HC Deb 14 July 1835 vol 29 cc583-98
Mr. Rigby Wason

rose to submit the Motion of which he had given notice, "That the Petitions from Great Yarmouth, presented 26th and 30th June, alleging, among other things, that the sum of two guineas had been lately paid to many of the voters at the house of one of the most active partisans in behalf of the sitting Members, and humbly and earnestly praying that the House will cause an inquiry to be made into the circumstances stated in the Petitions, and that they be referred to a Select Committee." In support of the Motion, the hon. Gentleman, in the first place, read the resolution of the House against bribery. He then went on to state, that the Petitions were signed by 1,370 persons, and that the allegations of bribery were set forth in the strongest and most decided terms. The appointment of the Committee would not affect the return of the sitting Members; and, unless the resolution he had read were intended to be regarded merely as a dead letter, he contended that the House could not refuse to accede to his Motion.

Mr. Praed

said, that having distinctly understood from the hon. Member, at an earlier hour in the evening, that it was not his intention to bring forward his Motion that night—

Mr. Rigby Wason

begged to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. He had given no such pledge.

Sir Frederick Trench

could only say, that he had put the question to the hon. Gentleman himself, as to whether he would bring his Motion on that night, and the reply was, "Certainly not."

Mr. Rigby Wason

declared he had not given a positive answer to the question. His reply was conditional. When the question was put to him, he certainly said he did not much expect to have the opportunity of bringing forward the Motion, because he looked upon the Baron de Bode's question as a Burking question, having, within his own experience, known the House counted out two or three times upon that question.

Sir Frederick Trench

repeated, that the hon. Member's reply to his question was "Certainly not."

Colonel Lowther

had, also, understood the hon. Gentleman to state positively that it was not his intention to bring forward the Motion that night.

Mr. Praed

would only suggest to the hon. Gentleman, that if on any other occasion he should have a Motion of this description to bring forward, strongly affecting the character and reputation of individuals, it would be very desirable that he should use no expression whatever calculated to convey to the minds of any who heard him a doubt as to the course he might intend to pursue. Had he (Mr. Praed) been aware that it was the hon. Gentleman's intention to persist in bringing forward his Motion, he should have been prepared to show how the Petition in question had been got up. He could state, however, from his own knowledge, that it was signed by persons not inhabitants of Great Yarmouth—not members of the constituency of that borough; that it was signed, in fact, by a very small minority of the constituency, and principally by persons wholly unconnected with the town. He (Mr. Praed) was extremely sorry that the suggestion of his hon. Colleague for printing the names of the parties whose names were attached to the Petition had not been complied with, because it would have been the means of showing to the world who those petitioners were, and how little connexion the majority of them had with the town of Great Yarmouth. Had his hon. Friend's suggestion been acted upon, he believed that the names of several Members, distinguished on both sides of that House, would have been found amongst the signatures. As the result of the Motion, however it might be determined, was not likely to affect his (Mr. Praed's) seat, he should deal with it as one in which he had no individual concern; and looking upon it in that light, he would beg to ask the House how such a Motion could be entertained? The offences alleged in the Petition, if they had really taken place, were cognizable by the courts of law. With what consistency, then, or with what propriety, could they be brought before a Committee of that House? Was it to be established as a precedent that Committees of that House were to usurp the functions of the courts of law, or was it to be laid down as a principle that, at the suggestion of an individual Member of Parliament, the courts of justice were to be passed by, and an appeal to be made to a Select Committee of the House of Commons? What was the object proposed in appointing the Committee? The hon. Gentleman had declared that it was not to displace the sitting Members—that it was not to affect them in any respect. What, then, was its object? To prove that bribery had been committed at the last election. A fact, of course, that could in no respect affect the sitting Members. It would not cost the sitting Members their seats, but, supposing the allegations to be proved, and in disproof of them the sitting Members were to have no opportunity of appearing either by counsel or witnesses, it was to go forth to the world that they had been guilty of direct and extensive bribery. That was a circumstance which, according to the hon. Member for Ipswich, could in no way affect them. He contended that there was no precedent for such a proceeding; and he said further, that a vote, appointing a Committee under such circumstances, and for such purposes, whatever the merits, or whatever the truth of the case might be, could be dictated by nothing but the feeling of party, which, in a case of judicial investigation like the present, ought to be the last feeling upon which the House should act.

Mr. Pryme

said, that if any doubt upon die subject had previously existed in his mind, the speech of the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Praed) would convince him that the House ought to grant the Committee; inasmuch as that the hon. Gentleman's observations involved no denial of the fact of the distribution of money.

Mr. Praed

would never come forward to state a fact as a witness in that House, upon a point which affected himself personally. The hon. Gentleman would hardly take his silence upon the point as a proof of the guilt of others.

Mr. Williams Wynn

contended that if the Motion were acceded to, the House would be giving greater advantages to the Petitioners than under any other circumstances they could have. They would be permitted to proceed without incurring the responsibility of petitioners in an ordinary election case. There was nothing, except the case of Stafford, which could be at all cited as a precedent, for the course they were asked to take. Committees to inquire into bribery had always, in that House, been the consequence of a special report of an election Committee. The hon. Gentleman opposite said, he did not propose to affect the seats of the present Members, but see what the result would be. It was true that this Committee could not declare the seats void, nor could the House, in consequence of the Report; but if it were shown in evidence that the hon. Members had been guilty of bribery, his opinion was, that such a gross violation of the privileges of the House would be a ground for their expulsion. Supposing the Report of the House to state, that plain cases of bribery could be brought home to the sitting Members, what was the House to do? Would not the House be bound to direct the prosecution of the Members? and, then, if they were convicted by a court of justice, would it be possible for the House, with a due regard to its own respectability, to suffer men so convicted to continue to hold their seats? It was clear, then, that the seats of hon. Gentlemen might be affected by the inquiry. He should say, let the petitioners, in the first instance, proceed in the courts of justice. It was impossible, if the bribery took place as described in the petition, that there was not somebody who could be prosecuted. Proceedings at law might be pending at that moment. It was not for the House to grant a Committee to sweep together evidence for these penal prosecutions in the courts of law.

Mr. Aglionby

could not conceal his surprise at the ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman rested his opposition to the Motion. In his (Mr. Aglionby's) view of the subject, the only question to be considered was, whether the House had or had not the power of appointing such a Committee as that moved for. If it had the power, there could be no doubt as to the propriety of exercising it. The course pursued by the House in the cases of Liverpool and Stafford, where Select Committees were appointed to investigate allegations of bribery, afforded, in his opinion, direct and satisfactory precedents for the course now proposed to be pursued in the case of Great Yarmouth.

Mr. Thomas Baring

would not detain the House more than two minutes. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Wason) ad stated that the petition was signed by 1,370 persons. Now, in Great Yarmouth there were 1,040 freemen, of whom only 186 had signed the petition. He presumed that that cheer meant to say, that the freemen were not very likely to sign it. There were 576 ten-pound householders in the borough, and of them only 171 had signed the petition. So that, of 1660 electors, it appeared that only 357 had attached their names to the petition. A great many of the persons said, that they signed the petition without knowing what it was, and others said, that they never signed it at all, and that their names were put to the petition without their knowledge. There were other forgeries—O'Connell's name appeared twice, Robert Peel's twice, Stanley's once, and one name appeared seven times. These were names which none of the inhabitants of Yarmouth knew any thing of. If, therefore, this were taken into consideration as the Petition of Great Yarmouth, the House would act under a serious mistake.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that he should give his vote against the appointment of a Committee upon this ground—that the effect of such an appointment would be gradually to undermine the force of that tribunal which had been founded for the express purpose of securing equality and impartiality in the decisions of that House. The hon. Member who cheered might doubt whether the tribunal had that effect; and if the hon. Member would show him that any other system could be devised, by which the character of the House could be sustained for the impartiality of its decisions on election cases, he should be glad to adopt it. He was not contending that the present tribunal was the best for that purpose, but was simply stating, that the object of it was to do away with the scandal of former times, which was practically found to result from leaving these matters to be decided under the influence of party feeling in this House. If petitions, such as that now before the House were made the subjects of special inquiry, the House would be virtually doing away with the Grenville Act, and taking from the proceedings of election Committees the sanction of an oath, which only Committees under that Act could administer. What was the fact with regard to the Committee on the Liverpool case? They had no power to compel the attendance of Members; and he believed that not three Members regularly attended that Committee. But under the Grenville Act a regular attendance could be enforced. Supposing, however, the Committee to be appointed, what was to be its object. It was not to try the right of a Member to a particular seat, but to decide on the existence of the elective franchise of the borough; and this on the allegations contained in a petition which had been signed twice, and in one case seven times by the same person. Having once sanctioned this Committee, where would the House stop? You cannot draw the line at a petition signed by 1,300 or 1,000. The principle on which you go will just as well, as far as I can see, justify you in taking a similar course with one signed by 100, or even a smaller number. And see who are they on whose allegations you are about to take this step. They are wholly irresponsible, and have not even the risk of incurring any expense if they do not succeed in making good their allegations; and yet, on such grounds as these, you establish a precedent by which the franchise of any city or borough in the country may be put in jeopardy. This was a serious, and in practice a very embarrassing proceeding. In addition to the Grenville Act, the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) had passed a Resolution which entirely met a case of this kind. For where a petition had been postponed for fourteen days after the return of the writ, the Resolution gave the parties who could allege the fact of bribery having been committed, leave to present a petition to the House within twenty-eight days after the fact alleged was said to have taken place. But in the present case the parties did not come forward within twenty-eight days. Again, as well under the Resolution of the noble Lord asunder the Grenville Act, the parties incurred some responsibility; but they were now about to open a mode of investigation which dispensed with all responsibility. He would venture to say, that if this precedent should be established the two former course would no longer be acted upon, but that parties, taking the choice of destroying the elective franchise without any risk, this would be the only course resorted to. Under these circumstances, and believing that no case existed which could be made a precedent for this Motion—believing that if they once adopted this there would be no limit as to the numbers on whose allegations a similar charge plight be brought, that it might be 1,300 or not 100; believing also that this precedent would bring back the most objectionable practice of deciding election matters rather with reference to the interests of political parties than to the intrinsic merits of the case, he must, if this case went to a division, give his vote against the Motion.

Lord John Russell

would shortly state the grounds on which he should give a vote different from that of the right hon. Baronet. He had long been of opinion, and he had stated that opinion many years ago to the House, that the Act called the renville Act, while it provided a tribunal where one, less just certainly, before existed, to decide the question between private parties as to which of two Candidates ought to have the seat, yet it provided an inadequate and insufficient tribunal before which the public when aggrieved by cases of gross bribery and corruption could obtain redress. He remembered when he first mooted this question, quoting the case which was formerly brought before the House, now more than a century ago, by Sir Edward Seymour. On that occasion, gross bribery, in several boroughs, was inquired into, and the parties being proved guilty, were brought to the Bar of the House; and the thanks of the House were given, by the Speaker, to Sir Edward Seymour, who said, that he deserved the thanks of the country for the course he had pursued. The right hon. Baronet had said, that possibly defects did exist in the present system. He begged to say, that he had not been wanting in his endeavours to supply those defects. He had more than twice succeeded in carrying Bills through nearly all their stages to cure those defects. Two Bills had been taken up to the House of Lords, having that for their object: one was rejected on the ground of its being too late in the Session to pass it; and the other came back to the Commons so altered, and containing provisions so entirely new, and so inconsistent with the privileges of this House, that he was unable to obtain the assent of the House to the Amendments. Nor did he think it likely that anything he could devise would be at once acceptable to this, and be sanctioned by the other House of Parliament. Then in the present state of the law, and while they were not capable of obtaining the assent of Parliament to a sufficient remedy, ought the House of Commons; he would ask, to allow gross cases of bribery to be brought before them, and to be permitted to pass unpunished, because the general law was not sufficient to reach them? Undoubtedly a due degree of caution must be used; nor ought they to institute inquiries lightly, and upon petitions brought forward for party purposes. If it had been shown, that this was a petition of such a kind, and that it really did not come from any person entitled to relief from this House, he would admit that it would in that case be neither fair to the House itself, nor to the Representatives of Yarmouth, that they should enter into the inquiry. But the hon. Member for Yarmouth had himself made out a sufficient case in support of the present Motion; for he said that 171 ten-pound householders had signed the petition, and that more than 350 persons having a right to vote for the Members of Great Yarmouth had also signed it. Considering the circumstances, this was a very great number. He could suppose a borough which, by the influence of bribery, might be reduced to that state, that you would not find twenty persons having the right to vote who would venture to sign a petition for inquiry: and yet if there were those twenty, or even if only ten, he thought it might be right, upon their specific allegations, to enter into an inquiry. He did not wish the House to sanction the creation of precedents of this kind. But in the case of Stafford, he thought the House had acted with great propriety. Upon the precedent formed by that case, a Bill had been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckingham, and he had not heard any objection made to that Bill on that ground; therefore, if any sanction were required for the present Motion, it was to be found in the precedent established last year. By adopting this Motion, they would be supporting the general privileges and purity of this House. But if they were to set the precedent of last year aside, and establish one of an opposite kind, and determine that no case of bribery which came before them should be treated in any other manner than the mode prescribed by the Grenville Act, it would be imputed to them by the public generally, and with some justice, that while they took especial pains to secure the particular rights of Members, and of candidates for the honour of a seat in the House of Commons, they were exceedingly careless with respect to the general purity of that body upon which the representation of the House itself rested. For I these reasons, he should vote for the Motion.

Mr. Evelyn Denison

supported the Motion. The petition alleged that a certain sum of money was paid to electors at great Yarmouth, and that was a fact which he thought ought to be inquired into.

Viscount Sandon

opposed the Motion. As to the Liverpool Committee, he knew one Member of it who said he never read one word of the defence, and heard but part of the case of the petitioners. What would the country say when such a case as this was to be forced, in opposition to all precedent and justice, by a party who happened to possess a majority? Was a question of this sort to be made a point for party, for majorities or minorities? If so, then no constituency was safe. If the Committee were granted, the parties, whether they were successful or not, would be allowed all their expenses out of the public funds. Was the Chancellor of the Exchequer such an economist as to grant the public money for this purpose? The tribunal was an unfair one. When the noble Lord brought forward his resolution he should have directed the Committee to be a sworn Committee, and the parties to enter into recognizances to maintain their own case at their peril.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the Liverpool Committee had for its object to check corruption, and it did check it, as by the admission of the noble Lord on another occasion there had been no bribery since. If the electors of Yarmouth were so pure and so calumniated why was there not a counter petition? Why no denial of the present petition?—and there was time enough for it. He admired the delicacy of the Member for Yarmouth in saying, that he would not say a word about bribery—that he knew nothing about it. If the House refused a Committee, they would be protecting bribery. Bribery was a horrible thing, but it was more horrible that it should go forth to the public that the House refused inquiry. The fact of bribery at Yarmouth was not denied—171 persons allege of their own knowledge that it was committed; that it was a practice up to the last election. It was said, the proposed Committee was an infringement on the Grenville Act. But the Grenville Act was bad, as it was notorious that Members were canvassed to attend the ballot, and that the canvassing went on on both sides openly. Any Committee was had where there was a chance of an overwhelming majority being given to one party. In the present Committee, care would be taken that no party had such a preponderance. It was clear that his name or that of the right hon. Baronet was inserted in the petition by no friend to it. It was easy to insert names clandestinely in such a petition.

Sir Thomas Fremantle

denied, that this case could be compared to the case of Stafford. When the parties in that case refused to proceed it was not consistent with the dignity of the House to allow the matter to stop. The hon. Baronet then adverted to the Hertford case of last year, and asked the noble Lord (Russell) why it was that after gross bribery had been proved in that case he had not brought the matter before the House upon the noble Lord's Own resolution of which he (Sir Thomas Fremantle) altogether approved.

Viscount Howick

observed, that if it happened that parties prosecuting an election petition on the ground of bribery, afterwards made a compromise, there was no method whatever under the existing state of the law by which the honour and dignity of the House could be vindicated, or those who had violated its privileges be punished. It was absolutely necessary, therefore, to institute an inquiry by the House itself. Was it a sufficient reason not to have an inquiry that there was no party sufficiently interested to incur all the vexation and expense of prosecuting a private election petition! If the House refused inquiry upon no other ground than this, the public would have a fair right to believe that they were not anxious to put a stop to bribery and corruption. With these feelings he gave his most hearty acquiescence to the Motion. The House divided, when there appeared,

For the Motion, 186; Against it, 132; Majority in favour of it, 54.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Admiral Barnard, E. G.
Alston, R. Brotherton, J.
Aglionby, H. A. Bodkin, J. J.
Astley, Sir J, Butler, Colonel
Attwood, T. Blake, M. J.
Bagshaw, J. Baldwin, Dr.
Bannerman, D. Biddulph, R.
Blackburne, J. Brocklehurst, J.
Bowes, J. Brodie, W. B.
Barron, H. W. Buckingham, J. S.
Berkeley, C. Bewes, T.
Berkeley, F. Bridgman, H.
Baines, E. Blamire, W.
Bowring, Dr. Buller, C.
Bellew, R. M. Blackstone, W. S:
Bellew, Sir P. Browne, D.
Byng, H. G. Murray, J. A.
Brady, D. C: Maule, Hon. F.
Byng, G. Majoribanks, S.
Codrington, Sir E. Milton, Lord
Chalmers, P. Mackenzie, J. A. S.
Chichester, J. P. B: Morrison, J.
Cavendish,— Marsland, H.
Chapman, M. L. M'Cance, J.
Clive, E. B. Maher, J.
Cave, O. M'Taggart, J.
Clay, W. Marshall, W.
Collier, J. Nagle, Sir R.
Cayley, E. S. O'Connor, Don
Carter, J. B. O'Connell, D.
Clayton, Sir W. R. O'Connell, J.
Crawford, S. O'Connell, M. J.
Denison,— O'Loghlen, M.
Dunlop, C. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Dunlop, J. Oliphant, L.
Dundas, Hon. T. Oswald, J.
Denistoun, A. Palmerston, Lord
Dykes, F. L. Parker, J.
Davenport, J. Parrott, J.
Ebrington, Lord Pinney, W>
Euston, Lord Plumptre, J. P.
Ewart, W. Ponsonby, J.
Evans, G. Ponsonby, W.
Egerton, Sir P. D. M. Potter, R.
Elphinstone, H. Philips, M.
Finn, W. F. Pryme, E.
Ferguson, R. Pelham, Hon. A.
Fitzsimon, N. Pendarves, E. W.
Fergus, John Pattison, J.
Ferguson, Sir Ronald Pease, J.
Folkes, Sir W. Power, W.
Forster, C. S. Russell, Lord
Fitzroy, Lord C. Russell, Lord C. J.
Gordon, R. Russell, Lord J.
Grattan, H. Rice, Rt. Hon. T. S.
Grote, G. Rolfe, Sir R.
Gaskell, D. Roche, W.
Gillon, W. D. Ronayne, D.
Gully, J. Raphael,—
Heneage, E, Rundle, J.
Harland, W. C. Ruthven, E. S.
Mutt, W. Ruthven, E.
Howick, Lord Ramsbottom, J.
Hay, Colonel Spiers, A.
Howard, E. Spiers, A., jun.
Hodges, T. Sheil, R. L.
Hume, J. Smith, V.
Howard, Captain Sandford, A.
Hindley, C. Strutt, E.
Heathcoat, J. Stanley, E. J.
Hawkins, J. H. Stuart, R.
Hall, B. Stuart, Lord J.
Ingham, R. Sheldon, E. R. C.
Jervis, J. Smith, B.
Kerry, Lord Stewart, P.
Leader, J.T. Scholefield, J.
Lennard, T. B. Scott, Sir E.
Lennox, Lord G. Tracy, H.
Lemon, Sir C. Troubridge, Sir T.
Lefevre, S. Tancred, H. W.
Loch, J. Thornley, T.
Lister, C. N. Tooke, W.
Long, W. Tulk, C. A.
Thompson, Colonel Wason, R.
Trelawney,Sir W. Warburton, H.
Talfourd,T.N. Williams, W. A.
Vigors, N. C. Westenra, Hn. H. R.
Villiers, C. Walker, C. A.
Wallace, R. Wilde, Sergeant
Wilks, J. Wyse, T.
Williams, W. Wilson, H.
Wigney, I. N. Wood, Ald.
Wakley, T. Young, G. F.
Wood, C.

On our re-admission to the gallery, we found

Sir Robert Peel

addressing the House. He was understood to suggest to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) that the appointment of the Committee should be postponed until to-morrow.

Mr. Wason

thought it perfectly fair that six Members should be appointed on the Committee from that (the ministerial) side of the House and five from the other side—the five being selected from the counties of York and Norfolk.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that if the Committee so constituted were to proceed on its inquiries, it would not be long before there were petitions from other counties and places, calling in question the returns of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. He was convinced, from the specimen which they had that night, not of judicial conduct, but of party feeling, that the Committee could not dispose of these two cases, without hearing others of a similar description. He respected much the character of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General; but he could not help expressing it as his opinion, that there was the same facility of accusation by means of petition with as numerous signatures, against the constituents of the hon. and learned Member, as against those of the hon. Members for Yarmouth and York. He would not now name other places; but he knew many other hon. Members who, before the Committee closed its proceedings, would be brought under the operation of the same system. Therefore, he did consider, that the mode in which it was proposed to strike the Committee in the Yarmouth and York cases, was not at all satisfactory. He thought it would be much better to have the appointment postponed for twenty-four hours.

Mr. Hume

I do hope that hon. Members will not be deterred from doing their duty by the threats which have been dealt out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman; if such proceedings as those to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has alluded, do actually occur, the best course is to bring them immediately under the consideration of the House, and at once to put an end to those disgraceful practices where-ever they are found to exist.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I do not think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has dealt quite fairly with the House, or with those Gentlemen to whose individual cases he has alluded as being similar to those of the hon. Members for York and Yarmouth. I do think that he has not acted in a spirit of justice to my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Penryn; for he should have recollected that a petition was lodged against that hon. and gallant Gentleman containing allegations of bribery and corruption, and those allegations, the parties who brought them forward, have been completely unable to prove; and yet, contrary to this decision, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman now comes forward and designates my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Penryn, as an individual Member whose conduct is open to animadversion. Now all I can say is, let that case, or any other case involving bribery or corruption, be brought forward, whether on a small scale or on a large scale, and I, for one, shall never be found in a minority against its being referred to the decision of a Committee; but after the decision to which I have alluded, the right hon. and gallant Officer has certainly done wrong by referring to the case of Penryn and casting a censure on my hon. and learned Friend.

Sir Henry Hardinge

, in explanation, said that he had purposely avoided making any charge against the hon. and learned Gentleman; all he had stated was, that the constituency of Penryn would in all probability, be placed very speedily on their trial, as well as of several other cases which he did not think it necessary to mention, if these precedents were established. The Penryn Election Committee had only tried the question of agency, and on that point the sitting member had a full right to claim the benefit of their decision, but the inevitable consequence of the unprecedented proceedings of that evening would be, for questions being entertained with respect to the independence of the constituencies all over the country.

The Solicitor-General

said, that as a charge had been made, not against himself, but against his constituents, he hoped that the House would allow him to speak of what came within his own knowledge. It was true that the case had gone off against himself, because no evidence had been produced by his opponents which could connect him with anything which bore even the appearance of bribery, but he was prepared to say this—that so far as he knew anything of the proceedings of his election, except from the mere gossip of the witnesses who were examined before the Penryn Election Committee, he had no reason to suspect that anything irregular had been practised by any member of his Committee. It might be that an occasional half-crown had been given away by some of his friends without his knowledge. He admitted that there would have been some grounds for those cheers, had he himself given away to any of the electors an occasional half-crown—but he had done no such thing. If he had given away an occasional half-crown, it would have been a good reason for unseating him; but if supporters of his had done so without his concurrence,—and he did not mean to admit that they had,—though he might ask where was the Member whose supporters had not done something of the kind; that was no reason for bringing any charge against him, nor yet for impugning the general purity of his constituents.

Mr. Wilks

begged leave, as a Chairman of the Penryn Election Committee, to state, that by that Committee a full opportunity had been given to the petitioners to bring forward any specific charge of bribery, either against the sitting Member or any of his supporters. The Committee had left an opportunity open to the petitioners of bringing forward evidence, which they had not brought forward; the Committee had given them an opportunity of bringing forward proof of general bribery; but of that opportunity the petitioners had not availed themselves. The Committee had, therefore, no opportunity of entering into that question.

Mr. Wason

said, that he was at the disposal of the House. [Cries of "Name the Committee" from Mr. Hume and several hon. Members near kim.] In deference to the opinion of the right hon. Baronet opposite, he was ready—

Sir Robert Peel

. I have no interest in this question. I only suggested that it would be best for the character of the House to adjourn the appointment of the Committee for twenty-four hours.

Lord Sandon

rose amid cries of "Spoke," and said, that the hon. Member for Ipswich had proposed to form his Committee of five Members connected with the Counties of York and Norfolk, and of six Members taken from the Ministerial side of the House, [Cries of "Spoke, spoke."] When hon. Gentlemen so far forgot what had passed as to assert that he had already spoken on this question, he begged leave to remind them, and to assert most solemnly, that he had not. He was sorry to say, that he had observed of late a practice growing up in that House, of Gentlemen meeting any argument that they could not refute, or any assertion that they felt to be disagreeable, by loud cries of "Spoke, spoke." Such a practice was most pernicious in its results, and was one which he should always resist, and in which he should expect to be always supported by a majority of the House. He was desirous of confining his observations to what the hon. Member for Ipswich had said about the nomination of this Committee. In former cases of this kind the object had always been to select a Committee impartially, and not to choose the Members from any particular county or counties. Why had the hon. Member departed from the ordinary practice?

Lord John Russell

said, that it certainly appeared to him desirable that the appointment of this Committee should be deferred for four-and-twenty hours.

Postponed appointment of the Committee.