§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to amend "The Representation of the People Act, 1867," said, he proposed to defer the discussion of its details until the second reading, when it would be for the House to accept or reject the measure. The first part of the Bill proposed to repeal the 7th section of "The Representation of the People Act (1867)," which abolished the system of compounding; and the 1 second part proposed to repeal the fourth paragraph of the 3rd section, and the I fourth paragraph of the 6th section of the same Act, which rendered compulsory the personal payment of rates, and decided what should be the rating qualification of a voter. The Bill provided that a person should retain his right to vote whether his rates had been paid or not, leaving the rates to be recovered in 511 the ordinary manner. It might be said that a private Member of the House had hardly a right to submit to it a question of such great importance; but he felt that, if no other Member took it up, this was a duty from which he could not shrink. So much oppression and injustice had rarely been produced by any one measure as were traceable to the working of the new law of rating, and many Members of that House were well aware of the deep feeling of irritation and discontent which it had created, and were pledged to assist in the removal of the grievance. The public voice had long been loud and universal in condemning the obnoxious ratepaying clauses of the original Reform Act, but the vexation and suffering created were now increased ten-fold. The Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) would not settle this question. That was entirely a theoretical measure, which it was hoped would prove useful, but his Bill was eminently practical, and he hoped the House would not hesitate to allow of its introduction. The hon. Member concluded by moving for Leave to introduce a Bill to amend "The Representation of the People Act, 1867."
§ MR. LOCKE KING
said, that with the title which the hon. Member's Bill bore he might bring almost every fish into his net—extend the franchise, alter the re-distribution of seats, and do other things by which the House might be taken by surprise. This was a dangerous precedent, and it would be better to confine the Bill to the repeal of certain specified Acts.
The question before us is a very simple one, and I shall only have occasion to trouble the House with three or four sentences. I must, in the first place, demur to the statement of the hon. Gentleman with regard to the practice of the House. He appears to think that the House is almost bound to permit the introduction of a Bill and its first reading. I do not accept that view of our practice. At the same time the hon. Gentleman may fairly ask us to accede to the Motion he has just made, and there is no occasion for the apology he made, with great modesty, for undertaking to legislate upon this question. It so happens that the enactment of these clauses was the work of an independent Member (Mr. Hodgkinson), and every Member of this House, especially one 512 representing a large constituency, is perfectly justified, apart from criticism upon the mere terms of his Motion, in asking the House to assent to what he thinks the best mode of remedying the existing evil. The state of the case between the hon. Member and the Government is this—We are agreed that considerable inconvenience and hardship are caused by the undesigned operation of certain clauses in the Reform Act. We are also agreed that a remedy must be applied. The Government have considered what description of remedy, all circumstances taken together, was likely to be the most easy in its application, and the most convenient and satisfactory to the House at large. For that purpose my right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) has laid a Bill upon the table which has been circulated among Members to-day. The hon. Member proposes to adopt another method, which is certainly more direct, though whether it is equally satisfactory in regard to economic consequences and practical enfranchisement will be a question for consideration hereafter. He proposes, however, another remedy for the same grievance. Now, it would ill become us, who have obtained leave to submit our plan to the House, to grudge to any other Member the opportunity of submitting his plan as well. It will, on the contrary, be of advantage that the Bill of the hon. Member should be printed and circulated, because, ample time being allowed for the consideration of these two methods of dealing with the subject, it would be well to know the impression which they make in the country. All I desire is that nothing should be said or done unnecessarily to revive the warm feelings which arose upon the original discussion of this subject, and with this remark I gladly accede to the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill.
§ MR. HIBBERT
, having taken considerable interest in the compounder, hoped that that being had been quietly laid at rest. He regretted the prospect of revived feelings which had been raised by the discussion of 1867, and thought the plan of the hon. Member was much more objectionable than that of the Government. The measure introduced by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gosehen) did him great credit. No doubt, if great hardships were inflicted in the collection of the rates from the occupiers of small houses, some remedy ought to be applied, 513 but it ought to be applied so as not entirely to undo the legislation of 1867. Entertaining this view, he should feel bound at some future stage to oppose the Bill of the hon. Member.