HC Deb 06 May 1833 vol 17 cc964-6
Mr. Faith-full

presented a Petition from the electors and other inhabitants of Chichester, signed by between 3,000 and 4,000 individuals, complaining that the Reform Act contained no efficient clause for the prevention of bribery and undue influence at election's of Members to serve in Parliament. The petitioners complained in particular of the system of bribery and treating at the last election, and that, one of the candidates on the hustings refused to pledge himself not to be a party to the proceedings,—that large sums of money were consequently expended in the contest, and that, owing to undue influence, many of the electors had been compelled to vote contrary to their consciences. The petitioners concluded by praying for Vote by Ballot, the shortening of the duration of Parliaments, and for a cheap and easy mode for the conviction of candidates guilty of bribery and treating at elections. The hon. Member said, that though he did not take upon himself to State that the allegations in the petition were true, yet he believed them to be so, particularly as the petitioners stated their readiness to prove them on oath; at all events, he was confident that the system prevailed to a great extent elsewhere, and as long as it was permitted to continue, it was a farce to talk of purity of election. If no other individual did so, he should himself submit a proposition to the House on a future day founded on this petition in the prayer of which he heartily concurred.

Lord Arthur Lennox

said, that he felt indebted to the hon. member for Brighton for the courtesy he had shown him in apprising him of his intention of presenting the petition from Chichester on that day, as it afforded him an opportunity of replying to those parts of it which might seem to cast an imputation on him. That considerable sums of money had been expended by candidates for Chichester, to promote their return, within the memory of the petitioners, was most perfectly true; but when he informed the House that there had been no less than five severely contested elections for that place within the last seven years, he was sure they would not be Surprised that such should have been the case; neither would they be astonished if, in the heat of these contests there should have been an unusual demand for a beverage, the consumption of which it was a favourite project of a late Parliament, and he might add too, a favourite project of a Reformed House of Commons, to promote; but when it was asserted that a system of beer-drinking and treating still continued to prevail in Chichester, he denied the assertion in the most positive and unqualified terms, so far as it might be considered as relating to him, or to any of his friends. He denied also, on his own behalf that undue influence had been used, or that any elector was ever compelled to vote for him contrary to his inclination or contrary to a promise previously given to any other candidate. He was proud to say, that he owed his seat not to bribery or corruption of any kind, not to undue influence, but to the free and unbiassed suffrages of as independent and high-minded a constituency as any in the United Kingdom. With regard to the prayer of the petitioners he dissented from that part of it which called upon the House to shorten the duration of Parliaments, and to enact that in future the votes of electors might be taken by Ballot but having as strong a feeling against bribery as any man he most cordially concurred in that part of it which asked the House to enact a law for the sure punishment, and easy and cheap conviction, of candidates guilty of that offence. He had felt it his duty to make these few observations, not only in justice to himself, but also in justice to those to whose good opinion he owed his seat; but when he looked at the names attached to the petition, and saw amongst them many supporters of his own, he could not believe that the imputations contained in the petition could be aimed at him.

Petition to the on the Table.

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