HC Deb 21 January 1807 vol 8 cc470-2

General Walpole moved that the order of the day for hearing this petition be discharged, and proposed that the 17th of March be the day fixed upon for that purpose, as much more convenient to the party petitioning.

Mr. W. Dundas

thought, that such a motion not being a motion of course, some reason should be specified to induce the house to do that which, upon mere general grounds, it seemed averse to do. He, for his part, was such an enemy to any teazing procrastination in the case of election petitions, that he should feel it his duty to vote against the motion of the hon. general, unless it appeared to him to be grounded upon substantial reasons. The hon. general had stated merely, that if his motion was not agreed to, it would be productive of inconvenience to the petitioning party. This might be true, but it was, notwithstanding, too loose and general a statement to warrant the extraordinary indulgence now called for.

General Walpole

said that when a similar indulgence was claimed for the Aberdeen petition, the hon. gent. did not seem to think this indulgence so extraordinary, nor did he in that instance at least appear such an enemy to delay as he now professed himself to be. And yet with respect to the two cases, they were entirely analogous, except in one or two points, which gave that of the Londonderry petition stronger claim upon the indulgence of that house. Both places were precisely the same distance, with this difference, and a material one it was, the great uncertainty of passage. His own repeated experience had enabled him to state, that the communication between the two countries as to the county in question, had often not been effected within less than a fortnight, and to his own personal knowledge, once did not take place within less than 3 weeks. He moved, therefore, for the delay, in order that sufficient time might be allowed for the necessary exchange of communications between this country and Ireland.

Mr. W. Dundas

replied, that six weeks had already elapsed since the petition had been presented, and that in that time the necessary communication might have been made.

Sir J. Newport

apologised for trespassing upon the house, but as he had been as yet the only member who had travelled through the fiery ordeal of an Irish election petition, the subject was too interesting for him to let pass without some observation. He begged leave to assure the house of the indispensable necessity of an Irish agent being brought over here, and that even this step, simple as it might appear, was, he could state from experience, productive of great trouble and considerable delay; besides, it was not one simple communication that might be necessary, but perhaps more, as, it some errors accompanied the first here, this first should be sent back again, and thus the delay of transmission might be very reasonably expected. The house had granted a further day in the case of the Aberdeen petition, and for his part he thought that there were twenty times the grounds for granting a like indulgence in the present case.

Mr. W. Dundas ,

in explanation, begged leave to remind the house, that the Aberdeen case was in two material points distinct from that now before the house; the peculiar circumstance of the Scotch baronet, and the agreement of both the parties in their joint wish for a more distant day.

Mr. Perceval

objected to the principle laid down by an hon. gent., that the sitting member allowed to enjoy the privilege of a seat in that house, had no reason to complain of delay upon the part of the petitioners, because that such a principle might be readily applied to all election petitions, and therefore could not be advanced as peculiar claim upon a peculiar indulgence; and because that even admitting it, suspense was not of all states the most enviable; nor did he at all think it unreasonable that the sitting member should wish that his suspense should be put as short a period to as possible, as it was very natural for any man in that house to feel himself more comfortable in the possession of his seat in parliament, when all doubts as to the permanency of that possession was removed. As to the argument of delay upon the grounds of necessary communications, and bringing over Irish agents, it had not been alleged that such delay was not foreseen, and if it was foreseen, there was certainly sufficient time to provide against it, as six weeks had elapsed since the petition had been presented.

General Walpole

answered, that the delay that had hitherto occurred, was owing to the absence of the petitioner in Ireland.

Lord Howick

begged leave to correct the statement of the learned gent. (Mr. Perceval). Six weeks could not possibly have elapsed since the presenting of the petition in question, as the election to which it related was one of the latest in Ireland; at the same time he would say, that however entitled the circumstance of the present case was to the indulgence of that house, still he was aware that gentlemen should be cautious in establishing a precedent that might in other cases be productive of inconvenient operations. From the connection subsisting between the party petitioning and himself, his lordship said he was unwilling to go into the merits of the question, satisfied that the house would wisely exercise its own discretion, and that if the circumstances were sufficiently strong to justify the present motion, that motion would be acceded to.

Mr. Rose

said, that the return was given in in the first week of December, and contended that, at the time, the party petitioning must have been aware of all the consequent delay a petition would be productive of, and the term of time the preparatory business would necessarily require.

Mr. C. Wynne

maintained, that it was impossible for a party petitioning to be apprised of all the circumstances at the close of the election, and that it was upon this principle that parliament granted 14 days from the first day of their sitting to all persons petitioning. He thought that in general, Irish petitions, with respect to the grant of a distant day, had peculiar claims upon the indulgence of the house.

Lord G. Beresford

said, that he did not receive notice of this petition till the 3d of January, and yet that since that day he had been able to effect such communication with Ireland, that he professed himself ready at that moment to go before the committee.—The house then divided upon the motion of general Walpole, that the order of the day for hearing the said petition be discharged. Ayes, 67; noes, 49. The petion was then ordered to be taken into consideration on the 17th of March.

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