HC Deb 19 June 1806 vol 7 cc772-6
Sir John Newport

moved the order of the day for a committee of the whole house on the Irish Election bill. On the question that the Speaker do leave the chair being put

Mr. Alexander

begged to be informed by the right hon. baronet, whether he proposed to go into the committee pro forma, for the purpose of filling up the blanks, with a view to have the bill afterwards printed, and to allow sufficient time to gentlemen to consider its provisions before they should be called upon to decide upon its merits, or with a view to proceed bona fide with the bill.

Sir John Newport ,

though he had proposed to proceed with the bill, had no objection to go into the committee pro forma, and to allow any reasonable time for the consideration of the measure, but would not consent to any delay that would carry it beyond the present session.

Colonel Vereker

then rose, and spoke with great warmth of the rapidity with which the right hon. baronet had pressed the bill through the previous stages, while he had declined doing any thing in the present session for remedying those evils which existed in the paper circulation of Ireland. He had no idea of the contents of this bill till very lately, and its object appeared to be to strike a death-blow at every corporation in Ireland. It arose from the right hon. baronet's own experience in a late election. He would not impute sinister or improper motives to the right hon. bart.; but if the corporation he represented was adverse to his interest, that was no reason why the other corporations of the kingdom should be deprived of their right. He contended, that time should be given them to present petitions and protests against it, and, as that could not be done in the present session, he should move that it be postponed to the next session.

Sir J. Newport

explained the object of the bill. At present petitioners claiming the rights of freemen in corporations, presented their claims to the mayor, who was an annual officer; and it too often happened, from this and other causes, that their claims were neglected and mislaid for years, and that the freeman was deprived of his just rights, or forced to reclaim them at a great expence. The present bill provided that every claim should be delivered to the town clerk, who was to present it to the mayor within forty-eight hours; and that some decision should be passed upon it within one month after its presentment. It obliged the corporation to proceed to some decision, before they entered on any other election business. Should the claim be rejected by them, and afterwards brought into a court of justice, and decided in favour of the claimant, it provided that he should recover all those expenses which he had been put to in pursuing his just rights. This was the more necessary as individuals at present found it ruinous to cope with the weight of a corporation purse. He knew that in one instance 5000l. had been raised on the revenues, of a corporation, for supporting the law expences occasioned by these appeals. The present bill called upon the corporations, to do nothing but justice, and whatever allusions the honourable member might make to his motives, he trusted the house would do him the justice to believe, that in the exercise of his official duty, he was of actuated by any private or sinister views.

Mr. S. Bourne

thought the question to be considered was, whether a bill :which so much affected the rights of the electors, should be allowed to pass the house in the course of a few days, and before the people of Ireland had time to judge of it? He suggested to the right hon. bart. the propriety of filling up the blanks now, rather than ordering the bill to be printed; and afterwards to let it stand over to the next session of parliament.

Mr. Alexander

asserted, that in the corporation in Ireland with which he had the most connexion, he never heard of any instance of injustice; he only knew of a discretion which he thought properly vested in the corporations, to judge of the fitness of persons, according to the fairness of their characters.

Mr. Foster

said, he hoped that op a question which affected so many of the franchise rights of Ireland, the right hon. bart. would not, in the absence of so many Irish members, press a bill now on the 19th, which was only brought in on the 14th of this month. It was a serious thing to impose a penalty of 1000l. on a returning officer, for omission or neglect; and 500l. penalty in him, if he was a revenue officer, and gave a casting vote. If the measure was now persisted in, he should oppose the Speaker's leaving the chair.

Mr. O'Hara

said, that if the gentlemen opposite wished the bill to be well understood by the corporations in Ireland, the best mode of doing it would be, to have the blanks first filled up in the committee, in which all the objections they proposed might be obviated.

Lord Temple

thought, that as the objections went merely to the clauses, it would be right to go into the committee, and after they were filled up, he understood that his right hon. friend would consent to defer the report for ten days, during which there would be time to collect the sense of the corporations in Ireland.

Sir John Newport

said, he should consent to allow foureen days for consideration, after the blanks were filled up; but if he deferred it for twelve months, the consequence might be, that a number of electors stood a chance of being deprived of their franchises.

Colonel Bagwell

did not think a fortnight, by any means, sufficient to collect the sense of the corporations in the distant parts of Ireland.

Dr. Laurence

said, that if any modification of the provisions was desirable, that would be done best in a committee.

Mr. S. Bourne

thought that as there were so many objections to the bill, he should vote against the Speaker's leaving the chair, unles it was agreed that the blanks should be filled up in the committee, and the further consideration of the measure deferred till the next session. That house, he thought, should be careful, and particularly in the absence of so many Irish members, how it interfered in the elective franchises of Ireland, and of Ireland only. Were it even early in the session, he thought 14 days would be insufficient for the considera- tion of a measure, which involved the elective franchise of the whole of Ireland.—The house then divided on the question for the Speaker's leaving the chair, when there appeared for it 27; Against it 26; Majority 1.—The house then resolved itself into a committee on the bill, Mr. Hobhouse in the chair.

Mr. Alexander

stated his objections to a measure which affected the rights of all the corporations of Ireland, comprising not less than 300,000 electors. He was called to order by

Dr. Laurence ,

who thought it irregular that he should take that opportunity or entering on the general merits of the bill.

Mr. Alexander

was again proceeding, when he was interrupted by

Lord Temple ,

who observed, that it was then on the stroke of five o'clock, and that an understanding had last night prevailed, that no other subject should be discussed, till the examination of witnesses on the Charges against the Marquis Wellesley was concluded, and therefore moved 'that the chairman should report progress, and have leave to sit again.'

The Speaker

said, there was an understanding that all other business should give way to the examination of witnesses.

Colonel Vereker

considered this interposition as the exercise of ministerial influence.

M. Foster

remarked, that it was irregular in the noble earl, to take advantage of his speaking to oreder, for the purpose of making a motion; the noble earl rose either in order or disorder. The house was pressed by the right hon. bart. into this committee, and the clock had not since moved so rapidly, but he might have foreseen 5 o'clock would arrive before the discussion could be over.

Mr. S. Bourne

expressed his surprise, that the advocates of this bill should propose and press a measure at the same moment, or within a few moments of the time, when they were obliged to propose that progress should be reported, and the chairman have leave to sit again.

Lord Temple

said, that the would not appeal to the hon. gent. but tot the committee at large, whether the understanding was not last night, that the examination of witnesses in lord Wellesley's case, should precede every other discussion? His motion, therefore, was not liable to the invidious remarks made on the other side.—The house then divided on the chairman's reporting progress, when the numbers were, for it, 39: against it, 27; Majority 12.—The chairman then obtained leave to sit again on Monday.