HC Deb 25 May 1820 vol 1 cc530-3
Mr. P. Moore

presented a petition from Mr. Alderson, the agent of a number of electors of the town of Drogheda, which disclosed the following facts:—That James Sweeney, William Moore, and other voters, had, on the 8th of May, caused a petition to be presented to the House, complaining of the return of Henry Metcalfe, esq., to serve in parliament for the borough of Drogheda, and that the House had appointed Tuesday, the 6th of June, to consider the said petition. On the 8th of May, two sureties were ordered to be provided, who were to enter into recognizances for the prosecution of the said petition, in conformity with the act of the 53rd of his late majesty. On the 12th of May, the present petitioner received from Ireland the names of the proposed recognizances, which he immediately notified to the examiner. On Saturday last, he attended the said examiner according to notice, when Mr. Rowland, the agent of Mr. Metcalfe, put in several affidavits, denying the validity of the security which had been tendered. Not knowing whether the complaint extended to only one or to both of the securities, petitioner prayed for time to inquire into the fact, which was granted until this day. He now stated, that he believed the securities proffered to be good and valid; and if further time were given, and copies of the affidavits were allowed, he had no doubt that he could give a full and sufficient answer to the allegations that had been advanced against the securities. Petitioner had applied to Mr. Rowland for copies of the affidavits, which he had declined to grant; and, as considerable delay and expense might arise in getting copies from Ireland, petitioner stated that he had obtained other sureties, who were ready to enter into the necessary recognizances, if allowed to do so by that honourable House. Petitioner therefore prayed, either that he should be allow? time to adduce evidence and proof of the validity of the securities already offered, or that he might be allowed to propose other securities, who were now in readiness; such notice being given to the agent of the sitting member as might be deemed requisite by the House. One of the two branches of the petitioner's request should be granted. Either an opportunity should be given him to contradict the affidavits, or he should be allowed to bring forward the new securities whom he had provided. He therefore then moved, "That time till this day fortnight be allowed to complete the said recognizances."

Sir J. Stewart

was of opinion that this was a case which did not justify the introduction of a formal motion with respect to it. Neither of the individuals who had been proposed as securities were fit to be received in that capacity. One of them was in the service of an eminent distiller; and the other" was a young man, without house or property. These facts were sworn to by many respectable persons; the affidavits were on the table, and he could see no reason for re-examining those persons.

Sir J. Newport

observed, that the present petition was one of considerable importance to the electors in every part of Ireland. It must be quite manifest to the House, that the elections on the other side of the channel were, in various points of view, different from what they were here. It was much more easy to know, if securities were rejected, whether the grounds of rejection were good, when individuals were on the spot, than where they came from a distant part of the empire. The petitioner in the present instance stated, that he believed, or. examination, the sureties would be found satisfactory; and he wished to introduce other affidavits, contradicting the facts stated on the other side, for the purpose of correcting the impression they, seemed to have made on the examiner; or, if that were refused, he prayed that he might be allowed to bring forward other sureties, which appeared to him to be sufficiently valid. He rather drew the attention of the House to this question, because it was quite evident that considerable difficulties were thrown in the way of election petitioners on the other side of the Channel, which ought as much as possible to be removed. In Ireland, much too large a power devolved on the returning officers of the different districts. That great power which was thrown into the hands of the returning officer, in consequence of the difficulty that could be easily raised on the other side of the Channel, ought to be viewed with considerable jealousy. He said this from a personal knowledge of the fact, for he had found great difficulty in asserting his right in that House, and he had experienced all the obstructions thrown in the way of petitioners against elections in Ireland. This arose in a great measure from the removal of the seat of parliament to this city. He could speak practically as to the difficulties that were consequent on the extent of power now vested in the returning officer—a power which formerly could not be so exerted. He thought nothing could be more reasonable than the proposition, either to allow the petitioner to prove the validity of the securities already tendered, or to admit him to bring forward new securities. Under these circumstances he conceived the petitioner had a claim on the justice of the House, and therefore he should vote for the motion.

Mr. Wynn

said, that if the House allowed in this case time for offering new securities, they must allow it in every other case, and petitions might be presented to the House on the very last day of the period described for recognizances, in order to obtain further time to substantiate securities. He knew nothing of the securities in this case, but it appeared probable, from the statement of the hon. baronet, that they would be ultimately rejected. It was fair, however, to allow further time to produce affidavits to establish the securities already offered. The hon. gentleman referred to a decision of the House in a similar case last year.

The Speaker

said, that the case alluded to by the hon. member, referred only to further time for establishing the securities offered. The House were aware that the period allowed for entering into recognizances was 14 days; but in ail cases from Ireland, 14 days more were allowed for making the report to the House. In the case to which the hon. member had alluded, 14 days more had been asked for completing the recognizances. In this case the time would not expire till the 5th of June. The 14 days now required would extend that time three days farther. If the object was to give new securities, the case would he, without farther time, irremediable; hut, on the other hand, if the object was to make inquiry respecting the present securities, the petitioner had already to the 5th of June.

The motion was agreed to.