HC Deb 30 May 1821 vol 5 cc1039-41
Mr. Stuart-Wortley

rose to submit a motion, the object of which was, to indemnify the Creditors of Mr. Christie Burton, member for Beverley in the last parliament, for loss occasioned to them by an order of that House, in support of its privileges. The House would recollect that Mr. Burton was confined in the Fleet for debt at the time of his election, and that he was shortly after set at liberty, in consequence of an application by letter to the Speaker. The creditors commenced an action against the warden of the Fleet for an escape, and that act was declared by the House to be a high breach of privilege; but the creditors were excused from attending at the bar of the House to answer for their conduct, on condition of withdrawing the suit. Now, as the law at present stood, when a party was released from a debt by a competent authority, there was an end to the debt. He had looked into the act of James 1st, which arose out of the case of sir T. Shirley, who was taken in execution, after he had taken his seat in that House. That act gave a power to the creditor to sue out execution again within a certain time after the privilege of the debtor had ceased, but the construction of the act applied only to persons who were taken in execution after their election, and not to those who were actually in execution at the time of their election. The amount of the debt due to these creditors of Mr. Burton was 1,000l. and the whole expenses which they had incurred might be estimated at 2,000l. more. Under all the circumstances, he should move, "That the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider of an Address to his Majesty to grant a sum of Money by way of compensation for the loss occasioned to certain Creditors of Mr. Christie Burton, member for Beverley in the last Parliament in support of Us Privileges." This he considered a mere act of justice to the individuals, but his object went still farther; for he wished hereafter to submit a substantive motion to the House for the purpose of rendering persons ineligible to a seat in that House who were actually in execution for debt at the time of their offering themselves as candidates.

Mr. Wynn

saw no reason whatever why Mr. Burton's creditors did not again arrest him, except that having on the former occasion had him for six years in custody, they thought it better now to risk an application to parliament than to proceed by a second arrest, after experiencing the inefficacy of the first. He was utterly at a loss to see what doubt could be raised upon the words of the act of James 1st. There could be no doubt that the creditors had their remedy still against Mr. Burton. With respect to the intention of the hon. member to render ineligible persons in execution for debt, he thought the qualification already required was a sufficient general control. That was, however, too grave a question, to be incidentally discussed. If such had been the law, the House could have been easily, in past times, deprived of the services of some of the greatest ornaments on both sides of it.

Mr. S. Wortley

maintained, that the act of James 1st confined the liability of being taken under a new writ to persons who were taken in execution subsequently to their election. In all the cases previous to that time, the persons declared to be entitled to privilege, had been arrested subsequently to their election. Mr. Burton had the means, if he chose, of paying his debts, for he was a man of considerable property. As to his six years confinement, it was merely nominal, for at the time of his supposed imprisonment, he had himself seen that gentleman at Doncaster races.

Mr. Baring

agreed that there was abundant reason for not granting any compensation to the individuals in question. He confessed, however, that he saw no difficulty in dealing with this privilege, as it was called, in such a way as would preserve what was valuable in it to the House, and at the same time prevent it from becoming a source of fraud between individuals. The present case was not the first of the kind; for some years ago an individual had succeeded in making his way out of the King's-bench through that House, and had afterwards quitted the kingdom. He thought there would be no difficulty in enacting, that if any member should plead privilege in exemption of arrest, within a given time after his election, his seat should become ipso facto void.

The motion was negatived.