Imágenes de páginas

o'clock. It had been said that the day and drunkenness which formerly preof election seemed to be made a general vailed at elections had ceased to exist, holiday; but a great number of the new and he concluded by observing that he electors were very poor men, not earning had at all times found Norwich the more than 108. or 12s. a week, and some quietest and best behaved town he had of the larger employers of labour gave been in. If the Commission were issued, them a half-holiday, but few of them he believed that only some trumpery could have afforded to lose a day's work, cases of bribery would be proved; and and consequently numbers of workmen though he was not at all afraid that voted in the afternoon. The learned disfranchisement would follow he was Judge had, in the midst of his general anxious that Norwich should be spared severity, made one excuse—namely, that the stain and stigma that the appointsome of the voters really thought they ment of a Royal Commission would were entitled to a day's work. He (Mr. occasion. As to the three CommissionRead) would venture to offer another. ers, he would suggest that ample occuIt was a common delusion, but one not pation might be found for them if they likely to occur again, among the ex- were instructed to make a digest of the tinguished compound-householders, that different decisions of the Judges upon they were entitled to recoup themselves treating and agency, for the use of for the rates they had been called upon stupid Members of Parliament like himto pay. It would be remembered to self. A Royal Commission was not rethe credit of Norwich-that though the quired for the punishment of the guilty election undoubtedly occasioned consi- persons, for the evidence already colderable excitement, there was no tumult, lected was amply sufficient for a proserioting, intimidation, or window-break-cution, and it would be a great hardship ing; that no watchers were employed, to inflict the pain, disgrace, and expense and no cabs hired. Of the nine Conser- of a Royal Commission upon Norwich, vative committee-rooms only four were where the ratepaye were already burat public-houses. At the election in dened with local taxes to the amount of 1865 £7,000 was spent in legitimate ex- half their rent. He appealed to the penses ; in 1868 the sum disbursed by hon. Baronet opposite (Sir William both candidates for that purpose was Russell), who had represented Norwich under £4,000. It had been said that in three successive Parliaments, to stand the day of election was marked by up, and either confirm or contradict the general drunkenness. That he entirely statement he (Mr. Read) had made. It denied. He had seen the chief constable was due to himself, to the constituency of Norwich and the deputy chief consta- he represented, to the House, and to the ble of Norfolk, and they both assured country, that the hon. and gallant Baronet him that drunkenness was not at all should do this. general on the day of election, and that MR. D. DALRYMPLE said, he they had seen much more on many mar- thought that what had just fallen from ket and fair days. According to the the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. police reports only three cases of drun- Read) went a considerable way to justify kenness occurred, and the Adjutant of the step taken by the Attorney General. the 1st Norfolk Rifle Volunteers stated He was not present at the last election in a letter to him that he had been quar- for Norwich—he might fairly say

he was tered in many garrison towns, and that better engaged in another boroughhe never saw a quieter or more orderly but he attended at the inquiry before election, and though much about the the Judge, and he must say that, if entire day he could not call to mind a there was one point more completely solitary case of drunkenness. The proved than another, it was the fact colonel commanding the Royal Horse that Sir Henry Stracey was himself Artillery at Norwich had also sent him entirely free from any participation in a communication, in which the writer the disgraceful proceedings_which ocstated that he was particularly struck curred at the last election. He, for one, by the great quiet, good order and tem- regretted personally not to see the stalper that prevailed in the town during wart form of the hon. Baronet on the the election, and that he had since fre- Benches opposite; but the regret was quently expressed his pleasure at finding personal and not political, for he was that so much of the disorder, rioting, not indifferent to the success of his party


but he desired that the success should be obtained honestly and with clean hands. He thought there was a remarkable similarity between the elections of 1832 and 1868. On both occasions there had been a Reform Act, with a large addition to the constituency, and on both occasions the very first step of the Tory-or, as it was latterly termed, the Constitutionalparty had been to try and bribe the new constituency. He had himself entertained high hopes of the political integrity of that body; and he saw with regret that the foul stream of electoral corruption had not ceased to flow. If any other means could be suggested by which to get at the bottom of the evil he should be glad to spare his native town the stigma and expense of a Commission and the possible consequences that might ensue. But if the remedy could not be attained by any other means he was prepared that a Commission should issue rather than have it said corruption had been going on for thirty-five years and no attempt made to put a stop to it. He could very well understand that in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite there might be strong objections to the appointment of a Commission. When the political trigonometers went through the county of Norfolk they created a remarkably pleasant constituency called South Norfolk-it was a constituency in which not even the reeds were shaken the strong winds of democracy-and in case of the disfranchisement of Norwich it might be fatal to the Conservative interest to have an influx of the Liberals thrown in upon that bucolic constituency. It did not seem to him at all necessary that disfranchisement should follow. If there were disclosures as to who supplied the money on this last occasion, it would surely be competent for the Attorney General to prosecute those parties. He Mr. Dalrymple) disliked disfranchisement, which involved the many innocent in the punishment of the few guilty. The parties bribed, as had been stated in the Report, were persons in the receipt of wages not higher than 10s. or 128. a week. Now, if hon. Members had seen, as he had seen, the silent loom, the cold hearth, the empty cupboard, and the still more empty stomachs of such men as these, they would hardly blame them for taking the bribes offered. It was those who found the money and gave the bribes

who were the real delinquents and deserved punishment. It was said only eight cases of bribery had been proved. That might be strictly true; but if Mr. Tillett had proceeded with the scrutiny there could be very little doubt that number would have been multiplied by eight, ten, or twenty. But a scrutiny cost nearly as much as a contested election, and they could, therefore, all very well understand why the scrutiny had not been pushed further than was necessary to demonstrate the existence of bribery as well as the agency employed in it. He did not think any measure short of a Commission would be effectual, otherwise he believed the Attorney General would have adopted it. The hon. Member for South Norfolk had read letters from various parties to the effect that Norwich had been very orderly, and that there was comparatively little drunkenness on the occasion of the last election; he (Mr. Dalrymple) also held in his hand letters from influential persons, clergymen, solicitors, and others belonging to both parties, who strongly urged that an effort should now be made to get rid of the stain which for so many years had rested upon the town, and he cordially echoed that sentiment, rejoicing, as he did, that the first opportunity he had of addressing that House was with a view to raise the standard of electoral morality in his native town.

MR. GATHORNE HARDY: If there is one thing more desirable than another in inquiries of this kind, it is that they should be conducted in a spirit of impartiality and freedom from all semblance of party motive. Last Session, when an alteration was made in the system which had before prevailed, of trying election petitions, we endeavoured to obtain a tribunal that would be respected by the House and the countrya tribunal of which there would be no possibility of saying that it was affected by the partiality which attached to Committees, which, in many cases, did not deserve the imputation. We endeavoured to get rid of the difficulty by having the Judges to preside at those trials, who are to make a Report to this House, and, that Report having been made, there remained the question of the course to be taken in order to give effect to it. There is at present no public prosecutor, no Committee sitting that can initiate proceedings after the inquiry, and therefore

that duty is devolved on the Law Officer and after that time what was spent was of the Crown, who very properly comes by two, three, or four private individuals, forward as a quasi-judicial officer, and, entirely without the knowledge of Sir placing the case before the House in Henry Stracey, and to a very small exconnection with the Report of the Judge, tent. The present was not a question moves for the issue of a Commission. It on which, as a Member for Norwich, he seems to me we ought to act on the could venture to give an opinion. He Report of the Judge. The Judge re- left that entirely to the House, but ports, in the express terms of the sta- having been called on to state what he tute, that bribery was proved to exist, I knew of the facts he had done so as well and that he has reason to believe that as he could. bribery extensively prevailed, and the MR. HOWES said, he hoped to reAct of last Session provided that on present his present constituency for such å Report we should address Her many years, but he trusted that he Majesty to issue a Commission to in- should not have the pleasure of receiving quire. In this case there can be no so large an addition to their numbers dispute as to facts. The learned Judge as would be the consequence of disfranpurposely inserted these words in his chising the city of Norwich. The constiReport with a view to call the attention tuency of South Norfolk already numof the House to the circumstances that bered 8,000 voters, and that was quite came before him, and impressed his a sufficient burden on the shoulders of mind with the necessity of full inquiry. any representative. After what had The learned Judge said there was a ne- fallen from the right hon. Gentleman cessity for inquiry, and the Attorney (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), it was not for General therefore comes forward in a him to oppose the Motion before the quasi-judicial capacity to initiate the House; at the same time he must exproceedings. When that has been done press his regret that greater pains were

-when the Judge reports in the terms not taken to inquire into the errors that of the Act of last Session, and when a were said to have been committed. He Motion is made, as in the present in- would make no reflections on the ruling stance, by the Attorney General, we of the learned Judge who tried the peought, I think, in order to avoid all tition, but it was a mistake to assume painful discussions, to act in accordance that the Liberal candidate was the fawith the Judge's Report. The whole vourite and popular candidate. On the of the facts are not gone into before the contrary, he did not believe there was Judge; there is no occasion for a party a more unpopular man in Norwich than to the proceedings to go further than he Mr. Tillett, although, no doubt, much of thinks necessary for his own objects ; this was due to the share he had in the but the Judge has seen reason to ask petition. All parties were agreed that the House to go further, and, relying on Sir Henry Stracey was perfectly innocent his Report, and the action of the At- of any participation in corrupt practices, torney General, I think it is our bounden At the same time it could not be denied duty to accept the recommendation of that some of his supporters had bribed the Judge.

to a certain extent. He believed, howSIR WILLIAM RUSSELL, as re- ever, that the amount spent in bribery presenting the city of Norwich for the was exceedingly small, and that the third time, desired to state that after the number of persons who had accepted year 1859 it was determined by both bribes was also very limited. Now, if parties to avoid all corrupt influences, a Commission were appointed, and it and that determination had been religi- should be found that there had after all ously carried out by the Leaders on both been only a few cases of bribery, and sides. At the next election not a farth- that the sum given did not exceed 28. 6d. ing, he believed, had been spent; and per man, the effect would only be to on the last occasion the Judge had given throw ridicule upon the appointment of his opinion that, as far as the Liberal a Royal Commission, and to leave a candidates were concerned, no money strong sense of injury on the minds of whatever had been spent. As far as the inhabitants, who would be saddled the Conservative party was concerned, with the expenses, not one farthing of up to the middle of the day he did not which would fall upon the guilty parties. believe one single farthing as spent; He might pursue these remarks much

[ocr errors]

further, but after the opinion expressed | agitation, every three years certainly,

by his right hon. Friend, he should not oppose the Motion.

Question put, and agreed to.

with respect to the amount at which they were to be assessed to their local burdens. He believed there was quite as much irritation caused by the worry of

Resolved, That an humble Address be pre- these assessments as by the payment of sented to Her Majesty, as followeth :

Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave humbly to represent to Your Majesty, that Sir Samuel Martin, knight, one of the Barons of the Court of Exchequer, and one of the Judges selected for the trial of Election Petitions, pursuant to the Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868, has reported to the House of Commons, that corrupt practices did prevail at the last Election for the City of Norwich, and that there is reason to believe that corrupt practices did extensively prevail at the

said Election.

We therefore humbly pray Your Majesty, that Your Majesty will be graciously pleased to cause inquiry to be made pursuant to the Provisions of the Act of Parliament passed in the sixteenth year of the reign of Your Majesty, intituled, "An Act to provide for more effectual inquiry into the existence of Corrupt Practices at Elections for Members to serve in Parliament," by the appointment of George Morley Dowdeswell, esquire, one of Her Majesty's Counsel, Horatio Mansfield, esquire, Barrister at Law, and Robert John Biron, esquire, Barrister at Law, as Commissioners for the purpose of making inquiry into the existence of such corrupt practices.

Address to be communicated to The Lords, and their concurrence desired


(Mr. Goschen, Mr. Arthur Peel, Mr. Ayrton.)


Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made and Question proposed,
That the Bill be now read a second
time."-(Mr. Goschen.)

MR. HENLEY said, he had no inten-
tion of opposing the second reading of
the Bill, but he thought the principles
laid down in it were so serious that it
was well to make some observation upon
it. No doubt there was a very con-
siderable impatience-he would not say
whether it was ignorant or intelligent
of the present system of local taxation,
not to say
of Imperial taxa tionalso, but
if that impatience was felt now, this Bill
would multiply it a great deal more, if
the view he took of its probable effects
was correct. He could conceive nothing
more likely to worry the ratepayers than
the fact that there would be a continued

the burden. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would bear him out in that, as he must remember the agitation which existed when the amount of the income tax had been uncertain. That Bill proposed an entire change in the mode of assessment. It endeavoured to set up a common base for the income tax, the house tax, and local burdens. He thought the House was agreed that in so far as local burdens were concerned thé great thing they wanted was equality— fairness and equality, so that all persons should be taxed alike. In regard to the Queen's taxes, on the contrary, the GoVernment wanted the utmost farthing that could be raised. If a man paid a very extravagant rent for his house for any particular purpose of his own, it was quite right that the person who received that rent should pay every sixpence in the pound, or whatever the amount might be. If, however, the principle were once to be applied to the assessment of the local rates, it would be more difficult than at present, if it would not be impossible, to obtain equality. He asked the House to consider for a moment how it was attempted in this Bill to carry out the new system. They had got a very complex machinery set up by it, but it resolved itself into this

that the assessment which was to be virtually for local taxation and for the Queen's taxes at one and the same time of taxes, with an appeal only to a Gowas really to be made by the surveyor vernment nominee. He could not say whether the system was a right or a wrong one; but it was at least entirely novel, and a complete subversion of every principle that had attained heretofore in regard to the assessment of local rates and taxes. The machinery proposed by the Bill was this-In the first place, the overseer was to make a valuation list; that valuation list was to be sent within a given time to the surveyor of taxes, and to a body now to be called into existence, called the Assessment Committee. To this Assessment Committee persons who thought themselves not properly treated, might appeal; but the Committee was bound by the statute-what

ever valuation the overseer might have duction of not more than 10 per cent made-to put the assessment at the figure was to be allowed.

See what power which the surveyor of taxes sent to the Government surveyor would have in them. A ratepayer, moreover, had only the case of houses rated at £18 a year. seven days' notice within which to prove Sic rolo sic jubeo-he might put all these the negative of what the surveyor of wretched people up to £20, thus not taxes had put on the list. Was it rea- only subjecting them to house tax, sonable that a man, in such a place as which was a comparatively trifling matLondon, should be required to provo a ter, but, instead of having 25 per cent negative of that kind within seven days? off, they would thereafter have only 10 He could only do it by the aid of sur- per cent. The power exercised by the veyors, and everybody who knew what Government surveyor would be exercised conflicting opinions surveyors expressed without any correlative security by way as to valuations, would agree with him of appeal, for an appeal to an officer that this space of time was neither fair nominated by the Government would not nor sufficient. That, however, was not be an appeal in any sense. This point all. If the parties were not satisfied would want careful consideration in with the decision of the Committee they Committee, and he feared that in the might have another appeal to a new matters he had mentioned the Bill was officer, to be paid partly by the ratepayers vicious in principle. The attempt to get and partly by the Crown, but he would a common base for these things would be the direct nominee of the Crown, and give trouble, and at the same time you would be subject to no engagement, for would fail in getting an approximation he was not to be sworn to do justice to the truth. All these assessments were between the Crown and the ratepayers. only approximations to the truth, and in In this case also the appellant would the endeavour to attain to greater perhave to prove the negative, instead of the fection you would worry people from Crown being required to prove the af- year to year, and bring about at last an firmative of the assessment, thus involv- impatience of paying very much like ing him in further trouble and expense. what existed fifty or sixty years ago, He contended that this machinery was when he remembered a caricature reprenot only complex, but unnecessary. senting a dustman as saying he would Why, if they were determined to take never pay any more taxes, for the House this principle, should they not adopt the had knocked off £16,000,000 of income simple course of letting the surveyor of tax in one year. If they took away the intaxes take upon himself the whole dependent tribunal to which people had labour and expense of making the as- now the power of appealing, they would sessment, and give a proper and fair produce a general dislike to paying appeal against the assessment? What taxes such as did not exist at present. was the use of imposing upon the He only made these general observaoverseers all this trouble, and giving tions now, and would be prepared to the ratepayer an appeal first to the refer to the question again when the Assessment Committee, and then to the Bill came before the House on a subsenominee of the Crown? He could not quent occasion. conceive that such a course was likely MR. W. H. SMITH said, that as one to relieve that impatience of taxation of the metropolitan Members, he must which was now so largely felt. How trouble the House with a few observawould this work? There was another tions in respect to the measure.

He little addition to the matter, and that hoped the President of the Poor Law was that there should be in the case of Board (Mr. Goschen) would let the House certain classes a scale fixed upon which know precisely what it was doing in the differences between the rateable agreeing to the second reading of the value and the gross income should be Bill. It was a Bill full of provisions of calculated. The house tax, as they all very great importance, which were new knew, commenced at rents of about £20 to the metropolis, and which had excited a year.

In the proposed classification great interest and some alarm. Under houses under £20 a year were to be put those circumstances the representative into a separate class, and to be allowed bodies of the metropolis, the several a deduction of 25 per cent from the gross vestries, had expressed a strong desire value, whilst above that amount à de- that the second reading of the Bill should

« AnteriorContinuar »