( Mr. Attorney General, Sir William Harcourt, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Charles Dilke, Mr. Solicitor General.)
COMMITTEE. [ Progress 18 th June.]
Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Clause 2 (What is corrupt practice).
said, with regard to the first Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for-Kilkenny (Mr. Marum), he would not say it was germane to the Bill; and he was certain that it did not appertain to the present clause, and, therefore, it could not now be moved.
said, he would then move the Amendment next in his name on the second page of the Notice Paper. He proposed to add at the end of the clause a Proviso that the word "intimidation" in the Corrupt Practices Act of 1854 should not mean in Ireland intimidation within the meaning of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, 1882, or otherwise than within the meaning of the present Bill as affecting England and Scotland. The Committee would remember that the words in the Act of 1882 were exceedingly stringent with reference to intimidation. That Act set forth that every person who wrongfully inflicted intimidation should be liable to severe penalties; and it went on to say that intimidation included any words spoken or act done in order to put any person in fear of any injury or danger to himself, or to any member of his family, or anyone in his employment, or in fear of any injury to, or loss of business or means of living. If the word "intimidation" meant that, under this Bill, a person who was, for instance, in favour of Sunday Closing or Free Trade might, by advocating those principles at an election, be placed in a very serious position. If loss resulted to any voter, he might be held to be in-chided in this clause. It would be unfair to say that in England intimidation meant one thing and in Ireland another, and that Ireland should come under the very stringent Proviso of the Act of 1882, for the purposes of this Bill. It was for that reason he proposed the Amendment he was about to move; and as the Attorney General had been kind enough to say that he would accept it with a certain limitation, he should be willing to adopt any wording which commended itself to the judgment of the hon. and learned Gentleman, provided it embodied the principle which the Amendment contained. He suggested that the point would be best covered by using the words "intimidation as defined by the Corrupt Practices Act, 1854." Amendment proposed,
Question proposed, "That those words be there added."In page 2, at end, add "Provided, That for the purposes of this Act the expression 'intimidation' in the Corrupt Practices Act, 1854, shall not in Ireland mean intimidation within the meaning of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, 1882, or otherwise than intimidation within the meaning of this Act as affecting England and Scotland."—(Mr. Marum.)
said, he thought it would be seen that this Amendment could not possibly be accepted. When he proposed to assent conditionally to the Amendment the word "intimidation" appeared on the face of the clause. They then had the words "or in any other manner practises intimidation" in the definition of undue influence. But they had now struck out the reference to the Act of 1854, and in the definition of undue influence the word "intimidation" did not appear. The section of the Act of 1854 referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny had now nothing to do with this Bill. They could not, then, accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member, as, in consequence of the change which had occurred, it did not refer to what was contained in the clause.
said, he agreed that the expression "intimidation" was not now in the definition. He wanted to meet the case of intimidation as it was defined in the Act of 1854; and he thought that the words he had suggested would cover what was intended in the best way. Of course, undue influence was only one species of intimidation. In the form he now proposed to introduce the Amendment he thought it would be both useful and necessary.
said, the Amendment was unnecessary. There was no definition of intimidation in the Act of 1854, except in a certain sense—there was no exhaustive definition.
said, he wished to ask the Attorney General whether he was correct in supposing that the only intimidation to be punished under this Bill would be that coming under the definition of undue influence? If that were the case, he hoped his hon. and learned Friend would not think it necessary to press his Amendment. He thought it would be objectionable to introduce into the Bill an expression which was not now in it. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
said, he thought before they passed from this clause it would be well to take note of the important change which it made in the law. A portion of the clause would be a re-enactment of the existing law with regard to bribery, undue influence, and personation. But it included in the definition of corrupt practices the offence of treating as defined by the preceding clause; and the effect of this, on the whole, he believed, would be to purify elections. It was, as he had already stated, desirable that they should not pass from the clause without taking notice of this very important change; because the penalties which followed in the subsequent clauses would now attach to treating in a way they had not done before. It would, therefore, be necessary for the Committee to scrutinize those clauses very closely which provided for the penalties to be inflicted for this offence. Treating was sometimes a matter scarcely to be distinguished from hospitality, and it was to be hoped that the Judges who had to administer the Act would be extremely careful to arrive at some definition of what constituted treating. If every Member of that House was to be exposed to the penalty for corrupt practices for every act of treating that might be committed by persons associated with elections, it was much to be desired that the Judges who would discharge the onerous responsibility cast upon them by the Bill would be guided by a more just appreciation of the affairs of life than had, apparently, guided the framers of this portion of the Bill.
said, he also wished to draw attention to the change in the law in reference to treating, and the penalties incurred in connection with it, by persons who wore not candidates. With regard to those persons, they knew that the Bill, as a whole, was of the most violent and severe character, and it was as a whole that they must look upon it. Whereas, hitherto, in the case of a person not a candidate, treating was looked upon as a minor offence, by the present clause, combined with Clause 5, a man might be liable, in addition to the disqualifications set forth, to be sent to prison for a term not exceeding two years with hard labour. He hoped that the operation of the Bill would extend to every gradation of political life, from the Prime Minister downwards, and that the stream of pure water, so to speak, which they proposed to throw upon the constituencies would also be thrown upon the Treasury Bench. He desired the Committee to note that, although he was disposed to allow the clause to pass without opposition, it by no means followed that this would be the case with regard to that portion of the Bill which imposed the serious penalties by which these offences were to be dealt with. He would not detain the Committee further than to say that in not voting against the clause he distinctly reserved to himself the right of criticism upon the punishments of the acts specified, because he considered the Bill in this respect was most severe and unjustifiable.
said, he trusted Irish Members would divide against this clause. The Attorney General had made a considerable concession, so far as the political effects of the clause were concerned, by getting rid of a set of words of immeasurable vagueness; but with regard to spiritual influence, he had decided on another set of words which were more than equally vague. His view of the matter, and that which might be taken by an Irish Judge on the eve of an election, were two very different things. The Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) would have given ample guarantees against any act of spiritual intimidation; in fact, it would have put into unmistakable language that which the Attorney General had, over and over again, declared to be the concession he intended to make. Irish Members did not object to priests being put upon the same footing with regard to corrupt practices as other persons; but they certainly did object to the Irish Catholic priests being singled out for these offensive provisions of the Bill, which meant that it was found necessary to restrain them from all sorts of abuses. He did not think there was a priest in Ireland who would not argue that it was illegal to refuse the Sacraments, or threaten a man with excommunication for political reasons. It seemed to him that some such Proviso as that indicated last night would answer the purpose of the Attorney General. But he must protest against the insinuation that ran through a great portion of these discussions, that there was anything in the present attitude of Irish Catholic priests to justify their being treated as persons who must be restrained by a special penal enactment from the practice of their legitimate influence, although, no doubt, at one time they had exercised powers which they did not dream of exercising at the present day. During these discussions there had not been the slightest proof brought forward to show that since the Ballot Act released the Irish people from the power of the landlords, any Irish priest had exceeded his legitimate rights in regard to elections. He thought the only form of spiritual intimidation practised to-day in Ireland was the intimidation of the clergy themselves connected with the recent Circular. He could not help thinking that these suspicions with regard to Irish Catholic priests came rather ungracefully and ungratefully from Ministers who had been taking such pains of late to conciliate and utilize that body. Whoever had destroyed the influence of the Irish clergy, the Irish people certainly had not done so. And he did not think that Irish Members ought to be parties to a vague and sweeping clause of this kind, which would put it in the power of Judges like Justice Keogh to insult Bishops and priests, under the pretence of drawing a line, or attempting to draw a line, where legitimate action on their part ceased, and undue influence began.
said, it was his intention, by an Amendment which he would move at a convenient time, to suspend this clause during the period of an election. With regard to what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien), in reference to the Papal Circular being in the nature of an intimidating document, he wished to say that he denied that it had the least character of intimidation about it. It was merely an admonitory document.
asked the Attorney General if he would indicate that he was willing to grant a Court of Appeal in the case of decisions under Clause 3? If candidates in the Three Kingdoms were allowed to appeal from the decision of the Judge who tried Election Petitions, he believed that a statement on the part of the Attorney General intimating that this right would be conceded would smooth the passage of the clause, and remove from the minds of candidates some of the fear of the penal consequences which might be inflicted upon them under this Act. By a Bill which had passed through the Standing Committee on Law, the House had granted the right of appeal in cri- minal cases, and he would like to extend that right to criminal Members of Parliament. Undue influence was a matter that could not be proved. It rested entirely upon the opinion of the Judge whether a candidate had committed that offence; and he contended that Members ought not to be banished from that House for what, in the opinion of a single Judge, might be undue influence. It was perfectly impossible for any candidate to control the language of persons who spoke in his behalf. He could not, on the platform, hold each speaker by the throat while he was speaking, and give him a squeeze whenever he seemed to be on the point of saying anything which might be construed into an act of undue influence; it was impossible to turn a speaker on and off like a tap; and, however careful a man might be, something would leak out which might bring him within the scope of this clause. The result would be that no candidate would be safe if he allowed anyone to speak in his behalf. He was bound to say that the Attorney General had shown a disposition to make reasonable concessions in this matter; and he trusted that he would make this further concession of granting a Court of Appeal.
said, he thought the clause, as it had been altered, was a very material improvement in the law, and one which ought to be recognized. But, apart from the alteration in the law, they had gained what was of more importance in the universal declarations coming from all sections of the House, that the famous Galway Judgments were not according to law. Now, he thought the value of such admissions during the progress of the debate was even more than that of the amendment of the clause itself. His hon. Friend the Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien) was desirous of taking a division against this clause; but he would suggest to him that he should recognize the advantage obtained, and allow the clause to pass without a division, so far as Irish Members were concerned, while they reserved to themselves the right of proposing some further alterations of the Bill when they came to the question of agency.
pointed out that there was a provision in the Criminal Code (Indictable Offences Procedure) Bill giving an appeal in criminal cases. There ought, therefore, to be an appeal with regard to Election Petitions.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Punishment of candidate found, on election petition, guilty personally of corrupt practices).
said, the Amendment he proposed to move was one that provided for the exemption of counties from the operation of the Act. In making this proposal he drew no distinction between England, Ireland, or Scotland, because the Amendment applied to the three countries. They had pointed out, during the progress of these debates, that the Bill itself was not necessary in Ireland. Now, the same statement might certainly be made with regard to the counties, because the bribery and treating which this Act was intended to check had never existed in them. Again, it was not in the counties of England, but in the boroughs, that the Bill was necessary to check these great abuses of bribery, treating, and so forth; because in the latter there was, no doubt, a population which was susceptible, to a greater or less extent, to the corrupt influences of electioneering agents, and other persons acting in the interests of various candidates. It was a matter of notoriety that votes in boroughs were sold for a pint of beer, and that frequently voters sold themselves to both sides. He hoped the Committee would recognize that this Amendment was a reasonable one, and that its adoption would not in any way interfere with the object with which the Bill was introduced. Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 7, to leave out the words "county or."—(Mr. Parnell.) Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
said, the Bill dealt not only with corrupt practices, but also with the expenditure at elections, which it was expected would be very much reduced by its operation. As the question of expenditure applied to counties as well as boroughs, the Government could not consent to strike out the words proposed to be omitted by the Amendment.
said, he was glad to hear that the counties were much less corrupt than the boroughs. But he was afraid there were a good many people who, if they found themselves shut out from the boroughs, would creep into the counties, and commence their corrupt practices there. As he did not want that, he was not in favour of the Amendment.
said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had just said that the Bill was intended to lessen the expenditure at elections. He did not know that treating in Ireland had been carried to a very great length; but he did know that the expenses in Irish counties had been exorbitant. That was principally so in cases where the candidate was expecting some title, perhaps, or where a lawyer was interested in increasing the expenses. The popular candidates, however, never spent money in this way. With regard to undue influence, he pointed out that the difficulty of the candidate in the case of counties was so much greater than in boroughs, because he could not personally supervise the action of persons in his behalf at remote places in the county, where things might be done of which he had no knowledge whatever. For these reasons he considered the Amendment of his hon. Friend a legitimate one, and he thought the Committee should agree to it. The expenditure in counties was perfectly scandalous, and he thought it should be curtailed as much as in the boroughs.
said, he always desired to consult, as much as he was able, the opinion of Members concerned in any particular question. This question applied to the Three Kingdoms, more especially to England. However, as no English Members had spoken in favour of the Amendment, he should not put the Committee to the trouble of dividing, but would ask leave to withdraw it. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he trusted the Committee would adopt the Amendment he was about to move. He did not wish to go unnecessarily over the old ground; but they had repeatedly pointed out that if there were any case at all for the stringent provisions of the Bill in regard to corrupt practices at elections, that case only existed in reference to the Irish boroughs; certainly no such case could be, or had been, established with regard to the Irish counties. Even in the case of the boroughs, corruption, where it had existed, was becoming a thing of the past; in any case, one certainly need not go beyond the counties in order to meet with absolute purity of election in Ireland. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would yield in this matter to the wishes of Irish Members on those Benches by adopting the Amendment standing next in his name.
In page 2, line 7, after the word "borough," to insert the words "in Great Britain, or a borough in Ireland."—(Mr. Parnell.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, the Government could not accept the Amendment, which would amount to a permission to indulge in corrupt practices in counties in Ireland.
said, it would be impossible for him to vote for the Amendment.
said, the argument of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), as to the absence of corruption in Irish counties, held good with regard to English counties also. Still, in the face of the many possible developments of corrupt ingenuity, he thought it would not be well to throw open the counties to the promoters of artistic corruption. He would point out the danger to which Irish counties were exposed, a danger clearly foreshadowed at the recent election in the county of Londonderry. On the occasion of that election, Londonderry was placarded by the Government candidate, and in those placards the electors were asked to "vote for Porter and fair rents." This act, although in a legal sense its authors escaped under the existing law the charge of corrupt practice, was, no doubt, substantially corrupt; and it really amounted to offering to bribe a community out of the pockets of the landlords. In that respect the bribery practised by the Irish Attorney General in the county of Londonderry differed from cases of ordinary bribery, in which voters wore paid out of the pocket of the candidate. The Irish Attorney General, in following out the unique Liberal policy, as he had already pointed out, had proposed to bribe the electors of the county of Londonderry out of the pockets of the landlords. Now, it was quite conceivable, say, that at the next Election in Ireland, looking at the desperate condition of the fortunes of the Liberal Party in that country, that Members of the Government might have to push their endeavours a little further than the Irish Attorney General had in the county of Londonderry, and might just go over the border line between legal and illegal corruption. Therefore, in view of the very possible extension of Liberal ingenuity, he thought it would not be well to throw open the Irish counties to the improvers upon the tactics of the Attorney General for Ireland. He could assure his hon. Friend of one thing—namely, that if the Irish counties were so thrown open he would find that the placard of "Vote for Porter and fair rents" would be very considerably improved upon at the next General Election.
said, that in deference to the appeal of his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) he would not trouble the Committee to divide on his Amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he thought no one would dispute the statement that the clause was of the very gravest character, and that the Amendment he was about to propose deserved the deliberate consideration of every Member of the Committee. In order fully to understand its importance he would ask hon. Members to refer to the consequential Amendment in his name on page 15. He proposed to limit the severe punishment described in this clause to one class of offences only—namely, that of bribery. That was essentially the alteration he proposed. He was not in any way suggesting that other corrupt practices should pass unpunished, or should pass, indeed, without heavy punishment; but he certainly thought that the supreme punishment set forth in this clause should be reserved solely for the supreme offence of real personal bribery. Everybody, be thought, would agree with him that about the offence of bribery, generally speaking, there was no mistake whatever—that, as a rule, it was so manifest in its moral obliquity, as well as the effects connected with it, that one had little compunction in bringing down heavy punishment upon the person committing it. If, for instance, for the purpose of obtaining a vote, a man gave an elector £20, or even 5s.—for in this matter the amount did not signify—not only the law, but the moral sense of mankind, would go with them in saying that the punishment should be severe. All would be agreed that whether, as he said, the amount offered by way of bribery was £20 or 5s. made no difference whatever. But when, they got to the debatable ground of treating and undue influence, hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had taken great interest in this matter, would follow him when he said that a very different application of the law should apply. Take the subject of treating, and he was sure the Committee would forgive him when he asked them to take into consideration the well-known case of North Norfolk. It would be remembered that in that case a well-known Member of the House was nearly unseated for a matter of this sort—it was personal treating—and if the hon. Member had been found guilty, his punishment under this clause would have been perpetual banishment from the constituency for life, banishment from the House of Commons for 10 years, and banishment from the honorary position of Justice of the Peace, and a variety of other minor disabilities, stigmatizing his character as being worthless and degraded. What were the circumstances of the North Norfolk case? The facts were these — the Member's name was a well-known one, and he need not mention it—that this Gentleman had in his billiard-room, on the day of the election, three or four joints of beef; and the meat was set out to such an extent during the election time that 60 lbs. or 70 lbs. was had of the butcher. These were supposed to be the elements of the corruption the hon. Member was carrying on. The so-called corruption was taking place in his own house; the hon. Member had his friends, and the companions of his daily life, about him; but there were other persons who had access to the rooms where the beef. was set out—namely, the agents and political supporters below him in social rank. These people were seen about his house, and had the run of his billiard-room; and, no doubt, many of them took lunch there. The charge of cor- ruption on these grounds was made by no means in a joking sense. It was deliberately made, and deliberately fought out for some days—the question put to the Judge being whether it was not a case of treating for which the hon. Gentleman ought to be unseated? In the course of the hearing the butler was called, also the cook and the butcher—the butcher to say how much meat he had supplied, the cook to say how much she had prepared for the table, and the butler to give evidence to the manner in which the meat had been set out. He (Mr. Lewis) would put it to the Committee whether, in such a case as that, they would be prepared to jeopardize a man's character for such a proceeding as that, placing him under the purview of this clause? It might be said that this was an extreme case—then let them take another—namely, the well-known rabbit case. The unfortunate gentleman interested in this case had been long since dead, and his son also who had succeeded him. In that case the charge was that the candidate had promised some of the electors, if they returned him, that he would allow them to shoot amongst his rabbits. [" Hear, hear ! "] He (Mr. Lewis) was not surprised to hear that cheer from hon. Members below the Gangway on the Liberal side of the House, the Solicitor General having stigmatized the case as the worst he had ever heard of; but he did not believe in the old days it would have been possible to have got such an opinion from an Election Committee of the House of Commons. The candidate thought he was entirely within his right in doing what he did; and would it, therefore, be right to shut him out from Parliamentary life altogether for 10 years, and perpetual banishment from his borough? Let them take the case of undue influence. Everyone would admit, after the discussion of last week, that, after all, undue influence was a shadowy thing, and that the line of demarcation was by no means clear. The Attorney General knew perfectly well, as a lawyer, that it was one of those things that it would be ridiculous to define; and that there must be a variety of facts and circumstances not capable of definition, the interpretation of which must be left in the hands of the Judges, who, after all, might be wrong in their interpretation. Take the common case of exclu- sive dealing, which was now, he supposed, more commonly known as "Boycotting." A man unacquainted with the law—that was to say, unacquainted with the provisions of this Act of Parliament—might go to his tradesman and say—"If you expect me to continue dealing with you as I have done hitherto, you must support me." What would be the result of such a thing as that? Why, it would probably be dealt with as undue influence within the terms of this Bill. Did anyone think that the candidate so offending should be punished with perpetual banishment from the representation of his borough; or would it not rather be thought that some minor punishment would meet the necessities of the case? To his (Mr. Lewis's) mind, it would be perfectly monstrous to punish such a Gentleman with entire banishment from his constituency, and with banishment for 10 years from Parliamentary life. What did he (Mr. Lewis) ask the Committee to do? Why, he asked to discriminate between bribery and treating. There was a great deal of difference between bribery and undue influence. Surely the Attorney General could not harden his heart against his old friends? Did they not remember the wail from the hon. Member for East Staffordshire (Mr. Wiggin) sitting below the Gangway, who looked like a Gentleman who himself enjoyed good living? "Why, bless me," said the hon. Gentleman, "you would prevent me from entertaining my friends." And what did the Attorney General say to that? "Oh," he said, "it is not proposed to prohibit moderate social hospitality "—two adjectives and a substantive. That was his answer"—If you don't make both the adjectives good, don't exceed the substantive; then you may escape the penal clauses of this Bill." There could not, in his (Mr. Lewis's) opinion, have been a clearer and more satisfactory answer in his view of the case than the answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman was wise in his generation. Most likely the hon. and learned Gentleman had been unacquainted with the North Norfolk case; and the fact of a butcher, butler, and cook being called to give evidence. Before they considered how far a man was to be allowed to go in this hospitality they should determine what would be the penalties for offences of this kind. He (Mr. Lewis) had often said there was such a thing as overdoing these enactments. He believed they had been overdone already. Enactments of this kind had been passed already, but had never been put in force, he believed, because in many cases the punishments they involved were excessive. Did anyone believe that by making these punishments the more extreme, odious, and degrading, they were going to stifle such things as the moderato social hospitality of the hon. Member for East Staffordshire? The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the hon. Member must keep within the lines of moderation; but how was anyone to know that he was keeping within the line of moderation that a Judge would draw if his conduct was made the subject of investigation? They had had a wonderful warning in this respect from some of the States of America; and he would trouble the Committee with a remarkable utterance from the State of New Jersey, which, many hon. Members were no doubt aware, was not one of the backwoods States, but was only divided from the State of New York and from New York City by the Hudson River. In that State, which might be called an enlightened State, they had had a stringent Bribery Law. Well, everybody said that the English House of Commons was a place of great profession; and so it was a place of very great profession and very little doing. But America was a place of very great professions also, and they started with a Declaration of Independence, and with a Constitution of vast and mighty principles, and purity ran through them all. Purity was a great part of all American enactments and manners; but, unfortunately, bribery prevailed to an immense degree; and, for the comfort of those who were fond of referring to universal suffrage as the great panacea for all bribery, he would call attention to a recent utterance of the New Jersey Legislature. A Special Committee was appointed to consider the question of Primaries, which word corresponded with our Caucuses. That was the scholastic name by which these institutions were known in America; but we knew them by the not more pleasant, although the more obvious name of Caucuses. The Committee reported that they had found the crime of bribery was universally prevalent in local, State, and national elections in that State; that it had been condoned to such an extent that the senses of the people had become blunted to the enormity of the offence; that a large proportion of the working people depended upon the election day as a regular source of income; that it was constantly reaching out after new victims; that it was utterly subversive of popular government and free institutions; that both political Parties were equally guilty of the pernicious practice; and that if the evil continued it must, in the near future, of necessity lead to anarchy and revolution. He quoted that for the purpose of pointing out that they had in that State a most stringent Bribery Law, and that, notwithstanding that stringent Bribery Law, and all the advantage of the Caucus and universal suffrage, the people had descended to the low and degraded political position he had described. Now, in order to meet the evil, what did that Committee of the New Jersey Legislature propose? The only course to pursue, they said, was to give an amnesty for the past and to begin anew; and the very first condition of that new beginning was to be a repeal of the present law relating to bribery. His interpretation of that wonderful utterance of the New Jersey Legislature was that the Caucus system did not promote purity; next, that universal suffrage did not promote purity; next, that pure professions on the part of a Legislature did not promote purity; and that a very severe law against bribery did not promote purity. Finally, they had the experience of the great American people to tell them that if they wanted to promote purity they must, first of all, declare an amnesty for the past, and then repeal all their old and stringent laws. The House of Commons should learn from what he had described that, instead of being foolish, they should be sensible; that, instead of being exceptionally severe, they should be practical; and that, instead of attempting to annihilate everyone in the Law Courts who happened to come within the Law of Bribery, they should endeavour to do what was practical, and apply common sense to these matters. What, he would ask, was the experience of England with regard to those Acts of Parlia- ment? Had they not been evaded by both juries and Judges? Had they not been evaded by the Judges—had they not found expression in the decisions of the Judges, showing that they had ultimately shrunk from the enforcement of the law against a candidate because of the consequences that would befall that individual? One had heard, even from the most experienced and eminent Judges, that they had, after all, when they came to the broader lines of the case, had to consider whether it was proved or not—they had looked at the consciences of the individuals, and had said—"I will not only give the candidate the benefit of the doubt, but I will give him the benefit of anything approaching to a doubt." He (Mr. Lewis) could give cases where the law had not had its full effect, because there had been such severity behind a person that the Judges and juries bad shrunk from it — their humanity had shrunk from the consequences which the law would inflict. Did he ask the House or the Committee to pass by the offence of bribery with just a definition of punishment? Not at all. He was prepared in this matter to go along with the Attorney General, notwithstanding that the hon. and learned Gentleman declared him to be a bitter opponent of the Bill. No doubt, he was a bitter opponent of the severity of this Bill, and such he should be to the end. He did not propose, in the least degree, to touch that clause until they came to the last three lines, which surprised and amazed him. He did not propose to interfere with the clause until he came to that part of it which touched bribery of a direct kind; and what he asked the Committee to pause at was that of casting the net so wide as to draw within this odious punishment such slight matters as a sin of the over-hospitality of the hon. Member for East Staffordshire, who seemed to be in a difficulty as to where the line was to be drawn. In the Bill there was no distinction and no discrimination whatsoever drawn between the man who committed the most flagrant act of bribery, and the man who committed the most insignificant act of treating. The Judge would have no discretion in the matter as regards some of the consequences. If he found a candidate guilty of corrupt practices, no matter how small, the consequences fol- lowed as a matter of course. If the candidate was found guilty of a slight offence he was stretched on the same bed, and put on the same rack, as if he had been guilty of the most flagrant act of bribery. He did not believe that hon. Members of the Committee, with their eyes open, if they seriously reflected on this matter, would allow such a clause to become law. He knew there was a great deal of pride in this matter. Members for Scotland, for instance, said—"You never hear of corruption in Scotland;" but with hon. Members who said that he begged very much to differ. "Sandy" might not be bought by a pound or two; but he might be caught, and was caught, with a "saxpence," or "a glass of whisky." The point to which he really wished to draw the attention of the Committee was this—that every Member should cast aside his pride. They all represented pure constituencies, no doubt. There was not a purer one in the United Kingdom than Londonderry. That he could speak of from his own experience, as his pocket was uninjured in the matter; but let them not speak of their constituencies as they spoke of their favourite dogs, or horses, or birds, or cats; let them not say—"There never was such a dog as this; there never was such a cat; there never was such a horse; there never was such a bird;" let them put aside their pride, and let them bear in mind that an accident might happen to any one of them, and that in an unguarded moment an act might be committed which, although it appeared innocent enough to them, a Judge might consider an illegal act under the Bill. They could not always be on the alert. Even the ablest and most circumspect of men sometimes were found tripping. What should be required by this clause should be to give an adequate, and not more than an adequate, punishment for an offence. In conclusion, he would ask the Committee seriously whether there should not be a distinction between the punishment meted out to direct bribery, and that inflicted in the case of treating and undue influence? Was there any difficulty in having a less severe punishment for one offence than the other? He did not believe that the majority of the Committee would deliberately inflict on probably an unfortunate and misled man, who did not intend to commit any breach of the law, such a severe punishment as they would mete out in cases of a grave and wicked character. Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 9, to leave out the words "any corrupt practice," and insert the word "bribery."—(Mr. Lewis.) Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
said, that he would answer the question of the hon. Member for Londonderry without making a long and obstructive speech—["Oh, oh!" and cries of "Withdraw!"]
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Member has a right to allude to a speech just delivered by my hon. Friend behind me as an "obstructive" speech?
I am not aware that the expression is, strictly speaking, out of Order; but I think it is one that would have been well omitted.
On the point of Order, I would wish to observe that the Speaker in the Chair has held that Obstruction is a Parliamentary offence, and upon this matter I am in the recollection of the Committee. If the hon. Member thinks it decent to charge me with making an obstructive speech just now, all I can say is that I do not in any way value either his judgment or his opinion.
(who was received with loud cries of "Withdraw!") said, if the Committee would permit him, he should like to say a word on the subject of the expression he had used. Apart from the question as to whether the speech to which they had just listened was an obstructive one or not, if it was thought desirable he would withdraw his expression, and express his regret for having used it. The hon. Member had asked this question —"Why treating should be punished as severely as bribery?" and the answer he would give to that was, that it was very often a more degrading offence. He had some experience on this subject, because at one time Liverpool was a very corrupt place; whereas now it was one of the purest in England. ["Oh, oh !"] Hon. Members seemed to question that statement; but he was giving the result of his own knowledge and experience. Liverpool was now one of the purest towns in England; but at one time, at every election of Mayor, there was something like a fortnight's drinking in the town. Some 10 or 15 years after that had ceased, and Liverpool had become a remarkably pure place, it fell to his lot to have to investigate the habits and positions of the different classes in Liverpool, and this singular circumstance came to his knowledge—that the classes of the most intelligent artizans, and those who received the largest wages, lived in worse houses than other people, and, in fact, did not live in houses of their own at all, but in lodgings. When he asked what was the meaning of that, he was told that it was because the people might have more drink. He was very much struck by that, and could not understand it; but on further inquiry he found out that the freemen of Liverpool became such by a seven years' apprenticeship; that apprenticeship was necessary in all trades, and those who had acquired the freedom, and who received high wages, were constantly demoralized by the system of treating. After that treating had ceased—that was to say, when it had been put a stop to for 10 or 15 years—its contaminating influence still remained amongst the classes who had been exposed to it, and many of the artizans who were receiving the best wages were living in hovels or in lodgings. He was happy to say that things were in a much better condition now that the generation who had been so demoralized had passed away; but he thought he had proved his case that corruption by treating was even a more degrading offence than corruption by bribery. But the hon. Member opposite said—"Don't make this so stringent, otherwise you will inflict heavy penalties upon people who had no intention of doing a corrupt thing;" but his (Mr. Rathbone's) contention was that for the protection of the candidates themselves it was necessary that the clause should be made definite and strict. They might depend upon it that the hon. Member to whom he (Mr. Lewis) had alluded would not, if this law was passed, he led to approach the danger into which he had brought himself on a previous occasion. If they wanted to stop bribery and corruption they should, as he had said, make the law definite and clear; and, what was more, they must by law make treating and corrupt influence degrading. The result of the present law had been to put a stop to a great deal of corruption; and if they now passed another good law, they would not only prevent corruption, but prevent candidates being subjected to a great deal of unnecessary worry, and being drawn into a great many unnecessary difficulties.
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman had entirely failed to grasp the effect of the speech of the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Lewis). The hon. Member (Mr. Rathbone) had called the speech of his hon. Friend an obstructive one; but that presumably was owing to the fact that the hon. Member had not listened to the arguments of the speech to which he took exception. It would be as well for the Committee, before they went any further, to define what the law at the present moment was, and then they would be able to see what was the change proposed in the Bill. The 36th clause of the Act of 1854 said that if a candidate at any election should be declared by any Election Committee guilty, by himself or his agent, of bribery, treating, or undue influence at such election, such candidate should be incapable of being elected, or of sitting in Parliament for such borough during the Parliament then in existence. That law was as clear as it could be, and no one wished to make the law less clear with regard to what the offence was. They were discussing now only the question of punishment; and it was clear that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had not the remotest notion of the fact. They were all agreed as to the definition of bribery, treating, and undue influence —that was as settled as it could be; and the question was, what should be the punishment? He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was bound to say that though he agreed with and supported the Bill in its main provisions, he considered it was a grave fault in it that the punishments all through were too severe. He did not believe that increased severity of punishment had the effect of diminishing crime. To his mind, the natural effect of it was to make people more unwilling to enforce the law than would be the case if the penalties were moderate. What was to be the punishment inflicted upon a candidate under this clause? Why, it was that where a corrupt practice had been ruled to have been committed, it might be without the knowledge or consent of the candidate, the candidate was to be made incapable of ever being elected for or sitting in the House of Commons for the same constituency, or of sitting at all in the House of Commons for 10 years. No doubt, such a punishment as that was perfectly just where a candidate was guilty of personal bribery. He would have no compassion at all for such an offender; but what the hon. Member behind him said was, that there was a great distinction to be drawn between bribery, and treating, and undue influence, and for this reason—that bribery was an offence which was easily proved an offence about which there could be no doubt; but treating and undue influence were things which must rest quite as much on the opinion of the Judges, who at the time might be the Election Judges, as upon the facts themselves. The Judges had much more latitude in defining undue influence than in defining bribery. It was not sought to alter the law as far as treating and undue influence wont; and the hon. Member and his Friends said they were quite content to leave the law as to treating and undue influence as it was in the Act of 1854—namely, that the candidate should lose his seat, but nothing else, during the Session following the commission of the offence. Let them follow the argument of the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Lewis)—let them take the question of treating for a moment. He was very much afraid that though it was clearly laid down in the Bill there would be a great difficulty in deciding what was really treating, and what was not. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had said that moderate hospitality was not treating. Well, to refer again to a case which was mentioned the other day. Suppose the Prime Minister himself, instead of staying with Lord Rosebery, had been staying with a commoner, a person with whom he went about every day, an agent. People would be coming to see him every day, and, no doubt, would be going about with him at the expense of his host—would that be considered treating? Many candidates had been unseated for far less. Because Lord Rosebery was a Peer, and the candidate who had stayed at his place was the Prime Minister, no one had ever thought of questioning their proceedings. But, unquestionably, there was great doubt and difficulty in a case like that. The candidate would go up and down the constituency with the friend with whom he was staying, and that friend would ask constituents to come and see the candidate at his house. When they came to a lower rank of society, and they found the agent asking his friends to his house, they would see the Election Judges treating the circumstances very differently to the manner they would treat such a case as that of the Prime Minister and Lord Rosebery; there would be an entirely different impression produced on the mind of the Judge. He (Sir R. Assheton Cross), and those who thought with him, did not want to diminish the severity of the present law; but they were determined not to increase it, except in cases of actual bribery, about which there could be no doubt. That was the way the hon. Member had put the case, and he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was perfectly prepared to support him.
said, that, before replying to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lewis), he should have liked to have heard more speeches on the subject, had it not been for the reference to the present law made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. This clause dealt with candidates only; therefore, the observations which had been made respecting non - candidates had very little bearing upon the provision. For his part, he had not a word to say against the speech of the hon. Member in introducing his Amendment. In alluding to the present state of the law as to the punishment of bribery, treating, and undue influence, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire had correctly stated the effect of the Act of 1854; but he had, no doubt inadvertently, omitted to mention the alteration made in the law by the Act of 1868. By the Act of 1868 it was provided that where it was reported that bribery had been committed by the knowledge and consent of the candidate, that candidate should not be capable of being elected to the House of Commons during the seven years next after the date upon which he was found guilty, and further to be incapable, for a similar period, of being registered as a voter, or of holding any office, such as Justice of the Peace, and to that latter disqualification he (the Attorney General) would particularly call the attention of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). Now, the present clause disqualified a candidate from being elected to or sitting in the House for a certain number of years. The period of 10 years was fixed by the clause; but he should prefer its being reduced to seven years, as proposed in Committee on the Bill of last year. The clause then added the further penalty that the candidate should be subject to the same incapacities as if, at the date of the Report, he had been guilty of a corrupt practice. If a candidate personally committed a corrupt practice he would not meet with much sympathy, for such cases often led to the demoralization of a constituency by setting a fashion. Where a corrupt intention was shown to exist full justice ought to be done; and he had no doubt, from the experience he had had of election matters, that in some way or other the means of corruption were traced to the candidate himself much oftener than people thought. It was clear that the candidates must be protected. The hon. Member for Londonderry did not carry on the war so much against treating and corrupt influence as he did against bribery; but, following the Act of 1868, the clause contained with reference to treating, bribery, and undue influence the words, "by or with the knowledge and consent of any candidate." He thought that with regard to bribery the words of the Act of 1868 ought to remain as they were; but with regard to the offences of treating and undue influence he was ready to make this concession—namely, to leave out the words "or with the knowledge and consent of," thus confining those offences to the candidate himself, on account of the greater uncertainty there was of establishing the proof of these offences than of the offence of bribery. In his opinion, the practice of treating, which was derived from municipal elections—the Parliamentary electors being now the same body as the municipal electors—was quite as demoralizing to the action of real political thought, and, perhaps, even more so, than bribery itself. He did not see how it was possible to draw a distinction between those two corrupt practices. the expression that one was minor in its degree as compared with the other was an unfortunate one, and it would be very unfortunate to carry that idea into legislation. He might be asked why he drew a distinction as to the knowledge and consent of a candidate between bribery and treating? He did it, because there was more uncertainty in proving the knowledge and consent of a candidate in respect of treating than in regard to an act of bribery. He drew no distinction between the nature of the evidence and the desirability of stopping the practice; but the Committee would see that it was much more difficult to prove or disprove the knowledge and consent of a candidate in respect of treating than it was to disprove his knowledge and consent in respect of bribery. Bribery was a more acute act, and an act that depended upon different circumstances, and less difficult to bring within the area of the word "corrupt;" and as he was anxious that no person should suffer unless he was shown to have been personally guilty, and considering the greater uncertainty of proving in the one case than in the other, he was unwilling to incur the risk of punishing an innocent person by requiring that the knowledge and consent of the candidate with respect to treating should be the same as his knowledge and consent in regard to bribery. He also thought that they ought not only to consider the candidates themselves, but the constituencies as well, and to endeavour to free them from the existence of this great evil, even if they ran the risk of doing a certain amount of injustice. At any rate, it would make a candidate more careful and more guarded against committing an act of corruption, or of placing temptation in the way of the electors. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) said there were cases in which candidates had been unjustly convicted of bribery; but he had not ventured to cite any particular case in which he accused the Judges of having arrived at a wrong decision. But, even if it were so, there was more than one record to show that Judges and juries had wrongly convicted in criminal cases. If the hon. Member thought that the tribunal was defective and inadequate to administer the law properly, then the best course would be to change the tribunal. It was quite another thing to say that they ought to make a bad law, because there might be some extreme case in which a person might suffer unjustly. They must deal with the matter as a whole. If they were determined to deal with corrupt treating, it was useless to treat it as a minor offence. Then, with regard to corrupt influence, that was in the same position. He could not see why a man who committed an act of undue influence personally should not be punished for it; but he did not desire that he should be punished for the faults of other people, or punished unjustly. If a man committed undue influence, it was a crime which they ought to punish. If, for instance, a man gave a tenant notice to quit, or used power, as an employer, which he ought not to exercise, that undue influence ought to be checked. But he had been struck by what had been mentioned in the course of the debate, that a man should only be bound by what was done within his own knowledge and within his own consent. He would, therefore, consent at once to strike out the words "by or with the knowledge and consent of any candidate" in reference to undue influence, and the clause, he thought, would then remain very much as hon. Members wished it with respect to bribery—namely, a disqualification for seven years similar to that under the old law. If the Committee would consent to the concessions he had made the penalty would only fall upon the person himself; and by striking out the words "knowledge and consent" treating and undue influence would virtually be placed in an entirely different position to bribery, and would not receive the same extreme punishment. No doubt, all of them desired to get rid of treating and undue influence, and how it was to be dealt with was a matter fairly open to the consideration of the Committee; but he trusted the points he had raised would not give rise to any long discussion. He hoped that hon. Members would approach the subject with a desire to check the whole of these corrupt influences. As he had already said, he did not wish to deal with the general topics referred to by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). He only desired to remark that when he introduced the Bill in 1881 he mentioned then that they had made too many attempts to stop these sources of corrup- tion by insufficient legislation. The hon. Member for Londonderry at that time said that they ought to deal with the question by administering small doses of legislation. His (the Attorney General's) reply was that they had administered too many of these small doses already, and that if they were not in earnest in the matter they ought not to touch it at all. Notwithstanding what had now boon said by the hon. Member for Londonderry, he believed that the concessions he had indicated were sufficient; and he would ask the Committee to consider whether they would not afford the means of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion upon the clause?
said, he thought the concession made by the hon. and learned Attorney General would very much facilitate the passing of the clause. He was very much of the opinion of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), and his right hon. Friend the Member for South - West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), that the penalties in some of the remaining clauses of the Bill were still a great deal too severe. At the same time, in a clause that touched the candidate himself, he thought they ought not to be too lenient; because, when they were preaching and endeavouring to enforce on the rest of their countrymen purity of election, it seemed to him that they ought to begin by enforcing as strenuously as they could the same purity upon them-selves, and they ought not to shrink from any reasonable consequences or penalties which a breach of the law on the part of the candidate might impose upon him. Therefore, he was of opinion that they ought to put undue influence and treating, when committed by the candidate himself, on the same footing as bribery, and visit it with a punishment just as severe. lie agreed with the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), and he could not conceive any more grave offence than anything like treating committed by a candidate at an election. Whatever might be done by ignorant partizans, at all events the candidate at an election should keep himself entirely free from anything like individual or personal treating. At the same time, it was much more difficult for a candidate, if treating or undue influence were committed, to show that it was done without his knowledge or con- sent than in the case of bribery. For instance, a speech might be made at a meeting, at which the candidate was present, by one of his supporters, and it would be very difficult for the candidate to disavow that speech on the spot. Nevertheless, it might be held that an offence was committed with the know-lodge and consent of the candidate unless he promptly rose and disavowed the act. Then, again, in regard to the offence of treating, it was difficult to draw a line between hospitality and treating. If one of the supporters of a candidate, in the exuberance of his spirits, in the presence of the candidate, stood a glass of beer to a workman who promised his vote, it would be very difficult to determine on the spot whether in that act the bounds of hospitality were overstepped; and the candidate would be in the unfortunate position either of denouncing on the spot what might really be an innocent act, or of taking the consequence of being held by the Judge to have gone beyond the line, and to have allowed treating to take place with his knowledge and consent. With the Amendment which the Attorney General proposed to introduce the clause was, he believed, one which the Committee might advantageously adopt, without being open to the imputation of having imposed purity of election upon others while they were unwilling to enforce it upon themselves.
said, he must express his regret that the Attorney General had consented to modify the clause at all. He was quite satisfied that the clause, as it stood, did not go a step too far, and the modification would materially weaken it. All the candidate would have to do was to keep out of its clutches, and be careful not to spend one penny on anybody but himself during his candidature. If he took care upon that particular point he would not get into any trouble whatever. He did not see why, if treating was practised with his knowledge and consent, the candidate should not suffer the consequences. It was very easy for a man to give a nod or a wink to a candidate and then do an illegal act; hut it was quite evident that that illegal act was done with the knowledge and consent of the candidate. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), in his vehement speech, had referred to two conspicuous cases — the billiard-room lunch at the North Norfolk Election, and the Launceston Election. With regard to the billiard-room lunch, the hon. Member had been careful not to tell the Committee that this important fact was drawn out in the evidence—that, although the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Sir Edmund Lacon) had provided the lunch ostensibly for his own friends, the agent took the thing entirely out of his hands, and went about telling the voters that a lunch was provided for them. No one who knew the hon. Baronet (Sir Edmund Lacon) would imagine for a moment that he provided the lunch from any corrupt motive in order to influence the voters in North Norfolk; and he (Mr. Caine) would read the decision of the Judge, in order to show how easy it was for a candidate to provide a lunch, and then for an agent to take it completely out of his hands. Mr. Justice Blackburn, who tried the case, said—
The Committee would see how easy it was in such a case as this for the agent to take the matter clean out of the hands of the candidate himself, and make use of the lunch provided for a candidate as a means of corruption. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had referred also to the Launceston case. Now, he (Mr. Caine) knew something about that case, because he had contributed to the expenses incurred in unseating Colonel Deakin. The whole question in that case turned upon rabbits, and every other matter connected with Imperial topics was set aside. [Cries of "Agreed!"] It was all very well to say "Agreed;" but he wished to point out that it was clearly laid down what the value of these rabbits given to the electors in exchange for their votes was. In the examination of Mr. J. L. Cowland, the witness was asked to produce a letter, which he did. The letter was read, and was as follows:—"I have, then, to come to that which finishes the cases of treating—namely, the lunch at Ormesby House, which does differ from all the rest in this—that what was done at Ormesby was done by Sir Edmund Lacon himself, personally; and no question, therefore, arises about agency or anything of the sort. A great many things were done at different public-houses, particularly, for instance, Mr. Becks giving a festival at the Ormesby beerhouse. All those I need not inquire into as to intention, because, as to them, there has been a failure of proof of any such agency as would have made the sitting Members responsible. But in what took place at Ormesby, Sir Edmund Lacon, of course, was his own agent, and from the manner in which the election was conducted, Mr. Walpole must, I think, be responsible also for what took place there; and, consequently, if what was done there was done with a corrupt intention, it would vacate the election. Now, it is an excessively imprudent thing for a candidate to provide any entertainment at all for voters. In the course of the inquiries in which I have been engaged, I have found that very often the notion has prevailed, or at least it has been thought fit that it prevailed, that to give everything by a candidate in the nature of meat or drink was fatal to the election, and that idea has been used as a very salutary shield. Repeatedly in borough elections people have said to the candidate—'Give us something to drink; you will be a shabby dog if you do not;' and the answer has been—'I would willingly do it; I should have the greatest pleasure in obliging you; but the law says, if I give you the least morsel of food or drop of drink, I shall lose my election.' That is a very salutary notion, and acts as a protective machinery to the candidate…. I have to see, in the present case, whether what took place at Ormesby was such as to make me think that that was the intention. In doing so, I must, first of all, make up my mind what was really done; and, upon considering the matter, I have come to a conclusion which I think is correct. The billiard-room, in which it appears this lunch was laid out, had a door opening into it, so that the people could come into it, not clandestinely, but without going through the rest of the house. This billiard-room was evidently a very convenient place for people who were to come in and out of it, and to eat and drink in it without disturbing the rest of the family; much more convenient for that than the dining-room. Then, I find, taking the cook's evidence, which I have no doubt myself was accurate, that directions were given to roast, for the purpose of being laid out cold, a sirloin of beef, ribs of beef, and a silver side of beef; the precise number of pounds weight does not appear; one does not know what quantity those joints together would represent; but the quantity of cold meat would be probably 70 or 80 lbs. weight; it could not be much less. I suppose that each person would not eat much more than a half-a-pound; and it would follow that there was meat intended to be laid out that would serve for upwards of 100 people. Ono little thing I may mention—the silver side, if I am not mistaken, is an inferior piece of meat, which would not generally be used at the tables of gentry of the upper class; and, consequently, that does look a little as if it was intended to provide a coarser repast than would probably be provided for people of the same rank in life as Sir Edmund Lacon. I do not know whether I am right in the fact, but that is my impression; and taking that view of the matter, and considering the quantity, the place in which it was, and, above all, considering what took place afterwards, I cannot my self much doubt that that cold meat was laid out with the intention not to confine it to the 20 or 22 gentlemen who probably naturally came to luncheon, but that it was thought that there would be a great many people about who would come in and eat it, who would come in and go out when they liked. I cannot much doubt that that was the intention with which it was provided in that way. Then comes the question, was it intended to influence the voters so as to make a corrupt intention? That is a question more or less of degree, and everybody is capable of forming his own opinion upon that; I am far from saying others may not be right and I wrong; and, indeed, upon such questions as this, when I have made up my mind in the best way I can upon the subject, I always have an awkward feeling afterwards that I might as well have decided the other way; very likely I may be wrong; it is impossible to help that. But, I must say, I do not think it was made out that it was intended to influence the votes at the time; if it had been previously told to everybody that there was this entertainment to be provided it would have been a much stronger case. If people who would be likely to be influenced by the notion that there was some cold beef to be provided at Sir Edmund Lacon's had been told beforehand—'Be sure you go and poll at Ormesby, because Sir Edmund is going to give you plenty to cat and drink,' that would have been like influencing them; but, as far as I have looked at the evidence, I can find no indication of that. T think there is enough to indicate this—that after Sir Edmund had been to the polling place, and after he had, on the Green, met some gentlemen who were friends of his, and said—'sIf you go to Ormesby House you will get something to eat and drink,' he and his subordinate also said to other people—'You may go and get something to eat and drink at Ormesby House,' and that that notion spread more and more; but in the case of every witness who was called it seems to have come upon him by surprise, and I cannot help thinking, if it had been intended to got men to vote at this particular election, they would have been told of it beforehand. If it was an inducement to a man to vote, it came rather late, when the men actually came to Ormesby in order to poll, to be told then, for the first time—'There is something to eat and drink at Ormesby.'"
The witness was further asked—"Launceston, Cornwall, 5th December, 1873.—My Dear Sir,—We have a very good Court, and I have paid £1,500 on account at the Devon and Cornwall Bank. The only discordant element at the Court was the rabbit damage. Mr. Mitchell, one of the chief sufferers, said that Mr. Helton had valued the damages at your instance with him, and that in consequence he expected that I should be prepared to say what allowance he was to have. I had heard nothing of this valuation, and could only say to him and the others (five in number) that I should report their application to you, stating, however, the efforts you were making to get rid of them. It is evident that the rabbits are, in the main, supported on the tenants' crops; and it occurs to me that, pending the destruction of the rabbits, it would be a kind plan for you to put their profits on somewhat this footing."
If these were the two cases upon which the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) based his argument, he thought the hon. Member had a very bad case indeed; and he regretted that the Attorney General had consented to modify the clause."From your book, from April, 1873, to September 15th the same year, there were, as I understand, sold about 560 rabbits, getting for them £20 7s. 10d.; is that right?—Quite right. And from October the 23rd to January 27th 1,312 rabbits were sold, and £59 Os. 6d. got for them?—Quite right. For the whole of that year the sum total would be £79 17s. 4d.?—That is from the commencement of the selling of the rabbits up to this date, the 27th January."
said, it seemed to him that the concession which the Attorney General proposed to make, and which he admitted was a considerable one, would have been more valuable to the Committee if the hon. and learned Gentleman had been willing to accept the Amendment which he (Mr. Raikes) moved earlier, limiting the time during which the offence of treating was alleged to have been committed. He thought the amended clause, as it now stood, would bear with exceptional hardship upon resident candidates and sitting Members, because they would be liable to be brought to judgment on a charge of treating for acts committed by them at any time; and it was quite possible that any man who resided in a borough which he wished to represent would be precluded in future in indulging even in moderate hospitality, for fear of running the risk of its being made a charge against him whenever an election took place. That would place a sitting Member and a resident candidate in a much worse position than the carpet-bag candidate, such as the Gentleman who contested Launceston on the occasion which had just been referred to. The candidate who committed treating with knowledge and consent was still left liable to all the penalties, if it were proved that the act was done; and, therefore, the candidate who resided in a place which he desired to represent ran special risks and dangers, and was more entitled to the consideration of the House on account of his local interest in the constituency than those candidates who went into a constituency for the first time on the occasion of an election. The hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine), who had just addressed the Committee, was generally precluded by his native modesty from addressing it, ex- cept on some occasion when some other Member was in possession of it. Upon this occasion the same amiable trait appeared to have induced the hon. Member, when upon his legs, to indulge the Committee not so much with his own opinions as with those he had collected from the ruling of certain learned Judges. He did not wish to differ from the hon. Member in the estimate he had formed of the North Norfolk case brought forward by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). It seemed to him that the remarks of Mr. Justice Blackburn were very much in accordance with common sense in dealing with the question; but he wished to enter an emphatic protest against the language used by the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) in referring to the Launceston case. In that case what had been done by Colonel Deakin had never been regarded as a particularly corrupt act; and, in reality, Colonel Deakin suffered very considerably for what, at the most, was a venial offence. It must be borne in mind that this question of the rabbits was formerly raised by Colonel Deakin's opponent, who endeavoured to make political capital out of the unpopularity attached to Colonel Deakin, from the fact that he had withdrawn the privilege of shooting rabbits. Surely, if it was lawful for a man to go down to a constituency and make capital by condemning a certain act which had been done by a particular individual, why should it be considered that when that individual endeavoured to remove the cause of offence he ought to be branded as a corrupt candidate? The learned Judge on that occasion came to a conclusion which involved the unseating of Colonel Deakin; but there could be no doubt that there was throughout the country a widespread feeling of sympathy for the hon. and gallant Gentleman who suffered on that occasion. In that case, although it was not held to be, strictly speaking, treating, it was thought that very likely cases of the same sort might arise which might be regarded as treating on the part of the candidate himself. However, as he had said before, he should view with great suspicion any alteration of the law which would bear with exceptional harshness upon individuals, and which prevented them from indulging in acts of hospitality or kindness towards their neighbours. He admitted that the Attorney General had made a valuable concession, and he should almost feel inclined to advise his hon. Friend not to divide upon the Amendment, if the Attorney General would make a still further concession. He trusted the Committee might be told that this penalty of life-long disqualification from sitting for a constituency was not to be attached to an act of treating by a candidate. If he had any hope that the Attorney General intended to regard with favour any proposal to that effect, he thought his hon. Friend would do well to rest content with what he had already obtained by the Amendment. But up to that moment no sign had been made by the Attorney General in that direction. Nevertheless, he trusted that before the debate closed his hon. and learned Friend would be prepared to say that he was willing to except the candidate from life-long disqualification for treating, and confine it to the penalty of being excluded for seven years. If the Attorney General would consent to do that, he thought the Committee would then have obtained something in accordance with the dictates of common sense. The Attorney General had told them that they ought not to make bad laws simply because they distrusted the tribunal; but he (Mr. Raikes) was of opinion that in this instance they were passing a bad law because they had confidence that their tribunal would not enforce it. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) and the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) had both spoken of the protection afforded to candidates by this Bill. He quite agreed with those hon. Gentlemen that it would afford protection to candidates, simply because it would be impossible to find Judges who would be willing to expose candidates to the penalties it inflicted. He did not, however, think it was wise to go about complaining of the state of the law, and then make it so severe that they knew they could rely upon its severity for insuring that it would never be brought into operation.
expressed his thanks to the Attorney General for the concession lie had just made, for it enabled him (Mr. Cropper) to thoroughly support the hon. and learned Gentleman in the clause before the Committee. It seemed to him that the penalties originally contemplated would have been too severe to follow a mere act of treating, which might not have been done by the candidate, or even with his knowledge. The clause, as amended, would, he believed, have the full approval of the Judges of the country; whereas, if it had remained unaltered, he (Mr. Cropper) did not think that approval would have been accorded to it.
said, he hoped the Attorney General would make it a rule, during the discussion on the Bill, never to yield in any way to any person professing Conservative opinions. Let the Attorney General see what was the consequence of yielding. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in order, he (Mr. Labouchere) thought, to get his Bill through, said he would yield to the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). The Attorney General said he would meet him half-way. He (Mr. Labouchere) called it more than half-way; but some hon. Gentlemen did not think it yet reached that point. What happened? Why, immediately up jumped the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), who expressed the belief that the Attorney General ought to go a little further; that he should also accept the Amendment of his (Mr. Raikes), which was that the right hon. Gentleman and every other hon. Gentleman in the House might make his constituency drunk up to a certain day without any ill effects to himself. The right hon. Gentleman wanted something more, like Oliver Twist. The Attorney General must remember that there were two ways of bribery—one was by giving cash, and the other by giving the equivalent of cash. At the present moment, and since the Ballot Act was passed, he (Mr. Labouchere) suspected there was a great deal more done by beer, and that was called treating, than by means of actual cash. There were generally a large number of persons who were willing to sell their vote for a pot of beer. As a matter of fact, the candidates themselves, in many instances, treated when it was a question of beer. He did not go out in the streets and ask men to come in and have a glass of beer with him, but he had persons to do the work for him; and if treating took place with his knowledge and consent, it appeared to him (Mr. Labouchere) to be bribery in as vicious and as objectionable a form as it was possible to imagine. He, therefore, could not think for a moment that the clause would be better when amended as suggested by the Attorney General. There was another point he would like to mention to the Attorney General. If it were proved that a person had allowed treating with his knowledge and consent, even if the words "with his knowledge and consent" were omitted from the clause, would he not be made actually responsible as though he did it himself? Would he not be accessory before the fact; and would it not be considered that as it had been done, and done with his knowledge and consent, he was as responsible as if he had actually done it himself? If so, perhaps there was no great objection to the Attorney General making the alteration; but he. (Mr. Labouchere) would certainly like to be assured on the point.
said, that if a candidate actually employed somebody else to go about and treat, the candidate would be as responsible as if he had done it himself. But then, when they said "done with his knowledge and consent," they went beyond that, and applied the case where he had not actually employed an agent.
said, they must all feel amused with the style of argument which was being initiated by the new Democracy, in the person of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who had advised the Member of the Government in charge of the Bill not to listen to any arguments advanced by any Member on the Conservative side of the House. They were not such a set of idiots as not to know that under the iron heel of the new Democracy they would have no rights whatever. Happily, the proceedings of the House wore not to be made such a perfect farce as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton sometimes tried to make them; and he (Mr. Lewis) hoped the Attorney General would not be led away by anything the hon. Gentleman had said, but that he would deal reasonably with every suggestion, no matter from whence it came. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) assumed too much in supposing that he (Mr. Lewis) had not got a case of injustice under the present law to produce. He always said there was a most flagrant case where a Liberal Member was unseated for treating, which was not personal treating.
I asked for personal treating.
said, the case he referred to was that at Bristol. It was tried by Mr. Baron Bramwell. They had at Bristol a test election—an election which had no legal bearing on the actual contest. Someone, during the test election, gave a pot of beer, and that very act upset the election which subsequently took place. That was as gross a case of a man suffering for a miserable act of so-called treating as could be imagined. And, indeed, in his opinion, never were there two greater acts of injustice than were committed against two Liberal Members, in the cases of Norwich and Bristol. With reference to the Amendment now under discussion, he thanked the Attorney General for the concession, so far as it was a concession. Considering that he (the Attorney General) had such a severe instrument to brandish about, the hon. and learned Gentleman had been very tender in the use of it; and he (Mr. Lewis) had no doubt that before the consideration of the Bill was concluded he would become even more tender. He (Mr. Lewis) was not in the habit of falling in love with concessions directly they were made; and he wondered whether the concession just made would have any good effect in regard to cases he had mentioned, and which evidently had made most impression upon the Committee—namely, those border line cases which were the causes of so much difficulty to the Judges. He did not think it would have any effect upon such cases, and he was afraid he could not accept the Amendment. He dared say he would be in a minority; but he had this consolation—that minorities were sometimes proved to be in the right. He did not consider that the concession of the Attorney General went far enough; and, therefore, he should go to a Division.
said, he did not rise to detain the Committee more than a minute; and he was afraid here, again, he should incur a little displeasure from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). So far, however, as he (Sir William Hart Dyke) was concerned, he was inclined to support the present proposition of the Attorney General. It seemed to him that it was agreed on both sides of the House that a very grievous evil existed, both as to bribery and other kinds of corruption; and, having conceded that, what they had to do was to frame a Bill which would work fairly. It was with that view he was prepared to accept the proposal of the Attorney General. He would like to urge one word with reference to a remark which fell from an hon Friend—namely, that, even as the clause was now amended, the candidate would run considerable risk under the Bill of incurring heavy penalties. It would be necessary for them to ask themselves the question, what did hospitality mean? It was possible to conceive that a man who had an election hanging over his head would have to shut up his house altogether; because, if he asked a few notorious politicians to join him at dinner, it might be held that he was guilty of a corrupt practice. He (Sir William Hart Dyke) impressed upon the Committee to be careful not to be led away by any Quixotic idea as to corrupt practices. Unless they were very careful in this legislation, it might possibly happen that, instead of curing the evil, they might make the Bill impotent and unpopular.
said, he thought the concession the Attorney General had made was one which the Committee might reasonably accept. They were all desirous of putting down corruption and bribery; and, though the concession was not as complete as he (Mr. Cowen) should like it to be, it was a fairly workable proposal, and he should be glad to see the Committee accept it. Hon. Gentlemen spoke of elections. They necessarily spoke of the election in the district with which they wore connected; and he was not surprised to hoar the different opinions which came from the different parts of the country. In the North of England treating did not exist at all; they did not know of it. It might exist in another form; indeed, he believed the political organizations which had now sprung up would develop a description of corruption which had hitherto been unknown. The point he particularly wished to press upon the Committee in regard to this Amendment was, the harsh effect it would have upon local resident candidates. Upon a man who lived in a borough, a man who represented the life of the place, who was closely identified with all the associations and societies in the borough, this clause would operate so harshly that he would rather prefer to become a candidate in a borough with which he was not associated. At any rate, he (Mr. Cowen) was disposed to accept the clause as amended by the hon. and learned Attorney General, because he thought they ought to be prepared to punish a candidate, if they were prepared to punish a constituency.
said, he was what might be called a local resident candidate, and yet he should have no fear of the consequences if this clause were passed. Judges, in considering election cases brought before them, had regard to the ordinary habits and practices of a man's life; and they never would regard as treating anything which was in the nature of reasonable hospitality. If a man, of course, went out of his way to entertain a constituency, of course the Judge would hold that to be treating. They were not, however, changing the law in that respect; and he did not believe the clause would be found to work any more prejudicially to resident candidates than the present law did. He might point out to his hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen) that this was not, perhaps, the very best place in the Bill for discussing a question of local candidates.
considered that the reason for making a distinction between treating and bribing was very obvious; and he considered the concession of the Attorney General a very useful one.
agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) that the concession made by the Attorney General was a very serious and a very substantial one; still, he thought that, even as the clause would now stand, it might have some very vexatious consequences in Ireland. He (Mr. O'Brien) could very easily conceive circumstances in which the clause might prevent even ordinary hospitality. Certainly, the vagueness of the words of the clause supplied ample room for the exercise of the discretion, or indiscretion, of an Irish Judge.
remarked, that his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) was glad the Government had made this so-called concession. He (Mr. Samuelson) did not regard it as a concession at all. His hon. Friend thanked the Government for the concession, on the ground that he wished to see the candidate punished more severely than the voter. It seemed to him (Mr. Samuelson) that the so-called concession would have a totally opposite effect. Supposing a man in a constituency was guilty of treating, or other corrupt practice, with the knowledge and consent of the candidate, the candidate would lose his election; but beyond that he was not punished. The person, however, who treated with the candidate's knowledge and consent, and in his interest, was liable to all the penalties contained in the 5th clause. For instance, he was liable to be fined £200, to be sent to gaol for a year; he was liable to disfranchisement, to be struck off the register of electors; and he was not to hold any public or judicial office within the meaning of the Act. All that happened to the candidate, however, was the loss of his election. Supposing, in a manufacturing borough, the employers of labour chose to put in force all their power in favour of a particular candidate, and that it was clearly proved that the candidate know they were doing so, although he did not directly authorize them to so act; the candidate would reap all the benefit of the undue influence without being punished at all. It was quite evident to him (Mr. Samuelson) that, if he chose, any candidate could prevent undue influence being used, just as much as he could prevent treating. It seemed to him that there was no great wish that the time of the House should be saved in future Sessions; for he thought that they were now only providing for the introduction of further Corrupt Practices Bills. He wished that the hon. and learned Attorney General would, when he had introduced a good section, stand by it.
said, he could not join in the congratulations to the Attorney General for whittling away this clause. He wished the hon. and learned Gentleman bad been as firm as he was yesterday, when spiritual intimidation was the subject of discussion. The concession which the Attorney General had just made would have a most injurious effect. Indeed, he (Mr. Callan) regarded it as another proof that the Government and the Attorney General were not really in earnest, or that, if the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) was in earnest, he had Taunton before his eyes, and the reports which appeared in the papers as to his going to seek some other constituency had no foundation in fact; the hon. and learned Gentleman wished to safeguard himself in advance against what he knew to be the practice at Taunton. [" Oh, oh ! "] Was it a crime, in the mind of English Radicals, to refer to Taunton? He did not at all wonder to find them ashamed of Taunton, and the practices prevailing there. He regarded the concession as a sop to treating and to corrupt practices. For what did it amount to? Why, that a candidate, if he gave his consent to treating, was not to be punished. What more subtle form of corruption was there than that of treating, not by the candidate or by any of his recognized agents, but by persons who acted on behalf of the candidate, but who were not actually his agents. He (Mr. Callan) was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General should in any way allow an opening for treating—the most subtle and most dangerous, the most insidious and the most disgraceful form of corrupt practice.
said, he thought it was necessary that he should say a few words, because his hon. Friends who complained of the course which the Government had taken did not in any way represent his view. If his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General was to have any chance of carrying this Bill through in a reasonable time, and with the general concurrence of the House, he should be disposed, as far as possible, to meet the general views of the House, and not set up a standard which, in his judgment, would be very unreasonable and impracticable. Some of his hon. Friends, he thought, did not understand the effect of the concession made, which really amounted to this—If a candidate committed bribery, or bribery was committed with his consent, he would come under this clause; but if there was some treating done other than by himself, he would not come under the clause. He thought that was a fair arrangement; and he, therefore, entirely accepted the Amendment of the Attorney General. Question put. The Committee divided:—Ayes 306; Noes 47: Majority 259. — (Div. List, No. 144.) Amendment proposed,
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."In page 2, line 9, after the word "practices," to insert the words "other than treating or undue influence."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
said, it appeared to him that there was, in the present day, a very serious element of corruption besides that of mere bribery and treating. That element was the surrender of opinion by hon. Members for the purpose of obtaining votes. Not long ago this subject was referred to by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), who said the Attorney General for Ireland had come forward with an election cry of "Porter and no rent," and that the effect of that was corruption. He should find another opportunity of bringing this matter before the Committee; but his reason for supporting the Amendment was that he wished, as far as possible, to cut down these punishments for acts which wore not in any way looked upon as degrading. Question put, and agreed to.
proposed to insert, in page 2, line 11, after the word "candidate," the words "duly nominated." The word "candidate" was a very indefinite expression. A man might be abroad, and telegraph his address to a constituency; and he wished to provide that a candidate must be duly nominated, by being put before the constituency by the Sheriff, as a candidate, and then the penalties would apply to him. He wished to define the candidate strictly, in order to increase the penalty, and visit it on the rich and the public man just as much as on the private, obscure individual. He also wished to insert the words "or ever holding any Office under the Crown," which would strike terror into the minds of ambitious candidates who expected to hold Office and sit on the Treasury Bench. Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 11, after the word "candidate," to insert the words "duly nominated." — (Mr. Callan.) Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, Clause 6 contained a provision dealing with this matter. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Amendment proposed,
Amendment agreed to.In page 2, line 12, after the word "election," to insert the words "or treating or undue influence has been proved to have been committed in reference to such election by any candidate at such election."
moved an Amendment limiting the period during which a candidate who had been penalized for corrupt practices could not be a candidate for the same constituency to seven years, instead of for 10, as proposed by the Bill. He thought the proposed disqualification was so severe that the Judges would seek every possible loophole to avoid a decision against a candidate; and, therefore, to make the Act work more in consonance with justice, it was desirable to reduce the term to seven years.
, before this Amendment was put, suggested that an Amendment of his own, disqualifying such a candidate from ever sitting in the House of Commons, would properly be first considered. Amendment proposed,
Question proposed, "That the word 'ever' stand part of the Clause."In page 2, line 12, to leave out the words after the word of,' to the first words or of,' in line 14, inclusive.—(Mr. Raikes.)
pointed out that a man might be hold guilty of corrupt practices through his agent without having committed any corrupt practice himself; and he might not be aware of what the agent had done. All they had to do was to protect the constituency, and not allow the candidate to go back, lest the corrupt practices might be repeated. Clause 3, however, dealt with a person who had himself been guilty of corrupt practices; and the question was whether, having sown the seed of immorality in the constituency, he should afterwards reap the benefit of it? Those corrupt practices might make him popular in the constituency, and the object of guarding against that danger was effected by per- petual disqualification for that constituency; but it was not necessary to carry it further, as the hon. Member for Louth proposed.
said, he thought it an extreme assumption that a candidate who had been found guilty of corrupt practices would continue to be popular in a constituency. A candidate who had been found guilty of undue influence or personation, or aiding and abetting personation, was certainly likely to be unpopular rather than popular; and, consequently, he did not see the necessity insisted upon by the Attorney General of excluding a candidate from ever again going before the same constituency. Even where there had been extensive bribery brought home to a candidate, he should think that, in nine cases out of 10, the candidate would be extremely unpopular with the vast majority of the constituency. Bribery, as a rule, only affected a small portion of a constituency, and was, as far as possible, carried on in the dark; because, if it was generally known that a candidate was guilty of bribery, he would become unpopular with a far larger number than those he would be popular with through bribery.
said, his view was that harm would be done by making the punishment too severe; and that the real object of the Bill would be attained more speedily by dealing with offences by means of prompt detection, than by making the sentences so severe that people would disapprove of them. He had the strongest objection to a provision making irremediable penalties for all time; and he believed the adoption of this proposal would cause serious hardship. Very often an offence of bribery was an act intended innocently; but one which the Judge would rightly interpret as bribery. The Committee would remember a case in which a Gentleman who sat for a short time on the Liberal Benches was unseated because he had given a holiday to a number of work-men on the polling day. That was held, and rightly held, by the Judges to be a bribe; and although it had been done several times in the same borough it was held to be sufficient to unseat him. There had been cases in which an act of charity, general in scope, had been interpreted to be an act of bribery; and Members of that House had been unseated because of gifts of coal. Such gifts were by the candidate himself; and, as the Bill stood, they would be held to disqualify him for his whole life for the same constituency; and in the case of a resident candidate, who was constantly visited by applications which came to him, whether he was a candidate or not, because of his residing there and having ample means, he might be at any time held by the Judges to have been guilty of bribery in respect to some donation he had made to a local charity. That, he thought, would be too severe a penalty. It was not with the least desire to make this Bill less effective, but, on the contrary, more effective, that he expressed these views; and he hoped the Attorney General would be disposed to accept some modification of the penalty, so far as regarded a particular borough. The Attorney General had said the object of the Bill was to prevent bribery having a lasting effect on a constituency; but 10, 12, or 15 years would take the constituency far enough from the act of bribery to prevent any such influence, and mischief would be avoided by not making the penalty too severe.
said, he thought the severity of the penalties would serve as a protection to the candidate by enabling him to refuse to pay the black mail so often levied upon him, because of the danger of doing so. He must adhere to the course which he had already stated.
said, he thought the Attorney General had taken too large a view of the question of a compromise. He could not see why the hon. and learned Gentleman, having made one in regard to the question of corrupt practices, should not consider whether he could not make another also on the subject of penalties. If a man had got himself elected to Parliament by corrupt practices, and Parliament was disposed to take a severe view of the matter and to make it a disqualification, be had no objection to raise; but he did not see why, for a particular constituency, the sentence should be for life, while in regard to all other constituencies it should only be for seven years. He would take the case of one borough close to another. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Arnold) represented the borough of Salford. Suppose his hon. Friend were, by some gross judicial error—for it could not be anything else, but such things would happen sometimes—suppose his hon. Friend were disqualified for life on account of corrupt practices from sitting for Salford, was it not absurdly illogical to say that it was quite right to disqualify him for life, in regard to the borough of Salford; but that he ought only to be disqualified for seven years in regard to the adjoining borough of Manchester? So, also, in the case of Rochester and Chatham, which were practically one town. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) might be disqualified for life for sitting for Chatham, and only for seven years for sitting for Rochester. He would take another case—namely, that of a county town. He knew an instance in which a man contested a county town, and the election was voided on account of corrupt practices, and it was decided to run him for the county at the next General Election. Was it not absurd to say that they ought to disqualify a man for life from sitting for a county town, but only for seven years for sitting for a constituency all around that town. The disqualification should cover a far larger area than the constituency represented, or the Committee ought to be content with seven years all around. If they wished to make it disqualification for life for corrupt practices of this kind, let them do it; but they should not make an illogical difference which could not commend itself to the good sense of the Committee. All the ingenuity of the Attorney General could not justify such an anomaly; and he thought the Committee ought not to be called upon to I make the penalty too high.
said, that, whether the fault was committed by the candidate or his agent, it seemed to him that the penalty should be borne in regard to the particular place; but the difficulty he was in was that nothing would ever induce him to vote for perpetual punishment, which was repugnant to the legislation of this country, and so repugnant to the right feeling and good sense of all mankind that, in ordinary punishments, it was never enforced. He objected to put into an Act of Parliament punishments which would exclude hope altogether from the human mind. That was a position in which he thought the Legislature ought never to place any individual. He was, however, quite content that the clause should be altered so as to inflict a severe penalty. He thought the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), that it should be seven years, was by no means long enough.
said, he had not insisted upon the punishment being seven years in all cases; but what he had said was, that it should be equal all round.
remarked, that if it were for 25 years he should not consider it too long; but he objected to the words "for over." No punishment ought to be perpetual.
said, he was afraid, after what the Attorney General had said in the course of the debate, that he might consider himself bound to take a Division upon the matter. He would, however, remind the hon. and learned Gentleman of one reason which had induced him to bring the matter forward. The case of treating was originally alluded to in the Bill, and he should have been willing to see bribery alone punished with the most severe punishment; but, having regard to minor offences, it did not seem to him unreasonable that the punishment should be materially reduced. If, however, it were the wish of the Committee he would withdraw the Amendment.
was bound to say that he did not consider that, by accepting the Attorney General's modification, they were at all precluded from discussing this part of the clause. He (Mr. Rylands) was in the position of not agreeing with the remarks of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) and his hon. Friend beneath him (Mr. Arnold), because it appeared to him that the arguments they had used hardly met the case now before the Committee. He himself saw no great choice between an exclusion for 25 years and one for life; and he was bound to say that he was not much troubled about the strict logic of the matter. If it could be shown that it was necessary to inflict such a penalty in order to check very materially the local corruption which might arise in the case of a person connected with a borough becoming a candidate, he should be very much inclined to look upon the penalty with very great favour. Of course, the object of the Bill, as it stood, was a very clear and a very desirable one. It was this—they knew that certain gentlemen within a borough frequently spent large sums of money in corrupting the constituency; and he understood the object of the clause was to prevent the possibility, at any future time, of the corrupt influence sown in a political borough being made to operate favourably if the same candidate again presented himself. That was, no doubt, a desirable object. But he remembered the case of Mr. Bevan, at Gravesend. Mr. Bevan employed a considerable number of work people; and, adopting the course which was usual in the borough, he allowed his workpeople to have a holiday on the polling day, and gave his manager instructions to pay the men their wages. Mr. Bevan did that in perfect innocence, and at the time he did it he did not think it was either corruption or bribery. It was the custom in the borough; but, nevertheless, it was bribery done by the candidate himself; and the effect of this clause, if it had been in existence, would have been that Mr. Bevan, who was to be the candidate for Gravesend at the next election, would have been prevented from ever sitting for that borough again. Mr. Bevan, no doubt, had great local interest in the borough; and he (Mr. Rylands) would not contend for a moment that the Judges ought not to deal even with a mistake of that kind, if it led to corruption, and they would be bound to deal with it, with the utmost severity. He knew another case which was within his own knowledge in relation to an hon. Friend of his who was a Member of the House at the present moment. Under the existing Act of Parliament a candidate had the right to pay the travelling expenses of voters, not only the expense of conveying them to the poll, but their travelling expenses. But his hon. Friend not only went to the extent of paying the travelling expenses, but he actually gave the voters money to pay for their loss of a day's work. Now, he had no doubt that if that act of his hon. Friend had been brought before an Election Judge, the Judge would very properly have held that his hon. Friend had been guilty of personal bribery, and he would have lost the opportunity of ever representing that borough, with which he was locally connected, as long as he lived. He (Mr. Rylands) knew perfectly well that the act was done in error, and with no intention of committing bribery. In point of fact, it was a mistake. He thought it was a very foolish mistake; and if a man made a mistake which was properly held to be bribery it was right that he should be punished for it; but surely it was too severe a penalty to exclude him for over from representing the same place. He was quite willing to go with his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney Gene-ml in punishing bribery; but, at the same time, he was disposed to believe they would gain nothing for the promotion of purity of election by putting into the Bill penalties which the feeling of the country would in some cases regard as unfair and unjust.
said, he thought there was too much disposition to talk of the Attorney General having made concessions. He did not understand that when the hon. and learned Gentleman accepted an Amendment from any part of the House it was conceding anything. He did not understand that the Bill was brought in by one side of the House against the other; but, on the contrary, he considered that it was the outcome of a general opinion in regard to the necessity of putting down an atrocious system. It was, therefore, only right that the Bill should express the mind of the whole House, and not of any particular section of it. He repudiated the insinuation that a desire to mitigate a penalty meant the approval of a corrupt practice. The laws of the Modes and Persians were said to be unalterable; but he had never heard that the Bills of the Medes and Persians were unchangeable. On the contrary, he had no doubt that the Modes moved Amendments and the Persians proposed new clauses, and that both were accepted.
said, no doubt the Attorney General would feel bound, after the concessions he had made, to divide against the Amendment. He should like to make a suggestion. As a rule, when a division was called, hon. Members who had not been present during the discussion rushed into the House, and, without knowing what had taken place, followed the Government Whips into the Lobby. He would, therefore, suggest that in this instance, instead of adopting the usual practice and appointing the Government Whips as Tellers, it would be more satisfactory to appoint independent Tellers.
said, the question was, whether a Member who had been convicted of corrupting a constituency should be allowed, after a period of retirement, to return to that constituency and take advantage of the corruption he had been guilty of? he should certainly vote against anything of that kind being allowed.
expressed a hope that the Attorney General would accept the Amendment. Hon. Members might be guided in the matter by their own age, whereas a young Member might vote for a longer period. The older Member would consider a shorter one more desirable.
said, he hoped the hon. and learned Attorney General would consent to reconsider the clause. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. (Sir George Campbell) said that after a candidate had gone to the wilderness, he might in course of time come back and take advantage of the corruption of which he had been guilty; but the clause provided a sufficient penalty, he thought, to render it at all likely that he would receive any advantage from an act committed many years before. His noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) had pointed out the anomalous character of the clause as it now stood. A candidate, having been found guilty of corruption, was to be disqualified for life from sitting for a particular place, but only for seven years from sitting for another place. As his noble Friend had observed, it was perfectly true that some of the boroughs in the country lay so close to each other that an act of corruption performed in one was almost the same as an act of corruption performed in the other. His noble Friend had instanced the case of Salford and Manchester, which were practically one town, and of Chatham and Rochester, which were in the same position. He thought that 10 years would be quite sufficient time to keep the Member out of the constituency, and he hoped the Attorney General would not press the clause as it now stood. His hon. and learned Friend must see that the feeling of the Com- mittee was against him. No one had opposed the Bill in a factious spirit; and he trusted that his hon. and learned Friend would meet the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) in a conciliatory manner.
desired that there should be no misunderstanding in regard to the words he had used. He had no wish to enter into the question whether the disqualification should be for 10 years, or 20 years, or 25 years. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) asked what was the difference in regard to corruption between a person who corrupted one constituency as against another constituency? The noble Lord asked, why not make the penalty the same all round, whether it was seven years or 10 years? Now, it appeared to him (the Attorney General) that there was this difference. In the case of a constituency with regard to which the particular offence was committed, the corruption had had an effect upon that constituency, and in no other case did they obtain that conjunction of cause and effect. They must mark with a heavy penalty the offence of systematically corrupting the constituency; and, that being so, he could not enter into the question of a reduction to 25 years, or 15 years, or any other time. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Stanton) said the clause would affect old men more than young men. He was afraid that that consideration prevailed in all punishments awarded to crime. It might be said that it was a less punishment to an old man to be hanged than to a young man, because, in the course of nature, he had less time to live.
remarked, that if the Government wished to deal with all permanent corrupting effects of bribery with respect to a borough, and believed those corrupting effects to be guarded against by permanently excluding a particular candidate from that borough, he thought that they were mistaken. The more and more it had appeared of late—and it would appear more and more in the future—that where bribery was committed it was rather Party than personal bribery. That had been the case to a large extent in recent years, and to a still larger extent hereafter; wherever bribery was committed it would be found to have been committed in the interest of Party, out of Party funds, and Hot in the interest of the candidate, out of the candidate's own pocket. That was a most dangerous form of bribery; but, nevertheless, that most dangerous form of corrupt influence would be left entirely untouched by the provisions of this general clause, to which so much importance was attached. If it was to the interest of a Party to corrupt a borough, the first candidate who would be chosen for that purpose would be a man of straw, whose excessive expenditure and punishment would only increase the popularity of the real candidate, who would put up afterwards when the good seed had been sown. In point of fact, the candidate who would be excluded from standing for the borough again would only be the nominee of a man whose popularity would subsequently carry the constituency against all comers. The Attorney General's clause providing an excessive punishment against the individual was merely directed against a state of things which, to a large extent, had either passed away or was passing away. He (Mr. O'Donnell) thought it would be very much better to have something like a moderate punishment against the individual, and not an excessive punishment, which would only insure the future success of the nominee of the party who had been punished. There was another consideration which especially affected Ireland. If they held out to partizan Irish ex-Attorney Generals the enormous temptation of finding a candidate guilty of an offence which would remove that candidate permanently from public life, the dangers which already beset a candidate before an Irish Judicial Bench would be increased a hundredfold; and the possibility of unjust decisions being arrived at would be still stronger than before. His own belief was that, in many respects, the existing provisions of the law were too severe as they stood. He was perfectly certain, for instance, that if the penalty of corrupt practices at present did not exclude a candidate for seven years from sitting for the borough in which the corrupt practices were alleged to have been committed, Mr. Justice Lawson would never have investigated the charge preferred against him (Mr. O'Donnell), and excluded him for seven years, if he could have known that he would have been elected again within a month for another constituency. If Mr. Justice Lawson had dreamt of that being the case he would never have gone the length of investigating the long string of charges that were brought against him. Personally, he was sceptical about the benefit of adopting this legislation so long as the Government refused to adopt the rational course of throwing all legal expenses connected with elections upon the rates, and forbidding all other expenses. So long as this legislation only had that effect it would simply result in getting hold of the smaller kind of offences, while the graver offences would slip through. Even where they did not break through, and where they had committed a very serious offence in laying out vast sums of money in corrupting a borough for the benefit of Party, what was the good of excluding them for life from representing a borough, when it was in the power of an unscrupulous Government immediately to reward them with Baronetcies? The only remedy for the evil was to throw all the legitimate expense upon the rates, and to forbid all other expenses. So long as the Government declined to do that, a Corrupt Practices Bill would only result in occupying the time of the House, which might be more usefully employed.
said, he was surprised to find that no one who had taken part in the debate had referred to the principal question raised by the clause, which was not so much whether a man should be put out for seven or 10 years as to who it was to put him out. At the present moment the maximum election punishment could only be inflicted by a Judge and a jury. That was the existing state of the law; but they were going to change all that, to throw over the jury, and give the Judge the sole power of inflicting the maximum penalty. At the present moment no Judge could keep a man out of a constituency for even a period of seven years; but a jury could.
said, the hon. and gallant Member would find that he was mistaken if he would refer to the 48th section of the Act.
said, that, el course, the Attorney General's knowledge of the law was superior to his own; and if the hon. and learned Gentleman said he was wrong he would bow. His own impression, however, was that the penalty of seven years' disqualification could only be imposed after the trial of a Petition, and not by a Judge acting without a jury.
said, the penalty of seven years was inflicted if a candidate was named in the Judgment upon a Petition.
objected to power being taken away from the jury and given to the Judges. If a man was to be disqualified for ever for one constituency, or for a considerable number of years for any constituency, it was well that a jury of his fellow-citizens should pronounce judgment upon him. It was extremely inconvenient, and even dangerous, to hand over to a Judge the enormous power contemplated by the Bill. Of course, he would be informed by English Members that they had full confidence in their Judges. It was very pleasant to hear that; but even they might find, on future occasions, that the system of giving enormous power to the Judges would cause a large amount of inconvenience. The position of Irish Members and that of English Members was very different. The English Members practically appointed the Judges in this country—that was to say, half of the House appointed one-half of the Judges, and the other half the second half of the Judges. The Irish Members, however, had nothing whatever to do with the appointment of the Irish Judges; and, therefore, they very naturally looked upon their Judges in a very different light to that in which Englishmen looked upon their Judges. Suppose the President of the United States—
I must call upon the hon. and gallant Gentleman to address himself to the Question before the Committee.
said, he objected to the transfer of power in this matter from jury to Judge. His impression was that the matter might be properly raised at this point. He would, however, take the earliest opportunity of reverting to the subject.
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) had stated it was perfectly un- reasonable to make a life disqualification in regard to the representation of a particular constituency. If a large number of years were specified the disqualification would practically amount to life. For instance, if he (Mr. Biggar) were disqualified to contest any particular constituency for 10 or 15 years, his chances of over representing that place would be very small indeed. He was of opinion that the House should, by all the means in its power, put down bribery of all kinds. He had not the slightest doubt that on the other side of the House there were hon. Gentlemen who gave largo subscriptions to the particular system of religion with which they were connected, and to the Temperance Societies and other organizations connected with the religion. Now, the system of bribing religions seemed to be one of the most pernicious kinds of bribery that could be imagined; and the Committee would do well to do all it could to prevent it.
said, the Committee had been led away from the consideration of the real point at issue. The question before them was not the difference between bribery and treating, or how far parties belonging to different denominations might have been guilty of corrupt practices; but it was whether a Member should be for ever precluded from sitting for a constituency with which he and his family might possibly have been connected for centuries; and that room, therefore, should be made for some adventurous spirit, like Schnadhorst of the Birmingham Caucus. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) had asked if they were to fight over a question as to whether a man who had intentionally corrupted a constituency should ever be allowed to sit for that constituency again; and the Attorney General entirely misled the Committee, because he said that this clause was directed to the punishment of a man who had intentionally corrupted a constituency. He would aid the hon. and learned Gentleman in every way in his power to punish not only the corruptor, but the corrupted; but he feared it was just possible that some injustice might be worked by the clause. He would give the Committee twos illustrations. He was present at the hearing of the Election Petition against Mr. Benjamin Whitworth. In 1868, the hon. Gentleman was elected Member for Drogheda by an overwhelming majority; but in the following January a Petition was brought against him, and it was tried by the redoubtable Judge Keogh. He (Mr. Callan) sat the hearing out from beginning to end; and he was never more astounded in his life than when Mr. Justice Keogh declared that Mr. Whitworth was not only guilty through his agents of undue influence, but that Mr. Whitworth personally was guilty of undue influence, and that the hon. Gentleman was disqualified for sitting for the borough during the then Parliament. What, however, happened? In the following week the supporters of Mr. Whitworth held a meeting in the town, and the son of Mr. Whitworth was unanimously chosen to succeed his father, and on a later day he was fortunate enough to be elected without a contest. Such was the way in which a Member of the Liberal Party was punished. If the present Bill had been in existence at that time Mr. Whitworth could never have sat for Drogheda again. At the next election Mr. -Whitworth was defeated; but in 1880 the hon. Gentleman defeated a Gentleman who was half a Liberal and half a Home Ruler. During the present Parliament Mr. Thomas Dickson, the Member for Tyrone, was unseated for Dungannon, the capital town of Tyrone. Sligo was a corrupt borough, and Sligo was disenfranchised.
The remarks of the hon. Gentleman have very little relevancy to the Question before the Committee.
said, he was simply stating that Sligo was a corrupt borough, and had been disenfranchised. He was perfectly in Order, for when the Prime Minister referred to Sligo he was not called to Order. He remembered the Petition being tried in the County Donegal, in which he (Mr. Callan) was the respondent. The allegation against him was that he was guilty of treating; but what was the evidence? Some gentlemen drove up in a carriage to the hotel at which he was staying. They had a glass of wine and a sandwich, and he insisted upon paying for them. If the Judge had believed that he gave the wine and sandwich with the intention of influencing the votes of the gentlemen he would have been obliged to unseat him, and to disqualify him for ever from sitting for his county during the present Parliament—if the Judge had not been a common-sense man like Baron Dowse, but had been as malignant as Judge Keogh, or as great a purist as Judge Lawson, he would, under a Bill like this, have disqualified him for ever from sitting for the county again. He (Mr. Callan) would rather take a plank bed for 14 years than be deprived for ever from sitting for his constituency, though under this Act, if they indulged in the smallest treating of electors without any guilty intention, they would be liable to be disqualified for ever.
asked if the hon. Gentleman was in Order in talking about treating?
I have already said that it appeared to me the hon. Gentleman's remarks were somewhat irrelevant to the Question before the Committee.
rose to continue his observations, but— It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman loft the Chair to report Progress; Committee to sit again upon Thursday.