HC Deb 31 March 1835 vol 27 cc462-6
Mr. William Gladstone

wished, before the House proceeded to the adjourned debate upon the question of the Irish Church, to call its attention to the Petition which he had presented yesterday from Mr. Charles Jennings, agent for the sitting Members for the Borough of Leicester, praying that the order for considering the petition of James Hudson and others, against the return should be discharged. That petition set forth at length the grounds upon which the Motion he was about to submit to the House would be founded, and, therefore, the best course he could adopt would be to state its contents. It commenced by setting forth that on the order of the House, dated the 20th day of March instant, time was given to the petitioners, James Hudson, Thomas Nunneley, John Coltman, and Thomas Flower, to enter into the recognizance till Monday, the 30th day of this instant March, with leave to substitute another proposed surety; that on Saturday, the 21st instant, the said petitioners, through their agent, delivered in the name of Samuel Stokes, of the parish of St. Mary, in the borough of Leicester, hosier, as such substituted surety as aforesaid; that the petitioner, under the circumstances of his engagement, on Monday, the 22d of March instant, did not know of the delivery in of the name of such substituted surety till Tuesday, the 23d March; that the said petitioners, through their agent, gave notice to the petitioner on Wednesday, the 25th instant, that the name Thomas Stokes ought to have been lodged in the place of the name Samuel Stokes; that at half-past three o'clock in the afternoon of Thursday, the 26th instant, the petitioner received from the agent of the petitioners a letter stating that he had that day given notice to Mr. Rose, of the correction of the misnomer of Samuel for Thomas Stokes, and that the latter Christian and surname were the proper names of the surety proposed in lieu of Matthew Babington, pursuant to the order of the 20th inst., that, on the order of the 26th inst., the said petitioners have permission to correct the Christian name of the proposed new surety; that such order was not made until some time after the hour of eight o'clock on the said 26th inst., after post time; that by the next following post, Friday, the 27th inst., the petitioner wrote to Leicester to ascertain the sufficiency of Thomas Stokes, named in the last-mentioned order and notices; that the petitioner, by a parcel from Leicester yesterday (Sunday afternoon) and by the general post of this morning, the 30th day of March instant, received two letters from his correspondent to the same effect, and the latter of which (that received by this morning's post) is as follows:—"I was yesterday (Saturday) favoured with your letter of the 27th inst., requesting me, directly on the receipt of your letter, to make inquiries into the sufficiency of 'Thomas Stokes, of the parish of St. Mary, in the borough of Leicester, hosier,' who is proposed to be substituted in the place of Mr. Matthew Babington, as a surety on behalf of the petitioners against the return of the sitting Members. Before I answer your inquiries I beg to inquire whether Mr. Thomas Stokes, of the Welford-road, in the parish of St. Mary, hosier, be the party intended, because if I answer your inquiry under that impression, and some other Thomas Stokes, of the parish of St. Mary (a parish which contains many thousands of inhabitants and many hundreds of streets, should be meant, I shall have led you into error, and probably have given an incorrect report upon the subject. The residence ought to be more particularly stated and the street mentioned, in a case where the party named resides in a town containing upwards of 40,000 inhabitants, as Leicester does. Waiting your further instructions, I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, Thomas Burbidge." That till the time of pronouncing the last-mentioned order the petitioner considered that the Act of Parliament of the 9th of George 4th., cap. 22, had not been complied with on the part of the petitioners, and, therefore, after the notice of the 25th, and the letter of the 26th, did not, either on the 25th or 26th instant, write to Leicester to make such inquiry; that, under the circumstances aforesaid, the petitioner had on Friday only two clear days, one of which was Sunday, for making the necessary inquiries; that the petitioner has, this day, attended before John Rickman, esq., and Francis Cross, esq., the two persons appointed by the Speaker of the House to report to him on the sufficiency of the sureties tendered on the part of the said petitioners, at the time and place fixed by them for examining into such sufficiency, and explained to them, that the name Thomas Stokes was only entered in the book directed by the said Act of Parliament to be kept in the office of the Clerk of the House of Commons on Wednesday, the 25th inst., and that between the said Wednesday the 25th inst., and this day, Monday, the 30th inst., four clear days only, and not seven clear days, as required by the 7th section of the said Act of Parliament, intervene, and, therefore, that the said John Rickman and Francis Cross had no authority under the said Act to report the sufficiency of the sureties; and the petitioner thereupon re- quired, that the said John Rickman and Francis Cross should decline to report at all to the said Speaker on the sufficiency of the sureties tendered; that the said John Rickman and Francis Cross declared, they should report to the Speaker specially; that the petitioner, as agent to the sitting Members, afterwards, on this 30th day of March, waited on the said Speaker, and delivered to him a letter, wherein, after stating the representations made by the petitioner to the said John Rickman and Francis Cross, the petitioner respectfully further represented, that the said Speaker was without authority or power to take the recognizances of the sureties tendered, and humbly insisted, that if received, they would be received contrary to the express provision in that behalf of the said Act of Parliament; that the petitioner humbly submits to the House such recognizances, if they shall be received, will be received contrary to law, and that no recognizance has been entered into pursuant to the directions of the said Act, and therefore humbly prays the House, that as the said Act has not been complied with, the order made for considering the petition of the said petitioners, James Hudson, Thomas Nunneley, John Coltman, and Thomas Flower, on the 14th day of May next, shall be discharged, or that the petitioner may have such other relief in the premises as to the House shall seem meet. The hon. Member then proceeded to point out how directly the decision of the House of Commons on Thursday, the 26th instant, contravened the provisions of the Act of the 9th George 4th, chap. 22, and contended, that unless the House was prepared to take upon itself the right to infringe the law of the land, they had no alternative but to revoke that decision. It was his intention to conclude by moving, "That the order for considering the Petition against the Return for the Borough of Leicester on the 14th of May next be discharged;" but as a preliminary proceeding, perhaps it would be better the Clerk should first read the Special Report of the examiners into the sureties.

The Special Report having been read, the hon. Member then moved, "That the order for considering the Petition against the Return for the Borough of Leicester on the 14th of May next be discharged."

Mr. Gisborne

contended, that the agent for the sitting Members had no cause of complaint; for although it was not until the 26th of March, that the name of Thomas Stokes was substituted for that of Samuel Stokes, he had notice five days previous, that that substitution was intended, and that the name of Samuel had only been given in through a clerical error. Mr. Burbidge in his letter to Mr. Jennings, expressed an opinion, that the description of "Thomas Stokes, of the parish of St. Mary, in the borough of Leicester, hosier," was insufficient to enable him to make the requisite inquiries, but the fact was, that there was but one Thomas Stokes in the whole borough of Leicester, and he was as well known there as Lord John Russell was in the House of Commons. The mystery, however, was soon explained, for of the two parties into which Leicester was divided, namely, the Corporation, and the non-Corporation party, Mr. Burbidge was the head of the one, and Mr. Thomas Stokes of the other. Under these circumstances he trusted the House would pay no further regard to the petition than they had already done in directing it to be laid upon their Table.

Mr. Warburton

contended, that sufficient notice of the present Motion had not been given—the votes of the day merely stating, that the petition which Mr. Jennings yesterday presented should be considered. He therefore moved the adjournment of the debate till Wednesday.

Agreed to.

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