HC Deb 05 March 1819 vol 39 cc897-8
Mr. Abercromby

presented a petition from Thomas Spring Rice, esq. the unsuccessful petitioner, against the return of the sitting member for the city of Limerick. He believed there was but one feeling in the House as to the hardship of the petitioner's case. The petitioner, however, did not now come forward with any expectation of redress, but to draw the attention of the House to the defective state of the existing law.

Sir John Newport

knew not whether redress could be given to the petitioner; but it became him to say, that provision should be made to prevent a recurrence of such a case in future. The act said, that a copy of the poll, verified by the clerk of the peace, and deposited among the records, should be considered sufficient evidence. But, what he wished particularly to call the attention of the House to, was, that the committee had ordered the poll-clerk to be brought over. What would be the consequence of such a precedent? Thirty or forty poll-clerks would have to be called over from Ireland on every future petition against an election. He wished the decisions to be reduced to one definite rule, and not left to the discretion of a committee: he wished that the petitioners should not be left to as many conflicting opinions as there were members in the committee.

Colonel Barry

hoped that some legislative enactment would be made on the subject.

Mr. Sturges Bourne

was free to admit the excessive hardship of the petitioner's case; but there was no evidence before the committee that the poll-books were genuine, and though the petitioner requested that the committee would apply to adjourn for ten days, to enable him to procure witnesses from Ireland, yet the committee felt, that in yielding to this request they would have done injustice to the sitting members, who had witnesses in London at a great expense.

Mr. Abercromby

disclaimed all intention of making any illiberal remarks on the members of the committee. The tendency of his observations was, to amend the law.

Mr. Wynn

deprecated discussion on this subject at present. He thought that the petition, although it only prayed for the amendment of the law, implied a reflection on the committee. Fifteen gentlemen, sitting on oath, had come to a decision, and it was not fit that that decision should be questioned. It was at present inconvenient to discuss the propriety of amending the law, and it was at all events unnecessary, as the House had ordered the minutes, and notice had been given of a motion to amend the act.

Ordered to lie on the table.