House Of Commons
Friday, 27th March, 1874.
MINUTES.]—NEW MEMBER SWORN—John Ramsay, esquire, for Falkirk Burghs.
SELECT COMMITTEE—Turnpike Acts Continuance, appointed and nominated.
SUPPLY— considered in Committee—Committee—R.P.
Ordered— First Reading-Holyhead Old Harbour Road* ; Cattle Disease (Ireland)* ; Public Health (Ireland)* ; Municipal Boroughs (Auditors and Assessors) .
Committee— Report—Middlesex Sessions*  Third Reading—(£7,000,000) Consolidated Fund * ; East India Loan , and pasted.
Metropolis—Parliament Street—The New Public Offices
asked the First Commissioner of Works, Whether the space now enclosed by a hoarding in front of the now buildings will be thrown into Parliament Street?
, in reply, said, when he came into office he found the point had been carefully considered by his predecessor, with whose views upon it he agreed. The greater part of the space in front of the new Home and Colonial Offices would be thrown into Parliament Street, and a certain portion would he reserved. The portion reserved had been reserved under his direction and that of Captain Galton, the director of the works, and under the sanction of Sir Gilbert Scott, the architect.
asked the Secretary of the Local Government Board, What steps are being taken to prevent the importation of adulterated articles of food into this country, and to relieve honest traders from their liability to conviction under the Act of last year for the sale of articles adulterated by the foreign producer, and on which Customs Duties have been paid?
The subject of the Adulteration Act has been much under my consideration since I have been at the Local Government Board, and a deputation respecting it has waited on the Home Secretary and myself this afternoon. If the hon. Gentleman will renew his Question immediately after Easter, I shall be able to give him an answer.
Exemption Of Tin And Copper Mines Rating—Question
asked the President of the Local Government Board, If Her Majesty's Government propose to legislate this Session to abolish the exemption from liability to local rates of tin and copper mines in England and Wales?
The hon. Baronet is aware that the rating of the mines in which he is interested forms part of a much larger question, and I must ask him to excuse me from giving him a final answer till after Easter.
The New Courts Of Justice
asked the First Commissioner of Works, If he will lay upon the Table of the House a Copy of the Contract for the New Courts of Justice? He wished the House to be informed at what price the contract was obtained, in what period the work was to be carried out, and what guarantee they had for the due performance of the contract.
, in reply, said, that it would be injurious to the public service and unjust to the contractor to produce the document in question; but if his hon. Friend called upon him at his Office and let him know specifically what he required he would endeavour to meet his views.
Public Health (Scotland) Act—County Constables—Question
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he will reconsider the amended rules and regulations for the government of county constables, issued from the Home Office by the late Secretary of State for that Department, which relate to the employment of constables on other than police duties, and cancel the same, so as to enable the police to aid the authorities and officers acting in the execution of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, as they did prior to the issuing of the said rules and regulations?
, in reply, said, the matter was under the consideration of the Government, and he was at present in communication with the Lord Advocate on the subject.
Mercantile Marine—Casualty To Pilgrims—Question
asked the President of the Board of Trade, If the report which has appeared in the newspapers be correct, that a largo number of pilgrims wore washed overboard from a ship in the Mediterranean belonging to Liverpool; and whether the accident was owing to the overcrowding of the ship; and, if he has not received information on the subject, whether he will make inquiries into the truth of the statement?
The Board of Trade have received depositions from Liverpool relating to the reported occurrence on board a ship which, though British, was trading between foreign ports. Inquiry has already been ordered to be held at Liverpool, and some of the papers are with the office solicitor. The number of lives lost was 36.
Criminal Law—Fenian Prisoners
asked the Secretary of State for the Homo Department, "Whether any of the remaining Fenian prisoners were implicated in the murder of the Manchester policeman, or in the Clerkenwell outrage, or in any other non-political crime; and if the time has not come when he might safely recommend that the Royal clemency be extended to all those prisoners whose offence is distinctly political, even if aggravated by their having been in Her Majesty's service?
I cannot undertake to place any exact interpretation upon certain terms used in the Question of the hon. Member—namely, what is a non-political crime and what is an offence distinctly political. I will, therefore, confine myself to stating the number of prisoners now undergoing sentence. There are two prisoners, undergoing penal servitude for life, connected with the murder of the policeman at Manchester; there are no prisoners undergoing sentence connected with the Clerkenwell outrage; there are two prisoners undergoing sentences of 15 and 7 years respectively for treason-felony in supplying arms to the Fenians at the time of the outbreak, one of them being their specially accredited agent. There are, in addition, 11 soldiers under sentence for life—3 in England, and 8 in Australia. Two of these had been sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. There are also throe more soldiers in Australia for shorter sentences—one for 15 years, two for 10 years—who are now, probably, on tickets-of-leave; and there are two prisoners in Ireland under sentences of 20 years and 10 years respectively for shooting at the Constabulary. It is not the intention of the Government to interfere with the course of law.
Metropolis—Hyde Park Corner
asked the First Commissioner of Works, Whether he has adopted either of the various plans for a new road from Hamilton Place to Grosvenor Place, whereby the constant stoppage of the traffic at Hyde Park Corner may be avoided?
, in reply, said, the present Government had come to no decision in the matter, and had no plan before them. He found that a plan had been laid before his predecessor in office, the right hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Adam), and that he came to a decision with respect to it, which, however, was not adopted by the Government of which he was a Member. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give more correct information on the subject than he possessed.
said, he had given the fullest consideration to the matter during the Recess, when a plan had been proposed by the Metropolitan Board of Works for carrying a road from Hamilton Place to Constitution Hill, with branches opening towards Grosvenor Place and Buckingham Palace. He brought the plan under the consideration of the late Government, but they felt it was too great a question to take up at the time. He might state that the Duke of Westminster had taken very great interest in the subject, and was disposed to deal in the most liberal manner with any proposals which might be made. After the plan to which he referred had been submitted to his notice, he had an interview with the agent and surveyor of the Duke, and they had recommended a plan which would, to some extent, also interfere with the use of the Park. He at the same time ventured to suggest two plans, which he might, perhaps, now submit to the notice of his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board (Colonel Hogg). The first was that the roadway at Piccadilly should he turned before reaching the Archway, and that the road should be made to pass between the Archway and the Green Park, leaving the Archway standing out in an isolated position with a road on each side. That would effectually relieve the traffic at Hyde Park Corner. It would necessitate a new entrance to Constitution Hill and a new gateway, and would be rather expensive. There was a much simpler plan which he would suggest, and which could be carried out in a few weeks. Between the Archway and the roadway in Piccadilly there was a very broad pavement, and also a piece of garden ground. The pavement was broader than was necessary for the foot-passenger traffic, and this might be thrown into the roadway at Piccadilly, making-a pavement for foot passengers where the present garden ground was, and doing away with the bit of gravel foot-path at the corner of Grosvenor Place—a place which would greatly relieve the traffic, although it was not one which could be recommended as a permanent improvement.
said, he would be glad to give his best consideration to the suggestions of his right hon. Friend if he were furnished with the requisite plans.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, When the additional Report of the Judicature Commission will be presented; and also when the special Report of the Judicature Commission upon Tribunals of Commerce will be ready for issue to Members of Parliament?
, in reply, said, he had hoped that the special Report of the Commission on Tribunals of Commerce would be delivered that afternoon. The moment it was received it would be laid on the Table. The other Report to which he understood the Question to refer would, he expected, be in his hands in two or three weeks, and that also he should be glad to produce.
asked the Secretary of State for War, How it is proposed to apply the fines for drunkenness and absence in the Militia, of which only £22 3s. 6d. are accounted for in the Appropriation Accounts of 1872–3 out of£1,650 5s. 11d.?
, in reply, said, he found it had been decided before he came into office that a committee of officers should be appointed to consider how the surplus in question should be applied.
Criminal Law—Release Of The Countess De Civry—Question
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he will explain the circumstances of the Countess de Civry, who was recently convicted for obtaining goods under false pretences, receiving an unconditional pardon for the offence and being set at liberty?
, in reply, said, the Countess de Civry had been tried before Mr. Commissioner Kerr on an indictment containing 12 counts. On 11 of those counts the Commissioner found that there was really no evidence to go to the jury. The 12th count was one of obtaining goods under false pretences by pretending to occupy a house in Queensberry Place, and the learned Judge was so dissatisfied with the verdict that he decided not to pass sentence until full inquiries had been made. These inquiries having been made, it turned out that the statement alleged had nothing to do with the reasons which led the shopkeeper to supply the goods, the fact being that there had been a running credit between the parties for some time. Under these circumstances the case had fallen through.
East India Loan Bill—Bill 28
(Mr. Raikes, Lord George Hamilton, Mr. William Henry Smith.)
Order for Third Reading read.
said, he wished to state on his own behalf, as well as on that of several other hon. Members, that although the Bill had been allowed to pass through its previous stages without discussion, and almost without demur, yet it must not, in consequence, be supposed that they approved the course which had been taken by the Government of India. We had periods of scarcity constantly recurring in that country, and in the present instance the policy which had been adopted by the Viceroy and his councillors seemed to him to be one of a very exceptional character. They had proceeded on the principle that they should rely entirely on the ordinary laws of trade to meet a great emergency; but, for his own part, he was rather inclined to think that exceptional cases were properly met by exceptional means. There was on all sides a desire to give the Viceroy the highest credit for the energy, zeal, and self-devotion which he had manifested ever since it had become clear to him that the crisis with which he had to deal was of no ordinary kind; yet, in his opinion, he failed thoroughly to appreciate the gravity of the crisis for a considerable time, while the policy which he adopted of trusting altogether to private trade to meet the emergency was, he thought, erroneous. At the earliest moment possible the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal—one of the most able, as he was one of the most experienced servants of the Crown in India—urged upon Lord Northbrook the importance of interfering to prevent the exportation of rice from the distressed districts and from Indian ports. Afterwards, on objections being pointed out, he waived a part of his suggestion, and advocated the prohibition of exportation from the ports of Bengal. This was refused by Lord Northbrook—he was not prepared to say that it was wrongly refused—on the ground that the same beneficial objects could be effected by purchasing, either directly or indirectly, in India itself. That policy met with the approval of the Secretary of State, and it must be confessed that the first despatch of the Duke of Argyll, surrounded, as he was, by the most able men connected with India, exactly portrayed what ought to have been the policy of Government, and what would have prevented, had it been adopted at the outset, much which there was reason to regret. The despatch pointed out, what experience of Indian famines had shown, that the operations of commerce, and the ordinary processes of supply and demand, could not be relied upon in such emergencies to furnish an adequate supply of food, and that the active intervention of Government was necessary to prevent the worst consequences. Under these circumstances, the Secretary of State placed the matter unreservedly in the hands of the Viceroy, and sanctioned by anticipation whatever measures it might be thought necessary to adopt for the preservation of life. With regard to a prohibition of export, the Duke of Argyll concurred with the Viceroy in preferring other modes of action, and especially he approved Government entering the market as a purchaser. This latter course, he added, would be of a less violent character than prohibition, and would have the effect of inviting commercial enterprise. Indeed, it was obvious that if the Government had appeared in the market of Bengal, and possessed themselves of the supplies of rice which then existed in the country, the prices would necessarily have risen, there would have been a very great encouragement given to private trade, and the imports from other parts would have been very large—much larger than was the case when the famine took the proportions which it unfortunately assumed. But what was the course which Lord Northbrook took? He contented himself with buying largely in foreign ports, especially in Burmah. He did this through agents who were not declared to be buying for the purposes of the Bengal Government, and it was perfectly well known in the markets of India that largo supplies were coming which had been purchased by the Government, while, at the same time, it was equally well known in Burmah that large supplies, were leaving that country for Calcutta, and that there would, consequently, be an enormous amount of rice in the ports of Bengal. What was the result? Why, that the stocks of rice which existed in Bengal were exported by their owners because they were afraid that when the grain arrived from Burmah they would be undersold by the Government; and, similarly, there was no exportation on private account from the ports of Burmah to Bengal, because it was perfectly clear that, as the Government of India were sweeping the market of Burmah, and sending large stocks thence to Calcutta, there would be absolutely no demand at the latter place except a Government demand, and, therefore, it would be dangerous for any merchant to engage in the trade. Therefore, the course taken by the Government of India in the interest of private trade absolutely produced an export from the distressed districts and prevented an importation from foreign ports into the ports of Bengal. Now, the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for India (Lord George Hamilton) stated the other day as a fact that the exports from Bengal were not from the distressed districts. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Salisbury), in "another place," stated the same thing on the authority of the Viceroy. But they could not have had before them a statement submitted by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal to the Viceroy, approved by the Viceroy, and reported home by the Viceroy, when they communicated that information to the Houses of Parliament. The Lieutenant Governor himself stated that he had been obliged to cancel an order he had given reducing by one-half the rate charged for the transport of rice on the railway; because he had found that, owing to exporters taking advantage of the diminished rate, the rice was rapidly leaving the distressed districts, where, of course, it was most wanted. There was, moreover, a declaration of the Lieutenant Governor himself that there had been a large export of rice from other districts which were distressed, and it was notorious that more than once the means of transport which had been employed in taking up Government rice to the distressed districts had brought back to Calcutta an equal quantity of rice from the very same places, with the view to its being sent abroad. The result of this export was, that no rice was left in the hands of the authorities of those districts, the organization of the means of transport became a serious difficulty, and we wore driven into the extraordinary position of having 400,000 tons of grain in hand, while at the same time it was impossible, as the Viceroy himself admitted, to send it into the distressed districts. He (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald) made these observations to the House in order that it might not be supposed, from their allowing this measure to pass without observation, and from their raising no debate as to the proceedings of the Government of India, that they approved the exceptional policy which took it for granted that the ordinary laws of commerce wore sufficient to meet an emergency like the present, or that they did not think it desirable that there should be a general discussion of the whole policy of the Government of India with reference to this famine, and of the measures which ought to be taken to prevent its recurrence in the future. He would repeat what he said the other night—namely, that there was no man in this House who was more desirous than he to give credit to Lord Northbrook for the extraordinary energy, zeal, and devotion he had shown under most difficult and arduous circumstances. At the same time, he thought the Viceroy had not appreciated so early as he might, the magnitude of the danger, and that his policy at first had been a mistaken policy, which contributed in no slight degree to magnify the evil. With reference to the Bill before the House, he would have been pleased if it had shown that Her Majesty's Government were prepared, under the very peculiar circumstances of the case, to extend their assistance to the Indian Treasury. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for India said the other night that the difference between raising money at 3¼ per cent and raising it at 4 per cent was such a trilling matter that it was not worth talking about. There being various objections to a guarantee, the noble Lord thought the sum which might be saved by means of it might well be overlooked. Probably, when the noble Lord had a longer experience at the India Office, and became acquainted with the critical condition of Indian finance, he would not say-that the sum of £75,000 a-year was a thing that he could afford to neglect. After the enormous pressure put upon the Indian Treasury and Indian credit by the sacrifices necessary to meet this famine, it would be of the deepest interest to everyone connected with India, and of the gravest importance to Parliament and to this country, to consider how the solvency of Indian finance could be properly maintained. Nothing could be more critical than the present position of Indian finance, and he would have been very glad if even so small a sum as £75,000 could have been saved to the Indian Treasury. Some words which fell from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government a few weeks ago had given rise to a hope that the Government of this country might be induced to show an active and practical sympathy with India in her present difficulties and dangers. It was to be hoped that it would be found possible to do something of this kind. It was a matter which must, of course, be loft entirely to the Government, and it would not be becoming for a private Member to make a suggestion with regard to it. Of this, however, he was perfectly certain—that anything which could manifest, apart from private subscriptions, the sympathy of the people of this country with India—which would show by some direct official act that there was a warm and generous sympathy on the part of the Parliament of this country towards the masses of the people in India—would, on the occasion of any emergency arising, be worth to this country as much as 50 regiments.
said, he had nothing to complain of in the remarks of the right ton. Gentleman, because he understood the right hon. Gentleman entirely approved of the Despatch which the late Secretary of State wrote at the commencement of the unhappy calamity, and also that he spoke of the Governor General as he was sure they would all wish to speak of him in that House. With reference to the accusation of the right hon. Gentleman that there had been a want of foresight that the calamity would he quite as grievous as it had turned out to he, he (Mr. Grant Duff) believed that when the Motion of which the right hon. Gentleman had given Notice came under discussion it would be shown that Lord Northbrook, although he abstained from taking a rash course, nevertheless fully perceived the dimensions to which the famine was likely to grow. That he (Mr. Grant Duff) hoped to be able to make clear to the House and the country. In the mean time, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for giving the House the hope that they should have a discussion of this subject; because he entirely agreed with him that, though it was right to allow this Bill to go through with the least possible amount of discussion, nevertheless it would be wise—and he thought for the honour of the Viceroy—that the whole matter should be thoroughly discussed before the House of Commons and in the face of Europe.
said, he had not intended to speak on this subject; but he thought it would not be right to let the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald) pass without notice. He could understand very well that there should be a discussion of this matter, if it were necessary to stimulate the Government to further exertions; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the Government were prepared to use every effort to relieve the distressed districts. If a discussion was not necessary to stimulate the Government to further exertions, then he was at a loss to conceive on what ground it was necessary, expedient, or even just, to discuss this subject. The right hon. Gentleman gave full credit to the Viceroy for his exertions since—as the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to say—he became aware of the magnitude of the famine, but the right hon. Gentleman made two very distinct charges against the Viceroy, He said the Viceroy was wanting in foresight in not having anticipated the extent of the famine; and he further said the Viceroy largely contributed to the evils of the famine by taking no step to prohibit the exportation of grain. Now, the House was not in possession of sufficient information to be able to express an opinion on those matters; nor was it in possession of information sufficient to enable it to discuss the subject fairly and dispassionately. He protested against these imputations upon the Viceroy at a moment when the House could not properly debate this subject, and when the whole case which the right hon. Gentleman had made was in dispute. The Viceroy and the Government maintained that grain had not been leaving the extremely distressed districts. The right hon. Gentleman said it had, but the House had as yet no means of arriving at the facts. The right hon. Gentleman also said the Viceroy failed to meet the emergency by allowing the ordinary course of trade to continue; but his policy was this—that he did not wish to hamper or interfere with the trade, but determined to supplement it vigorously by the introduction of an enormous quantity of rice. He (Mr. Whitbread) hoped there would be a discussion when the House was in possession of all the Papers that were necessary for a discussion, but he could not think that a discussion at present of the charges which the right hon. Gentleman had made would be either just to the Viceroy, or be likely to strengthen his hands, or the hands of the Indian Government in dealing with the famine.
hoped this conversation would drop. He thought the time had not yet come for the House to enter into a discussion of that great calamity which had fallen on Bengal. They had not before them the information which had been promised, and without the Reports in full, it was not fair to the Viceroy of India to express any opinion as to his merits or demerits in respect to the measures taken by him to aid the people of the famine-struck districts. Moreover, when the time for discussion came, they would have to deal with the still larger question—how could they prevent a similar calamity in the future? It was 100 years since the great famine of 1770 carried off about one-third of the population of Bengal, and the liability to famines in Bengal had been well established. That contingency was proved by the fact that it was only a few years ago since they had a similar calamity in other districts of India. He protested against the attack made on the Viceroy of India, and hoped the present discussion would terminate as soon as possible, for when telegraphed to India, it must prove a serious disadvantage to the Government there, in the successful carrying out of the measures which it must now be admitted were energetically pushed on in order to save life. He had only to urge that the whole of the despatches, full and complete, without condensation, be laid before the House without delay.
thought it was important that an impression should not go abroad that there was any disposition on the part of the House, and especially of those interested in India, prematurely to censure the course which the Governor General took upon the question of prohibiting the export of rice. That question was evidently surrounded with the greatest difficulties. It was perfectly obvious that, if the Governor General had acted upon the advice given by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, he might, perhaps, have escaped a great deal of responsibility. He thought there could be no question that the Governor General, in deciding as he did, was influenced by strong considerations of public duty, and until we knew what the upshot of the matter was, it was quite impossible for anyone in this country to pronounce a definite judgment whether the Governor General was right or not in the course he adopted. He deprecated anything like a premature discussion, and therefore it was only fair and reasonable that the House should abstain from pronouncing an opinion on the course pursued by the Governor General until it was in possession of information as to the results of that course. That he believed to be the general opinion of the House.
said, he saw no necessity for continuing for 10 years the power which this Bill would give of raising money out of the Indian revenues, neither could he see that it called for any gratitude on the part of the Indian people, seeing that the money was raised on Indian credit. For himself, he was in favour of its being given to India out of Imperial funds. It was admitted that the famine would be disposed of in three or four years, and he thought the duration of the power of raising money should be limited to four years from the present time. It was a dangerous power to give any Government.
thanked the House for the cordial support it had given the Government in passing the Bill through its different stages. He considered it his duty the other night to make a statement as to the measures taken by the Government of India in consequence of the famine. He did not do so in the belief that the House would agree with every detail of that statement, but because he thought it right to show the House that the Government of India were incurring exceptional expenditure, and that, it was therefore necessary to relieve the finances of India. It was a mistake of the hon. and learned Member for Stroud (Mr. Dickinson) to suppose that they were taking powers to raise money for 10 years; the period was only five years. He quite agreed in the opinion expressed that that was not the time to discuss the the measures which the Viceroy had thought it necessary to take; but he wished to correct two mistakes into which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald) had fallen. The statement that there were no exports of grain from the distressed districts was made, not by him (Lord George Hamilton), but by the noble Lord the Secretary of State. A certain number of exports did come, not from the most distressed districts, but mainly from the lower districts around Calcutta. The other mistake into which the right hon. Gentleman fell was assuming that he (Lord George Hamilton) made the observation that the loss of £75,000 a-year would not much matter to the finances of India. What he said was that, if we had ever to come again to the market to borrow, we should do so with depreciated credit, and the ultimate loss to India would more than counterbalance the present advantage. Time alone could show whether the measures adopted by the Viceroy were sufficient or not, and it would be presumptuous for us to attempt to anticipate the verdict.
said, the Bill was put forward as a remedial measure to meet an almost unprecedented calamity in India, and so great had been the illusion created, not only in the House, but throughout the country, on this subject, that a distinguished Prelate (the Bishop of Manchester) was reported in the public prints to have fallen into the mistake of supposing that by this Bill we were financially helping India. The truth, however, was, that we were not helping India in the slightest degree, for this was not a famine Bill but a finance Bill. Its object was to enable the distressed country to borrow in one market cheaper than it could in another. That, no doubt, was a prudent and useful act, but it ought not to be classed in the category of philanthropic proceedings. His hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) seemed to think that because we had not yet received complete information to enable us to judge of the wisdom of the policy adopted in India, therefore we ought not to discuss the adequacy of the measure and the necessities which called it forth. He concurred in the statement that they had not yet sufficient information to enable them to form an opinion upon the wisdom of Lord Northbrook's policy. He had had the privilege of knowing Lord Northbrook for 25 years, and although he did not always happen to agree with him, he had the most implicit belief not merely in his honour, which had not been questioned, but in his devotion to the public service, and in his rare qualities of moral and intellectual fitness for his high position, and he prayed most sincerely that he would come out of the great trial which it had been his singular fate to meet, with honour and credit to himself and the name he bore. There was, however, a much more important question to consider than that of Lord Northbrook's foresight—that, indeed, was a personal question; but there was a national question which it was incumbent on Parliament to consider. Having taken India in charge by the Act of 1858, it became their duty to think for themselves. His hon. Friend had said we must wait in order that we might be able to judge by results. But could we afford to wait for results when millions of lives were at stake? Hon. Members of that House ought to endeavour to anticipate results, and to interrogate the Government with a view of ascertaining what the probability of those results might be. A suggestion had been thrown out that in a time of famine the most important benefit which could be conferred on India would be a reduction in the price of salt—a step which Edmund Burke in eloquent terms accused Warren Hastings of neglecting under like circumstances just a century age. Did the House remember that we levied £6,000,000 a-year in India by moans of the salt tax, and that we imposed an ad valorem duty of 2,600 per cent upon salt? Medical men were agreed that rice without, some such condiment as salt would certainly destroy those who ate it, and consequently if we gave the starving people rice without that article which would make it wholesome, we should simply be shirking the question of famine, and it would only amount to the difference between slow and quick destruction. Ought they not, therefore, to endeavour to stimulate the Government, by the moral weight of that House, to sock the means of additional relief in that direction? As for the present Bill, it ought to be judged simply as a finance measure, and not in any way as an act of international friendship or benevolence.
said, if he thought the passing of the measure would preclude the House from expressing an opinion whether it were wise to aid the Revenues of India by an Imperial grant, and if hon. Members had to decide between this financial measure and another, he might have hesitated in coming to the conclusion that to pass this one was the first and only duty of hon. Members. He took the opportunity of saying the other evening—and he still adhered to the opinion—that this was a right step in the right direction, as a first measure towards meeting the distress in India. In fact, it was an obligatory measure. The first duty of the Government of India was to feed the starving population; and it was not necessary, he held, for that Government to come to the House of Commons and ask for an Imperial guarantee for raising a loan when it had the means on its own credit to do what was necessary. Therefore he had no hesitation in again recording his assent to this loan of £10,000,000, though he should be very sorry indeed to think that by so doing the House would deprive itself of all opportunity of urging upon the Government at a subsequent date the necessity of any further measure of relief which the House might feel disposed to pass. Some hon. Members had drawn a parallel between the financial result of raising this money on the credit of India pur et simple, and of raising it under an Imperial guarantee, and a calculation had been made that the difference in interest would be about £75,000 per annum. With regard to that point, he thought that it was of more consequence to India to preserve her credit unimpaired for future financial operations, than to secure a present advantage for which she would have to pay heavily hereafter. Every apprehension as to the severity and intensity of the famine had been realized; and at the end of six months, or later, when the Government of India had to consider how to rehabilitate the cultivators of the soil, so that they might be in a position to cultivate their land, and to recover their status, there could be an opportunity for assistance. He did not venture to pass a judgment on the conduct of any officers occupying a high position in India. Everybody must know what a dreadful weight of responsibility pressed upon them; but there was no doubt that, so far as human judgment could guide them, none would fail in their duty.
Bill read the third time, and passed.
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
(who had given Notice that he intended to call attention to the defects of the Ballot Act, and to move for a Select Committee to investigate the working of the Act, with power to suggest Amendments of the same) said: In bringing the subject before the House, I disclaim any idea of bringing it forward as a result of the last Election it being generally agreed that hon. Members opposite, who have been returned in a large majority, do truly represent the opinion of the constituencies. The question which I am about to submit to the consideration of the House has been anticipated two years ago, for at that time, when the Ballot Act became law, there was reason to believe that experience would reveal defects in the measure, then for the first time adopted, and that at some future period it would need revision. That it does need revision, inasmuch as experience has shown defects in the Act, few will now deny. Much correspondence has taken place in the public journals on the subject; several meetings of Returning Officers have been held; many points have been submitted by candidates and their agents to counsel for an opinion. There are, in short, several clauses of the Ballot Act, and several passages in the Schedules, which stand in much need cither of amendment or of official exposition. In a good many boroughs there were hitches of one kind or another, in the working of the Act on polling day. As to what papers should be counted, and what should be rejected for informality, there has been the greatest possible difference of opinion. As to the effect upon the election of that, which as far as my experience goes has been universal—namely, the difference between the number of papers in each box and the number returned by the presiding officer at the corresponding station, no one has the least idea. As to the manner in which the votes should be counted, and as to the effect upon the election of a non-compliance with the terms of the Act in that respect, there is a similar doubt; and although it may be said that these are questions which might be raised by Petition, and settled by the Judges, still it must be remembered that Petition is a costly process; that these points do not happen to have been raised by Petition on the present occasion; and if the amendment of the law is to be left to the decision of the Judges, another General Election will come upon us, without any of those difficulties having been removed. I am not here to go through the Act line by line, and to point out what appear to me to be its defects. I only wish to speak of those of which I and others have had practical experience; defects which having shown themselves once, may be expected to show themselves again. In the first place, I wish to call attention to a singular inconsistency in the Act itself. The Act lays it down that each ballot paper "shall be marked on both sides by an official mark." It says that the voter shall place it in the box, "after having shown to him" (the presiding officer) "the official mark at the back." The Act then goes on—
Of course, the identification of the voter is the very thing against which half of the provisions of the Act are intended as a safe-guard, and as for the non-counting of papers, not having the official mark, that is the only means of preventing what has been called in America the "Ballot stuffing" fraud. The showing the mark on the back of each paper to the presiding officer is the only means of preventing the "Tasmanian dodge," about which we talked so much in 1872. Yet I am prepared to state—and if the statement be questioned, I can prove by reference to time and place—that in dozens of elections in different parts of England, ballot papers were counted, which the Act says are void, and shall not be counted, inasmuch as they had the voter's number on the register, written on the back. They were advisedly counted, after arguments had been heard before the Returning Officers, and counted after argument, because the Act is inconsistent with itself, and directs those who are engaged in the counting by no means to look at the back of the papers. If it be asked how the backs wore seen, I would answer that the backs of a large number of papers wore seen by accident as the boxes were emptied; that in many cases the ink with which the voter's number on the register had been written in by the presiding officer showed clearly through the ballot paper. I have received an important letter with reference to an important county in the north of England—which I will not mention by name as a Petition has been presented against the late return—in which case I am informed that the sheriff, as Returning Officer, has actually caused the voter's number on the register to be printed both on the ballot paper and counterfoil, so that it would to perfectly easy to see how any vote had been given. That is a point which ought to be investigated by a Select Committee, and which in London alone affects hundreds. As for the second point I raised, I also am prepared to state, and if necessary to prove, that the number of papers in the box very rarely tallied exactly with the number returned by the presiding officer. Again, to raise a third point, the stamping of the official mark is a matter which is not a fit one to be investigated by an Election Judge. It is not a question of law, but one of fact and of machinery. It is one which, if it is to be investigated, ought to be investigated by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and that it is one which must be looked into, I think is clear. When it is remembered that no one can deny that thousands of voters who thought they voted at the last Election were in reality disfranchised, from no fault of their own whatever, but only because much of the official machinery did not really stamp at all, it is clear, I say, that inquiry into this matter must take place. On the other hand, I could, if necessary, prove that thousands of papers were counted, which although they had some trace of an official mark upon them, had no such mark as was contemplated by the Act, because they had no such mark as would be sufficient to prevent fraud, and I have no hesitation in saying that if we go to another Election without inquiry and an amendment of the law, "ballot-box stuffing" will be carried out. It is not a sufficient answer to those who say that fraud will occur under the Ballot, to point out that there is no proof of fraud having occurred this time. The fact that this was the first General Election under the Ballot; that the election was sudden; that the scoundrels who exist in most constituencies had not had time to make themselves acquainted with, the provisions or the working of it; these are reasons why we may expect that if fraud be possible under the Act, and I say it is possible, it would not be perpetrated in 1874, but it would be perpetrated in 1879. The three points upon which I have at present spoken, are better raised, I think, before a Committee of the House of Commons than on Petition before an Election Judge. They are—the contradiction in the Act itself, about numbering or marking on the back of the paper; the precautious taken to see that no single paper is carried out of the booth, and that the number torn out of the book, and the number of papers put into the box, exactly tally; and, thirdly, the question of the machinery of stamping. The same is the case with three other points, as to two of which I have received a large number of letters from all parts of England, since my Notice was placed upon the Paper of the House. Those three points I will confine myself to merely mentioning, as matters of much importance which ought to be considered by the Committee, if one were granted, although there would be nothing gained by going into them now at length. The first of those points is the mode in which the counting of votes should take place. Under the Ballot Act, this seems to be left to the discretion of the Returning Officer. But I think that it should not be left to his discretion, but should be considered by a Committee of the House of Commons, and regulated by law. Two modes of counting were followed at the last Election. One of those modes was perfect; the other, which was followed in many most important towns, did not give any security to the candidates or the electors against blunders, or even against corruption, on the part of the clerks engaged in keeping a record of the votes, as called. The second of those points is that of the time which the Ballot Act allows to the Returning Officers for making their preparations. It seems certain that at such boroughs as Hackney, Marylebone, and the Tower Hamlets, the time is far too short. Returning Officers are not justified in incurring expense before the nomination of the candidates has taken place, yet in such boroughs as those of which I spoke, it is impossible to avoid a break-down if this is not done. In one of those boroughs the Returning Officer has to construct 70 stations with 300 separate secret compartments, and to find 70 competent presiding officers, and 70 competent clerks. Now to do all this within three days, and that at a time when there is a tremendous competition for carpenters, for presiding officers, and for all clerks who have the slightest pretensions to sobriety, is impossible. The third point is one closely connected with the second; it is that of the effect of the Ballot Act upon the law regarding the expenses of the Returning Officer. It is a point which it would not be useful for us to investigate at length in the whole House; but it is a point which deserves attention—which ought to be cleared of the difficulties which surround it, and which might be investigated by the Committee. There is also one isolated point standing wholly by itself, and unconnected with any of those I have named or am about to name, in respect to which also I have received very many letters from the smaller or agricultural boroughs. It is one which might be raised before the Committee with advantage, but I shall not dwell upon it, because I do not see my way to an avoidance of the difficulty. It is that of the abuses which undoubtedly surround the voting of "illiterates." I have received an elaborate letter from the mayor of one of the boroughs of which I spoke, which I will not read, but which might be tested by his examination as a witness before the Committee, in which he points out with great detail the collection by him of evidence to show that great numbers of illiterates were illiterates only for the day, and that they were as competent to read and write the day before and the day after the election, as they were wholly incompetent, according to their statement, on the day itself. In the large boroughs, where no attempt was made to find out how people voted, a very small proportion of the illiterate voters claimed their privilege. The great majority of them seemed to have preferred to vote by the light of nature, rather than by the hand of the presiding officer. In one ward of the borough that I represent, for instance, in which there are notoriously a great number of illiterate electors, only two voters had their papers marked for them by the presiding officer; but in some of the agricultural boroughs that I could name, the whole population of certain parishes voted as illiterates. But I name this point only because of the great number of letters that I have received upon it; and without wishing to go further into it at the present, I may add, as a connected point, that complaints have reached me from all parts of England that the paper on which the voter is made to vote shows the names through in such a way that the presiding officer can clearly see for whom he votes. Before finally leaving the points which I have already raised, I would crave leave to return for a moment to one of them. I spoke a short time since as to the provision which enacts that the mark on the back of the voting paper shall be shown to the presiding officer as being the only moans of preventing that which is known to the survivors of the last Parliament as the "Tasmanian dodge." If I may allude for a moment to my own experience, I attended the booths in four constituencies, being the only ones of those in which I was an elector, in which there happened to be a contest. Now, taking those four constituencies, of which two were counties and two were boroughs, I myself saw in the one case no less than four, and in each of the other cases one ballot paper brought out of the booth; yet one single paper brought out is sufficient to allow the perpetration of the "Tasmanian dodge," and also of such an imitation of the official mark as would pass muster at any counting of the votes not more rigid than were the countings at the last Election. This fact shows how vitally important it is that the number of papers issued at each station as returned by the presiding officer, and the number of papers found in his box, should exactly tally. I now leave the points which can only be well discussed before a Committee of the House of Commons, and I turn to one remaining point which could undoubtedly be with confidence raised before, and decided by an Election Judge, although I contend that it could be more conveniently decided by an amendment of the Ballot Act, after consideration by a Committee of the House of Commons. This is the subject of what is a mark by which the voter can be identified. It must, I think, be clear to all who have studied the Act, that the whole of the elaborate provisions about the non-identification of a voter can be easily evaded if you allow any mark to be made except a well-shaped St. Andrew's Cross, although I for one would go further and say that I do not think it is possible to prevent identification in any case. I certainly am of opinion that a puncture with a pencil or a mark of a dirty thumb, or a snip torn from a particular corner of the paper, may be sufficient for the identification of a voter, by arrangement previously made with a dishonest agent who is to attend at the counting of the votes. I am also of opinion that the elaboration of the provisions of the Act is from this point of view unnecessary; but if so, it ought not to be discarded—it ought to be re- pealed. If is idle to have the Schedules of the Ballot Act staring us in the face, full of minute and highly technical provisions—full therefore of traps for the unwary, likely to lead to great expenditure of money, and resulting in much uncertainty—if the whole of these fortifications can be turned and taken in the rear by the simplest and most evident of dodges. But on the other hand the provisions are there—they have not yet received judicial interpretation—they have been construed in two widely different ways at the late Election, and thousands of votes have been rejected by some Returning Officers, whilst in other constituencies Returning Officers have counted them. Each of us knows his own case best, and I may be permitted therefore, perhaps, to allude to the case of my own constituency—the more so as with us the counting or the rejection of these doubtful votes did not, as it happened, in any way affect the result as regards the relative position on the poll of myself and my honourable Colleague. When we came to classify the gentlemen who had made some mark except an ordinary St. Andrew's Cross—and we classified them under the general name of "duffers"—I am bound to admit that I had a majority of 34 of the duffers; but those who were worse still, and were placed by themselves in a packet under the name of "hopeless duffers," but who were finally counted, gave a clear majority to my honourable Colleague. Now, with us—and in many great constituencies where the Elections were presided over by some of the most learned and impartial Returning Officers—all papers were counted after argument, in which the intention of the voter was clearly shown. In other constituencies—I may say neighbouring constituencies—all papers were rejected which had upon them any kind of mark except the very mark which is indicated in the Schedule of the Act. There is a very strong case to be made each way. My own opinion is that the decision in my own constituency was wrong, and that whatever may be the right and wrong of the case, whatever may be the wisdom of changing the law—and I think that it would be wise that we should change it—whatever may be the hardship of the present state of the law, my view is that as the law does stand, it undoubtedly requires the rejection of every paper which has on it any mark such as may Lead to the identification of the voter. I think that all papers marked in any way except with a St. Andrew's Gross, placed on the square opposite the candidate's name, are bad, and for the simple reason that any other sign may lead to the identification of the voter. The danger undoubtedly is not a practical one in large boroughs and in counties; but the law was not made for large boroughs and for counties alone, and the question that we have to consider, and that a Select Committee ought to consider, is, in the first place, not what the law ought to be, but what it is. The danger against which the law is meant to guard is a practical danger in some constituencies. In Kinsale, where there were only two candidates, one of them only polled 47 votes. In Mallow, one candidate polled 86, one 64, one 27, and one only 9. In New Ross, where there wore only two candidates, one of the candidates polled 81. In Wexford, where there were only two, one of the candidates polled only 73. In Portarlington, the successful candidate polled only 76, and the defeated candidate polled only 52. It is clear that in such constituencies as these, the agent present at the counting of the votes, if he were a dishonest man—and the whole Act assumes that he may be a dishonest man—might recognize every voter by a system of marks which would be amply sufficient for his purpose. One of the most perfect examples that I can conceive of the complexity of the subject, and of the need for the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate it, was afforded by a letter which appeared in The Times, and which was addressed to that journal by the Town Clerk of Swansea. That gentleman said that his view was that any mark that clearly showed intention was a sufficient and a good mark, but that he had taken counsel's opinion upon the point, and that counsel's opinion was the other way—that he had consequently advised, as it was his duty to do, the Returning Officer of his borough to reject all papers having any mark but a St. Andrew's Cross, although this was contrary to his own opinion, and that all such papers were consequently rejected. There is one additional reason which I may name for strictly adhering to the terms of the Act; it is that by not doing so you are soon led into giving absurd decisions. For instance, we counted straight lines that were put in the squares instead of crosses; but we soon came to a paper which had both straight lines and crosses. This, upon our own principle, we ought to have counted and should have counted, if we had come to it first. We were, however, led by our previous decision that a straight line was a sufficient mark to reject this voting paper, on the ground that it had too many marks. For all those difficulties I say that there is but one safe cure, and that is an investigation by a Committee of the House of Commons, and amending legislation upon the subject. Of course, I do not know whether the Committee will be moved for by Government. I shall not move for it myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), and my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther), who have greatly fallen from their high estate, will perhaps be put up by their chief to argue that the Bill, which in principle and in detail they opposed with might and main, is the perfection of human wisdom. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), the parent of the Act, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), its godfather, will no doubt toll us that it is faultless; but I think the general sense of the House will be, that while the Act was well drawn, considering its complexity, no Act so important and so technical can be unworthy of careful revision."Any ballot paper which has not on its back the official mark, or on which… anything, except the said number on the back, is written or marked, by which the voter can be identified, shall be void and not counted."
said, he had no doubt that the House was desirous that the Ballot Act should be made as perfect as possible in their own interests and in the interests of the constituencies of the country generally, for it was very desirable that the loss of votes should be prevented, and accuracy in counting votes should be secured, and that steps should be taken to diminish as much as possible the expenses. It was only necessary for him to remind the House that not fewer than 12 hon. Members of the House had been returned by majorities of 10 and under, and that 24 hon. Members had obtained majorities of 20 or under. These facts were sufficient to show that precision and accuracy were of the utmost importance, and that the power of the Returning Officer, for good or bad reasons, to reject voting papers which had some peculiarity in them—without decision or authority to guide him—was a subject which deserved consideration. In reference to the loss of votes, he might say that at the late Election for Galway, out of a total of 1,100 votes, no fewer than 190 were rejected by the Returning Officer. The Returning Officer, in fact, possessed enormous powers, and much depended, not only on his honesty and integrity, but upon his intelligence and his accurate reading of the provisions of the Act. That was a point on which both sides of the House, and both large and small constituencies, were equally interested, and it was highly expedient, in order to secure the purity of our electoral system, that steps should be taken to obtain uniformity of procedure at elections, for under the present mode of taking the Ballot there was every inducement held out to partizan Returning Officers or their clerks to act improperly. Thus in a county constituency which should be nameless, an hon. Friend of his who had been elected by a small majority of 53 or 54 in 1868, was returned by a large majority in 1874. At the recent Election one of the friends of the candidate who was present at the counting of the votes had a suspicion that one of the clerks who was entering the number of votes in a book was manipulating the counting—that was to say, he was omitting a batch of 30 votes in favour of the candidate in question. On being challenged with the offence the clerk expressed great indignation at his honour being so assailed; but on the votes being compared with the book in which he was entering the number of voters, it was found that not one but two batches of 30 votes in favour of the particular candidate had boon omitted. It might be said that that was a fault on the part of a certain clerk, and that this was after all a mere honest mistake, and not a fault of the system; but when it was recollected how various were the modes of counting the votes, some of them being of the loosest character, and how impossible it was in very large constituencies that the candidates should exercise proper supervision over the counting, it appeared to him that the Government should at their own time, and under circumstances in which they would be able to secure a fair and impartial consideration of the points of detail, refer the whole matter to a Select Committee. His own constituency being a small one, every vote had been counted under the supervision of the candidates themselves; but in large constituencies such scenes had been witnessed as seven or eight sets of persons being engaged in the same room in counting the votes, the names of the candidates and the votes given on each ballot paper being shouted out in such a way as must almost inevitably lead to confusion and mistakes. A trifling mistake in the number of the votes given for a particular candidate might be of the gravest importance, because in many of our largest constituencies hon. Members had been returned by the morely nominal majorities of 50, 100, or 200. Having had personal experience twice of a contested election under the Ballot, he had taken some little trouble to inquire into the working of the present system, and he had come to the conclusion that it was for the interest of all hon. Members, whether in existence or in posse, that the defects in it should be removed. What might be the determination of the House on the subject of the Ballot when its term of eight years had expired it was impossible to pro-judge; but it was clear that those who had opposed it for so long might be pleased that they had at length accepted it, while those who had urged its adoption for so many years had found that it had brought destruction of the party which had. carried it into law. Thus that which was to have caused the entire destruction of the Conservative party had had exactly the opposite effect, and it was remarkable that, under the Ballot, where the Conservative Party were strong before they were stronger now, and that where the Liberal Party were strong before they now found their strength diminished. He made these remarks not for the purpose of rousing party feeling, but to point out that the question might be considered without regard to its bearing on either party, and merely with the view of making the mechanical operation of voting safe for both the candidates and their constituents. One word as to Returning Officers' expenses. It would ill become him, and would be contrary to his experience of the class of persons who so usefully filled those positions, if he were to suggest that there was any designed impropriety in the charges made by those officers; but anything more unsatisfactory than the present system he could not conceive. The honest Returning Officer in a largo constituency was obliged to work night and day without receiving the smallest remuneration for his labour, unless it took the form of an honorarium from the winning, or perhaps all the candidates. Thus the Returning Officer for Marylebone had had to work for a week and a-half, night and day, at the last General Election, during which time he was unable to attend to his business, and all Returning Officers were obliged to work in a similar manner if they wished to escape the odium which had fallen upon the Returning Officer of another of the great metropolitan boroughs. It was most unsatisfactory when the Returning Officer had to put down a fee for himself, and it was equally unsatisfactory when he had to accept that as a gift which he ought to receive as the legitimate reward of his labour; and besides, men who had to give up days of valuable professional time ought not to be called upon to discharge the duties upon the chance of receiving an honorarium from the candidates who went to the poll. In other cases he had heard that monstrous charges had been made in small boroughs, and in one instance where the candidate, who was called a Conservative working-man's candidate, had refused to pay the Returning Officer the sum of £50, the Returning Officer had refused to allow him to be nominated, and the noble Lord who was the other candidate was returned as unopposed, the consequence being that a Petition had been presented on behalf of the rejected candidate. There were, he believed, numbers of cases of that character which were a scandal and a discredit to the law. Another thing he complained of was that the first set of candidates should be compelled to pay for the ballot boxes, which would suffice for their own constituencies for the next 20 or 30 years. In some instances candidates had merely hired the boxes, but the hire was probably more expensive than the purchase of them would have been. He felt, however, that under existing circumstances it would be idle to press these matters more upon the Government than the facts would press themselves. If the facts which had been already maintained, and others which could be supplied by hon. Members on both sides' were not sufficient to induce the Government on their own authority to take this matter up, and to bring it at some convenient time before the House, no arguments would be of the slightest avail. For his own part, he had perfect confidence that the right hon. Gentleman the Homo Secretary would do all that was discreet with reference to the main interests of the country on the subject, and he was satisfied that any measure that might be proposed would receive the careful attention of the Select Committee of that House to which it might be referred.
said, that a considerable portion of the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) referred to the putting marks on the ballot papers, which necessitated the Returning Officers rejecting them; but how could the House go into an inquiry upon that subject now when it was well known there wore several hon. Members against whom Petitions were pending on that very ground. He would draw attention to the fact, that a double return had been made from Athlone, and the question as to who was the properly elected Member would depend upon whether the Returning Officer had properly or improperly rejected certain of the voting papers. A similar state of things existed in Leitrim county, where a Petition was pending, in consequence of marks having been put on the ballot papers by the presiding officer at one of the booths. It was impossible for the House to grant a Committee at the present moment; but after the Election Petitions had been tried, and the House had obtained from the Judges a clear declaration of the law, it would be desirable to appoint a Committee to consider what amendments were necessary. It had been his own intention to bring this matter before the House in consequence of what occurred at an election last May for the county of Tyrone, at which Mr. Macartney was an unsuccessful candidate. Mr. Macartney petitioned against the return, and Mr. Justice Fitzgerald was deputed to try it. The Petition was withdrawn before trial, and Mr. Justice Fitzgerald made a Report in which he raised the point whether an election would be void in a case where the Returning Officer had marked on the back of the voting paper the number of the voter on the register, thereby affording a means by which he could be identified. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald thought it his duty to report the matter specially, and added that it was doubtful whether the Act provided an adequate remedy for such cases. If it were found that such an act. on the part of the Returning Officer disqualified the voter, it would give him the power of disfranchising many of the constituency.
said, that whenever a Committee was appointed it would be necessary to consider the question of the expenses of Returning Officers, who could not proceed for their recovery against the persons nominating the candidates, but only against those who went to the poll. Consequently there was no limit to the introduction of "bogus" candidates, as it was open to any ten men to put up a man of straw as a candidate, and thereby cause all the expenses of a contest without the slightest risk on their own part. The question of the expenses charged by Returning Officers for themselves was also deserving of attention.
said, he must remind the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), that the House was aware at the time of the passing of the Ballot Act that there was no alteration in the law as regarded the power of nominations in the direction in which he appeared to suppose that there should have been; but a candidate must now be nominated by 10 persons, whereas formerly he could be nominated by two. There was therefore now no greater chance of bogus nominations than there was then. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman who had brought the subject forward would not think, and that no hon. Gentleman in the House would suppose, that because he (Mr. W. E. Forster) had charge of the Bill which was passed, he wished in any way to prevent an inquiry into its operation. He thought the time was coming when it would be really desirable to review the operations of the Act, and to find out exactly what had been the results; but the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary two days ago, anticipating that debate—namely, that they ought to wait for the reports of the Judges—seemed to him (Mr. W. E. Forster) to be almost irresistible, and for this reason, that it was possible that the Judges might themselves make suggestions for the improvement of the law. He thought it was possible that there might be some vagueness in the Act which might cause some difficulty in its interpretation, but if so the fault lay with the House, and perhaps still more with himself, as having had charge of the Act. But, on the other hand, they must recollect that scarcely any Act had ever passed without some doubt as to its interpretation, and he did not think the House would underrate the difficulties with regard to the passing of such an Act. It was a perfectly new machinery of great complication and exceeding difficulty, and it would be most unreasonable to expect that at once all the Returning Officers would carry it out in exactly the same way. The Judges, however, in considering the Petitions would doubtless arrive at some general interpretation, and he could not help thinking that many of the objections which his hon. Friend had started would be removed by the result of those Petitions, and that the Judges would settle the points in time for future elections, especially that point which was probably the most important that had been brought forward—namely, the question whether the mark must be a cross or not. His own opinion remained, as it was at the time of the passing of the Act. He considered the cross was placed in the Schedule as a hint for guidance, but not as a positive enactment, but if the Judges decided that the mark must be made in the actual form of the cross, he thought the House would have ground for considering whether that decision should remain the law of the land. On the other hand, if they came to a different decision, that result would not follow in the future which the hon. Baronet deplored—namely, that a great many votes would be struck off. There was one fact which was certainly new to his mind, which was highly objectionable, and which, if proved, would in his opinion be sufficient ground for the House considering the subject, and that was the use of transparent ballot papers. He had not before heard of a case of the kind, but the House must be guided by facts which were in evidence, and not by what might happen. It would be impossible for the House to guard in theory against every combination of dishonesty, fraud, and cleverness, and they must have some practical evil in view before they attempted any fresh legislation. Then, again, the House would know a great deal more about the facts when they knew the result of the Petitions. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that the number of Petitions was no test as to the working of the Ballot Act, but to that opinion he could not assent. It was encouraging to know that although the last General Election introduced a mode of voting which was new to candidates, agents, and voters, the number of Election Petitions was far less than had heretofore been usual after a General Election. That showed that the evils which might exist were not, at any rate, so great as to call for immediate and hasty legislation. There was little doubt, on the other hand, that when the Petitions were decided, points would have arisen which might very fairly be considered. The House would remember that the question relating to the expenses of Returning Officers was discussed, and that the House determined to leave the candidates who went to the poll to bear the expenses of the election. The result had been to confirm him in the opinion he then shared with others, and which he still held, that these difficulties would continue until the constituencies themselves bore the necessary expenses of elections.
British Museum—Salaries Of Officers—Question
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is the intention of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to grant the increased scale of Salaries recommended by the Trustees of the British Museum for the Officers, Assistants, and other persons in that establishment, as set forth in a Return ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 9th June 1873, No. 237; and, whether it is the intention of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to grant to such Officers and others the arrears of pay which they would have received during the past financial year had the Resolution of the Trustees been carried into effect at the time contemplated by them?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is under some misapprehension of the circumstances in which this question rests. It is very true that a memorial was addressed to the Treasury on the scale of salaries recommended by the Trustees of the British Museum, but it was considered by the late Government, and they decided unfavourably. There the question was concluded. The business is not before the new Board of Treasury. It does not exist as a question before them, and it will be impossible to arrive at any conclusion upon it or the question of arrears, until the matter is again brought before the Treasury.
Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," agreed to.
SUPPLY— considered in Committee.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
Turnpike Acts Continuance
Select Committee Appointed, "to inquire into the Twelfth Schedule of The Annual Turnpike Acts Continuance Act, 1873:'"—Committee nominated:—Lord GEORGE CAVENDISH, Sir ROBERT ANSTRUTHER, Mr. BEACH, Mr. WENTWORTH BEAUMONT, Mr. WILBRAHAM EGERTON, MR. M'LACAN, Mr. WELBY, Mr. CLARE READ, and Lord HENRY THYNNE:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Three to he the quorum.
Instrucation to the Committee, that they have power to inquire and report to the House under what conditions, with reference to the rate of interest, expenses of management, maintenance of road, payment of debt, and term of years, or other special arrangements, the Acts of any of the Trusts mentioned should be continued.—( Mr. Sclater-Booth.)
Holyhead Old Harbour Road Bill
On Motion of Sir CHARLES ADDERLEY, Bill to transfer parts of the Holyhead Old Harbour Road from the Board of Trade to the Local Board of Health of the town of Holyhead; and for other purposes, Ordered to he brought in by Sir CHARLES ADDERLEY and Mr. CAVENDISH BENTINCK.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 51.]
Cattle Disease (Ireland) Bill
On Motion of Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH Bill to amend the Acts relating to Cattle Disease in Ireland, ordered to he brought in by Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 52.]
Public Health (Ireland) Bill
On Motion of Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH, Bill to amend the Law relating to Public Health in Ireland, ordered to he brought in by Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 53.]
Municipal Boroughs (Auditors And Assessors) Bill
On Motion of Mr. DODDS, Hill to amend the Law relating to the election of Auditors and Assessors for Municipal Boroughs in England, ordered to brought in by Mr. DODDS, Mr. PEASE, and Mr. RICHARDSON.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 64.]
House at Rising to adjourn till Tomorrow, at half an hour after Twelve of the clock.—( Mr. William Henry Smith.)
House adjourned accordingly, at a quarter after Seven o'clock.