HC Deb 14 December 1830 vol 1 cc1119-23

The minutes of the evidence taken before the Evesham Election Committee having been presented by Mr. Dyson,

Mr. A. Duncombe

moved, that the evidence be printed. Two objections had been made to this course by the hon. Chairman of the committee; the first on the ground of expense. Now, God forbid that he should be the means of expending one shilling of the public money in an unnecessary manner, or that he should not always be an advocate for retrenchment, yet he thought that in the present case the House and the country would not only bear him out as to the propriety of his Motion, but that they would even demand that the evidence should be printed, if he had made no proposition to that effect. As to the second objection to his Motion —namely, that it evinced a want of confidence in Ministers, who had pledged themselves to reform, he replied, that he gave them entire credit for the sincerity of their professions, and conceived, that he was only co-operating with them in bringing forward the case of a borough, in which there were 426 voters, a number in reference to which nothing was distinguishable but one mass of corruption. At the same time, he frankly admitted, that he was no reformer, in the sweeping acceptation of the term. He expressed his astonishment at the Chairman of the committee having last night moved the issuing of a new Writ, at a moment when the consideration of the evidence might have the effect of leading to the disfranchisement of the borough. The hon. Chairman had moved for the postponement of the further consideration of the Report of the committee till Thursday, conscious, as he must have been, that a new Writ having been issued in the meanwhile, a fresh election must take place. Thus the damage would be done, and the question of a deprivation of the franchise could not be raised.

The Speaker

, before putting the question on the Motion, observed, that on no occasion since the passing of the Grenville Act had the House taken on itself to stop the issue of a Writ, when a Member was unseated by the decision of an Election Committee, unless the committee had reported its opinion as to the state of the borough. No such report had been made in the present case, and it had always been a matter of course and duty, the House being acquainted with a vacancy in the Representation from the constitutional and statutable authorities, which alone had cognizance of the fact, immediately to issue a Writ.

Mr. Wells

thought, that the bribery merely extended to out votes.

Mr. Maberly

said, there could be no charge made against the Chairman for moving as he had done, he not. having been instructed by the committee to do otherwise than present the Report as it stood, and as it was then laid upon the Table of the House. He thought it rather strange that the minority should now come forward and seek to interrupt the regular course of proceeding in the House, for the purpose of defeating the majority. The matter in dispute, the nature of the Report to be made, for or against corruption, had been regularly debated and decided, and the committee did not report that the borough was corrupt.

The Marquis of Chandos

said, he should move by way of Amendment on the Motion of the hon. Member, that there be a Super-sedeas on the issuing of the Writ, or that a suspension of its operations do take place until after the printing of the evidence, and the further consideration of the Report of the committee.

Mr. Ellice

suggested, that it would be better if the noble Lord would give notice of his Motion for Thursday, for which day the further consideration of the Report was fixed. There was no precedent for suspending the operation of a Writ under such circumstances as the present.

Mr. Buller

had carefully attended to the whole case during its progress, and did not think that the evidence warranted the committee in adopting such a strong course as that of reporting its opinion of the corrupt state of the borough. It was only proved, that' about twenty-five out-voters out of, he believed a total number of 450, had been guilty of corruption.

Mr. A. Duncombe

, in reference to the remark of the hon. member for Abingdon, explained, that the Chairman of the committee gave the casting vote against reporting on the state of the borough.

Mr. F. Baring

said, the question before the House was, on the printing of the Minutes, and of the Motion for suspending the Writ, which came before them in the form of an Amendment: he begged to say, that he thought it ought to be brought forward upon notice.

Lord G. Lennox

said, that entire and total corruption prevailed in the borough of Evesham, and gave as an instance, that one respectable person had refused to vote for one of the returned candidates, giving as a reason, that that gentleman had not paid him the 10l. which had been promised at a former election.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

could not see any objection to suspending the new Writ until after the evidence and the Report of the committee had been considered. He expressed his surprise at hearing the hon. member for Coventry, and another hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Treasury Bench, object to the noble Lord's Motion on technical grounds, especially when it was considered that the present Government was pledged to reform.

Mr. Ellice

explained. So far from wishing to interfere in the matter, his only wish was, that the matter should be set right with the House. He neither desired to oppose the suspension of the Writ, nor the printing of the evidence. He cared not how the House might dispose of it; his only object in recommending postponement was, that the matter should have a fuller and fairer discussion in being brought forward after the evidence was in the hands of hon. Members.

Mr. Bolton Clive

observed, that corruption had only been proved against twenty-two electors, and he thought it would be a severe measure of justice to disfranchise 456 voters on account of the offences of two-and-twenty. Common rumour prenounced the borough to be corrupt; but the mode now proposed was not the proper mode of dealing with boroughs which were looked upon as corrupt merely upon the ground of common rumour. With the case proved against it, it would have been only a waste of the time of the House to attempt to deprive it of the elective franchise; for sure he was, that no disfranchisement bill, would be permitted to pass either Lords or Commons upon the evidence brought before the committee. At the same time, if the noble Lord wished for the suspension of the Writ, he saw no objection to it.

The Speaker

said, the question ought properly to be confined to the printing of the evidence. The noble Lord might, if he so thought fit, move for a Supersedeas, or move for the suspension of the operation of the Writ, or he might give notice, and make a motion to that effect on Thursday, when the evidence would be printed, and in the hands of Members. It would be just as easy for him then to move the Supersedeas, or the suspension, as it was at the present moment, and more in accordance with rules of order, for it could not but be obvious that the present discussion was premature.

The Marquis of Chandos gave notice, that on Thursday he should move that the operation of the Writ be suspended.

The evidence ordered to be printed.

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