§ Clause 1 (Nomination of candidates for parliamentary elections).
§ MR. NEVILLE-GRENVILLE moved, in page 1, line 14, before "eight," insert "not less than." Same line, after "borough," insert "two at least from each polling district, in the case of a county."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that last year the subject was a good deal discussed, and it was thought that eight electors were sufficient to insure a bonâ fide nomination. If the Act enabled any number to sign the nomination paper, the object of the Ballot would be defeated, because pressure would be put upon dependent electors to sign it. As to the proposal that two electors should belong to each polling district, it might be that a candidate acceptable to a majority of the electors could procure no votes in one or more districts.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. GREGORY moved an Amendment, the object of which was to prevent the candidate from being put in nomination without his consent. The candidate could only withdraw, if nominated, after a certain time had elapsed, and by writing under his hand. But he might be placed in a very ridiculous position by being nominated without his consent, receiving hardly any votes, and being involved in election expenses in cases where some qualified assent to his nomination—though under totally different conditions—had been given. Under the present system, open nominations were allowed, and if a candidate were proposed the probability was that some one would step forward and state whether that had been done with his consent. If a man were absent from the country there could be no difficulty in leaving authority to give his consent to serve in Parliament, if elected, to some 1956 agent who would use it for the purpose of giving the electors the necessary information.
In page 1, line 15, after the word "nomination," to insert the words "and countersigned by the candidate or his agent authorised in writing under his hand."—(Mr. Gregory.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
pointed out that the question which the hon. and learned Gentleman had raised had been argued at considerable length last year, and that similar words to those which he now proposed had been rejected by a large majority. As he stated on that occasion, no candidate would be liable to expenses if he was unwilling to stand, unless any definite understanding were entered into on his behalf. Under the present law, any person could be nominated at an election, and he would not, he believed, be at liberty, if elected, to refuse serving his country in Parliament. All that he could do would be to inform the electors that he did not wish them to vote for him. It was true that the Bill would alter the existing practice by allowing a man to withdraw; but it was not, in his opinion, desirable that the House should go further. There were case in which persons greatly pressed upon to serve their country ought not to resist nomination, and the constituencies should have a right to the representation of those whom they considered most fit, even though they might be absent from the country at the time of nomination. Had not such an arrangement existed Mr. Cobden would not have been elected for the West Riding of Yorkshire, as he was returned at a time when he could not communicate his willingness to serve.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that now the proposer and seconder of a candidate might appear in the face of day and answer any questions with regard to his nomination which it might be desirable to put. Under the Bill, however, any ten gentlemen might go into a private room, hand a paper to the Returning Officer, and no one would have an opportunity of ascertaining whether the person whom they chose to nominate was willing to serve or not. A bonâ fide candidate might thus be subjected to a great deal of expense and the electors to a great deal of trouble, all because a man was put forward who never intended to sit in Parliament. The proposal of his 1957 hon. and learned Friend was therefore, in his opinion, necessitated by the contemplated change in the law, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consent to it.
§ MR. A. EGERTON
asked who was liable to pay the expenses incurred under this Bill. In ordinary cases the candidate would be called upon to pay; but if he declined to stand, after what the Americans called a "bogus" nomination, would the expenses fall upon the Sheriff alone? He presumed so.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, there was no means to prevent the possibility of there being "bogus" nominations; but under the Bill any candidate who did not wish to stand could give notice to that effect, and he would have at least two hours for doing so, which he had not under the present system.
§ MR. HUNT
remarked that the Sheriff might at present call upon a candidate, or his proposer or seconder, to give security for the costs; but if matters were to be conducted in a room which was essentially private, there would be no means of ascertaining who the responsible persons were. The whole thing would be involved in mystery.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had not fully understood the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), which related more particularly to the nomination of successful candidates who were really unwilling to serve, while the right hon. Gentleman's remarks appeared to refer to unsuccessful candidates. The question affected the constituency as well as the candidate.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, the objection of the right hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Hunt) related to the clause itself rather than to the Amendment before the Committee. The force of the objection was no doubt directed against this sort of thing being done in a hole-and-corner way. That was the point raised by the clause, and it would have to be discussed when the clause itself came to be considered. What he wished now to mention was that a constituency had a right to elect any person they might choose although he might have known nothing about his having been put in nomination. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, he recollected, having lost his election 1958 at Liverpool, was, without any communication with him, put up for Ayrshire, and was very nearly successful. The question, in his opinion, was one of the right of the electors, and that right ought not, he contended, to be taken away.
§ MR. CHARLEY
said, that if the Amendment were not carried the candidate might be rendered liable to the expense of an election without his consent.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
supposed the case of a man being elected while he was absent in Australia, There was under the present law a power belonging to the constituency of putting a man in nomination, and he thought the power ought not to be taken away. There was nothing in the present law to prevent a gentleman from being nominated at the last moment without his consent. It might sometimes be a hardship for a person to be elected under such circumstances; but, on the other hand, if the voters had such confidence in him to elect him when he was at a distance, it would be a hardship to them if they had not an opportunity of doing so, and even if he were at first unwilling to serve he might yield to the pressure which might be brought to bear upon him.
§ MR. PELL
pointed out the inconvenience which would result from the nomination of a gentleman who happened to be abroad. According to the Bill he could not withdraw from the candidateship unless by a writing signed by himself, and thus the other parties to the election might be kept for a long time in suspense. The Bill would have a tendency to create sham candidates.
§ MR. CAWLEY
admitted that if the Amendment was agreed to a man might be deprived of the advantage of being elected during his absence; but, taking all things into consideration, he thought the balance of evil was greatly on the side of the plan contained in the Bill.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he thought that sham candidates would be set up simply for the purpose of diverting votes, and that those who proposed them would ballot for some other candidates.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. 1959 Forster) that in 1859 the present Earl of Derby, then Lord Stanley, was nominated for the borough of Marylebone, without his consent, in opposition to two Liberal candidates, and that on a telegram being sent to him he replied that he had no intention of sitting for any other place than King's Lynn; the result being that the Liberal candidates were put to a considerable expense for nothing.
§ MR. LIDDELL
considered it questionable whether constituents should at any time have been allowed to nominate a candidate without his consent; but such a proceeding would be particularly objectionable under the system of secret voting.
§ MR. MELLY
observed, that a man might not always wish to give his consent to his own nomination. Let them take the case of a distinguished individual nominated and returned for a borough while he was a candidate for a county, and let them consider in what a position he would have been if he had signified in writing his willingness to be a candidate for the borough. By such a proceeding he would have lost his popularity in the county. In his opinion, it was sometimes desirable that a great statesman should have two chances of being returned to Parliament. The time might come when that would be as desirable for one side as for the other.
§ MR. COLLINS
could parallel the instance given by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. G. Hardy) was, while a candidate for the University, nominated as a candidate for Leominster. It seemed hard on electors that they should be deprived of selecting the most eligible candidate, because the man of their choice might happen to be in America. The hon. Member for the Northern Division of the West Riding (Mr. Powell) was, within a week after his return from America, elected to support the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) in preference to another candidate, who was opposed to the Education Act. His own Colleague had been twice returned in his absence.
§ MR. DENISON
said, he had placed the following Notice on the Paper:—Line 28, after "offence," insert—Provided, That the proposer of a candidate nominated in his absence beyond sea may with- 1960 draw his nomination, if accompanied, when made, by a declaration of the absence of the candidate out of the United Kingdom.He looked upon this as a very important point. The late Lord Carlisle was proposed for Yorkshire in his absence. Great injury would be done if constituencies were deprived of the right of proposing candidates not within the limits of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. CHARLEY
asked what remedy a candidate would have if put to the expense of a poll in his absence?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, a candidate would not be liable for expenses incurred in his absence. The Returning Officer would look to his proposer and seconder.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 265: Majority 157.
§ MR. DENISON
said, he had placed on the Paper three Amendments which hung together; and if the Committee negatived the first, the other two would fall to the ground. His object was to secure for Parliamentary elections something like publicity, deliberation, and the time for reflection which was afforded in the less important elections of members of school boards. He was well aware that his Amendments went to the principle of the clause, and that, if they were accepted, the principle of nominations as laid down by the Bill would have to be altered. The acceptance of them would also involve corresponding alterations in the rules appended to the Bill. By the clause as it stood the surest means were taken of rendering a contest inevitable in every county and borough. It was well known that the chief expense of candidates was incurred before the day of nomination, and not between the nomination and the poll; and he could not conceive it possible that, under this clause, anybody would have an interest in bringing about an arrangement between two eligible candidates, or in doing anything to prevent the constituency being subjected to the inconvenience and expense of a contest. In the election of members of school boards there was 14 days' clear notice, ten days for the nomination of candidates, eight days' advertisement of the names of those nominated, and six days during which withdrawals might be made. He wished to secure in Parliamentary elections a locus penitentiœ for candidates who when no- 1961 minated had not sufficiently considered their positions. Under the Bill as drawn a number of gentlemen would go to the Returning Officer's room, and within the short space of two hours they must make up their minds, without an opportunity of knowing who was to be pitted against them; and, without an opportunity of consulting friends and supporters, they must then and there incur the expense of a poll if they were not prepared to withdraw, because the Bill did not repeal the Act which imposed pecuniary obligation on those who went to the poll. What he asked for by these Amendments was a period of grace of five days before the nominations must be declared, four clear days for the Returning Officer to advertise the nominations; these four would give three clear days as a locus penitentiœ for candidates to withdraw or make up their minds to go to the poll, and one clear day afterwards before that fixed for the election. He could not see what were the objections to this plan. Nothing was to be gained by keeping the names of candidates from the electors, who, under the plan he proposed, would have more opportunity of considering what candidates they would support. It was certain that, under the Bill as it stood, every county and borough would be saddled with a contest. He had been told that the right time to make his objection was when the Question was put "that the clause do pass;" but he was under an apprehension that that time would be regarded as too late, and he therefore moved now the first of the three Amendments—namely, in line 15, after "delivered," leave out "during the time," and insert "five clear days before the day."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he could not help thinking that the Amendment embodied an objection against the clause rather than one against the arrangements of the clause. Last year it was decided in Committee, by an overwhelming majority, that open nominations should be got rid of, and the necessary result of that decision was, that stringent precautions must be adopted to prevent some evils peculiar to the opposite system. The objection to the Amendment was, that it would prolong the election for five days, and that was primâ facie an objection of very considerable force, unless there were very strong reasons for the Amendment. He was of 1962 opinion that the proposition itself was open to great objection, and last year, after a very full discussion, the Committee came to the conclusion that the power of withdrawal should be limited to the two hours of the nomination. The chief reason was that, unless there was this limitation, it would be very possible that an interest in a constituency might find it utterly impossible to become represented at all, because its candidate might be induced to withdraw, and it would be impossible to nominate anyone else. It was absolutely necessary to guard against this danger, even although the precaution might involve some inconvenience to candidates. At present the law allowed of the nomination of a candidate up to the polling day; but with a system of written nominations it was necessary to limit the time during which a nomination could be handed in; and, if a candidate were allowed to withdraw, there was very great danger of a constituency being represented by a gentleman whom the majority did not approve.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he could not support either the Amendment or the clause as it stood. The restriction of the nomination of candidates to two hours was a restriction of the choice of the electors. At present 24 hours at least elapsed between the nomination and the poll, and any elector could vote for a person who had not been nominated at all. Mr. Burke was returned at the head of the poll for Bristol in that way. As the clause stood, however, should a candidate die between the nomination and the poll, his supporters, although they might be a large majority of the constituency, would not be able to propose anyone in his stead. Other circumstances, also—such as facts as to the character of a candidate—might render a fresh candidate desirable; and as, in come cases, six days might intervene between the nomination and the election, the death of a candidate was not an improbable occurrence. Unless this was provided for, a candidate, supported by only a small section of the constituency, might be returned without a contest.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that he desired to protest against that provision in the clause by which it was proposed that the nomination of the candidates should take place in a room, to 1963 which, only certain persons were to be admitted, so that the electors would know nothing about the proceeding. The result of that would be that in many cases a bargain would be struck, and the electors would find that, instead of being allowed to exercise their votes, the number of candidates ultimately nominated would correspond with the number of seats, and there would be no election at all. He should desire to restore a proviso in the Bill of last year, that the moment a candidate was nominated his name should be placarded outside by the Returning Officer.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, this was one of the very few omissions from the Bill of last year. The nomination would very probably occur towards the end of the two hours, and the placarding of the candidates' names would then serve little purpose; but he had no objection to restore the proviso. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) had really answered the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Denison), for it was obvious that any danger of compromises would be much increased by allowing five days for withdrawals. As the Bill stood, only a candidate himself was permitted to withdraw. He should be glad to consider the contingency of a candidate's death, and, if it appeared necessary, would provide for it; but to meet every possible event would be somewhat troublesome, and probably, were the present law sifted, many defects might be discovered in it. He thought nothing besides the death of a candidate need be considered, for care would naturally be taken by the supporters of candidates to secure their being duly nominated.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
remarked that, though a candidate was to be allowed to withdraw, he would have no notice of his nomination.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
replied that this question had been decided by the last division. There might be some inconvenience in limiting the withdrawal to candidates personally; but greater inconvenience would be incurred in extending it.
urged the propriety of allowing a longer interval than two days between the publication of the final list of candidates and the election. In remote parts of counties the electors would not have sufficient time to consider the claims of the candidates.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that was a point which would best be considered when the schedule was before the House.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
complained of the extraordinary inconvenience which resulted from dividing the clause into two parts, the first involving the principle, and the details being embodied in the schedule. One important point arising out of the question before the Committee was, what was to be done if one of the candidates died or became incapable of acting after the nomination and before the poll? In constituencies returning one Member there would in such an event be nobody before the electors at all.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
replied that in such a contingency the electors would be no worse off than they were under the present law.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he would express no opinion as to whether great statesmen should have an opportunity of selecting between two constituencies; but if the experience of the future was like that of the past, great statesmen might not have an opportunity of selecting even one constituency. The right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill said the House must not discuss these Amendments. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
On the contrary, I said they should be discussed; but that Amendments should not be discussed before they were put from the Chair.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to be extremely grateful to the Committee for discussing these Amendments in detail. This was a thoroughly impracticable Bill, and, if these discussions were not carried out to the utmost, he was afraid that nobody would be returned.
§ MR. CAWLEY
said, he thought if public nominations were to be done away with it was important that the electors should know who were to be candidates.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. GOLDNEY moved, in line 16, after "officer," insert "or in his absence to his deputy to be appointed as hereinafter mentioned." The Returning Officer might be called away, and in the case of a riot or disturbance, it was most desirable that he should have the power of appointing a deputy.1965
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
promised to look into the question before Section 8 was reached; but he would be chary in giving any deputy the full powers vested in his principal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
, after the word "seconder" in line 17, proposed the insertion of certain words, the effect of which would be to insure the immediate publication of the names of any candidates who might be proposed during the period of nomination. He said his object was simply to revive a clause of the Bill of last year, and thus to take care that the electors should be sure that the persons in whom they took an interest were nominated.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
asked the hon. Gentleman to postpone the Amendment until the Committee came to the schedule.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, that unless the greatest amount of publicity was insured as to the candidates who might be proposed, the quiet of the proceedings would be interferred with, and much suspicion excited. There should be not only publication by the Returning Officer, but full power should be given to any other person to placard the names of the candidates, their proposers, and seconders.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
promised to consider whether security would not be taken not only that the public should be informed of those who remained nominated at the end of the two hours, but also of those who were withdrawn.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he would not press the matter now, but would merely read the clause in the Bill of last year which dealt with the point. It was this—The returning officer shall, on the nomination paper being delivered to him, forthwith publish notice of the name of the person nominated as a candidate, and of the names of his proposer and seconder, by placarding the names of the candidate and his proposer and seconder in a conspicuous place without the building in which the nomination is held.He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adopt this clause out of his own Bill of last year.
said, that publicity in some form or other was absolutely necessary, otherwise the door would be opened to all kinds of fraud, or, what was nearly as bad, the suspicion of fraud. If the public did not know who were the parties 1966 to the nomination, when the nomination was legally concluded they would never believe that there was fair play. That would be a very unpleasant position for the Returning Officer to be placed in.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, there would be an excited crowd outside the door waiting to know who was nominated. If they found that their own candidate was nominated, they would go away satisfied; if they did not, there would probably be riot and disturbance.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
gathered that it was the feeling of the Committee that this publicity should be provided for, and would, therefore, undertake to introduce words to effect this object.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that before the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) proposed the Amendment on the Paper, he wished to take the opinion of the Chairman on a point of Order. The hon. Member had given Notice of a Proviso—That no part of the expenses incurred by the returning officer should be chargeable to any candidate nor upon any local rate, but such expenses shall be defrayed in such manner as Parliament may hereafter direct.He could not quite understand the meaning of the proposal; but wished to know whether it did not fall within the Standing Order already referred to this evening.
The Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury does not create or impose a charge, nor does it in terms provide that that charge shall be met out of moneys to be provided by Parliament. It may be that the hon. Member contemplates such a charge, and it may be that he may express the opinion that it is desirable that the charge should be provided for in that way; but the terms of his Amendment do not, as it appears to me, fall within the words of the Standing Order. Moreover, the terms of his Amendment are such that, even if they were agreed to, they do not bind or commit Parliament to such a charge, inasmuch as, though they exclude local rates, and exclude the charge upon the candidates, they do not exclude the possibility of the charge being met out of other resources than public monies.
MR. W. M. TORRENS moved in page 1, line 25, after "mentioned," to insert—
Provided always, That no part of the expenses incurred by the returning officer shall be chargeable to any candidate nor upon any local rate, but such expenses shall be defrayed in such manner as Parliament may hereafter direct.
The hon. Member said, he was indebted to his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) for having cleared away a doubt which existed in the minds of some hon. Members. He wished to suggest to the Committee that this was the proper point of the Bill to introduce the Proviso, if it was to be introduced at all. The Bill provided that the Returning Officer should adopt means for the taking of a poll. This proceeding would necessarily result in a greater expenditure of money on the mere mechanical act of taking the votes than the candidate was now obliged to incur. The Bill would, therefore, impose a new liability upon candidates. At present there was no legal limit to the charges made by the Returning Officer, who might charge what he thought proper; and the Committee ought seriously to consider—first, whether they ought not to take measures for limiting these charges, and, next, whether the choice of the constituency should be restricted by casting the burden of this expenditure upon the candidates. He claimed the authority of the First Minister for his proposal. Last Session the right hon. Gentleman made an eloquent speech upon the impropriety of restricting the choice of the constituency in such a way as to exclude men of limited means from seats in this House, and went the length of saying that "he regretted we had not a sensible proportion of the working classes elected to Parliament." He left the Committee to judge what a sensible proportion might be; but it was their province, in framing a new Bill of elections, to take care that the constituency should not be limited in their choice of candidates. He held in his hand Returns in which were stated the total expenses of the elections of 1865 and 1868. He found that at the former the Returning Officers' charges were £47,000—a sum which his hon. Friend the senior Member for Brighton had calculated would, if spread over the rateable property of the country, vary in its incidence from the one-twentieth to the one-third of a penny in the pound. In 1868
the charges of the Returning Officers were £93,000, or double the amount which came under that head in 1865. Now, he ventured to predict that when an election came to be held under the operation of the Ballot, in 1873 or 1874, the charge would greatly exceed £100,000. Under the present system of open voting all that was necessary to be done was to put up a rough counter, to which the voter might come, and declare for whom he voted, and he would be a bold man who would personate another in the face of his neighbours. But under the Ballot the vote would be given in a room, divided carefully into separate compartments, a certain process would have to be gone through, and proper officers must be employed to note what actually occurred. Then, polling places were to be multiplied, and with them the cost of carpentry and clerkship. He had no hesitation in saying that if the experiment of the Ballot was to be fairly tried, all this would entail a serious and substantial increase of the ordinary and unavoidable expense of elections. For himself, he was Balloteer; but though he voted for the Ballot he could not disguise from himself the price they would have to pay for it. [A laugh.] His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. James) laughed; but he had voted for the Ballot before ever the hon. and learned Gentleman had been heard of in Parliament; nor was he the person who had led a flank movement on a critical occasion not very long ago, by which he drew away from that side of the House 60 Members of the Liberal party. As he had always supported the Ballot, so he should continue to support it; but the necessity of employing under its operation certain machinery and trustworthy officers rendered it impossible that an election could be held for the same money as before. If that were so, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council was asking those who sought to be returned to that House to pay even a larger amount than hitherto, as a tax upon candidates. The tax was one, he might add, which had its origin in 1745, which the First Minister had designated as a time of bad precedents; and why did he object to it? Not on the ground of the personal liability which it imposed on himself and other hon. Members, but because many men who would have
adorned that House had been deterred from standing at an election because they thought they ought not to incur the expenditure to which they would at the outset be exposed. The tax, unlike almost every other, was one which in its incidence was most unequal. He would instance the case of 10 counties and 10 boroughs in which contests took place at the last dissolution. In the 10 boroughs the expenses of each candidate varied from £210 to £363. Those boroughs were Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, Merthyr Tydvil, Westminster, Dublin, Liverpool, Wednesbury, Marylebone, and Dundee. In the 10 counties the tax varied from £160 to £400 for each candidate. If, therefore, it were perpetuated, it should, at least, be made more equal in its incidence. But that was a very small part of the matter. The tax was a mulct, defended upon other grounds than those which were avowed. It was a tax notoriously kept up for a class purpose. It could not be perpetuated under the idea that Parliament was parsimonious with regard to the expenditure of public money. The people would not believe that it was retained merely to save the public Exchequer to the extent of £100,000. No one could be expected to believe in such a pretence. It was kept up for another reason than that which was avowed. The revising barrister and the Election Judge expenses incurred before and after an election were paid out of the Exchequer. Inside the house, the lights, the officers, and the presidency of the assembly were paid for from the same source, and why should not the taking of the poll be provided for in the same manner. As sure as they sat there, the charge on the candidates was condemned, and what were the alternatives? Last year the Government thought that the charge should be transferred to local rates, and so far he had their sanction in favour of relieving candidates; but one of their ablest supporters (Mr. James), objecting to the charge being placed on the local rates, proposed an Amendment, and carried it against the Government by 256 votes against 168. Let anyone look at the composition of the majority on that occasion, and ponder the reasons why more than 200 Ministerialists were on leave when the muster-roll was called, and then ask himself whether there was a chance of such a
decision being reversed in the present Session? The obvious fact that there was none, was the ground assigned by the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill for not having reinserted the clause. He knew perfectly well that there was no use asking the House to put the legal expenses on the local rates, and therefore Ministers did not propose it. But when they were asked to try the other and wiser alternative of Imperial taxation, Government then affected to fall back on the one which they confessed that they knew was not within their reach. His hon. Friend (Mr. Fawcett) consistently stuck to his text, and gave Notice of moving the lost clause in favour of charging the cost on the rates; and Government, he was informed, intended to offer, instead of supporting the present Amendment which they could carry, to vote for that which they knew and declared they could not. What were they to think when they saw Her Majesty's Fleet, with guns thrown overboard, offering to be taken in tow by the fire ship from Brighton, from which, on every other occasion, they took care to keep a wide offing. Hon. Members should seriously consider whether it was better to throw the expense of elections on £110,000,000 of rateable property, or on £350,000,000 of taxable property, and whether by placing it on the former they did not lay themselves open to the charge of selfishness in getting rid of a charge to be placed where it would be odious and distasteful. His contention was that it was the duty of the whole body of taxpayers to provide at the general cost the means of convening, when wanted, a new Parliament. That was the course adopted in every country where representative Government existed. It might be objected that it would be wrong to allow Returning Officers to put their hands into the Exchequer, as if it would be difficult to check the amount of expenditure; but he was prepared not only to suggest, but to lay on the Table of the House a schedule of proportionate charges, beyond which the Returning Officer should not be allowed to go. If they turned to the Statute Book they would find clear and incontestable precedents for the course which he thus recommended. In 1821 Sir Robert Peel, as Home Secretary, carried an Act regulating the cost of elections in Ireland, to which was
appended a schedule, fixing the charge for every polling place which had to be erected anew at £5; and where a public or private building was used for the purpose at £3. The fees to be paid to poll clerks, &c., were limited in like manner. The sense entertained of the prudence and justice of those provisions was proved by the fact that there was no trace of either division or discussion on the subject. Again, in 1850, Lord Russell carried, without opposition, an Act amending the former statute, and likewise embodying a schedule of charges. He (Mr. Torrens) would extend the benefit of these enactments to the United Kingdom, varying the forms and amounts of the items as might be thought fit. He knew that it might be said that there were exceptional cases, wherein the frugal policy of these Acts was defeated. Yes, because there was in them a flaw which he now proposed to repair. They furnished a standard of charge, but omitted to provide any cheap and ready provision for audit. He would ask the Committee to supply that deficiency; and then they would have enacted and easily enforcible—not a uniform charge for elections in large and small places, which would be absurd, but—a uniform rate of charge everywhere applicable, which would prevent extortion or waste. He suggested that there should be a public audit of the costs of an election by an officer of the Treasury. It might, perhaps, be asked why this should not be trusted to local bodies. He wished to see local bodies strong and active, and that they should do much; but if there was one thing which local bodies could not do, it was to exercise frugality in such matters. No local body in the three kingdoms would compare in efficiency and rigour of audit with an officer of the Treasury. Every local body would be liable to the imputation and suspicion that they were straining and stretching the applicability of the schedule to the party purposes of the hour. A Government officer would have no such motives, and it would be impossible for him to go wrong when he had a statutable schedule to guide him. Some change on this subject was absolutely necessary, and he hoped the Committee, after the vote of last year, would call on the Government to prepare a proper schedule and appoint a proper auditor. The hon. Gentleman concluded
by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
In page 1, line 25, after the word "mentioned," to insert the words "Provided always, That no part of the expenses incurred by the returning officer shall be chargeable to any candidate nor upon any local rate, but such expenses shall be defrayed in such manner as Parliament may hereafter direct."—(Mr. W. M. Torrens.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he must certainly admit that his hon. Friend had brought forward this Motion and stated the arguments for it very fairly. He must, however, demur to some of his statements. His hon. Friend had stated that the Ballot would considerably increase the expense of elections. Now, he thought it would have a contrary effect. The result would rather be to diminish expense. First of all, they would get rid of the expense of informing the public of the state of the poll from hour to hour, which he knew from experience was a very large expense. No doubt, in counties the increase of polling-places would considerably increase expense; but that would be accompanied by a diminution of the expenses for the conveyance of voters. The positive expenses, his hon. Friend said, would be increased. No doubt there would be new expenses, such as nomination and ballot-papers, ballot-boxes, stamps for marking papers, and ballot compartments; but then they would save the expenses of hustings, the proclamation, which would go with the public nominations, the expense of poll-books, which latter article was in some instances a very costly article, and the expense of the old patent indenture—the final result, he believed, would be that elections would be worked rather cheaper. But that was only a matter of prophecy, and hon. Gentlemen would of course have their own opinions. There would be certain legal and necessary expenses, and the question was, who should pay them? His hon. Friend could not state an opinion more strongly than he felt that candidates ought not to pay them. He stated that opinion when he brought in the Bill last year, and all the experience he had acquired, and all the additional study he had been enabled to give to the subject since, had confirmed it; and if the Committee did not accept the proposition of his hon. Friend—as he hoped they would not—he 1973 trusted they would accept that of his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett)—to throw the expenses on the rates—and that, if they did not do so now, they would before long. The Government had not brought the question forward, because the House having last year declared its opinion upon the point by a large majority, it would have been disrespectful to them if the Government had done so. They had not changed their opinion, and the support of the Government would be given to the hon. Member for Brighton's Amendment. There were two or three reasons why he thought candidates should not pay these expenses. In no other country that he knew of were such expenses thrown on candidates. In Australia, France, and Italy candidates were not called on to pay their expenses. Even in this country the charge was a novelty brought in by the first Reform Bill. The old rule was that the constituencies, not the Consolidated Fund, should pay them. The Returning Officer's expenses not seldom amounted to £200. The amount was not large for any public fund; but it was large at least for some individual candidates. Those who were generally called "working men" demurred very strongly to the system. He had always told those who thus designated themselves that they had not a right specially to represent the working men of the country any more than a few middle-class men could be said to represent their own class. No doubt these "working men" were active politicians, and thought a great deal about political matters and important questions, and yet they found themselves prevented from sending men of their own class to Parliament by the operation of this system of saddling the candidate with election expenses. The very fact that these men were looking inquiringly into public questions, and searching the very depths of society, supplied the strongest reason why they should be brought within our Constitutional range. Serious questions affecting the Constitution, property, and employment were being started, and, however mistaken many of these persons might be, it was of immense consequence that they should plead their own cause in Parliament, instead of its being stated at second hand. He had received several deputations from these gentlemen, and had been almost touched by 1974 their wish to enter within our Constitutional régime, and plead their own views. It was essential to the security of our institutions that a deaf ear should not be turned to them. Well, then, if hon. Gentlemen thought that candidates should not do here what they did not do anywhere else—namely, pay their own expenses—then it became a question who should pay them. His hon. Friend (Mr. Torrens) said the Consolidated Fund, while the hon. Member for Brighton pointed to the rates. He would very shortly give the reasons why the Government, while strongly in favour of the rates, must oppose payment out of the Consolidated Fund. These expenses for the three kingdoms at the Election of 1868 were under £100,000; a considerable increase over 1865, evidently owing to the increase of the constituencies; and he did not believe there would be a further large augmentation. It might be said, why not pay this £100,000 or £150,000 out of the Consolidated Fund? He thought it ought not to be so paid, because, if there was anything which really did of right fall upon the locality, it was the necessary expenses of returning Members to get their own work done. The nation ought not to pay for an expense peculiarly connected with the locality. Such a course, moreover, would encourage extravagance. The hon. Gentleman proposed to meet this by a statutory schedule, and he himself should be very glad to see the schedule which the hon. Gentleman had in his pocket. No doubt, under any circumstances, there was much to be said for a schedule; but the difficulty was, that if the minimum sum was taken, it would be insufficient for several parts of the country; while, if a higher sum was adopted, it would probably increase the expense in other parts where elections could be more cheaply conducted. Returning Officers in populous districts had suggested to him a certain maximum; but this amount, though reasonable in their eyes, would raise the expense in other places. The Government would be most happy to receive suggestions; but he would not like to be in the Treasury which had to work such a statutable schedule, for he could not conceive anything more likely to cause friction and ill-blood between that Department and the locality than for the Treasury to have to decide positively 1975 what should be paid. Another objection to the proposal was that it would make a contest more probable for the sake of the expenditure. If the cost fell on the constituency, there would be a strong feeling against a merely nominal contest; but who would feel for the Consolidated Fund? Boroughs occurred to his mind in which nothing would be thought more popular and patriotic than for a gentleman to give them all the amusement and excitement of a contest at the expense of the country at large. On these grounds he hoped the proposal would not be adopted. As to throwing the charge on the local rates, he found that in England and Wales it would be only 7–10ths of a farthing in the pound on the rateable value; while in Scotland—where one expected everything to be done more cheaply—and also in Ireland, it would be 4–10ths of a farthing. The hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) said last year that it would be hard to call upon a cottager, who was paying £5 rent, to contribute towards these election expenses. In no case, however, would he have to pay more than 2d., and, generally speaking, it would be nothing perceptible. In some small boroughs, where perhaps the Returning Officer was not of an economical turn, the burden might be more sensible, and this might account for the view taken by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James); but even in that borough it would be very light, and none of the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents but would thankfully bear it for the pleasure of returning or even of opposing him. He presumed hon. Members were determined that nothing, however small, should be added to the rates; but if any expense fairly fell on the ratepayers, it was the charge of returning Members. While he entirely approved of so much of his hon. Friend's Amendment as related to the removal of the expenses from the shoulders of the candidates, he must warn the Committee against making a bad precedent, which might encourage the various localities to neglect their duty. Therefore, he opposed the payment of these expenses out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he thought the Committee would agree, after hearing the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, that it was a most extraor- 1976 dinary thing that the Government had not felt it to be their duty to insert a clause in the Bill similar to that proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). After hearing the extraordinary statement that certain men whom the right hon. Gentleman would wish to see in that House could not come there because of the expenses attending elections, all he could say was that any Government entertaining such a view as that did not deserve the name of a Government unless it introduced a clause in a Bill of this kind which might carry that view to a successful issue. There were many constituencies who differed from the Government on this subject, inasmuch as they held that any man who had a seat in that House ought to pay for the honour, so far as his own election expenses were concerned. The main objection against the proposition of the Government was, that men of any political creed would take shelter under it, and get nominated to the detriment of those candidates who were prepared to pay their own expenses, but who, under the operation of this clause, would probably be obliged to pay expenses greatly enlarged by a contest with men of the former class. He agreed that there should be a schedule, instead of Returning Officers charging what they pleased; but he was sure the expense would be much larger if it was thrown on the rates or on the Consolidated Fund. If he had to choose between the proposal of the hon. Member for Brighton and that of the hon. Member for Finsbury, he should prefer the latter, because he objected to placing further burdens on the ratepayers, who were overburdened already. It might be said that that would exact but a very small sum from the poor man occupying a cottage in the country; but why should such a poor man, who had no voice in the election of Members for the county, be made to contribute at all towards those expenses? The addition made to the rates by such a change might be small at first; but under the operation of that Bill it would go on gradually increasing. Where would places be found for polling without alteration of the most suitable premises? In the borough represented by the right hon. Gentleman himself, where could suitable rooms be obtained? [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: 1977 School-houses.] Under this Bill, he greatly feared that even school-houses would not meet the demand for polling booths. He objected to the proposal of the Government on principle, and he could not shut his eyes to the fact that even the right hon. Gentleman had always supported it with a very faint heart; and he hoped that the Committee would refuse to pay the expenses of the candidates or to charge them upon the local rates.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
said, it appeared to be admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that the expenses of elections would be increased under the Bill. ["No, no!"] At all events, more polling-places would be required, involving further expense. At contested elections in Ireland, however, a heavy item of charge at present fell on the Government for the services of the military and the constabulary in preserving order—a charge in respect of which there would be a considerable saving if the Ballot operated, as its advocates believed it would, as a check upon intimidation. At Irish elections the military were called out; whereas at English elections the military were kept in. He thought that the official expenses of elections ought not to be thrown on the candidates, and that they should in fairness be borne by the Imperial Exchequer rather than by local rates.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he was glad to be able to agree in one point with the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council. If election expenses were to be paid by anybody else than the candidates themselves, he would prefer that they should come out of the rates rather than out of the Consolidated Fund. He believed, however, that the expenses of elections would be increased tenfold under that Bill. It was urged that they ought not to make the candidate pay those expenses in England, because it was not done in other countries. But he wished to ask whether our Parliamentary institutions would be improved if our electioneering system was assimilated to that of the United States or to that of France. In that matter he thought the example of other countries was rather to be avoided than imitated. The right hon. Gentleman referred, in language more fitting for the hustings than the House, to the poor man and his right to representation. 1978 No doubt every class should be represented, and he would be very glad if every class was, as there would then be an end to all sorts of delusions and absurdities now existing; but a poor man could not hope to retain his seat unless the House was prepared to adopt the system of payment of Members. If the suggestion that the school-houses should be used as polling-booths were adopted, he hoped the scholars would not be allowed to attend on the day of election, for the whole system of proceedings at elections was so demoralizing that every care should be taken to keep it beyond the experience of the rising generation.
§ MR. MORRISON
entirely concurred in the expediency of throwing the expenses of elections upon some public fund, and was prepared to admit that the duty of returning Members of Parliament was not of a local but an Imperial character. Still, the objection urged by the Vice President of the Council to throwing the cost on the Consolidated Fund was insurmountable. The unavoidable tendency of throwing the expense upon the Imperial Exchequer, subject to the audit of the Treasury, would be that the Treasury would, sooner or later, be obliged to adopt some maximum schedule of prices for each item of expense. That would be very unfair, because the expense of clerks, for instance, would not be alike in all cases; and, besides this, the inevitable tendency of fixing a maximum for the audit would be to bring all charges throughout the country up to that maximum, so that the maximum would also be the minimum. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had spoken of the payment of Members as inevitable if artizans were to find the way open for seats in the House. No doubt this was so; but he did not shrink from the result. This, however, was a question beside the point at issue. In all cases of contested elections at present, especially in the case of county contests, one of the first questions was whether the candidate would be able to pay the expenses, and although this clause would enormously increase the necessary expenses of election, its tendency would probably be to secure the return of the fit candidate as opposed to the man of mere money.
§ MR. SYNAN
supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury 1979 (Mr. Torrens). He did not know whether election expenses would be increased by the Bill or not. He could not get conclusive evidence from the example of either America or France on this point; but his opinion was that the official expenses under the Bill would be increased, and that the other expenses would be diminished, and therefore that in accepting a choice of evils he would adopt this Bill. He did not think there ought to be any class legislation in that House; nor did he think there ought to be any class representation in the country. He did not think that any class ought to be excluded from sending their Members to that House. But he did not think it would be denied that the working classes were so excluded. It might be said that the working classes could make up the official expenses necessary to return their Members; but no impediment ought to be thrown in their way. Any expenses that might be necessary ought to be cast on the country. The case of the working man was now put before the community; but this was only "the beginning of the end." He did not believe the clause would lead to the prevention of contests; no minority would refrain from a contest in consequence of the operations of this clause. They had heard of the inconveniences a tyrant majority had put itself to in this House, and they knew what trouble a minority put itself to to assert its opinions. The same spirit would animate the minority of a constituency. But it was said by Her Majesty's Government—"Oh! consider the trouble and expense to which the Treasury will be put." The Treasury would actually have to make out a schedule of expenses, and to tax the bills of the Returning Officer. But was not a like duty imposed on every official? That argument, therefore, was wholly irrelevant. The inconvenience of the Treasury had nothing to do with the matter. The broad principle upon which the question hung was this—that a man was not sent to this House as a delegate. He was not the representative of the ratepayers only, and therefore the ratepayers ought not to pay. Every man sent to the House of Commons was the representative not only of the ratepayers, but of "the twopenny men" of whom the hon. Gentleman spoke, the cottagers, and the whole community. And then, as for the expense, the constitutional 1980 gain would more than counterbalance the small burden to which the Consolidated Fund would be subjected. It was quite plain that if working men were to be brought into this House they must be paid. That was the necessary consequence of this Amendment, and of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Brighton, no matter which was adopted. But were hon. Gentlemen prepared to impose the payment of Members upon the ratepayers? Would anyone be so wild or so extravagant as to make such a proposal? ["Yes!"] Well, when such a wild proposition was before the House it would be time enough to answer it. But, at all events, the thing would not be done without notice to the ratepayers, and he would like to see how many of those who supported such a proposition would be returned to Parliament. Then there was an argument derived from municipal elections. But there was no analogy between municipal elections and elections of Members to this House, for those who were returned at municipal elections were nothing but delegates. Upon the broad ground which he had stated he was prepared to give his vote for the Amendment; but he would vote against any proposition to throw the burden on the rates.
§ MR. MELLY
said, he thought the first part of the Proviso proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury would carry with it the sympathies of all hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House; but, taken as a whole, it contained the seeds of a most dangerous policy. The hon. Member did not name the fund upon which he proposed to lay the expenses of conducting Parliamentary elections; but there could be no doubt that he had the Consolidated Fund in his mind when he laid his proposal before the Committee. The hon. Member who last spoke told the Committee that the beginning of the end had been reached. This might or might not be an accurate interpretation of the existing state of things; but, if accurate, it furnished the strongest possible reason why the public purse should be defended against attacks of the kind involved in the proposition under consideration. He had no sympathy with the feeling that candidates for a seat in Parliament should not pay their own expenses; and he regretted that the hon. Member for Finsbury had, by this Amendment, anticipated 1981 the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton. The effect of the present Amendment would be that boroughs and counties in which no Parliamentary contests took place would have to bear a part of the burden of those places in which there had been contests. Thus, the tax would be an unjust and an unequal one. He did not deny that the effect of the Ballot would probably be largely to increase the number of candidates, and that many would be started with small hopes or expectations of success, and without, in point of fact, much disturbing the existing representation. The effect of charging election expenses upon the rates would be to diminish the number of candidates who had no chance of success coming forward; but if the cost was to be defrayed out of the National Exchequer, many of the constituencies would be not unlikely to get up or encourage contests in order to divide the spoil. There were in all boroughs persons who had a strong interest in fostering contests; and the effect of offering a check upon the Consolidated Fund would be to arouse into still greater activity the bill-stickers, printers, local solicitors, pothouse-keepers, and other persons who derived pecuniary benefit from contested elections. The times were not those in which it would be right to adopt a course of action which savoured in the slightest degree of Socialism or Communism. It seemed to him that if the ratepayers wanted a contest they ought to pay the expenses of it. Therefore, while he should, when the proper time came, support the proposal of the hon. Member for Brighton to lay the expenses of elections upon the local rates, he must enter what he might almost call his indignant protest against the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he wished to say a few words in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury, because he felt satisfied the day was not far distant—if, indeed, it had not already arrived—when the expenses of elections would no longer be imposed upon the candidates. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House would, he believed, be generally of opinion that those expenses ought to be defrayed out of the general taxation of the country rather than out of local taxation. Every incident connected with the 1982 representation of the people in Parliament was of national importance, and the question now under discussion must therefore be regarded as a national one. It was not until the reign of George II. that the first attempt was made to throw the expenses of county elections upon the candidates, and this system had not applied to boroughs generally until after the passing of the Reform Act of 1832. Consequently, it could not be said that the method suggested by the hon. Member for Finsbury was unknown to history. The principal objections urged against the proposed mode of payment were—first, that the expenses might be almost unlimited if it was known that the Treasury would have to defray the expenses of each individual election; and, secondly, that the scheme might create a number of fictitious and sham candidates. The speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury had, in his opinion, proved the first of those objections to be groundless; and, with regard to the second, it was met by the proposal that—in order to insure a bonâ fide nomination—each candidate at an election should be required to deposit a certain sum of money, which should be returned to him in the event of his polling a certain number of votes.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, it seemed to be pretty generally agreed that the burden of these expenses ought not much longer to be allowed to rest upon the Members. Most of the hon. Members who had spoken that night were either in favour of that burden being placed upon the rates, or in favour of its being laid upon the Consolidated Fund. He had the honour to support his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) on a former occasion, because he thought his hon. Friend's proposal to defray the expenses of elections out of the rates was a good one, and he should vote on the present occasion for any proposal to get rid of the present unjust system. If the present Motion should be carried, there would be an end to the question; but if it should not, then he should support his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton whenever he brought forward his proposition. But he did not agree with what had been said that night about the injustice of laying this tax upon the Consolidated Fund. His own opinion was, that it would act as a check to some extent upon contests, and also 1983 upon extravagant expenditure. He thought also that the incidence of the tax would be far more just if it were to come out of the Consolidated Fund rather than out of the local rates. He would give them an instance to prove that. During the present week, a most interesting Return had been laid on the Table of the House, showing the number of electors in every town and county in the United Kingdom, and the rateable value of each of those boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council of Education had given some examples of moderate cases of expenditure, estimating them at about £300; but he (Mr. M'Laren) thought he did not name any of the larger boroughs. He would give the case of the city which he had the honour to represent (Edinburgh). Assuming that the Returning Officers' expenses would be £520, he found, from the Return to which he had referred, that one-eighth of a penny per pound on the rental would return £520. Taking one of their first-class mechanics, who lived in a house of £12 rent, he would pay 1½d. towards the expenses of the election of a Member of Parliament; and as that would occur only once in three years, practically he would pay a halfpenny a-year for the return of a Member. It was not that class of people who complained of those expenses being paid out of the rates. It was quite the contrary. So far as he knew, they were all in favour of those expenses being paid out of the rates. No later than yesterday he presented a Petition to that effect to the House. But going through the constituencies, see what the difference was. He would take the first two English boroughs alphabetically, and see what the effect upon them would be. Supposing the expenses for Andover were £250, he found it would take a rate of 2d. in the pound to raise that sum; and suppose that an election for Abingdon would cost £220, it would take 2½d. in the pound to raise that sum. In the one case the rate would be 16 times as much as the rate in the city which he had the honour to represent, and in the other case it would be 20 times as much. And if they went to some small boroughs in Ireland, where the rental was fabulously small, he might almost say they would find that the rate would in some cases exceed 9d. in the pound to raise a sum 1984 of £200 towards the expenses of these elections. Seeing that Parliament was elected for the management of the affairs of the whole of the United Kingdom, and not for the management in particular of the affairs of the town which returned a Member, and seeing that a Member was not a Member for the town which returned him, but a Member returned by the town for the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and that every Member was a Member for all the towns and all the counties in the United Kingdom, he thought it was but reasonable that the general fund should pay the expenses. To show how it would act in the case of Ireland, he found that under Schedule E the rental of all the cities and towns of Ireland was £200,000 less than the rental of the city of Glasgow, and excluding Dublin, that the rental of the city of Edinburgh was larger than that of all the cities and towns of Ireland. He thought it would be most unjust to saddle all those communities with a considerable rate, when the larger and richer towns would pay almost nothing at all. While, therefore, he thought either plan a good plan, he still believed that the plan of paying the expenses out of the Consolidated Fund would be the more equitable plan of the two. The only argument he heard that night which exercised the slightest influence on his mind was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, who alleged that the Treasury would find very great difficulty in checking the amount of expenditure, and that he, for one, would not like to be a Member of the Treasury which had that office to perform. He (Mr. M'Laren) thought that when they came to examine the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman gave in support of that view they vanished very easily before the facts which were before them. With the hustings expenses gone, the principal expenses were those of the polling-booths, of the Returning Officers, and of the polling-clerks. Those were the three large heads of expenses. Parliament had fixed the number of polling-booths in reference to the number of electors. What would the Treasury do? They knew how many polling-booths there ought to be, and they would fix a maximum sum—they would not allow more than £20 for each polling-booth. If a small community had only one, there 1985 would be only one to pay for, and if a large town or city had 20 or 30, they would have to be paid for at the same rate. The same rule would apply to the presiding officers, the polling-clerks, and the voting papers, and all the incidental expenses; and, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, he thought the Treasury would find no difficulty whatever in wisely and economically checking the expenditure in every constituency in the kingdom.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he felt satisfied the ratepayers and taxpayers would find the Bill for expenses much larger than had been supposed by all the speakers who had addressed the Committee, with the exception of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck). He was very sorry to say that both personation and bribery had increased seriously in this country, and he was quite convinced that they must increase still further in consequence of the impunity offered to them by the provisions of this Bill. Under these circumstances, he was not surprised that hon. Members desired that some part of the expenses they had to incur should be defrayed by a public fund. They were mistaken, however, if they fancied they would themselves have less to pay, because their expenses must be enormous. Precautionary measures to guard against personation and bribery would in many cases far exceed anything that hon. Gentlemen at present calculated. As Returning Officers were public officials, they might, perhaps, with propriety be paid out of the Consolidated Fund; but he feared that plan would lead to a large number of contests, which would create a state of public feeling that he should be sorry to see. He did not suppose he should live to see it; but he did feel sincerely the loss which the country would suffer in character and independence by the operation of this Bill. He hesitated to vote for putting election expenses on the ratepayers. He was willing to leave the expenses on the candidates. He believed the country did not call for this Bill. He had represented a constituency for more than 20 years; and although his constituents knew he was opposed to the Ballot, they had never troubled him on the subject; while his hon. Friend, who represented another portion of the same county (Nottinghamshire), after 1986 publicly stating that he was decidedly opposed to the proposal, carried his election by a majority of 1,000.
said, he thought the Government were perfectly justified in not including in this Bill the expenses clause of last year's Bill, seeing the division which was taken last year on that subject, and for that reason he could not understand the course now taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council. His simple reason for supporting the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) was because he had some ground for fearing that certain counsels which had been taken outside of the House might have rendered those Members who opposed the expenses clause of the Government last year liable to misconstruction. The Vice President received the other day a deputation of working men on this matter. As far as he could recollect, the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks was that the Government were very great friends of the working men; that they desired to carry out the wishes of the deputation in this respect; but that they were prevented by the House of Commons. Now, as far as the right hon. Gentleman went he was perfectly correct; but he might have gone farther and told the deputation that there were two ways by which these objects could be obtained, and that, the House having declined one, the Government refused to try the other. He might have said that there were two doors by which the working men might be admitted; that the House refused to open one, and that the key of the other was in the pocket of the Prime Minister. It would be in the recollection of the House that his hon. Friend had a similar Notice on the Paper last year, but did not press it. He submitted that his hon. Friend was now in a better position. In the first place, the Committee was not weary of debates on the Ballot Bill. In the second place, it would be impossible for any hon. Member in the House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), to attempt to fetter this Amendment by inducing the Committee to accept the alternative of placing these expenses on rates. The plain state of the case was this—the House, by a majority of 96, had decided against placing these expenses on rates, and his hon. 1987 Friend came before the Committee and asked them to decide whether they preferred to continue the system by which these expenses were placed on candidates, or would accept the alternative of calling on the Executive Government to defray these expenses out of the Consolidated Fund. He wished to say a word why these expenses ought not to be paid out of rates; why he thought they ought not to continue to be paid by candidates; and why he thought the only course that should be taken was to place them on the Consolidated Fund. With regard to the first question, he would ask how it was that there was such a large majority upon this question last year? He had heard it said that a great portion of the majority on that occasion were composed of hon. Members who were well able to pay the extraordinary expenses of contested elections, and that they were also a little afraid that the payment of these expenses out of rates might bring a considerable influx of antagonists into constituencies. Well, he did not know how that might be. He did not believe that a great portion of that majority were influenced by such motives as those; but, at any rate, at the risk of being egotistical, he would say that he himself voted in that majority, though he was actuated by no desire to keep working men out of that House, but was influenced simply by this feeling—that it was very undesirable to vote for placing any expenses whatever on local rates until a fresh adjustment of taxation should have been made. He knew that the hon. Member for Brighton would say that they were making a fuss about nothing—that they were creating a mountain out of a molehill. He (Mr. Brand) would ask whether every succeeding Chancellor of the Exchequer had not endeavoured, as far as he could, to relieve the Imperial purse at the expense of local ratepayers? And he would ask, further, what the tendency of the present Government had been. But his hon. Friends opposite ought to remember that a change had come over the spirit of the Government, and he was glad to hear the statement of the Secretary of State for War the other day with respect to the way in which he proposed to relieve counties from the cost of the Militia. He could only express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice 1988 President of the Council would be able to use his influence over the Prime Minister of the Crown, and would induce him to accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. He thought that, after the very able and exhaustive speeches which had been addressed to the House by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), it would not be necessary to particularize the different local charges which were imposed of an Imperial character over which the local magistrates had but little control. He would merely mention that out of a total charge of £3,300,000 raised in counties the magistrates had full control over only £200,000. These were reasons why he thought these charges should not be paid out of local rates. But if there were reasons why they should not be placed on local rates, there were reasons equally cogent why they should not continue to be paid by candidates. He did not profess to be a special admirer of working men or a champion of their rights; but this he would say—that it would be a great advantage to Parliament if working men came into the House, because the House would then be able to learn more accurately their wishes, and working men would be able to feel more implicit confidence in the House. He held that the present system of candidates meeting the expenses of their own election had a demoralizing effect. Instead of it appearing that the candidate was honouring the constituency by his representation of them in Parliament, it appeared as if he were soliciting a favour and an honour from the constituency—a favour and an honour which ought to be conferred upon him free of cost if he was worthy of the distinction at all. There was, in his opinion, a sufficient reason why the expenses of candidates for Parliamentary elections should come out of the Consolidated Fund. The services of a Member of that House were Imperial, and not local, services—a statement for which he had the authority of Blackstone, who, in his Commentaries, distinctly laid down the principle that a Member of the House of Commons, though elected from a locality, became, upon his election, a Member of an Imperial body, and was to be so regarded. He supported the Amendment because it affirmed the just principle that the expenditure of candi- 1989 dates should be met by some rate other than local. The Vice President of the Council had objected to the Amendment upon the ground of difficulty in scheduling the expenses. His answer to that was that the districts as well as the expenditure had better be scheduled. But the fact was that the objection ought not to weigh with them in that discussion, for if the Committee accepted the Amendment it would be the duty of the Government to provide safeguards against an unfair incidence of expense. Another objection which had been raised was that the payment of the costs of candidates out of the public funds would be in favour of the development of sham candidates. He did not believe that it would. Sham candidates would not be affected by any consideration of where the funds to cover their expenses came from, and the best thing the Gentleman who objected to the Amendment upon that score could do would be to introduce a clause imposing upon all candidates the condition of giving some guarantee of the bonâ fide character of their candidateship. He wished to call upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) to give his support to this Amendment, and he further laid claim to the support of those who had helped the right hon. Gentleman to pass his Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had given the country household suffrage, and he (Mr. Brand) was certain that the right hon. Gentleman was too generous a man and too honest a statesman to turn round now upon the class whom he then benefited, and place obstacles in the way of their returning to that House men whom they may desire to represent them.
§ MR. JAMES
complimented his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) on the moderation and fairness of his speech, which would disarm hostile criticism, yet his hon. Friend had argued the whole question on a narrow rather than on broad philosophical grounds. He had treated it entirely as a candidates' question, and he had almost pleaded that they should be saved from incurring expenditure which he alleged was excessive, unjust, unequal, and unchecked. Now, the Committee should be jealous in giving heed to a proposal which sought to remove from individual Members those expenses, and put them on something or somebody not repre- 1990 sented in that House as they themselves were. There were two propositions which it was necessary for the supporters of the Amendment to make out—first, that candidates ought no longer to be made to bear the expenses; and secondly, that those expenses should be paid by Imperial taxation. If he had understood his hon. Friend, his proposal meant, though the forms of the House prevented his distinctly saying so, that it was the Consolidated Fund that should be brought to meet the expenditure of Parliamentary candidates. Any measure which would have the effect of rendering the expenses less, or of making admission to that House compatible with the means of all, would have his support. But he believed the expenses would be greatly increased by the adoption of the present proposal, and on that ground he opposed it. What really had to be considered was, how candidates who would be the best representatives of the people, and who ought to be invited to come into the House, could best bear the expenses cast upon them during the years of their Parliamentary life? He was sorry to have to follow his hon. Friend to that narrow ground on which he argued the question. He told the House that the public expenses of elections had increased until they reached the sum of £93,000. Then he told them there was a column which represented expenses other than those of the Returning Officer, and he said we had nothing to do with that column, which showed the actual expenses of candidates. From that view he (Mr. James) dissented, and he asked the Committee to dissent. In 1868, while the Returning Officers' expenses of candidates amounted to £93,000, the expenses of candidates themselves reached the sum of £1,383,000, some 14 times as much as the Returning Officers' expenses. Therefore they had to see whether they should increase those expenses which fell upon the candidates—to see whether by diminishing the smaller amount, they should not be increasing the £1,383,000. If it should turn out that the Committee relieved the candidates of the Returning Officers' expenses, the probability—nay, the certainty—would be that candidates would have a contest in every constituency to which they appealed; and, however long a Member's services might be, however well he had served his constituency and 1991 his country, he would never be free from a contest as long as he was in the House. Would not the effect be that a man, say of moderate means, looking to the burdens he would have to put on his estate, and to the welfare of those who were to come after him, would naturally say—"I decline to enter Parliamentary life, since I am to have annoyance and turmoil on every occasion I appeal to my constituency—when I shall have to pay large expenses on every occasion on which that appeal is made—expenses that will ruin my estate and impoverish my family. Therefore, I refuse to give my country or the constituency the benefit of my services?" Appeals almost piteous had been made on the part of poor men to enable them to enter that House; but ought they not to consider the case of men of moderate income? He denied that poor men were kept out of the House by the Returning Officers' expenses. If they could not pay the £93,000, surely they could not pay the £1,383,000, and if they could pay the latter, with still greater facility could they pay the £93,000 hustings expenses. The mere working man—he spoke now of the men who earned a fair day's wages for a fair day's work, not of the men who wandered through the country earning a living by preaching and speaking and receiving tribute from the men they deceived—the mere working men, he said, who had to earn their living, could never enter that House, whether the hustings expenses were paid out of the Consolidated Fund or by them, until some other provision was made for them. But if men of great intelligence and worth who raised themselves above their fellows, so as to become representative men for those with whom they associated—if such men came forward, they would have funds found for them for husting expenses, as well as the other necessary expenses of candidates. But if even the hustings expenses were removed, would the man earning, say 40s. a-week, be able to enter the House of Commons? Could he come here without receiving assistance from others? and if he obtained such assistance, he would certainly not be excluded by the hustings expenses, which, at the General Election of 1868 averaged less than £100 for each candidate throughout the country, and certainly a far smaller sum in the borough constituencies. By throwing 1992 these expenses upon the Consolidated Fund, Parliament was casting down the barrier which existed between properly selected candidates and sham candidates who would disturb almost every constituency; so that the most experienced Members of this House, the men who were the most able and the most attentive to their duties, would never be spared a contest, and would eventually be driven from their constituencies rather than undergo the turmoil and expense of constantly-repeated opposition. Some restless spirit, some ambitious man, would always be found ready to engage in a contest which would benefit every tradesman and interest, and would hurt no one save the bonâ fide candidate and the taxpayer. What was the safeguard of £100 deposit required for? To prevent these sham contests taking place. If they admitted that a man who had £100 was fit to be a candidate, and that a man who had only £99 19s. was not, where were all the principles that enthusiasts were setting before them? Nothing could be more injurious than this suggested deposit. It would be found, and in order to save it from being forfeited votes would be recorded for the candidate on whose behalf it had been deposited—or rather the vote would be for the deposit. Coming to the question of placing the expenses on the Consolidated Fund, the hon. and learned Member referred to the remarks, of the Vice President of the Council, who said he was sure many of the ratepayers of Taunton would contribute money for the pleasure of opposing him (Mr. James), and some for the pleasure of supporting him. Well, as to the pleasure of opposing him, probably many would do so, and for the pleasure of supporting him a few might; he did not object to the latter if the electors liked him well enough to pay his expenses. But they could do so under the present system if so disposed, and what he objected to was their being obliged to bear the expenses of a candidate they disliked. The hon. Member for Finsbury was opposed to compulsory contributions to support a religion by those who did not appreciate it—an objection which ought to apply also to the expenses of candidates they did not like. Those who wished to relieve candidates of this charge ought first to settle among themselves where it should fall. The 1993 hon. Member for Finsbury had clearly shown the inexpediency of throwing it on the local rates, while the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), after his arguments last Session, could not consistently support this proposal. Now, he desired to see the present relation between candidates and their constituents maintained, and he objected to any change as likely to result in the defeat of good and moderate men by disturbed and restless spirits, and in an invasion of a House now composed of men of character and education by men who had no real claim to represent the people of this country.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he agreed with all the arguments of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) in favour of relieving candidates, as far as possible, from election expenses. But the question was, if the expenses were not to be borne by the candidates, from what fund they ought to come? The question had been discussed as to whether it was right to admit working men or not, or whether, if the clause should be passed, the best representatives of the working men would obtain seats in Parliament. Now, it was impossible to say how many working men would be admitted. He thought the number would be extremely small; but the smaller it was the more reason there was to remove every obstacle which offered impediments to their obtaining admission to the House. He was strongly opposed to casting the charge on the Consolidated Fund. It occasionally fell to his lot to oppose the Prime Minister; but he believed the country owed him a deep debt of gratitude for his jealous watch over that fund, for the great danger of Democracy consisted in the repeated and increasing demands made upon it. Everybody felt that the local rate came out of his own pocket; but the popular notion as to the Consolidated Fund was that it was a perennial source of wealth, kept full by the bounty of nature, and that in the general scramble for it the more any constituency could get the better, as the burden would be on the whole community, and the additional charge would be imperceptible. It could not be too frequently impressed on the people that every £100,000 paid into the Consolidated Fund represented a much larger sum taken out of the pockets of the ratepayers. Considering, indeed, the impediments thrown by all taxation in the way of industry, the cost 1994 of collection, and the inequalities of taxation, £100,000 not unfrequently represented a sacrifice of national wealth of perhaps double that amount. Moreover, all the main arguments for throwing this charge on the rates were inapplicable to the Consolidated Fund. One of those arguments was that a great moral lesson would be enforced on the constituencies, who would be taught the proper relations between themselves and their Members, and would gradually feel that a man who served them ought not to pay for the service he rendered, but that that cost should be made as small as possible. The constituencies also would have an interest in economy, the effect of which had been seen in the insignificant cost of municipal and school board elections. If, on the other hand, the charge were laid on Imperial taxation, however skilfully the schedule might be drawn, pressure would be constantly applied to the Government to spend as much money as possible in every successive election. The two proposals would operate very differently with respect to the arguments advanced by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James). The hon. and learned Member for Taunton said that whether the candidates' expenses were thrown on the rates or the Consolidated Fund the number of elections would be enormously increased. Now, he believed that such would be the case if the expenses were thrown on the Consolidated Fund; but if they wore thrown on the rates the sympathy of the electors would then be enlisted against unnecessary and useless contests. The Government had been alternately blamed and praised for excluding this particular proposal about the payment of candidates' expenses from their Bill of the present year, and it was said that they were almost bound to vote for the proposition of throwing the charge on the Consolidated Fund, because they had tried another plan, which had been defeated. No one could doubt that, whether from accident or any other circumstance, the impression was certainly produced that the Government were not very eager in supporting the proposal of last year, and there seemed to be a kind of defeated air about the speech of the Prime Minister; but he believed, if the right hon. Gentleman should now feel it incumbent on him to speak out in favour of the pro- 1995 posal for throwing the expenses on the rates with as much sincerity and zeal as, it was understood, he felt for it, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would produce a great impression on the popular mind, and it would be found that when the proposal of which he (Mr. Fawcett) had given Notice was brought forward, in about a fortnight or three weeks hence, the majority against it would be considerable reduced. He had concluded when the hon. Member for Finsbury gave Notice of his proposal, that the whole tide of popular feeling would run in favour of it, because it afforded a chance of placing the general charge on the public; but since that proposal had been on the Paper of the House, the Vice President of the Council had received many deputations from working men, and he had himself received innumerable communications from different parts of the country, showing that the proposal to throw the expenses on the rates was more popular than the proposal to throw them on the Consolidated Fund. This was important testimony as to the tendency of public opinion, and proved that, if hon. Members thought that his proposal was just in itself, they needed not to fear that the adoption of it would be in opposition to the wishes of the constituencies.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
observed that his vote had been claimed on account of something which he had said last year. What he then said was that he was in favour of the expenses devolving on candidates as at present, and that he did not wish to discuss the question as between Imperial and local means. He was certain that he spoke against the proposal of the hon. Member for Brighton. (Mr. Fawcett).
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), in his interesting speech, has very naturally mixed together a reference to the two subjects, only one of which is before the Committee at this moment. He has appealed to me on the subject of the proposal he is about to make, to relieve candidates from the payment of necessary expenses, and charging them on the rates. I shall be brief upon it, because it is not the question immediately before the Committee, and because I have but little to do with regard to that subject, except to express my entire and continued adhesion to the sentiments I 1996 have endeavoured to convey to the House on former occasions. Nothing can be better than the argument of my hon. Friend upon this Motion in general; and there is very little indeed that I could object to or add to it. There is one point, however, I must notice, and that is the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), as to the Standing Order prohibiting the House to entertain, except upon the recommendation of the Crown, any Motion or proposal creating a charge on the Consolidated Fund, or a charge to be defrayed by moneys provided by Parliament. The Chairman of the Committee most properly, in the judgment he pronounced, confined himself to the terms of the Motion, and said that they did not go to create a charge on the Consolidated Fund, or a charge to be defrayed by moneys voted by Parliament. However, that which was applicable to the hon. Member's Motion was not applicable to his speech, for whatever reserve he has contrived cleverly and astutely to exhibit in framing his Motion, there is, as regards his speech, no mistake about the matter. We have heard a great deal about the spirit of Acts of Parliament over what is contained in their words, and I must say that, if we unite the words of the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury with the words of his speech, there cannot be any dispute about the spirit of the Motion, and we must come to this conclusion—that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, in spite of the ingenious manner in which it is framed, does involve an interference with the Standing Order of the House which imposes on us the obligation not to lay a charge on the Consolidated Fund, or create a charge to be defrayed by money voted by Parliament, unless it be recommended by the Crown. The House, by long and valuable tradition, has chosen to impose this restraint on itself, and I believe that the restraint has created a broad distinction between this House, in the success of its working, and other Assemblies in other parts of the world, which differ from the House of Commons in respect to this remarkable self-restraint imposed by a rule regarding the public money. I am unwilling to be a party to breaking down that valuable rule either in letter or spirit, and I cannot but hope that a similar feeling will influence many hon. Mem- 1997 bers in the vote which they will give to-night. Now, on the merits of the proposition of my hon. Friend, it would be impossible for me materially to add to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Brighton. Nothing could be more succinct, relevant, and forcible than the arguments which were employed by that hon. Member. He pointed out the great practical distinction between an imposition of this charge on the rates and its imposition on the Consolidated Fund. I do not argue the question on its imposition on the rates—that is a separate question; but I am prepared to maintain that by imposing the charge on the rates you would secure a great reduction of the charge itself, and that you would thereby create so strong a public opinion in every local community against frivolous and needless contests that, in point of fact, that very charge would in itself tend to prevent these contests. I am entirely unable to make any such allegations with respect to the imposition of the charge on the Consolidated Fund. By the local community every addition to the rate is resented because everyone feels that he himself must pay for it. With respect to the Consolidated Fund, there is no such feeling. Nay, I believe, as was stated by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly), there would even be a sort of silly sentiment on the part of some districts that if other people were going to have their contests, and have the whole expense of them paid out of the Consolidated Fund, it would be hard that they should be deprived of their share, and they might as well go in for a contest too. If this was an important consideration under the law as it stood till the present time, it is still more important at the epoch we have now reached. We have got a greatly enlarged constituency, and we have got a very proper desire for a great multiplication of polling-places, of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) has been the ardent, wise, and successful advocate. Now, what sort of polling-places are we to have? Wherever it can be done school-rooms and buildings are to be employed for the purpose. I want to know how it would be possible for the Treasury to insure the faithful administration of that law. If, however, the charge be upon the rates, in every case a wholesome economy will be exercised in selecting polling-places. But if 1998 the charge be placed on the Consolidated Fund, it will become simply a question between enriching the local tradesman who gets the job, and availing yourselves of school-rooms and similar buildings for the benefit of the Consolidated Fund. Who can doubt what the result will be? It will be a large, bootless, profitless expenditure; and you would along with that expenditure have reproduced in a most odious and offensive form the struggle between the local authorities and the Treasury, which which would be aggravated fifty-fold if you adopt the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, because it is impossible for any officers of the Treasury to have the means of placing an effective check on the expenditure, and the effort to do it would involve them at every point in conflict with the representatives of the local community. But, then, I must say that my hon. Friend, although he means kindness to the constituencies, is also inflicting on them the greatest mischief. It is impossible to devise a plan more favourable to the multiplication of needless contests than to cast these charges on the Consolidated Fund. I believe there is no evil you can inflict on the constituencies comparable with that of the needless multiplication of contests; and I do not think it is possible to deny that the placing of these charges on the Consolidated Fund would have the most direct and powerful tendency to work in that direction. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) supports the hon. Member for Finsbury; but he frankly confessed that placing the charge on the Consolidated Fund would tend to remove the check on frivolous contests. The hon. Member for South Nottinghamshire (Mr. Barrow), who does not regard this Bill with any kind of favour, did not fail, with his acute discernment, to see and state that the placing of this charge on the Consolidated Fund would be a severe infliction on the local community through its tendency to bring about these mischievous contests. That is an undeniable evil. If you increase the gross charge, if you waste money either on this or any public object, the result will be that the burden must fall on the nation. I must say I think it is most creditable to those who are supposed to have some special interest in the removal of these charges—the artisan or labour- 1999 ing class—that they have not condescended to aim at throwing them on the Consolidated Fund on any occasion or in any quarter. I am very glad to perceive, so far as one can judge from indications in the debate, that the Committee are disposed to give full weight to these important considerations against transferring these charges to the Consolidated Fund. We shall abide the judgment of the House cheerfully, whether they shall remain on the candidate or be transferred to the local rates; but I sincerely hope that the Committee will reject, by a decisive majority, the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury.
§ MR. DISRAELI
There is a distinct issue before the Committee; but in the course of debate two issues have been raised. One question is, whether these hustings expenses shall be charged on the rates; the other, whether they shall be defrayed from the Consolidated Fund. I am opposed to both propositions. I shall always support the right hon. Gentleman in that defence of the Consolidated Fund which obtained for him to-night the compliments of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). I listened, Sir, to the ruling of Mr. Speaker this evening on the point of Order raised by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), with attention and regret; and I cannot but believe when the subject is discussed more completely than it could be to-night, and when Mr. Speaker has had another opportunity of explaining more particularly the opinion he gave, and the accuracy of which I do not impugn, a different impression will be adopted in regard to it. As to placing the election expenses upon the rates, I have heard with alarm from the Members of Her Majesty's Government that they are favourable to that proposition. I think the time has come when it ought to be made clearly apparent to any Government that may exist in this country that no increase of the rates can be tolerated so long as the area of taxation from which these rates are drawn is limited, as it is at present. It is a most perplexing affair; but if we cannot solve the difficulty of increasing the area of taxation we must leave the rates alone. Sir, I am convinced it is the wisest policy of the ratepayers of the country to resist any increase of the rates, however slight, or however plausible the pretext may be, until the Government make up 2000 their minds to encounter that difficulty—a question which a Minister is bound to solve before he comes forward with a proposition to increase the rates. Under these circumstances, I must say—even if there were any grievance, which has never been proved, under existing arrangements—I shall certainly oppose any remedy which is founded on either of those propositions. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Brand) has made a personal appeal to me, as one who was instrumental in some degree in passing the late Reform Act, to support this proposition, which by relieving candidates from the hustings expenses would open Parliament to the working men. We had that appeal made to us last year, and I thought it was an appeal that might do very well for one Session. But I confess I did not expect that stock appeal for the working man who could not get into Parliament because of the hustings expenses would really be produced in the more serious Session of 1872. I am sufficiently interested in that subject not to be entirely ignorant of all the facts of the case, and from what I can learn from sources not slight or superficial, I am convinced there never yet has been a working man prevented from becoming a Member of this House by these charges. I defy the hon. Member for Hertfordshire to give me satisfactory proof that any working man has been kept out of Parliament by the obligation to meet these expenses. I find by inquiry that there were at the last General Election several candidates who were working men really and avowedly; not one of them was prevented by the expense of the hustings from going to the poll; and not only that, but these working men expended in the pursuit of the object of their ambition sums much larger than the expenses of the hustings. One of them was a candidate for the county town of the county which I represent; he was a man of much ability; was cheerfully supported by numbers and by money; and I am quite convinced that, although he was not successful, the expense of the hustings was in no degree the cause of his discomfiture. Let a working man appear as a candidate for the suffrages of his countrymen and ask to be returned as a Member of Parliament; let him be a man who thoroughly deserves, by his character, by his talents, and by his 2001 special acquirements, the confidence and regard of his countrymen, and he would have as good a chance of being returned as any gentleman of distinguished lineage and large estates. I believe the pretext for the proposed change founded on the peculiar situation of the working man is one of those flimsy pretexts which vanish in the searching fire of Parliamentary discussion. Although the question before us is one which may be argued on more substantial grounds, I cannot believe that the plea will be again put forward. So far as I can form an opinion, the tendency of the suggestion of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) would be to withdraw a wholesome and salutary check to mock contests, and perhaps to the entrance into this House of persons whom we shall be glad to see out of it when they have once come in.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he hoped that the question would not be decided simply in the alternative of an addition either to the rates or the general taxation of the country, but on its merits. He objected very much to the proposal, because it would multiply candidates and contests needlessly, and he did not believe that working men were kept out of Parliament by these expenses.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 362: Majority 308.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK moved, in line 26, leave out "during the," and insert "at any." Same line, leave out "appointed for," and insert "before." The object of this Amendment was to enable the candidate to withdraw up to the day of the poll, so as to save a candidate nominated against his will from being compelled to incur any expenses with reference to an election.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he could only repeat what he had stated in the early part of the evening—namely, that underhand arrangements would probably be made if candidates were allowed to withdraw after the time fixed by the Bill, and there was still greater objection to their withdrawal at any time before the polling day, as the electors would be kept in the dark respecting the number of the candidates to be brought forward.
§ MR. CAWLEY
said, he had himself given Notice of an Amendment with a similar object, and maintained that power should be given to candidates to withdraw up to the day previous to the election; otherwise, although the parties did not desire to go to the poll, the Returning Officer must proceed to take a poll.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. C. Bentinck) was under a mistaken impression as to the effect his proposition was likely to have, for if a candidate had the power of withdrawal asked for, there would be quite a flood of "sham" and "dummy" candidates, whereas the Committee should do all they could to get rid of that class altogether. Candidates were sometimes started merely in order to make speeches on the hustings and then withdraw; but the case would be different when public nominations no longer existed.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, that although there might be no speeches made on the hustings under that Bill, the candidates would still address the electors on the day of nomination from the windows of their respective committee rooms. He saw no reason why candidates should not be nominated, then have the power of making speeches, and afterwards be able to retire if they chose, in order to save the expenses of the election. His Amendment would tend to cut down the enormous expenses which the Bill would create, and he would therefore take the sense of the Committee upon it.
§ Amendment negatived.
The hon. Gentleman has said that he rose to a point of Order. There is no point of Order involved. The Question was put the first time, and the hon. Member challenged my decision, his voice being the only one which reached me. I thereupon put the Question again, and distinctly paused, and there was no challenge.
§ MR. CAWLEY
, in order that the sense of the Committee might be taken, then moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice with a similar object—namely, in fine 26, after the word "Election," to insert the words "or before the day appointed for the poll."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 26, after the word "Election," to insert the words "or before the day appointed for the poll."—(Mr. Cawley.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 206: Majority 62.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.