he could not subscribe to anything which might be the forerunner of a democracy. He hoped the hon. Member would divide, particularly on account of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, who had turned round to those whom he considered his friends—a united party no doubt they were, and implored them not to divide, because, indeed union was strength. He (Colonel Sibthorp) would neither support the hon. Member for East Surrey, nor the Government; and, indeed, nothing could gratify him more than to see the two parties at loggerheads, because out of apparent evil he expected there would come good. Hon. Gentlemen placed great confidence in the noble Lord's promised Bill. He (Colonel Sibthorp) did not know where the measure was. Perhaps it was in the Glass Palace. He wished it was there, for then they would he able to see it; but he had no confidence in the noble Lord's Bill, for he believed it was all mere clap-trap. He would leave the Government in the hands of its friends, and the better they handled it the more satisfied would he be. With the expression of these humble opinions he would beg leave to withdraw, leaving both parties to fight it out as they might; and he would give the hon. Member for East Surrey and the noble Lord at the head of the Government the full right to judge of the matter as they thought proper.
was sorry the hon. and gallant Officer had retired, because he thought he would never have been found declining combat on such occasions. The right hon. Secretary at War had made an excellent speech, after the lapse of many years' silence on this subject on the Treasury benches; but he (Mr. Hume) had been too long in that House to take the promise of the right hon. Gentleman for the realisation of the whole of their views, as some hon. Gentlemen appeared to do. He could not accede to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Marylebone, because if the Government should bring forward only a mere fractional measure, they would have shut the door against the discussion, of any further measures of reform. Every Member who voted against the second reading declared constitutionally against giving the franchise to the persons included in this Bill. The right hon. Se- cretary at War deprecated a division, and called upon the reformers to be united. Why, who had disunited them. The Government, who always stood still while the country required progress in reform to be made. It was said the principle of the Bill had been already admitted. Why, that was a monstrous assertion. The principle of a Bill could only be admitted by voting for the second reading. If the Government were sincere in their intentions let them support this Bill, as an instalment of what was due to the country. They should manfully say they meant so and so, and not leave the House to depend on vague and indefinite statements. Unless they did that, he hoped the hon. Member for East Surrey would divide upon the second reading. It would be a disgraceful thing to see reformers going into the lobby along with the enemies of all reform; and he thought it perfect folly to say that the principle of this Bill bad been agreed to because leave to bring in the Bill bad been carried when the reformers bad been left almost alone in the House, and with only ten or a dozen of the hon. Gentlemen opposite in their places.
wished to explain, after what had fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose, that what be had stated was, that after the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, it would perhaps be better to throw the onus of this measure on the Government. If, however, the hon. Member for East Surrey insisted on dividing the House, he (Sir B. Hall) bad not said he should vote against him.
fully approved of the principle of the Bill, which he considered was very important; but be altogether dissented from the manner in which that question had been brought forward, He was willing to admit that he was one of those who believed in the promises of the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but be did not think it would be of any benefit to the country if the noble Lord were to make any intimation just then of the nature of the reform which he contemplated. If the House went to a division he would vote for the second reading of the Bill, but would not do so from any distrust of the noble Lord.
said, that although he had voted for the introduction of the measure, he agreed fully with the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone, that it was not desirable that the question should be pressed at that moment. He thought, too, after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, that there was the less need for a division; but they must all admit that much had been gained by that discussion. He hoped to see the measure carried; and it was because he wished to see it carried soon, and on the authority of the Government, that he should oppose the present Motion if they went to a division. In conclusion, he would ask the hon. Member for East Surrey not to press his Motion to a division.
had often had the honour of introducing to the House propositions for the reform of the Reform Bill, and be generally moved them in the shape of resolutions to the effect, that the Reform Bill having disappointed the expectations of the people, and not being accounted a final measure, the House should proceed to take the state of the representation into its consideration. Now, they must forgive him, if on the present occasion he had, to a certain degree, doubts as to the extent to which the Government proposed to carry their intended Reform Bill. He had not received that consolation from the speech of the right hon. Secretary at War which other Gentlemen seemed to have got, because he had not told them whether it was the magnitude or the inefficiency of the present measure that Her Majesty's Ministers objected to. He told them, certainly, that it was a very respectable class to whom the Bill proposed to extend the elective franchise; but the way he showed respect for that class was by voting a direct negative to the measure by means of which that franchise was proposed to be conferred upon them. Then, if he had read aright the speech which the noble Lord at the head of the Government made on this measure, there was a very considerable discrepancy between the noble Lord and the Secretary at War with regard to this class of voters. The noble Lord said they would be a dependent class, and ought not to have the franchise; but the right hon. the Secretary at War said they were a class possessed of intelligence and integrity, and entitled to the franchise; and then they were told that the state of public business was the only reason why Government had not introduced a Reform Bill of their own. That was not the reason, however, which the noble Lord gave on a former occasion. The noble Lord stated, and it was satisfactory to the House and to his supporters, that Her Majesty's Cabinet had had before them a Bill for the reform of the representation, and that they had gone into interesting discussions upon the question. But the only consequence of those discussions was, that, all of a sudden, it occurred to the Ministers that the Reform Bill was not twenty years old; that next year it would be twenty years old, and that then would be the time to consider the matter and bring in a Bill; and the noble Lord accordingly promised, that if ho was then in office, he would bring in a Bill to reform the Reform Bill, But he (Mr. Duncombe) wanted to know how they were sure the noble Lord would be in place that time next year? What then would become of these promises of a Reform Bill? He recommended the noble Lord, besides, to tell them distinctly what they were to depend upon, and whether he considered the Bill before the House to be inefficient. He should like to hear the noble Lord say, "Wait till next year, and I will show you a Reform Bill—do not trifle away your time with this measure, that does not go half far enough. I will then show you such a measure of reform as will at the next general election be the cause of so great a majority in favour of free trade, that Gentleman opposite, instead of complaining that they cannot get a fixed duty on the food of the people, will consider themselves very fortunate if they get off without a bounty being laid on the importation of food." If the noble Lord would only state something like that, then he would join in asking the hon. Member for East Surrey to withdraw his Bill. When he considered that it was so long a time since the noble Lord had done anything in the way of reform, he could not help advising him to support this Bill (which could not interfere with his own great measure) by way of keeping his hand in. It would be a good earnest to the people of the honesty of the noble Lord's intentions, and also of the sincerity of the promises made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War.
had heard with pleasure the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule), and he must say that he was unwilling to see any step taken which would embarrass the party by whom reform was likely to be given, or to encumber the great measure of reform with which they were promised by coming to a decision now upon only a small part of it. If the hon. Member for East Surrey was determined on dividing, he (Mr. Clay) would vote for the Bill; but he should do it un- Willingly, and in no distrust whatever of the promises made by the noble Lord. It was far from his wish to embarrass the Government. He did not think the Government open to the charge of sticking with too great tenacity to the Treasury benches. They had merely resumed office to transact the ordinary business of the country; and under such circumstances, he would support either a Whig or a Tory Government.
had no apology to make for pursuing the same course with regard to this Bill which he had done in the division upon its introduction. He had voted with the hon. Member for East Surrey because he concurred in what the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had himself admitted—namely, that the persons contemplated by the Bill were fairly entitled to be entrusted with the franchise. He considered the measure neither democratic nor dangerous; on the contrary, he viewed it as a Protectionist and Conservative measure. He found that in the metropolitan districts only one householder in three got on the Register. In the counties of England and Wales, the number of houses rated at from 10l. to 50l., and not entitled to vote for Members of Parliament, was 319,538. He believed that not more than one-third of this number of voters would find their way to the Register if this Bill became law, and he thought they were fully entitled, on constitutional principles, to be placed there. Instead of making the people more democratic than they were before 1831, the Reform Act had materially tended to make them more conservative—they had become more anxious to preserve the institutions of their country; and therefore he would say to his hon. Friends on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that their fears on this measure were entirely groundless, and if he could rule their decision on this question, he would earnestly beseech them to support by their votes the proposition of the hon. Member for East Surrey.
said: I am one of the gentlemen under difficulties, alluded to by the Member for Manchester. I am sent here with a special charge to support two objects, the cause of free trade, and that of the extension of the suffrage; and for these I must conscientiously do my best. In pusuance of that conscience, I must vote against a movement which, after the declarations of the noble Lord, appears to be what military men I think call décousu, unconnected and out of place. And there is another reason which, in the exercise of the same conscience, weighs upon me. There were results or consequences (for there has been some dispute on what they ought to he called) connected with the bringing in of this Bill, which I should be sorry to see repeated now. I therefore take the opportunity to avow, that so far from sharing in the opinion of those hon. Gentlemen calling themselves free traders, who declare that it is indifferent to them what class of politicians occupy the benches of the Government, I had as lief see London six weeks in the occupation of a foreign enemy, as the Protectionists six weeks in possession of the Government. The evil might be more concentrated, hut it would not be superior in amount. For these reasons, if the hon. Mover does not comply with the numerous invitations from allowed friends not to press his Motion, I shall unwillingly be obliged to vote against him.
would have thought the hon. and gallant Colonel who had just spoken, the last man to become a compromiser upon this question, and he deeply regretted the course he had thought it his duty to take. The Bill now brought before them was not brought forward as a sham or a delusion, and he called upon hon. Members who voted for the introduction of the measure to stand upon the ground they then maintained. No inducement should lead him to withhold his vote for the second reading of the Bill.
wished to state the reasons that would influence his vote on the present occasion. In his opinion the time that had elapsed since the passing of the Reform Act, had been so usefully employed by the people; their advance in education, in knowledge, and civilisation had been so great; their progress in habits of morality had been so steady; whilst the evidence they had given of their attachment to order, and their submission to good government, had been so unmistakeable, that they had fully established a claim to more free admission to the privilege of political representation. Holding this opinion, and thinking that it would be both safe and advantageous to grant a considerable extension of the suffrage to the people, be had thought it his duty during the short time he had had the honour of a seat in that House to vote on all occasions for such measures as appeared to him safe and reasonable, having that object; and on these grounds he had voted last year with the hon. Member for East Surrey for the measure now under the consideration of the House. He did so, not because he thought that partial plan for the extension of the suffrage was a particularly good plan, for he saw objections that might be urged to it, as an extension of the most objectionable part of the Reform Act the Chandos Clause—but he did so because he thought it was important at that time to impress upon Ministers and the heads of other parties in the House that the period had fully come when some measure of extension of the franchise ought to be granted to the people. At that time no leader of any considerable party in that House had declared himself favourable to the consideration of the question, for although the noble Lord at the head of the Government stated—as he had always stated—that he did not consider the Reform Act to be necessarily a final measure, he had not then stated any time when he would be ready to bring a measure forward. Such was the state of this question during the last Session; but what was its condition now? On the occasion of his hon. Friend introducing the present measure, the noble Lord, after stating certain objections to it, and adding particular reasons, founded on considerations of general policy, for not entertaining any general measure on the subject during the present Session, went on to say that he should be prepared to submit such a measure to Parliament in the ensuing Session. He (Colonel Romilly) was absent through illness on that occasion; but he was one of those who regretted that his hon. Friend should have thought it necessary to divide the House after that declaration by the noble Lord. But if that was then a subject for regret, how much more must it be so now that he should press the second reading. He would make no remark on the immediate consequences of the vote on the first reading; but since that vote had occurred, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon at the head of a large party in that House—["No, no!"]—he should have said of a party distinguished by their experience and abilities, if not by their numbers, did, on the occasion of explanations which he gave of the causes which had prevented a Ministerial union between him and the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and referring to the declaration which had been repeated by that noble Lord on that occasion, state that he also would he prepared favourably to consider a measure for the reform of the franchise. The only party, therefore, in the House that had not given a promise favourable to the extension of the franchise was that great party of which Lord Stanley was the head; and which, though it was almost unrepresented on the former vote, was universally understood to be opposed to legislation in that direction. It was in such circumstances that the hon. Member for East Surrey, speaking with no peculiar authority on this subject, pressed this measure to a second reading; and he begged him to consider whether the course he was so taking was not likely to be more dangerous than useful to the cause which he (Colonel Romilly) knew he (Mr. L. King) had at heart. He (Mr. L. King) could not expect, without the assistance of one of the three parties to which he (Colonel Romilly) had referred, to pass this measure through Parliament; and if he could not accomplish this good, he would ask him whether, in failing to do so, he would not have accomplished this evil, that he would have exposed to the country and to their opponents divisions amongst themselves on a subject on which they were generally united, but to which their opponents were altogether opposed, and thereby facilitated the return to power of that party which had not only given no intimation that it was favourable to reform, but was that which his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had that day said he would consider it disastrous that it should so return. If, however, his hon. Friend should persist in pressing the second reading, the course he should think it right to take was perfectly clear. As an advocate for the extension of the franchise, he was prepared to go beyond the object of this partial measure; but because he thought the success of its second reading would be dangerous and injurious to the success of the general cause of reform of the representation, he should unhesitatingly vote against it.
concurred with the previous speaker in asking the hon. Member for East Surrey not to go to a division in the face of the declaration made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as well as by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War.
was aware the House was naturally impatient, and tired of the numerous explanations offered by hon. Members for the votes they were about to give; but he felt it due to himself and his constituents to explain his vote on this occasion. On a former occasion, he supported his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, because he was a sincere reformer, and should now most reluctantly vote against him, not because he had changed his opinions; on the contrary, he felt strongly on the subject, and was firmly convinced of the necessity and justice of the extension of the franchise, and of further reform. But he was content with, and placed full reliance on, the promise of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the right hon. the Secretary at War. He believed the noble Lord would introduce such a measure as would give satisfaction to the House. The hon. Member for Finsbury was quite mistaken in stating the noble Lord had been idle the last nineteen years, and had introduced no measure of reform. He (Mr. Pigott) would remind the House of the Bill for the Extension of the Franchise in Ireland last Session, and also of the Jewish Disabilities Bill, now before Parliament, as an earnest of the noble Lord's intentions. He, therefore, would offer no factious opposition to Her Majesty's Government; but, on the other hand, would render them his sincere, though humble, support in carrying through their measures of reform; and he hoped the hon. Member for East Surrey would not press the House to a division, but listen to the suggestions of his Friends, equally desirous as himself for the success of the Bill, but not desirous to embarrass the Government.
would vote for the second reading of the Bill, and called upon all who were sincerely attached to reform to take this opportunity of extending somewhat the basis of the franchise.
hoped he should be allowed to say, that he questioned very much the discretion of hon. Gentlemen who supported the proposition of the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat. It was all very well for the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. L. King) to assert that this was not a flash in the pan—a sham Motion; but, with great respect for that hon. Gentleman, he maintained it was. for all useful purposes, a sham Motion, inasmuch as he could never carry it. It might be very well to give the Government a fillip; but, like the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), he was not prepared to assert his want of confidence in them. He (Mr. B. Osborne) had much more confidence in them to carry out reform, than he had in the small party to which he had the honour to belong. How ever, sincere hon. Gentlemen might be, they could not deceive themselves that they would he called upon, as a party, to form a Government, and to carry out this measure. If they were sincere in their wishes for reform, then the best thing they could do would be to support the man who was best able to effect that reform. For his own part, he should merely say, that, on a previous occasion, he voted for the measure of the hon. Member for Montrose, though not agreeing in all its details; but when the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown told the House that it was his intention to bring in a measure of reform next Session, he (Mr. B. Osborne) would be no party to disbelieving him. On the contrary, as he did believe him, he therefore was not prepared to offer him any factious opposition. When Gentlemen talked of strengthening the Government by defeating them, he should confess that, in his opinion, it was a very extraordinary way to effect that strengthening—though, perhaps, they did right to "dissemble their love." He, therefore, called on the hon. Member for East Surrey to withdraw his Motion, as he believed the people out of doors did not care a farthing about so small a shred of reform. Where were the petitions in favour of it? It did not go far enough, and the people were consequently indifferent. If he saw a prospect of the hon. Gentleman being sent for to Buckingham Palace to form a Ministry, then he would vote with him. But, in the late crisis, what a lamentable state of things was presented to them; neither the hon. Member for Montrose, nor one of his party, had been mentioned. Weil, then, there being no confidence in the higher or lower quarter, the best thing, in his opinion, to be done, was, to support the noble Lord at the head of the Ministry, and give him the assistance he deserved, by withdrawing the present sham measure, and tendering a sincere support.
was not going to make a speech upon the general question, but simply to make an observation or two on the very edifying discussion which had just occurred, in the justice of which he felt satisfied that the fair mind of the House would readily concur. He had listened with some amazement, and with some amusement, to the singular profession of penitence on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, by their own showing, had been inadvertently betrayed into a vote, on the introduction of this Bill, the consequences, or supposed consequences, of which they deeply deplored. They had no conception, when they supported the hon. Member for East Surrey, that the fate of the Government could in any degree be considered dependent thereon; and, by way of proving their contrition, they were now determined to vote against his Bill. For his own part, he had voted as one of the hundred Members by whom the proposal had been affirmed, simply because he thought that occupiers in English counties were as well entitled to the elective franchise as the corresponding class in towns; and he was prepared to vote a second time in favour of that very reasonable proposition, notwithstanding all the entreaties of some of its professed supporters that it should not again be put. But he begged to remind those who had not been particularly forbearing in their criticisms on the conduct of others, how easily the reproach of deserting and denying their opinions might be retorted on themselves. During the last few weeks, certain hon. Gentlemen who had the honour of representing Ireland had been made the theme of lavish censure for having voted for the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. He (Mr. M'C'ullagh) had, in common with many of his hon. colleagues, uniformly declared, that they did so upon very different considerations, and for very different reasons, from those set forth by its author. Yet they were continually taunted with having voted against free trade. Ho did not mean to accuse the hon. Member for Dovor, or any other hon. Gentleman, of turning his back on reform; the constituencies of England must judge, as the constituencies of Ireland would, of the conduct of their representatives. But he hoped that, in future, they should hear no more of loose and random allegations of inconsistency and abandoning of principle, and that hon. Gentlemen would not take for granted that every vote they did not understand, or did not take the trouble to inquire the grounds of, must necessarily imply a desertion of some great maxim of policy. Let them bear in recollection the remarkable exhibition of this day, and remember the apparent incompatibility of their vote for the 10l. franchise five weeks ago, and their intended vote against that franchise on the present occasion.
said, he had but little to add to the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War at the beginning of this discussion. His right hon. Friend stated, as he himself had stated on a former occasion, that he had no reason to question the respectability and intelligence of the class proposed to be included in the measure before the House. But the ground on which he argued this question was, that the admission of these persons would not be an improvement in the system of representation. In the same way, if it were proposed that 40s. free holders not resident should have a right to vote in Manchester or Leeds, without questioning the fitness of those 40s. free holders generally, he must say that he should view that arrangement as one not likely to improve the representative system of those places. Since his right hon. Friend had spoken, one or two Gentlemen had stated the reasons why they would vote for the Bill before the House, and their statements seemed to him to require some explanation. But, before he proceeded to do so, he would ask whether it was desirable to vote for a proposition which was put on the ground on which the hon. Member for East Surrey had put his proposal? He could well understand how any Gentleman might say that there was but one alteration required with regard to the elective franchise, viz., to give to 10l. house holders the power of voting in counties, and that such a change in the representation would be one they could safely stand upon. But that was not the hon. Gentleman's proposition. His proposition was, that this should be only one of the changes which he wished to see effected. He (Lord J. Russell) would ask the House, considering the gravity of the subject—considering the great importance of any change made in the electoral body—and considering also that the laws enacted by, and the measures adopted in the House of Commons, depended very much upon the nature of that electoral body—whether it would be wise to adopt the Bill proposed by the hon. Gentleman now, and to take other measures afterwards one by one; or whether it would not be better to reject so partial a proposition, and wait until the whole scheme for the alteration of the franchise was placed at once before the House. He put that as the ground for the House not to adopt the present proposition, but rather wait for that which he (Lord J. Russell) intended hereafter to make to the House? But the hon. Mem- ber for Manchester (Mr. Bright) wished that he (Lord J. Russell) would give the House a general outline of the proposition he intended to make, in order that the House might know how far that proposition agreed with the views entertained by the supporters of the present measure. Now, he thought that that would be the worst course he could pursue. There might be many weighty reasons for bringing forward a measure for the extension of the suffrage during the present year; but there might also be many good reasons (and he thought there were) for postponing the subject to another year; but he did not think any intelligent reason could be assigned for stating in the present year the general nature of the proposition which he intended to make next year, and to let it go forth unexplained and undefended to the country, to be canvassed and discussed from time to time during the whole period between this and the next Session of Parliament. He adhered to the declaration he had made on other occasions, especially on the first bringing in of this Bill, that he was of opinion, very much for the reasons given by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Canterbury (Colonel Romilly), namely, on the ground of the improvement and intelligence of the people, and the general spread of information since the year 1831, and likewise because of the defects of the Reform Bill itself—defects which were almost inseparable from any great measure of legislative reform—that it would be wise of the House in the course of the next Session, and he should say at the very commencement of the Session, because a measure of this kind should be introduced at the very commencement of a Session, to consider a measure for the extension of the franchise. He had stated so often the general views which he took of the representative system of this country, and of the general principle upon which it at present stood, that he did not think it necessary or expedient to go into that question upon the present occasion. He had one word to say before he sat down with regard to the declaration made by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. That hon. Gentleman adverted to a statement which several hon. Members had made, that they did not intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, because they were willing to wait for the measure of the Government upon the subject, and because they thought that the cause of reform generally would be more promoted by allowing Government to bring forward such a measure, than by voting for this single measure, with the chance of its being passed unaccompanied by other measures of reform. The hon. Member said that Gentlemen who took that course ought not to find fault with him and other hon. Members for the course they had thought proper to adopt in the course of the present Session. But let it be observed that those Gentlemen who had spoken this day had spoken with a view to promote the cause of reform; and they said that if the Government and those who belonged to it were favourable to the cause of reform, they believed they should be promoting their own principles and opinions by leaving the question in the hands of those men in whom they were disposed to place confidence—men who entertained, in general, opinions which were not diametrically opposed to their own. But was that the case with the hon. Gentleman and his Friends? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. M'Cullagh) held very strong opinions in favour of a free-trade policy, and was known to have declared these opinions in very eloquent language from the Manchester platforms; yet on a late occasion he gave the House to understand that the way in which the interests of that free-trade policy could be best promoted was by handing them over to the care of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and into the hands of his party. The cases were entirely dissimilar; and whatever reasons the hon. Gentleman might have to defend his political course, or whatever might be his reasons for not supporting free trade as in former Sessions, he could find no excuse in the conduct of hon. Gentlemen this day who had endeavoured, though in a different manner from that in which they had hitherto done, to promote the cause they had sincerely at heart. With these observations, and leaving the question in the hands of the House, he I should vote against the present proposition for the reasons he had formerly given.
said, that but for some observations which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Secretary at War, as to the conduct of hon. Members sitting on his (Mr. Disraeli's) side of the House, he should have been disposed to allow the question to go to a division without trespassing upon the attention of the House on this occasion. But the Secretary at War, with almost a convulsive effort to reconstruct a reform party, described those who sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House, as being banded against every species of Parliamentary reform. He (Mr. Disraeli) was rather at a loss to understand upon what authority the Secretary at War spoke. [Mr. F. MAULE intimated his dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman had just informed him that he did not make use of the observation which he (Mr. Disraeli) had attributed to him, and which not having taken down, but trusting to his own memory, he must therefore recall. But he must remind the right hon. Gentleman, who, though he did not use the words he (Mr. Disraeli) had ascribed to him, unfortunately made an impression to the same effect, that when last year a measure for increasing the franchise of Ireland was introduced, hon. Members on his (Mr. Disraeli's) side of the House adopted the principle without even the slightest opposition. The right hon. Gentleman, with remarkable consistency, advocated the principle of the measure of the hon. Member for East Surrey, on the ground that it would tend to increase the franchise which was now enjoyed by the 50l. tenancies in the counties. But the right hon. Gentleman might possibly remember that it was not from himself or his friends that that clause in the Reform Bill emanated. He was bound to say, when he heard the 50l. tenants in the counties described as a class not worthy of the franchise, and yet that those who so described them were disposed to extend the franchise to a class of an inferior tenure, that it was his opinion that those who belonged to that respectable class had exercised the franchise in a manner creditable to themselves and advantageous to the country—inferior to none, not even to those who possessed the highest quality that entitled them to the franchise. When the Reform Bill was proposed, those who proposed it and supported it were in the habit of saying, that no sincere adhesion would ever be given to the Reform Bill by those who sat on the Opposition side of the House; and it was in vain for them to say when it became a law, that they would give it their sincere and complete adhesion. They have done so, and have proved their sincerity; and they have supported that settlement of the franchise over since. Indeed, the authors of the Reform Bill declared that the qualification of men for the possession of official employment depended upon an adhesion to that measure. No man was ever to hold office, or to have a seat in Parliament, who was not a sincere Re- former; that is to say, who did not support "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing hut the Bill." He appealed to every Gentleman who knew anything of the matter whether, though it was not a formal, yet whether it was not a virtual understanding that the Bill, when once passed, was to ho regarded for a considerable period of time as the settlement of the great question of Parliamentary reform? As long as the political party who introduced that settlement upheld it, he doubted very much whether it would have been wise or politic to sanction any alteration. It would have led to discussions probably very fruitless of results, and only encouraging agitations prejudicial to the general interests of the community. But when not only the political party who introduced the Reform Bill, but the very statesman who framed, modelled, and ushered it into the House, gave up his own handiwork, he (Mr. Disraeli) held himself to be perfectly free to consider the question without reference to any antecedents as to whether he was opposed to the Bill in 1830 or not—without, in fact, any reference to the past—but with reference only to those considerations which concerned the public welfare. For his own part, he entirely protested against what was popularly understood as the principle of finality. All that he would pledge himself to do was to oppose any measure of Parliamentary reform which had for its object merely the retaining and confirming in power some political section. He had that confidence in the sense and spirit of the country, that if a measure were now to be brought forward which had that limited and partial object, he believed it would be universally scouted, instead of creating that enthusiasm which the lion. Gentlemen who sat on the Treasury benches seemed at the eleventh hour to anticipate. Upon that ground he should oppose any measure that might be brought forward flagrantly having that object in view. He should equally oppose any measure which seemed intended merely to displace the constitutional influence of that territorial preponderance which the hon. Gentleman referred to, and which he (Mr. Disraeli) believed to be the best security for their liberties, and the best means of retaining that confirmed and permanent character which the institutions and the history of this country presented.
declared his confidence in the noble Lord, and would therefore vote against the second reading of the Bill, believing that the noble Lord would himself bring forward an efficient measure for the extension of the franchise.
said many appeals had been made to him not to press the House to a division; but he begged leave to inform the House that the Bill was in their hands; and, although he was unwilling to take upon himself the responsibility of pressing the question to a division, yet, if hon. Gentlemen wished to do so, he of course should acquiesce.
The House divided:—Ayes 83; Noes 299: Majority 216:
List of the AYES.
|Aglionby, H. A.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Alcock, T.||M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Magan, W. H.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Maher, N. V.|
|Bass, M. T.||Meagher, T.|
|Blake, M. J.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Bright, J.||Moffatt, G.|
|Brown, H.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Morris, D.|
|Clay, J.||Mowatt, F.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Cobden, R.||Nugent, Sir P.|
|Copeland, Aid.||O'Brien, J.|
|Corbally, M. E.||O'Brien, Sir T.|
|Cowan, C.||O'Connell, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Devereux, J. T.||O'Connor, F.|
|Divett, E.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Pilkington, J.|
|Duncombe, T.||Power, Dr.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Reynolds, J.|
|Fox, W. J.||Sadleir, J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T.||M. Salwey, Col.|
|Granger, T. C.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Greene, J.||Scully, F.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Sidney, Aid.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Somers, J. P.|
|Hastie, A.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Henry, A.||Sullivan, M.|
|Heywood, J.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Heyworth, L.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Higgins, G. G. O.||Wakley, T.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Wall, C. B.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hodges, T. T.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Horsman, E.||Williams, J.|
|Howard, P. H.||Williams, W.|
|Kersbaw, J.||King, P. J. L.|
|Lawless, hon. C.||Hume, J.|
List of the NOES.
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Arbuthnott, hon. H.|
|Adair, H. E.||Arkwright, G.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Armstrong, Sir A.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Ashley, Lord|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Bagge, W.|
|Anson, Visct.||Bagot, hon. W.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Disraeli, B.|
|Bailey, J.||Dod, J. W.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Dodd, G.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Drummond, H. H.|
|Baird, J.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Duncombe, hon. O.|
|Bankes, G.||Duncuft, J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Baring, T.||Dundas, G.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.|
|Harrington, Visct.||Dunne, Col.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Du Pre, C. G.|
|Bell, J.||East, Sir J. B.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Bennett, P.||Edwards, H.|
|Beresford, W.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Ellice, E.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Farrer, J.|
|Best, J.||Fellowes, E.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Fergus, J.|
|Blair, S.||Ferguson, Col.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Fitzpatrick, rt. hon. J.W.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Forbes, W.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Bremridge, R.||Forester, hon. G. C. W.|
|Brisco, M.||Forster, M.|
|Broadley, H.||Fortescue, C.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Freestun, Col.|
|Brown, W.||French, F.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Frewen, C. H.|
|Bruen, Col.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Buck, L. W.||Galwey, Sir W. P.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Gilpin, R. T.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Burleigh, Lord||Goddard, A. L.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Gooch, E. S|
|Butler, P. S.||Goold, W.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Greenall, G.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Greene, T.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Grenfall, C. W.|
|Cavendish, W. G.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Grey, R. W.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Chatterton, Col.||Guernsey, Lord|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Gwyn, H.|
|Childers, J. W.||Hall, Col.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Hallyburton, Lord J. F.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Clive, H. B.||Harris, R.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Hatchell, rt. hon. J.|
|Coke, hon. E. K.||Hawes, B.|
|Coles, H. B.||Henley, J. W.|
|Compton, H. C.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Cubitt, W.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Hindley, C.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Hope, A.|
|Deedes, W.||Howard, hon. E. G. G.|
|Denison, E.||Hudson, G.|
|Denison, J. E.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Dick, Q.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Price, Sir R.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Pugh, D.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Jones, Capt.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Knightley, Sir C.||Ricardo, O.|
|Knox, Col.||Rice, E. R.|
|Knox, hon. W. S.||Rich, H.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Richards, R.|
|Lacy, H. C.||Romilly, Col.|
|Langston, J. H.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Lawley, hon. B. R.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Legh, G. C.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Russell, hon. E. S.|
|Lennox, Lord A. G.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Sandars, G.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.||Sandars, J.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Lewisham, Visct.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Seymour, Lord|
|Littleton, hon. E. R.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Lockhart, W.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Long, W.||Smollett, A.|
|Lopes, Sir R.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Loveden, P.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Lowther, H.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Spooner, R.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Stafford, A.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Macnaghten, Sir E.||Stanley, E.|
|M'Neil, D.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Mahon, The O'Gorman||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Manners, Lord G.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Marshall, J. G.||Stuart, H.|
|Matheson, Sir J.||Stuart, J.|
|Matheson, Col.||Stuart, H. G.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Thompson, Col.|
|Maxwell, hon. J. P.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Tollemache, J.|
|Meux, Sir H.||Towneley, J.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Townley, R. G.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Traill, G.|
|Moody, C. A.||Trevor, hon. T.|
|Morgan, O.||Tufnell, rt. hon. H.|
|Morison, Sir W.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||Vane, Lord H.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Mundy, W.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Mure, Col.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Naas, Lord||Waddington, H. S.|
|Napier, J.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Newport, Visct.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Willcox, B. M.|
|O'Brien, Sir L.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Wilson, J.|
|Ord, W.||Wilson, M.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Wodehouse, E.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Packe, C. W.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Paget, Lord A.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Wynn, H. W. W.|
|Palmer, R.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Wyvill, M.|
|Parker, J.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Patten, J. W|
|Plumptre, J. P.|
|Ponsonby, hon. C. F. A.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Portal, M.||Hill, Lord M.|
Motion made, and Question, "That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months," put and agreed to.
Audit Of Railway Accounts Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, said the circumstances and transactions out of which the Bill arose were so notorious, that it would not be necessary for him to detain the House at any length. He thought the House would agree with him that the fact of that notoriety rendered it absolutely necessary that some legislation should take place on the subject. In the year 1848 a noble Lord in another place introduced a Bill for the establishment of a Railway Audit. That Bill passed the House of Lords, but was rejected when it came before the House of Commons. In 1849 the same noble Lord introduced another Bill, which likewise passed the House of Lords. That Bill was founded on the principle that railway proprietors were not able to manage their own concerns, and that it was necessary to place them under some external control. The railway interest then found it necessary to take some steps in regard to this measure, and they determined to resist the Bill. Accordingly a meeting of deputies from the various railway boards was held, at which a resolution was come to adverse to the proposition for the establishment of a Government board to investigate the accounts of railway companies. A deputation from that meeting waited on the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and if he (Mr. Locke) were correctly informed, the noble Lord stated that ho was not anxious to interfere with the management of railway property or affairs, provided he had an assurance that a Bill would be brought in which would give satisfaction to the great body of railway shareholders. On that understanding the Bill then before the House was withdrawn, and the railway directors convened the different bodies of proprietors, with a view of ascertaining their sentiments. The result was, that they found an unanimous opinion to prevail amongst the proprietors against any Government interference, although there was great diversity of opinion with respect to the measure which would be satisfactory to them in regard to the audit of the accounts. In consequence of this difference of opinion, the directors did not think it necessary to proceed any further in the preparation of a Bill, and they left the matter in the hands of the shareholders themselves. The Government, therefore, finding that no Bill was forthcoming from the directors, introduced another Bill last Session, for the purpose of regulating railway audit. The railway shareholders had already deputed delegates from the largest railway companies in the kingdom—from the Great Western, the South Western, the North Western, the Great Northern, and other important companies, representing an interest of 120,000,000l.—to consider some measure; and he thought he might say that the measure now brought forward, having emanated from such a body, was entitled to be fairly and deliberately considered by the House. That measure was entrusted to Lord Stanley, and was introduced on the 11th of March. The two Bills were referred to a Committee, and the result was that the two were blended together. The Bill, as it came to that House, contained, with one exception, every clause of the Railway Shareholders Bill, but engrafted upon it were several other clauses which, though interfering less directly in the management of railway affairs, yet interfered with it sufficiently to make it liable to considerable objection. The consequence was, that several petitions were presented against Lord Stanley's Bill. Now, considering the circumstances under which this Bill was brought forward, he thought the railway shareholders, from whom the Bill emanated, were entitled to a more favourable consideration than they received from the hands of the Government. But that Bill also was withdrawn, and the shareholders were left at the end of last Session without any Bill. They met, however, and instructed him to move for leave to bring in the Bill which had been presented last year to the House of Lords by Lord Stanley. In pursuance of these instructions, he moved for and obtained leave to introduce the Bill of which he now moved the second reading. He hoped that it would not be maintained that men who had spent 120,000,000l. in great public enterprises were not fit to manage their own affairs. He admitted there were some differences of opinion as regarded the provisions of the Bill, but he hoped they might be so improved in Committee as to give satisfaction to all parties. They were fully considered by forty gentlemen who represented the railway interest, and having the best professional assistance, he felt satisfied that the provisions of the Bill would bear the fullest examination of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
seconded the Motion.
said, that he did not rise to oppose the Motion of his hon. Friend; but, at the same time, he could not allow the Motion to pass without making a few observations upon the subject. He deeply felt the importance of having some efficient system of railway audit; but he could not disguise from himself, or from the House, that he was at variance with his hon. Friend as to the principle which he thought should animate the House on this subject. His opinion was, that do what they might, they would never enable the railway shareholders of this country to establish a real and effective control over the accounts in cases where the boards of directors were not trustworthy, or where they wished to deceive the public and the shareholders. He came, therefore, to the conclusion, that the audit of railway accounts should be founded on some principle beyond the railway companies. He thought that there should be an independent audit; he did not say a Government audit, for he agreed in the position that Government should not interfere in matters of this description. And he always most anxiously recommended the House to disentangle the Government from any such connexion. But he thought that the Bill of Ids hon. Friend, founded as it was on a different principle from that which he had stated, would not protect the shareholders or the public in those gross and flagrant cases where the board of directors were either dishonest or incapable, and where they desired to deceive the public and the company as to the real state and position of its affairs. And it was to be recollected that it was for these extreme eases they were bound to provide. He therefore would never be a party to the bringing forward of any measure for the establishment of a railway accounts audit which was not founded on something independent of the railway company itself. He was afraid that the present measure would be found to he a delusion—more plausible, perhaps, in appearance, than the existing system—but which would not work in the way intended by his hon. Friend, and would not give the public or the shareholders any real protection in the supposed case of a fraudulent, incapable, or dishonest board of directors. He thought that there were some defects in the details of the Bill, which he would not then enter upon; but he might mention that the system of railway accounts which his hon. Friend proposed in the schedules was extremely defective, and in that respect the Bill differed from the measure introduced by Lord Stanley in the House of Lords. He thought that a system of accounts which there was no power of altering was a material objection to the Bill. Seeing the great jealousy which there was on the part of the railway interest to any interference with the management of their affairs, and knowing how difficult it would be for any Government to introduce and carry a measure founded on the principle he was prepared to adopt without their concurrence, he was not prepared to introduce a measure himself; but he should, indeed, with very ill grace, oppose the proposed scheme, for though it might not do all that was required, it was an improvement on the present system. He doubted, however, that the measure would be productive of any good results, and be trusted that when it came before the Committee, the Members of the House generally, and those interested in railways in particular, would narrowly scrutinise the provisions of a Bill which was of infinite importance, not only to the railway interest, but to the general interest of the country.
thought the Bill would have a different effect from what the right hon. Gentleman seemed to anticipate. He had not a railway share in the world, and be was therefore in a position to give a candid opinion.
said, that he should move the addition of certain clauses in Committee and the omission of others, with a view of affording greater protection to proprietors.
said, that though he thought a great many of the scandalous transactions to which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade alluded, might have been sooner discovered or altogether avoided, if the existing powers intrusted to railway companies had been properly exercised, yet he begged to state, as the representative of a largo railway interest, that they thought it their duty to avail themselves of a considerable portion of the Bill, and that they had brought it into action in the large concern to which he referred. He should vote for the se- cond reading of the Bill. At the same time he wished to state, that he reserved to himself the right of objecting to several clauses as they now stood in the Bill. He considered that the efficiency of the measure was destroyed by the wording of some of the clauses. He supported the Bill, because it proceeded on a different principle from that which the right hon. Gentleman laid down as the proper one to be applied to the audit of railway accounts, He was greatly surprised when the right hon. Gentleman said, that in the measures he proposed he avoided the introduction of the principle of Government interference. He would appeal to hon. Gentlemen who attended to these matters, whether those Bills alluded to were founded on any other principle than that of Government interference in the details of railway concerns.
Bill read 2°, and committed for Wednesday 7th May.
The House adjourned at nine minutes before Six o'clock.