HC Deb 30 November 1803 vol 1 cc53-6
Mr. Deverell

moved the order of the day, for renewing the debate on the motion for excusing Mr. Pedley from his attendance on the Waterford committee.

The Speaker

said, he conceived it to be his duty to state to the house, that affairs of an urgent nature having called the hon.gent. mentioned in the motion, to the island of Jamaica, and that the gentleman having long since taken his passage, it was moved that he obtain leave of absence from the committee on the Waterford election, on * The following is the circumstance to which the hon. member alluded:—In consequence of the great inconvenience experienced at Portsmouth from the scarcity of cash, a meeting was held, pursuant to advertisement, at the Guildhall of that place, on the 22d of November. The mayor presided; and, after some discussion on the means of alleviating the difficulties and inconveniences so, seriously felt at Portsmouth and Portsea, for the want of gold and silver for the purposes of trade, it was unanimously resolved, that dollars should be admitted into temporary currency, at 4s. 9d. each, but that no person should engage to take more than four in one payment; and French crowns at 5s. and half crowns at 2s. 6d. which he was appointed. The question being put,

Mr. Deverell

rose. He recapitulated what he had said on the preceding evening. He stated farther, that the hon.gent. alluded to had spent seventeen or eighteen years in the island of Jamaica, and had only lately left it. It was scarcely probable, therefore, that a man in such circumstances should have left his affairs in such a situation, as not again to require his personal presence. The hon.gent. entered further into a minute discussion of the observations of the Attorney General on the preceding evening, and endeavoured to obviate that right hon. gentleman's objections. He stated, that it would be a very hard case, indeed, if gentlemen should be excluded from attendance on their own private and most interesting affairs; affairs in which their happiness and personal respectability were deeply implicated, merely because they had been appointed on a committee, the business of which might be otherwise executed without, injury to the public. He appealed to the feelings of the house. Was it a case to which anygent. present would wish, to submit. He alluded to a precedent, where nine out of fifteen had sat and transacted the busines of an election committee, whereas even in case of the hon. gentleman's absence, there would still, according to the Attorney General, be eleven on the Water-ford committee.

The Attorney General

rose. It was far, he said, from his intention to oppose the private interests of any member of that; house, and in regard to the gentleman alluded to, he would be the last to throw any obstruction in his way. So much was this the case indeed, he said, that if the question, were at this moment put, it would be more agreeable to find that the gentleman should obtain leave of absence than that he should not. To be refused, indeed, in such circumstances, he thought would be a very hard case; and let it be brought home to the feelings of any gentleman here present, he was as sensible as the hon.gent. who, spoke last, that no one could deny the force of his argument. The hon.gent. had stated that he had said the whole of the business would be at a stand, should more of the members be absent than now were. This was not directly the idea he had expressed. He had meant to say, that if one, two, or three, were permitted to absent themselves upon business, others, might claim the, same privilege, and of course no reliance could he placed upon any committee ap- pointed by the house; and such really was the case in the present instance; three had already dropped from the committee in question, and this motion went to authorize the absence of a fourth. The right hon.gent. concluded by saying, that where the private interests of the individual and those of the public were put in competition, his own private feelings would be too ready to lead him to give a preference to the individual; interest; but, at the same lime, he could not conceal his anxiety, that the house should not be forward to establish precedents that Were too likely to be followed, to the injury of the public service. With regard to precedents, he had taken much pains to search for them; and he could find no precedent, where a member for private business was indulged, but in a temporary absence; in which case, the committee was adjourned, till it could have the benefit of his attendance. Painful as it would be to him, he should, therefore, vote against the motion.

Mr. W. Dundas

rose, and requested that the house would pause, before it should determine in a case of such importance, where they had nothing before them, but the general assertion of an individual, to direct their judgment. Suppose, he said, I wish to go to Scotland? If you establish a precedent of this kind, will it not be natural for me to plead business, and to direct your attention to this very precedent, which you are about to create?

Mr. Bragge

observed, that it must be in the recollection of the house, that there was no precedent in England that could apply to this motion, and as committees for the trial of Irish elections were now in this country, no arguments could be adduced on the present question, but those of expediency only. It therefore remained with the house to establish or not, as they should think proper, a precedent on the present occasion.

The Speaker,

before he put the question, stated to the house, the number of precedents of absence, granted to members, from committees, to be eight; four of which, were for total absence, in consequence of the death of near relations. Of the other four, two were for private business, and but for two days; and the committees were in both cases adjourned, till the expiration of the two days. The remaining two were, first, the case of the Okehampton petition Mr. Pelham, one of the members of the committee for trying which, was also water bailiff to the court of sewers, and had obtained a total release from attendance on the committee, in consequence of his presence being essential to the discharge of his other duties. The second, was the case of Shaftesbury, in which case, Sir Richard Worsley, who was also mayor and returning officer of another place, obtained a release from attendence on the committee, in consideration of the calls of duty in his corporation. The question being put by the Speaker, there was a call to divide the house, when there appeared for the motion 45, and against it 54. The motion, of course, was negatived by a majority of 9.