HC Deb 28 July 1807 vol 9 cc974-7

On the motion of Mr. Jeffery, the house went into the further consideration of the Complaint of the delay in the delivery of the Poole writ.

Mr. Jonathan Brundrett

was called in, and on examination stated, that he received the writ on the morning of the 30th of April, and delivered it to Mr. James Weston, at two o'clock on the same day in Fen-church-street, in the presence of an old gentleman, who, he afterwards found, was Mr. Spurrier. He recognized, Mr. Spurrier when he went to Poole to ascertain the delivery of the writ. He arrived in Poole on Monday, the 18th of May, and saw Mr. Spurrier, who told him the writ had been delivered. He was satisfied on hearing that it was delivered, relying on Mr. Spurrier's veracity.

Mr. William

Spurrier was then called in. Being very deaf, the clerk was ordered to stand by him and repeat the questions that were put. Being desired by the Speaker to address his answers to him, he said that he could not see him [a laugh].—On examination stated he had received the writ on the 30th of April last. He delivered the writ on the 17th of May, where he was satisfied the sheriff received it. His ignorance was the sole cause of his holding over the writ so long. No person at Poole knew of his having the writ. The sheriff of Poole is his relation, his wife's brother. He knew of no enquiry after the writ till the Saturday before he delivered it. He never knew that the writ was cried at Poole. He knew of a person who was not of age at the time he received the writ, and who was of age at the time when he delivered it. This person could not have voted if he had delivered the writ immediately. This person was no relation of his, neither was any of the candidates. He thought that person would have voted for Mr. Garland, but he voted for sir R. Bickerton. He was in London, and took the writ to take care of it, knowing it would be in safe hands, He did not deliver it, because like a bill of exchange drawn at forty days sight, he did not think it right to deliver it till the period when it should be obligatory to make the return [a laugh]. He paid 30 guineas for the writ; it was what he was asked to pay: he was not repaid, nor did he expect to be. He knew from the beginning, that he was to pay money for the writ, but he did not know how much. He was prepared to pay what should be asked of him. On a question from the chancellor of the exchequer, he admitted that he had heard there were to have been other candidates, besides those who stood. On being questioned who, he answered. sir Home Popham. His (Mr. Spurrier's) son also was expected to have been a candidate [a laugh]. He admitted that he knew of a person who arrived with the most urgent expedition from Ireland, and voted for Mr. Garland. On a question from Mr. Jones, he admitted that his principal reason for getting possession of the writ was, that his son intended to have been a candidate. He did not look for a receipt of the writ, because he relied on the sheriff's honourable character. Neither the sheriff nor any other person in Poole, knew that he had had the writ, till the proceedings on the present investigation had been the means of letting them into the fact.—Mr. Spurrier having been then ordered to withdraw,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it had been universally admitted, that some remedy was necessary in the present practice of issuing writs. A remedy was to be proposed by an hon. gent. on the other side (Mr. Barham). Every gentleman would lend his aid to render this remedy more perfect, and when it should have received the concurrence of the other branches of the legislature, he hoped it would be effectual. With respect to the present case, he did not think it would be right to press hard upon the individual, But as it was evident that the obtaining and delaying of the writ, had arisen from some motives not perfectly correct, he thought some animadversion should take place, though he was of opinion that any punishment the house should think proper to inflict, ought to cease, as soon as an opportunity to terminate it should be afforded by petition from the individual.

The Speaker

suggested that the first proceeding ought to be a resolution, that Mr. William Spurrier, in unduly detaining the writ for the last election for members to serve in parliament for the county of the town of Poole for 17 days, had been guilty of a breach of the privileges of that house. The question being put on this resolution,

Lord H. Petty

felt it was quite impossible to refuse his assent to the resolution, but from the universality of similar practices, of which some instances little short of that now before the house had been communicated to him very recently, he thought the individual now under the animadversion of the house ought to be discharged as soon after his committal as possible. He urged the propriety of adopting a general remedy for the abuse; such a remedy was essential to the honour and character of the house, in preference to severity in a particular instance.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, an hon. gent. on the other side had proposed to introduce a general remedial measure, which he was sure every gentleman would be ready to support. He intended to move, that Mr. Spurrier be committed to the custody of the serjeant at arms; and though it was not parliamentary to speak of an understanding to that effect, he was sure, that as soon as a proper submission should be made, the house would give the relief required.

Mr. Barham

urged the propriety of a general remedy, and, with a view to obtain, some information calculated to promote that object, proposed to call in and examine, the messenger of the great seal as to the general proceedings about the issue of writs.

Mr. Rose

objected to the examination the messenger of the great seal, who could speak to nothing beyond the practice of his office. The messenger of the great seal, was particularly instructed to take no fees but those that custom had established (perhaps without right); five guineas for a writ for a borough, and twice as much for a writ for a county or city. The principal remedy for the abuses complained of was to provide for the immediate delivery of the writ to the sheriff.—It was then resolved, that W. Spurrier was guilty of a breach of the privileges of the house, and he was ordered to be committed to the custody of the serjeant at arms.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

took occasion to state, that the committal of Mr. Brundrett to Newgate on a former night, was grounded on his unqualified refusal to answer questions. This was an offence, without the immediate punishment and correction of which, the house could not proceed in any of the investigations and enquiries essential to its constitution. The nature of the case enquired into, depended upon the facts that should be disclosed and discovered, and admitted of quite a different course of proceeding.

Mr. Jeffery

stated, that the messenger of the great seal, and the other persons ordered to attend at the bar, were not at all implicated in the criminal part of the transaction. He therefore moved, that the order for their attendance be discharged.

Mr. Barham

then moved, that the deputy messenger of the crown be called to the bar. This was opposed by sir John Sinclair, and the gallery was cleared for a division, but, after some discussion, the motion was withdrawn.