HC Deb 26 February 1813 vol 24 cc844-7

Mr. Alderman Atkins, from the Select Committee appointed to try and determine the merits of the Petition complaining of an undue election and return for the town and borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, informed the House that the Committee have determined, 1. "That sir John Murray, bart. was duly elected, and, that the right hon. Thomas Wallace, John Broadhurst, esq. Henry Trail, esq. Richard Augustus Tucker Steward, esq. and William Williams, were not duly elected for the said borough; and that the last election for the said borough, so far as relates to the election of the said right hon. Thomas Wallace, John Broadhurst, and Henry Trail, esquires, is void."

Mr. Alderman Atkins

also acquainted the House, that the said Select Committee had come to the following Resolutions:

  1. 1."That it appears to this Committee, that at the last election for the town and borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, the right hon. Thomas Wallace, John Broadhurst and Henry Trail, esqrs. did by treating act in violation of the statute of the 7th of William 3, cap. 4, whereby they are incapacitated to serve in parliament upon such election.
  2. 2."That the right of voting in the said town and borough appears to be, among others, in persons seised of freeholds within the said borough; that gross abuses have of late been practised within the said borough by persons claiming and exercising a right to vote upon nominal reserved rents, arising out of freeholds split and divided into the most minute fractional parts, under wills either real or fictitious; and that it further appears to the Committee, that such evils can only be effectually remedied by the interposition of the legislature."
Mr. Alderman Atkins then moved that the whole of the Minutes of the Evidence be laid before the House.

The Speaker

begged to suggest, that for the sake of convenience and dispatch, only such part of the minutes as referred to this particular topic, should be selected from the mass of evidence; and that the selection might be made by the clerk of the committee, under the direction of the Chairman, and any others of its late members. If any new regulation were adopted by the House, with regard to the elective franchise of the borough, it would be better it should take place before a new writ was issued.

The motion was then modified according to the Speaker's suggestion, as follows: "That so much of the Minutes of the Evidence taken before the said committee, as relates to the second of the said Resolutions, be laid before this House."

Mr. Ponsonby

expressed his conviction, that the preferable way would be to adjourn the discussion till Monday, as some gentlemen might probably think it necessary that the whole of the evidence should be produced.

Mr. Alderman Atkins

thought there was part of the evidence which there was no occasion to produce. He begged also to state, that the practice of splitting votes had been carried to such a preposterous extent, that a fractional part so extremely low as the 1400th part of a 68th of a 5th of a two-and-sixpenny rate was deemed sufficient to entitle to a vote.

Mr. Wynn

contended, that as the committee was now no more, the attendance of any of its members for the selection of the evidence was quite optional. In fairness the whole of the evidence should be laid before the House.

Mr. Rose and Mr. Bathurst spoke against the delay, which would ensue from copying and producing a great deal of irrelevant evidence.

Mr. A. Baring

considered it as a suspicious circumstance, that so much anxiety should be shewn that part of the evidence might not be produced. It would be a most irregular proceeding to permit the minutes of evidence to be garbled by a clerk; and even when the selection was made, it would give rise to a second discussion, whether the evidence had been garbled or not.

Mr. Robinson

observed, that it was the suggestion of the hon. chairman of the committee, that only part of the evidence should be produced. Indeed, if the whole of the minutes were laid on the table, the House would be trying anew the case as to the sitting members, which had already been decided by the committee. This would be a complete subversion of the Grenville Act.

Mr. Holme Sumner

conceived it would be extremely improper, to leave the business of selection to the clerk of the committee. He should propose, therefore, that the committee be reappointed, for the purpose of examining and deciding upon such parts of the evidence as they might think relevant to the matter on which they recommended the legislative interference of the House.

Mr. Cochrane Johnstone

asked, whether the minutes had not been copied out fair, and signed by the Chairman; and said it was most important that the whole of the minutes should be laid on the table, as he understood that very improper interference had been exercised by an illustrious personage.

Mr. Croker

said, when the hon. member should produce to the House any grounds for his assertion, it might be the subject of a legislative enactment; but the charge upon a member of the Upper House, for improper interference in the election of members of that House, shewed the danger of mixing the different motions.

Mr. Wrottesley

said, that the backwardness of gentlemen on the opposite side, to allow the production of the whole minutes, proved there was something that the House ought to be put in possession of: that the interference was probably so connected with the question, presented to their consideration, as not to be separated.

After a long conversation,

The Speaker

suggested, that whatever the House might do, they must have the papers on the table of the House. If the whole were to be inspected, the whole must be on the table; if a part were only to be inspected, that part must be on the table.

After some further conversation,

The Speaker

suggested there were two modes of meeting the apparent wishes of the House, to enable the committee to support their Report by evidence: either to get the entire of the minutes, and to deliver them immediately to the committee, to enable them to amend their report, or to refer the Report back to the committee, which should be constituted a committee for that purpose, with the ordinary powers of sending for persons, papers, and records.

After some farther discussion it was ordered, on a division, that the Report be referred back to the Committee, with powers to send for persons, papers, and records.