§ Mr. Patrick M. Stewart
brought up the Report of the Committee appointed upon the subject of the Ipswich Election. He was directed by the Committee, to inform the House that the Committee had, after due consideration, come to the following Resolutions:—That the Resolutions of the 14th of April be rescinded.That Robert Adam Dundas, Esq., and Fitzroy Kelly, Esq., are not duly elected, and ought not to have been returned to serve in the present Parliament for the borough of Ipswich.That the petition of Robert Ransom and others does not appear to have been frivolous or vexatious.That the opposition to the said petition does appear to be frivolous and vexatious.That Mr. John Brown and others had been struck off the roll, it having been proved that they were not entitled to vote.That Robert Adam Dundas and Fitzroy Kelly, Esqrs., were, by their friends and agents, guilty of bribery and corruption at the late election for the borough of Ipswich; and that Arthur Robert Cooke, J. B. Dasent, John Pilgrifn, and others were guilty of bribery at the said election.That J. B. Dasent, A. R. Cooke, R. B. Clamp, and John Pilgrim, were guilty of absconding, to avoid being served with the Speaker's warrant; and that J. E. Sparrow and John Clipperton, the avowed agents of the sitting Members, and F. O'Mally, Esq., one of the Counsel employed by the sitting Members, aided and abetted them in keeping out of the way to avoid giving evidence before this Committee.That the said John Pilgrim having at length been served with the Speaker's warrant, was prevented attending on this Committee by being arrested on a charge of embezzlement by Messrs Sewell and Blake, under very suspicious circumstances.That the conduct of the Magistrates, Samuel Bignold, Esq. and E. Temple Booth, Esq., before whom he was charged, appears to this Committee to be a breach of the privileges of the House.The hon. Member then said, that he had been further directed by the Committee to call the attention of the House to the peculiar hardship under which some of the voters, who had been struck off the poll-books, laboured. The Committee had 606 divided the voters struck off into three different classes, according to the circumstances of each case. The total number struck off was 21. Of these, 13 were voters whom the Committee had resolved should be struck off, because they had not been duly registered upon the poll-books. He was directed to call the attention of the House to the hardship to which these thirteen were exposed in consequence of the resolution come to by the House in June, 1833. From that resolution the Committee had no choice left but to strike those votes off the roll; and the consequence would be, that those voters, for no fault of their own, would be unregistered as well as struck off the roll.
§ Mr. Gisborne
suggested to his hon. Friend, the Member for Lancaster, that it might perhaps be right that he should state, what further steps he meant to take in regard to the representation of Ipswich?
§ Mr. Patrick M. Stewart
said, that the question was easily answered. He meant to move that a new Writ be issued for the election of Representatives for that Borough.
§ Mr. Gisborne
then said, that a case, which he believed to be analogous to the present, bad occurred in 1827—he meant that of Penryn, in which Mr. Leigh Keck, who was the Chairman of the Committee who sat upon that election, reported that John Stanbury, having been summoned to attend to give evidence before the Committee, had not attended, and that it appeared he had absconded, and he therefore moved that John Stanbury be taken into custody, and that the Speaker do issue his warrant to that effect. He suggested that, in the present case, the same course should be pursued by the House that had been pursued in the case of Penryn. With respect to one class of the offenders—he meant those who had absconded in order that they might not be called upon to give their evidence before the Committee—the difference between the case of Penryn and the present case was, extremely slight. The only difference was that in the Penryn case, John Stanbury had been served with the Speaker's warrant, and had afterwards absconded; but in the case now under consideration, J. B. Dasent, A.R. Cooke, R. B. Clamp, and John Pilgrim had been guilty, as appeared from the Report made by the Committee, of having absconded in order to avoid being served with the Speaker's warrant.—
607 He did not suppose that the House would consider that the offence committed by the offenders in the present case was less than that committed by Stanbury. It would not be considered a less offence to have successfully avoided the Speaker's warrant, than to have absconded after having been served with it. He would therefore suggest to his hon. Friend, that he ought at once to move that J. B. Dasent, A. R. Cooke, and R. B. Clamp should immediately be taken into custody. With regard to John Pilgrim it seemed that he had since appeared before the Committee and had given evidence. He might, therefore, be said to have purged himself in some degree from the effect of his previous fault. He should therefore suggest, that at present only J. B. Dasent, A. B. Cooke, and R. B. Clamp, should in the meantime be taken into custody.—There were other parties who were also implicated by the Report of the Committee which they had heard read. The Report stated, "That the conduct of the Magistrates, Samuel Bignold, Esq., and E. Temple Booth, Esq., appears to this Committee to be a breach of the privilege of the House." He was aware that there was a difference between these parties and the parties of whom he had formerly spoken: still he thought that the Report of the Committee in regard to these Magistrates rendered it indispensable to bring them to the bar of the House, in order that they might meet the charge brought against them by the Committee. He hoped, therefore, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Lancaster, in his capacity of Chairman of the Committee, would consider it his duty to move, that the Magistrates, Samuel Bignold, Esq. and E. T. Booth, Esq. be taken into custody, or that some independent Member would take the case up, if his hon. Friend thought fit to decline doing so. [Cries of "Move."]—If his hon. Friend declined moving in the matter, he (Mr. Gisborne) should certainly consider it his duty to move "That Samuel Bignold, Esq., and E. T. Booth, Esq. be also taken into custody." There were other parties who were implicated in this matter. The Committee reported in regard to Messrs. Sewell and Blake, that "John Pilgrim having at length been served with the Speaker's warrant, had been prevented from attending on the Committee, by being arrested on a charge of embezzlement by these parties, under 608 very suspicious circumstances." He did not think that in respect to Messrs. Sewell and Blake, the charge brought against them was sufficiently explicit and distinct to warrant their being taken into custody; but he should consider it his duty also to move that they be summoned to attend at the Bar of the House.
Mr. Patrick M. Steward
was not sure that it properly devolved upon him, as Chairman of the Committee, to make the Motion alluded to by his hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire. He had no instructions from the Committee regarding any Motion for the arrest of the witnesses. He would, therefore, for the present, simply move, "That the Minutes of the Evidence taken before the Committee be laid upon the Table of the House." Having brought the subject under the notice of the House, he would rather leave it to his hon. Friend to make the Motion which he had proposed if he thought proper to do so; and he would leave it to the House to consider whether the Motion should be acceded to. With regard to the proposition of his hon. Friend, that the conduct of the Magistrates should be taken into consideration he thought it a little premature.
§ Mr. Gisborne
said, that he should also move that P. F. O'Mally, J. E. Sparrow, and John Clipperton, who had aided and abetted the witnesses in keeping out of the way, should also be taken into custody.
§ Mr. Roebuck
begged to ask why the hon. Member had omitted the sitting Members, who had been reported as being guilty, through their agents, of bribery and corruption.
§ Mr. Gisborne
wished strictly to follow the course adopted in former cases of the same kind. The hon. Member would find that in all former cases, where Members were placed under similar circumstances with Messrs. Kelly and Dundas, the House had always postponed any proceeding against them until after the minutes of evidence were before the House.
§ The Speaker
having read the Motion from the Chair, "That the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee be laid upon the Table of the House."
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
said, that he rose to second the Motion stated by the hon. Member for Derbyshire. He thought the present a case well worthy the attention of the House.
§ Mr. Harvey
said, that the Question 609 which the House had to consider at present was simply, that the evidence taken before the Committee be laid upon the Table of the House, and with a view to guide the House as to any ulterior proceedings which it might be considered proper to take—if it should so happen that after seeing the evidence, the House should consider ulterior measures necessary. It was not, therefore, his intention to give any opinion upon the merits of the case at present.—But his purpose in rising was to ask a Question in strict connexion with the Motion before them. It appeared that one of the sitting Members had appeared before the Committee, and made several statements containing strong views of the Question before the Committee, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman had appealed for the veracity of what he said to his honour as a gentleman, and a professional man. It had been stated that there were correct short-hand notes of that statement. Now, he (Mr. Harvey) thought that it would be an act of justice to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and that it would likewise guide the House in coming to a proper judgment upon the subject, if this statement was laid upon the Table of the House along with the evidence. He thought it would be but an act of fairness to the hon. and learned Member if he was allowed the benefit of his address.
§ Mr. Patrick M. Stewart
was not aware that there was any precedent for such a course, but he would leave the subject to the sense of the House.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
said, that if it was consistent with the rules of the House, he would beg leave to move as an Amendment, that there be laid upon the Table of the House, the minutes of all the evidence taken before the Committee, and also a transcript of all statements and legal arguments made use of by Mr. Kelly.
§ Mr. Robinson
believed, that there was no instance of any statement made by Counsel being laid before the House.
§ Lord John Russell
was understood to say, that as the guilt of the Magistrates 610 depended on the evidence, he could not determine until he had seen that.
§ The Attorney-General
reminded the hon. and learned Member, that the Magistrates in question were not appointed by the King, but by the Corporation of Norwich, in virtue of their office.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that it would be but justice to suspend all discussion upon the case until after the evidence and the minutes of the proceedings were before the House. The hon. Member for Derbyshire proposed to deprive the persons mentioned in this Report of their liberty, without any evidence being before the House. He would suggest, that they ought not to prejudge the case by such a course of proceeding. The hon. Member ought, either then, or on some future occasion, to give notice of the Motion which it was his intention to make. In his opinion the House ought not to exercise its authority in ordering these persons into custody without due consideration. The case of Stanbury, which had been alluded to was different from the present. Stanbury had been served with the Speaker's warrant to attend, and had afterwards absconded. Surely the House would not say, that the witnesses in the present case, who had never been served with the warrant, were upon the same footing with a person who had been served with the Speaker's warrant, and who had absconded in order that he might not be forced to obey it. At least before the House came to a resolution which involved the loss of liberty to the persons implicated, it ought to have some evidence before it to show under what circumstances the act of absconding had taken place. Was it certain that avoiding a Speaker's warrant was punishable? All that he asked was, that the House would give time for the consideration of the subject, and that it should not act upon the Report of any Committee, but upon evidence before it as to the guilt of parties, and the degree of punishment to which they should be subjected.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that when he had formerly said, that they ought to take more time to consider the matter, he did not mean that observation to apply to the case of the witnesses. He thought that the practice had always been, where a Committee had made a Report inculpating parties, that the House immediately ordered them into custody, lest they should abscond. He thought the House had a 611 right to compel the attendance of witnesses, and order them into custody they did not attend.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that the noble Lord had misunderstood his meaning. He agreed with the noble Lord, that the House had a right to compel the attendance of witnesses; but what he doubted was, whether these persons could be considered in the character of witnesses, never having been served with a summons. They ought to remember that these persons had left the country before they had been served with a warrant, which they might perhaps be entitled to do. Let it be admitted that these persons did abscond, surely the general principle of law should prevail in this case. He was satisfied that the opinion of the hon. and learned Attorney-General was in unison with his own as to the law of the case, namely that in the case of a man—not summoned but against whom there was a strong presumption, that he had absconded to avoid being summoned, that the Courts of Law would not order him into custody.
§ Mr. Patrick M. Stewart
wished merely to state, that it came out in the course of the evidence, that the persons alluded to absconded to avoid being summoned to attend before the Committee. They had met previously together at Ipswich, and resolved at the suggestion of some of the agents, not to attend any inquiry that might take place in that House respecting the election. This came out in evidence; and he left it to the House to form its judgment in the matter.
§ Mr. Blackstone
was anxious to set the House right on one point. The persons who had been alluded to had left the country before any petition had been presented to the House complaining of the election.
§ The Attorney-General
thought, that the House should consider these persons to have placed themselves in the situation of having been already summoned. The Committee had reported, that they were of opinion, that these persons had absconded to avoid having the Speaker's warrant served on them. It was obvious that these persons must have known that they were to be summoned before the Committee. They must have known that they were material witnesses—they must have known that their evidence was of importance in enabling the Committee to arrive at a conclusion; it was, therefore, 612 their duty not to have absconded. With respect to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, he would only observe, that that House was not accustomed to adhere to the mere technical rules of law which were enforced by the Courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas. In these Courts, in the case of a witness not appearing, and before proceedings could be taken, it would be necessary to show that a copy of the subpœna had been served on him, and also that the original had been shown him at the same time. The House, however, had never deemed it necessary to adhere to these technical forms. If the House saw clearly that there was a deliberate attempt to defeat justice, and to prevent the investigation before the Committee, the House ought, in his opinion, to pursue the course suggested by his hon. Friend, the Member for Derbyshire. He allowed that it was a great stretch of power to take a person into custody who had not been before the Committee, and who had not even been served with a summons to go before the Election Committee; yet good reason for so doing had been shown in this case, and the House was fully justified in acting on the Report of the Committee. He admitted that it might appear the more regular and equitable mode of proceeding, to summon these parties to appear and show why they had left the country to avoid the Speaker's warrant; but this was a very strong case, and had been fully proved. He was clearly of opinion, that persons keeping out of the way to avoid the service of the Speaker's warrant were guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House. He could not see any substantive distinction between a person having the Speaker's warrant in his hand, and getting out of the way to avoid it, knowing that it would be put into his hand. He was therefore of opinion, that although it might be acting on a strong principle to take a person into custody who had not been heard, and that it might appear more regular to summon him, still under the circumstances of the case, they were justified in taking the parties into custody at once. The case of Stanbury went the full length of justifying the course recommended by the hon. Member for Derbyshire.
§ Sir William Follett
could not but observe, that the subject under discussion ad no immediate reference to the question then before the House. The question 613 was whether the minutes of evidence taken before the Committee should be laid on the Table of the House. It was not for the House then to say that those persons had been guilty of a breach of privilege; indeed, he hardly thought this could possibly be done until they were enabled to form an opinion on the subject, by having had the evidence laid before them. It might be, as his hon. and learned Friend had stated, that certain persons, whose evidence was material to the inquiry, had been together, and had entered into an agreement together to abscond and avoid the service of the process of the House. It might be right for the House to proceed according to the mode recommended, although, as his hon. and learned Friend had stated, the Courts of Law would not do so. It might be a very strong case, as his hon. and learned Friend had stated, but he would ask whether it was not a very harsh and severe proceeding to order persons to be taken into custody without hearing anything of the evidence against them, and without hearing anything they might say in their defence. He was called upon by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, to agree to order these persons to be taken into custody upon the presumption of proving what is alleged to have been proved before the Committee, namely, that they went abroad to avoid being summoned before the Committee. In justice to the liberty of the subject, the House of Commons should not proceed to such an extreme case until they were made acquainted with the grounds on which the Committee had come to the conclusions which had just been reported. If after the minutes of evidence had been printed, such a case existed as had been stated by his hon. and Learned Friend, it might then be the proper time for the House to pursue the course now proposed by the hon. Member for Derbyshire. Surely they were not to proceed to order the arrest of those persons, and commit them to prison, without looking to the evidence, or without hearing anything that the parties might have to say in their defence. The Special Committee, appointed to inquire into contested elections had, by Acts of Parliament, certain powers delegated to them, but as far as the privileges of the House were concerned, they had no power to act. The Committee were empowered to report on certain facts, and their decision was final on these points, and the House uniformly 614 acted upon it; they did not, however, delegate to the Committee such authority as to consider their decisions final on special circumstances attending cases. He would appeal to his hon. and learned Friend, whether his opinion was not correct on this point. He did not say that his hon. Friend was not right in the statement he had made; he did not say that the majority of the Committee was not right in the opinion they had given on it; but it appeared to him that a Select Committee of that House was just as likely to fall into error, as the same number of other persons. He, therefore, did not think that the House was bound by any conclusions to which such a Committee might come, but that the evidence should be laid on the Table, and placed in the hands of Members, before they came to a decision. If it should appear from the evidence laid before them, that a breach of privilege had been committed, he would agree that the proposition now made should be enforced, and the privilege of that House vindicated. With respect to the precedents alluded to in the course of the debate, he would only say a few words. He did not know of any other case that could be quoted as a precedent than that of Stanbury, and this did not altogether apply to the present case. The want of sufficient precedents was ample reason, in his mind, why they should not proceed prematurely. Indeed, he was not aware of the case of Stanbury, until it was stated by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, but it differed from the case before the House in this most important point, namely, that the Speaker's warrant had been served on Stanbury, and the Chairman of the Committee had also issued his summons, and yet he did not appear, while in the present case there was no evidence that the Speaker's summons had been issued. It did appear to him a very different thing for a man to be served with the Speaker's warrant and to disobey that warrant, and for one not to be served with it at all. In the former case the Chairman of the Committee, knowing that he had issued the warrant, and that the party had refused to obey it, might have stated these facts to the House, which might have been inclined to look for no further authority than the statement of the Chairman, that the party had refused to obey the warrant. But he could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend, that the House ought to act on the 615 presumption that these persons absconded because they knew their evidence was of importance. Surely a man was not always bound to live within the jurisdiction of the House, and he thought it would be hard to deprive him of his liberty on the ground that he had been guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House, because he did not answer a summons which he might not know had been issued. He wished, therefore, that the Minutes of the Evidence should be printed, and then the House might be enabled to form a judgment on this part of the case, and afterwards to decide upon it; and then they might determine what ulterior measures they might pursue, either to institute a prosecution by the Attorney General, or to maintain their privileges in any other way that might seem most suitable to the circumstances of the case.
could not help remarking on the inconvenience attending the present proceeding, namely, debating one question when another was before the House. The Question before the House was, whether the Minutes of Evidence should be laid on the Table, and they were all agreed on that point. He would suggest that that Motion should be put, as well as that for printing the Evidence, and then they could put the proposition of the hon. Member for Derbyshire. The Motion had been generally misunderstood. The question was, not that certain persons should be taken into custody for the purposes of punishment, but that they should be arrested, so that they would be amenable for punishment should they be found to deserve it. The House had presumptive evidence sufficient to warrant them in pursuing the latter course. If the parties were arrested, then they would be amenable to justice, and would have an opportunity of defending themselves against the Report of the Committee; and should the allegations adduced against them appear unfounded, of course they would be discharged. The Committee had jurisdiction in this matter, and after hearing evidence they concluded that those persons had wilfully kept away to prevent the service of the Speaker's warrant. They were better judges than the House could be of this fact, and it would be casting a reflection on the Committee if they did not admit the allegations in the Report. The hon. and learned Gentleman had talked of the value of personal liberty—undoubtedly it 616 was of great importance—but there was another thing of higher importance, namely, taking care that those who chose the guardians of the liberties of the people were not corrupted; if they were, there was an end of liberty. Let them not appear to throw even a shade of doubt on the Committee, by agreeing to delay the matter.
§ Mr. Wilks
thought that as the House would be inclined to visit with special indignation those who tampered with the integrity of electors, and were guilty of bribery, they should be anxious to proceed with caution and hesitation. He thought the enormity of the charge brought against the persons named in the Report of the Committee, was a sufficient reason for pausing before they resorted to strong measures. He was satisfied, if they acted upon the doctrine laid down by the hon. Member for Dublin, that they would establish a dangerous precedent. He said, that in ordering these persons to be taken into custody, they only did so to see whether they had or had not been guilty of an offence. The House had never hitherto acted on this principle, and he trusted that it never would. He thought the precedent quoted did not hold good in the present case. He suggested that further proceedings should be postponed, until the evidence was printed and in the hands of Members.
§ Lord John Russell
rose to suggest, that they should postpone the debate on this subject until to-morrow. He thought that in all cases of this kind, they should have precedents before them; and if they postponed the matter for a short time, they would have all the precedents bearing on the case. Since the subject had been alluded to, he had found an analogous case, and he had no doubt others could be found. The case he alluded to was that of Camel-ford; and in referring to the votes of 16th June, 1819, he found the following special report: "That Wm. Hallett and others did corruptly endeavour to procure the return of two persons to serve in Parliament for the said borough of Camelford; and that the said Wm. Hallett has wilfully absconded, in order to avoid being summoned to give evidence before this Committee. Whereupon this person was ordered to be taken into the custody of the Serjeant-at-arms." He thought this was a case in point, but he trusted that his hon. Friend would not insist on their coming to 617 a vote on the question to-night, but would consent to postpone it until to-morrow.
§ Mr. Harvey
had been informed, that no other candidate had made a speech before the Committee besides Mr. Kelly; he had also found that the speech was taken down by the same short-hand writer as took the evidence. If the House did not afford Mr. Kelly the advantage of laying; his speech before the House, he trusted that it would not be hereafter referred to with the view of adducing charges against him.
§ The Attorney-General
was satisfied that it would be an extremely bad precedent to print the speeches of counsel. If they did so on one side, of course they must also do so on the other.
§ The Motion was agreed to.
§ The evidence was also ordered to be printed.
§ Mr. Gisborne
rose to make the Motion of which he had given notice; but if it seemed to be the opinion of the House that it should be postponed, he would consent to do so, although he did not see what advantage would be gained by pursuing such a course. He was surprised at the nature of the arguments adduced on the other side. Hon. Gentlemen had spoken as if he had moved that the persons named in the Report should be sent to Newgate, or be subjected to very severe punishment; but all that he proposed was, that they should be taken into the custody of the Serjeant-at-arms to answer for the conduct imputed to them by the Special Committee. The course he proposed was not unusual, for all accused persons, let the tribunal be what it might, were taken into custody before they were put on their defence. In the first place, they took possession of the person against whom the charge was brought, and he was brought into court. He denied that the precedents were all on the other side. How loud and eloquent he had heard the right hon. Baronet speak in favour of precedent, and yet he had disregarded it in the present case. The Select Committee, in performance of their duty, had made a report, and in it had alleged that these parties had been guilty of bribery. The evidence on which this report had been founded had been heard vivâ voce by the Committee, and surely they were enabled to form something like a judgment on its merits. He was satisfied that the Committee who heard the evidence were much better able to form a just and correct opinion on the subject than persons who merely read the evidence.
618 He thought, if they did not agree to the course he proposed, which was conformable to former precedents, they would establish a dangerous exception; at the same time, if he saw it was the general feeling of the House, he would postpone his Motion; but he did not see any necessity for so doing. He concluded with moving, "That A. B. Cooke, R. B. Clamp, J. E. Sparrow, J. Clipperton, and F. O'Malley, having been guilty of bribery at the last Ipswich election, be taken into the custody of the Serjeant-at-arms." He did not move that Pilgrim or Dasent be taken into custody, as they had come forward and given their evidence.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
supported the Motion. He asked whether hon. Members would be in a better situation than at present to form an opinion on the subject if they had the evidence before them?
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
thought the House was obliged to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, for taking up the case in the way in which he had.
§ Sir Robert Peel
remarked, that bad precedents were never so often set as when the cases which gave birth to them were on the unpopular side of the question; but he for one would never shrink from espousing what he believed to be the cause of justice, because his protestation might be attributed to a desire to prevent the detection and punishment of crimes. The House was not about to proceed to inquire into the absence of certain material witnesses, but they were, acting in a judicial capacity, about to assume that those persons were guilty. According to the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Member for Dublin), the process was not punitive; but had not the hon. Member for North Derbyshire expressly asserted their guilt, and therefore called for the Speaker's warrant to be issued against parties, of all whose guilt the House would declare itself convinced? He certainly admitted that the House was not bound by technical rules of evidence, but they were as much bound as any Magistrate. It was evident that he was speaking in the presence of many Gentlemen who thought it a light thing to assume the guilt of parties without hearing the evidence. The House, too, was about to inflict this punishment on the advice and opinion, not of the Committee, but of those who attended and heard the evidence given before them. He believed the Committee did not act in this 619 matter. If, then, the Committee did not advise this step, and declined this Motion, surely, although it was said that those who stood by frequently knew more of the matter than those who actually engaged in it he was not unreasonable in asking for twenty-four hours' delay to examine the grounds on which this Motion was made. He would admit that the precedent quoted by the noble Lord opposite was of great weight. He was represented by the hon. Member for North Derbyshire as attaching great importance to precedents, and perhaps he did; he was not ashamed to say that he was not well acquainted with these precedents, nor had he an opportunity of looking for them, as this Motion had come on without notice. The precedent quoted by the hon. Member, however, was one that did not bear on the case. If he had made himself master of his subject, and had proved that the course proposed by the hon. Member was borne out by precedents, he might have been ready to concur in the views which the hon. Member had taken, but Stanbury had been served with the Speaker's warrant, and this entirely destroyed the parallel sought to be established between the two cases. He wished also to know on what grounds Pilgrim had been exempted from this Motion. When several parties were guilty, why should one be fixed upon for punishment, and the others be permitted to escape? The name of J. B. Dasent, Esq., was not included in the Motion; the original offence was committed by seven; why did they select five? It would appear almost an arbitrary exemption in favour of those two persons, unless those persons were alleged to be likely to abscond to avoid the Speaker's warrant, and no intimation of that nature had been made. He entreated the House to pause and take twenty-four hours to consider whether any of the parties deserved punishment, or whether any of the parties had purged their offence by submitting subsequently to the authority of the Committee.
§ Mr. Sergeant Wilde
said, he could not conceive how an adjudication of a Committee which had acted on the sanction of an oath—he could not conceive how, acting on the Report of such a Committee, which was to the effect that certain individuals had been guilty of certain acts,—could be called acting on an assumption of guilt: be should rather say that it was 620 acting on an adjudication of guilt. Taking this view, he doubted the propriety of adjourning the Question, as was proposed; but he should nevertheless bow to the high authority of the noble Lord. The Committee had reported that certain individuals had absconded to avoid the service of the summons of that House. What did that imply? It was now said that these persons should have a hearing; to adopt that course would be only to give them an opportunity of repeating their offence; for the complaint against them was, that they would not attend the Committee to be heard—that they were absent by their own wilful default. If the House was disposed to pay such respect to this Report as it usually paid to the Reports of its Select Committees, it must come to the conclusion that the individuals in question, after having been apprized that they were about to be summoned, and that their evidence was considered important to the administration of justice, had absconded with a view to evade that summons, and throw an obstacle in the way of the administration of justice. In his opinion the Committee were quite as likely to ascertain the justice of the case, considering the powers with which they were invested, as the House itself would be, were the individuals brought to the Bar. This Committee having reported that these persons had absconded, they had the adjudication of a competent authority which was entitled to credit, and he thought it was the duty of the House to have the offenders at once taken into custody, after which the House might hear anything that the parties might have to urge in extenuation of their offence. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Tamworth that there was no just reason for excepting the two persons whom it had been proposed not to proceed against. He did not, however, agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the circumstance of the parties who at last appeared against their will should excuse their previous conduct. By adjourning the discussion, it appeared to him that the House was showing a tardiness on the subject that was not consistent with sound judgment.
§ Debate adjourned.