HC Deb 01 March 1819 vol 39 cc734-6
Sir T. Baring

brought up the report of the select committee on the petition of T. Spring Rice, esq. complaining of the election for the city of Limerick. It stated, that the sitting member, the hon. John. Prendergast Vereker, appeared to have been duly elected; but that the petition was not frivolous or vexatious.

Mr. N. Calvert

thought it right, as a member of the committee, to draw the attention of the House to the circumstances under which the decision contained in the report had been come to. The agent of the petitioner produced the poll-book before the committee. They called for a poll clerk, in order to verify certain votes. He had no reason to suppose that this objection would be made; but in consequence of it, applied for leave to send over for the poll clerk, who was living in Dublin. The committee would not grant permission, and so the petitioner's cause was lost. The determination was, in his opinion, harsh and severe: in consequence of it, no gentleman from Ireland was to look for justice henceforward, without bringing forward every individual poll clerk at the election, the expense of which would be enormous, since the poll clerks, not being persons in a very high state of life, dispersed themselves in different ways on the conclusion of an election. If the precedent were to be followed, no gentleman from Ireland would petition in future; and it would become the interest of every candidate, per fas aut nefas, to secure the returning officer in his favour, as the election would ultimately depend upon his discretion. He should at present, however, content himself with moving, That the Minutes of the Committee be laid before the House.

Sir T. Baring

said, the votes had not been proved by the best evidence the case would admit of. Neither the poll clerk nor sheriff had been brought before the committee. The only evidence the person who had the poll book could give was, that he had received it in a sealed parcel from the town clerk of Limerick, but of its contents he knew nothing. He would allow, however, that the case was a very hard one on the Irish members, and he should willingly go a great length in allowing them to authenticate votes in another manner. If the poll clerk of every barony was obliged to attend, it might be necessary to bring over eighteen or twenty of them.

Mr. S. Bourne

asked, whether the poll book had been produced by the person to whose custody it had been intrusted?

Mr. Wynn

was hostile to discussing in the House a point decided on by a committee, but he thought the correctness of their decision questionable, and quoted two precedents that seemed to impeach it.

Mr. Abercromby

was aware that there was great inconvenience in discussing such a question before the House. All must think, that a case of greater hardship than the present had never occurred. He had inquired into the particulars of this case, because a similar one, in which he had been a member of the committee, had been, he understood, relied on as a precedent for the present decision. If that was so, it was impossible there could be a greater perversion, for the former case was totally inapplicable to the presents He thought that there never was a decision more unjust, or more contrary both to reason and precedent, than the present.

The motion was agreed to.