§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ LORD PENZANCE
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it had a two-fold object—one to provide for the prevention of corrupt practices at municipal elections, and the other to furnish a tribunal before which the validity of all municipal elections might be tried. Their Lordships knew that after the passing of the Reform Act in 1832 an Act was passed which contained provisions against bribery and corruption at municipal elections. The penalty under that Act was £50. By the 27 Vict., c. 35, a penalty of 40s. was provided, this latter penalty being recoverable in a County Court. It would be generally admitted that those two Acts were not adequate for the suppression of those corrupt practices. Since the passing of the Reform Act of 1867 the franchise for municipal electors had been lowered, and the number of such electors largely increased, so that it was now pretty nearly identical with that of the Parliamentary electors. It was generally known that those who took an active part in municipal elections did so to some extent in connection with the Parliamentary elections. Under these circumstances, it had been thought well to introduce this Bill. The first portion of it contained provisions similar to those in existence against corrupt practices at Parliamentary elections. The second portion contained clauses constituting a 1744 tribunal for the trial of the validity of municipal elections. Up to the present time there had been no such tribunal. The only manner of proceeding in such case was by quo warranto in a Court of Common Law; but by that process it was necessary to try the question of the validity of each individual vote, and to strike off votes one by one before a majority could be disposed of. That was a costly and cumbrous system, and one in no way suited to the state of things with which the Bill proposed to deal. The Bill provided that the Election Judges under the Act of 1867 should be authorized to nominate some four or five barristers, whose duty it would be to inquire into such cases. It was further provided that the barristers to be nominated should be in no way connected with the place in which the controversy had arisen. They were not to be barristers practising or revising on the circuit in which that place was situate, nor to have any kind of connection with the borough. Those barristers would have the power of awarding costs. In matters of law there would be an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.