The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14
The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act (1883)
The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act (1883).
This valuable measure has greatly increased the punishments for bribery, and has more strictly defined treating and undue influence, arranging for those crimes to be severely dealt with in future.
With regard to expenditure, it has prohibited all payments for the conveyance of voters to Poll or for the exhibition of placards. It has made punishable by heavy fines the employment of paid Canvassers, of Bands, and of Public-house Committee Rooms; has fixed one person only as Agent, through whom payments may be made, and has restricted expenditure to the following narrow limits:—
|Number of Electors.||For One Candidate.||For Two Joint Candidates.|
|England and Scotland.||Ireland.|
|Number of Electors.||For One Candidate.||For One Candidate.|
The returning officers' expenses, which are limited by Act of Parliament, are not included in the above maximum, but the candidate is only at liberty to pay him the exact sum allowed by the Act, under pain of conviction for an illegal practice.
The personal expenses of a candidate are also outside the prescribed maximum, and they are not limited to any precise amount, though any excess over £100 in this particular must be paid through the election agent.
It will be seen that the adoption of this scale of expenditure may operate unequally in those counties or boroughs which return two members, and where one candidate stands alone against a combination. In a large borough, with say 35,000 voters, two candidates would be enabled, if they coalesced, to spend nearly £700 more than one candidate standing alone, while the staff necessary to conduct the election would be practically the same on both sides.
"Packing" the House of Commons in the Landed Interest.
In the 9th year of the reign of Queen Anne an Act was passed defining the qualification of Member of Parliament, whether for County or Borough, to be an income of £300 per annum, for his own use and benefit, derivable from houses, lands, or hereditaments. In the 33rd of George II., in order to placate the landholding class, the previous law was confirmed, and power given to Election Agents to test on oath, as to his qualification at the time of the election, any Candidate seeking Parliamentary honours.
In the 44th of George III. this latter portion of the Act was repealed, but the property qualification was retained.
In the 1st and 2nd Victoria the qualification for Counties was increased to £600 per year.
It was not until the year 1859 that the Act 21 and 22 Vic., cap. 26, was passed abolishing the property qualification altogether; so that it will be seen that for an unbroken period of 138 years every Member of Parliament had a direct personal and pecuniary interest in the legislation he participated in, and it is therefore little wonder that the land-holding classes have practically legislated themselves out of most of their legitimate responsibilities.
The Unreformed House.
- 70 M.P.'s returned by private nomination.
- 90 M.P.'s returned by 46 places under 50 voters each.
- 37 M.P.'s returned by 19 places under 100 voters each.
- 52 M.P.'s returned by 26 places under 200 voters each.
- 20 M.P.'s returned by Scotch counties under 100 voters each.
- 10 M.P.'s returned by Scotch counties under 250 voters each.
- 15 M.P.'s returned by Scotch bmrghs under 125 voters each.
- And 150 M.P.'s owed their seats entirely to Peers.
|Manchester and Salford||with||133,788|
|Birmingham and Aston||with||104,605|
|Greenwich, Deptford. Woolwich||with||56,582|
|Wolverhampton. Bilston, and Sedgley||with||66,036|
|Sunderland and the Wearmouths||with||33,911|
The Reform of 1832
Was resisted to the last gasp by the Tory party and the House of Lords. It totally disfranchised 56 Boroughs in England and Wales, reduced Weymouth to 2 members instead of 4; took one member away from 30 Boroughs, leaving one for each; created 22 new Boroughs with double and 20 with single representation; gave a third member to 7 counties; divided 26 counties, allotting 2 members to each division; made a new County (Isle of Wight); gave 2 more County seats to Yorkshire and one more each to Carmarthen, Denbigh, and Glamorgan, besides forming Swansea into a district.
In Scotland 69 towns were formed into 14 Districts of Burghs, returning one M.P. for each; 3 Burghs were thrown into the Counties, a second member was assigned to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and single representation was given to 5 large towns; 6 Counties were also amalgamated so as to form but 3. In Ireland 4 towns received a second seat, and one was added to Dublin University. Suffrage mainly to 40s. freeholders and £10 occupiers in England and Scotland, to £10 freeholders and occupiers in Ireland.
The Reform of 1868
Was forced upon a Conservative Ministry by popular agitation and a hostile majority in the Lower House. To keep office they tried one shift after another, and finally submitted to the entire excision of the clauses and provisions of a ridicu- page 41 lous Bill introduced by Mr. Disraeli, and the substitution one by one of the following instalments of Electoral justice:—
Borough Household suffrage after one year's residence, and to Lodgers a £10 franchise. County, £12 franchise to occupiers. Four constituencies given a third member; 35 places below 10,000 population deprived of one member; 11 places entirely disfranchised; 18 additional seats to Boroughs, 25 to Counties, 3 to Universities, 1 to Wales, and 7 to Scotland; Chelsea created a Borough and assigned 2 members; Tower Hamlets divided into 2 Boroughs, each with 2 members; 9 new Boroughs in England and 1 in Scotland; 13 new County divisions in England; 2 Scotch Counties amalgamated, and 3 granted an extra member.
In the House of Lords a clause introducing the minority (or three-cornered) voting system was grafted upon the Bill, and the power of all the largest boroughs thus reduced to a minimum.
The Acts of 1885.
|County Members.||Borough Members.||University Members.||Total.|
|County Members.||Borough Members.||University Members.||Total|
That anomalies still remain, and these very considerable of their kind, will be seen on perusal of the following
Anomalies of the New Representation.
|Bury St. Edmunds||16,111|
|Penryn and Falmouth||18,072|
|Selkirk and Peebles||17,966|
|London, City of (2)||50,652|
|Dublin Co., N.||72,992|
|Dublin Co., S.||72,636|
|Dublin, College Green||72,153|
|Glasgow—Blackfriars & Hutchesontown||71,744|
|Ross and Cromarty||72,483|
|Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel||71,314|
|Tower Hamlets, Poplar||74,104|
|Wight, Isle of||78,633|
|Tower Hamlets (Bow and Bromley)||82,406|
|St. George, Hanover Square||89,573|
- 23 Constituencies return 23 Members for 410,457 Population.
- 8 Constituencies return 8 Members for 180,250 Population.
- 19 Constituencies return 24 Members for 664,398 Population.
- 5 Constituencies return 5 Members for 152,712 Population.
- 55 Constituencies 60 Members 1,407,817 Population, or an average of 23,464 per Member,
- 30 Constituencies return 32 Members for 2,299,384 Population.
- 11 Constituencies return 12 Members for 931,833 Population.
- 9 Constituencies return 9 Members for 744,067 Population.
- 7 Constituencies return 7 Members for 613,653 Population.
- 57 Constituencies 60 Members 4,588,937 Population, or an average of 76,482 per Member.
Statistical Aspects of the General Elections of 1832 and 1868.
In view of the General Election results of 1885 and 1886 the following comparison of the elections which followed previous great measures of parliamentary reform may prove interesting.
The number of successful candidates for parliamentary honours in 1832 was 477 Liberals and 181 Conservatives, of whom 123 Liberals and 68 Conservatives were unopposed; 196 Liberals and 178 Conservatives were defeated. In 1868, 390 Liberals and 268 Conservatives were successful, of whom 121 Liberals and 89 Conservatives were unopposed; the number of unsuccessful candidates being 207 Liberals and 173 Conservatives. The Liberal majority in 1832 was 296; and in 1868, 122.
The number of registered electors was, in 1832, 814,990; and in 1868, 2,469,958.
The total number of votes recorded in 1832 was 824,950,—579,772 Liberal and 245,178 Conservative; and in 1868, 2,381,496, being 1,424,248 Liberal and 907,253 Conservative.
The percentage which the votes bear to the number of electors is, in 1832, 101-2,-—71.1 Liberal and 30.1 Conservative; and in 1868, 94.4,—57.7 Liberal and 36.7 Conservative.
The average population per member was, in 1882, 36,848, and in 1868, 48,502.
It is not possible to estimate the cost of the election of 1832, only the returning officers' expenses having been ascertained. In 1868 the cost was £1,382,118, of which £1,187,401 was paid in England and Wales.
In 1832, 3.4 per cent., and in 1868, 7.8 per cent. of the whole population were registered electors.
In 1868, 44 Liberal and 37 Conservative seats were won by majorities of less than one hundred votes.
It is worthy of especial attention that no less than 191 seats in 1832, and 210 in 1868 were uncontested
The English Farmers and the Tory Party.
|Date of Election.||Liberals.||Tories.|
It will be seen that Liberal representation reached its lowest points in 1841, 1852, and 1874. In 1841 the farmers rejected the Whig proposal of an eight-shilling duty on corn, and returned the Tory party to Parliament with a triumphant majority in order that they might maintain the Corn Laws, which the very Ministry they placed in power repealed. In 1852, deceived by apparent promises to restore Protection they rallied afresh to the Conservative banner. In 1868 they were told the Church was in danger; and in 1874 they rushed to save the Beer-barrel.