HC Deb 08 July 1828 vol 19 cc1643-5

Mr. Spring Rice brought up the Report of this Bill.

Mr. Fyler

considered the bill an unjustifiable interference with vested rights. Corporations were meant to possess political influence, and that influence ought to be maintained by the legislature. Lord Ellenborough had said, that as the funds of corporations had been purchased by: their members, or had been granted by the Crown without any definite restriction, he did not see why a corporate body had not as much right to appropriate its funds as it pleased, as any individual. The right had never been shewn to be abused. In the case of Northampton, the sum had not been appropriated to election purposes without legal authority; and the case of Leicester was involved in some secret history not before the House. He should move that the report be received that day three months.

Colonel Sibthorpe

thought the bill an extremely harsh, ungenerous, and illiberal measure. It conveyed an imputation upon all corporations.

Mr. Spring Rice

defended the bill, and contended that its only object was to prevent interference with the freedom of election.

Mr. Ross

said, that the bill did not go on a general principle, but was intended for a particular purpose. He could not help thinking it very remarkable, that the former bill was brought in by the hon. member for Northampton, and the present bill by the hon. member for Leicester. In 1761, the Irish House of Commons decided, that the Corporation Funds of the city of Dublin ought to be applied to the repairing and making of roads: and instances were numerous of a similar application of Corporate Funds.

Mr. Maberly

defended his hon. relative from the attack which had been made upon him by the hon. member opposite (Mr. Ross), and charged in turn that hon. gentleman with participating himself in the Corporate Funds of Northampton. He hurled back upon the hon. gentleman, with the strongest feelings of contempt, those insinuations in which he had indulged at the expense of his hon. relative.

Mr. Ross

put it to the House whether such language was at all sanctioned by parliamentary usage.

Mr. Maberly

owned he had been betrayed too far by his feelings, and retracted the expression.

Mr. D. Gilbert

thought it would be a great improvement if corporate bodies were obliged, at stated periods, to publish their accounts. But, at the same time, he thought it would be wrong if the King's-bench, or any other court, should be suffered to control the funds of corporate bodies. He supported the bill, on the ground that corporations were trustees, and that, to employ Corporate Funds for election purposes, was a misapplication of the money committed to their hands.

Mr. G. Bankes

was adverse to the principle and to the details of the bill, more especially to the clause subjecting any member of a corporation, who proposed a grant of money for election purposes, to a fine of 100l. and expulsion. Supposing the whole body, or some of the members, of a corporation to be accused of offences which had no foundation in truth, would it not be a great hardship if, collectively or individually, they could not defend themselves, by means of their Corporate Fund?

Mr. Hudson Gurney

said, it seemed to him that the hon. member who spoke last but one, had put the question on its true grounds. He thought that no funds could find their way to corporations, but as the public property, and as such they ought to be protected. He was friendly to corporations, thinking them, as he did, the best system of government for large places; but unwatched and unchecked, they would be sorry trustees of public property. He would support the public, though he could have wished to have seen it in a more perfect shape. He trusted that the House of Lords would make such improvements in it as it required.

Mr. Trant

could not consent to the establishing of a new law on this subject, unless it went a great deal further, and declared it illegal not only for corporations, but for all combinations to supply money to procure the return of members. Was the hon. member for Limerick prepared to say, that the Catholic rent ought not to be applied to electioneering purposes? He conceived that corporations had just as much right to assist candidates in becoming members of parliament, as any other persons.

The House divided: For the Amendment 11: Against it 30: Majority 19.