HC Deb 17 January 1832 vol 9 cc560-3
Lord Ashley

said, that a Petition had been presented against his return for the county of Dorset, which he felt that it would be impossible for him to resist, without entailing upon himself expenses which he might find it inconvenient to discharge. In retiring from the Representation of that county he felt it necessary to observe, that he did it, not from any fear of the result of an examination before an election Committee, but from a fear of the pecuniary inconveniences to which that examination might render him liable. He was not afraid of any attacks that could be made, either upon him or upon his return. He would declare, upon his word of honour as a gentleman, that he believed his return to be as good a return as ever had been made to that House; and he was convinced, that if he were to resist the petition presented against him, he could make that point clearly out to the satisfaction of all who heard him. But as that would involve him in expenses which he could not conveniently discharge, he felt that the best thing which he could do was, to yield to necessity, for it was necessity, and nothing else, that drove him, on this occasion, from the field. He had been informed that the county intended to intercede for him, but of that he knew nothing. With the permission of the Speaker he would move that the paper, which he then handed in should be read to the House.

The paper read as follows:— To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled: I, the Honourable Anthony Ashley Cooper, commonly called Lord Ashley, the sitting Member, elected and returned a Knight of the Shire to serve in this present Parliament for the county of Dorset, do hereby declare and notify to your Honourable House, that it is not my intention to defend my election or return against the petition of John Fisher, Thomas Brown, William Daniel Champ, William Mortlock, Thomas Stevens, and James Loveridge, which was presented to your Honourable House on the 7th day of December last; and I do hereby acknowledge this to be my declaration, subscribed by me, and delivered at the Table of your Honourable House, pursuant to the provisions of an Act passed in the ninth year of the reign of his late Majesty, King George IV, intituled 'An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the trial of controverted elections or returns of Members to serve in Parliament.' As witness my hand, this 17th day of January, one thousand eight hundred and thirty two.

The order for submitting this petition to an Election Committee on the 24th of January, was then discharged. On the question that it be taken into consideration on Thursday, the 1st of March,

Mr. Hume

said, that never since he had been in Parliament had he heard any statement which more clearly and forcibly proved the necessity of a Reform in Parliament than the statement which had just come from the lips of the noble Lord. The county of Dorset was divided in opinion. The noble Lord had stated upon his word of honour, that if he had the means he could prove the justness of his return, and defend himself from the petition to which his declaration referred, but that he dared not encounter the enormous expense of doing so. If ever there was an unanswerable argument for Reform, this was one. He called on the opponents of all Reform to say, whether the statement just now made by their noble colleague did not imperiously call for some Reform to be made, lessening the expense of contested elections, and by enabling counties to continue in their seats the men whom they deemed best fitted to act as their Representatives. If the present Reform Bill did not embrace this point, he hoped that Ministers would see from this transaction, that it was necessary for them to prepare forthwith a bill which would enable them to accomplish that object.

Sir Charles Wetherell

observed, that the memory of the hon. member for Middlesex served him as treacherously upon this subject as it had done a few minutes ago upon the Act which he had introduced to abolish the payment of fees upon Commissions from the Crown. If the hon. Member would take the trouble of looking into the Bill, he would find that it did contain provisions on the subject. As it was so soon to come before the Committee, he did not see the necessity of alluding to the Reform Bill on a question relative to the Dorsetshire election. He had been convinced, long before the Reform Bill was introduced, of the necessity of some measures for diminishing the expenses of elections. On that point he was nearly as strong a Reformer as the hon. member for Middlesex himself. But, because there was one principle which the most decided Anti-reformers never opposed, the hon. Member's logic would infer that the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, must be a good Bill, because there was an agreement between all parties as to the necessity of diminishing the expense of county elections. Upon another point the hon. Member's recollection was not so accurate as it generally was. He did not seem to recollect, that under the Reform Bill there would be no counties left; there would be only parts and divisions of counties.

Mr. Hunt

said, the hon. Member ought to point out where the Reform Bill would lessen the expense of elections. He hoped the Government would introduce a clause for that purpose, for in his honest opinion, unless that was done there would be more contested elections and greater expense under the Reform Bill than by the existing system.

The order for the consideration of the Petition on the 24th of January discharged.