HC Deb 24 May 1814 vol 27 cc1019-20
Mr. Lockhart

stated the great hardship and injury which the high bailiff of Westminster had sustained, in consequence of not being able to recover the expences of erecting hustings, at Covent-garden, for the two last elections for Westminster. As the returning officer for that populous city, he was compelled, by act of parliament, to erect a hustings and provide poll-clerks, under a penalty for his neglect; and the Act said, he should recover the money so expended from the candidates. Sir F. Burdett had, however, refused to pay his quota; and the high bailiff, in trying to recover it by law, had been nonsuited, and put to the expence of a sum not much short 2,000l., the court of law having determined, that sir Francis had shewn he was not a candidate. He, therefore, moved, that the Petition of the high bailiff be referred to a committee, who should report their opinion and observations to the House.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

saw no reason why the high bailiff should be re-imbursed by the public. He understood that he had given a considerable sum for his place, and he believed had got a very hard bargain; but he could not see why the public should pay for the misconstruction of an act of parliament, in bringing an action against a person as a candidate, who really was not a candidate. But though he could not recover against him, he might recover against the other two, who were candidates. As such, he should object to the motion.

Mr. Bathurst

said, the misconstruction was in the legislature who passed the Act, and had unfortunately compelled the high bailiff under a penalty, to erect hustings, &c. and to look to the candidates for reimbursement. Now it turned out, that a man might be elected without being a candidate. He thought the House ought in justice and fairness to agree to a committee.

Mr. Wrottesley

thought it would be acting on a wrong principle, and would introduce a bad precedent, to reimburse the high bailiff's expences, and therefore should vote against it.

Mr. H. Thornton

was of opinion, that as the legislature had compelled the high bailiff under a penalty to incur certain expences, and had, from a defeat in its enactment, prevented him from recovering against the candidate, as it professed to do, the House ought to agree to a committee. He observed, that a similar circumstance had taken place at the last Southwark election; where, on account of one of the candidates refusing to pay a part, the others also had refused to pay the whole expence.

Mr. Harvey

approved of a committee; and observed, that it was not necessary the committee should give an opinion on the question of remuneration, but on the whole of the case.

Mr. Bankes

contended, that the case of Southwark was very different, as the expence ought to fall on those who were really the candidates. He was against the motion.

Mr. Lushington

thought the House should indemnity the returning officer for his expences; and if all the sheriffs of England were placed, at the same time, in the same predicament, they would have the same claim for being indemnified.

Mr. Peter Moore

thought that if the officer acted under a misconstruction of the Act, he ought to be indemnified.

Mr. Lockhart

said, it was a part of the duty of the returning officer to prevent confusion by the erection of hustings, and by making other arrangements. If he was not indemnified either by the House or by the candidates, the consequence would be, that such arrangements would be neglected, and riot and confusion would be the consequence.

The House then divided on the motion—For it, 26; Against it, 17;—Majority,9.