HC Deb 25 July 1836 vol 35 cc551-60

Mr. Poulter moved, that the House go into Committee on the Poole Corporation Bill.

Mr. Mackworth Praed

opposed the Bill, as unprecedented and unprincipled; one of the law-advisers of the Crown (the Solicitor-General) had declared his opposition to the Bill, and he contended that it was most unjust, when affidavits containing important allegations in the matter had not yet been printed, for the House to go on with such a Bill, when information was thus withheld. He should move an amendment, That further proceedings in this Bill be postponed, in order to give time for the printing of affidavits referred to by the Committee as justifying their Report.

Mr. Poulter

denied, that he ever promised to furnish the affidavits. There was no occasion for them. They were taken by the Committee only as prima facie evidence, and to show the manner in which the parties voted. To save the expense of bringing up eighty-eight witnesses the Committee took the affidavits at last, as they did at first, merely as prima facie evidence. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to have forgotten what happened since this subject was last before the House, namely—that the question was decided before a court of law, the judge having told the jury, after a short charge, that the case of the defendants had not a leg to stand upon. A verdict was given for the Crown in both cases. The whole question in fact to be determined was, whether eighty-eight was more or less than seventy-two. He was surprised the hon. and learned Gentleman should have put a notice upon the books, or stood upon his legs to defend such a case.

Mr. Twiss

said, a printed paper had been put into his hands which represented what took place in Court in a manner very different to what was stated by the hon. Member for Shaftesbury.

The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 129; Noes 57;—Majority 72.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Sir C. Ewart, W.
Aglionby, H. A. Ferguson, Sir R.
Attwood, T. Ferguson, R.
Bagshaw, J. Fergusson, rt. hon. R. C.
Baines, E. Fielden, J.
Baldwin, Dr. Fitzgibbon, hon. Col.
Ball, N. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Bannerman, A. Gordon, R.
Baring, F. T. Goring, H. D.
Bellew, R. M. Grey, Sir G.
Benett, J. Grote, G.
Berkeley, hon. C. Gulley, J.
Bernal, R. Hall, B.
Bewes, T. Harland, W. C.
Bish, T. Hastie, A.
Blamire, W. Hawkins, J. H.
Bowes, J. Hay, Sir A. L.
Brady, D. C. Hindley, C.
Bridgeman, H. Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.
Brotherton, J. Hodges, T. L.
Buckingham, J. S. Horsman, E.
Bulwer, H. L. Howard, P. H.
Burrell, Sir C. Hume, J.
Burton, H. Hutt, W.
Chalmers, P. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Chetwynd, Captain Leader, J. T.
Chichester, J. P. Lefevre, C. S.
Churchill, Lord C. Lennard, T. B.
Clay, W. Lennox, Lord G.
Codrington, Admiral Lennox, Lord A.
Dalmeny, Lord Loch, J.
Dennison, W. J. Lynch, A. H.
Dillwyn, L. W. Mackenzie, S.
Divett, E. M'Namara, Major
Donkin, Sir R. M'Taggart, J.
Duncombe, T. Marjoribanks, S.
Dundas, J. D. Maule, hon. F.
Elphinston, H. Maxwell, J.
Etwall, R. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Evans, G. O'Connell, J.
O'Connell, M. Steuart, R.
O'Ferrall, R. M. Stewart, P. M.
O'Loghlen, M. Strickland, Sir G.
Oswald, J. Strutt, E.
Paget, F. Stuart, Lord D.
Palmerston, Viscount Talbot, C. R.
Parker, J. Tancred, H. W.
Parrott, J. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Pattison, J. Thompson, Alderman
Phillips, M. Thornley, T.
Pinney, W. Tooke, W.
Ponsonby, hon. W. Townley, R. G.
Potter, R. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Price, Sir R. Tynte, C. J. K.
Pusey, P. Villiers, C. P.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Wakley, T.
Rippon, C. Wallace R.
Rolfe, Sir R. M. Warburton, H.
Russell, Lord J. Ward. H. G.
Ruthven, E. Wilbraham, G.
Sanford, E. A. Williams, W.
Scott, Sir E. D. Wrightson, W. B.
Scrope, G. P. Young, G. F.
Seale, Colonel TELLERS.
Smith, J. A. Poulter, J. S.
Stanley, E. J. Tulk, C. A.
List of the NOES.
Alford, Viscount Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Alsager, Captain Hill, Lord A.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Hogg, J. W.
Archdall, M. Hotham, Lord
Becket, right hon. Sir J. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Blackburne, I. Jones, T.
Bonham, R. F. Knightley, Sir C.
Bramston, T. W. Law, hon. C. E.
Brownrigg, S. Lefroy, A.
Bruen, Colonel Nicholl, Dr.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Palmer, R.
Canning, rt. hn. Sir S. Palmer, G.
Chandos, Marquess of Parker, M.
Clerk, Sir C. Peel, right hon. Sir R.
Codrington, C. W. Price, S. G.
Corbett, T. G. Pringle, A.
Dowdswell, W. Richards, R.
Duffield, T. Ross, C.
East, J. B. Sandon, Lord
Estcourt, T. Sheppard, T.
Freshfield, J. W. Somerset, Lord G.
Gladstone, W. E. Stewart, J.
Gordon, hon. W. Trench, Sir F.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Trevor, hon. A.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Vere, Sir C. B.
Hale, R. B. Walter, J.
Halford, H. TELLERS.
Hamilton, Lord C. Praed, W. M.
Hardy, J. Twiss, H.
Mr. Praed

said, the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, had called the attention of the House to the trials which had taken place at the Dorchester Assizes: and though, in reference to his (Mr. Praed's) former amendment, perhaps the hon. Member was not quite in order in so doing, with respect to the motion which he (Mr. Praed) was now about to make, he conceived he was fully justified in adverting to those trials, and in founding his argument upon what there took place. He would shortly draw the attention of the House to the facts of the case. Informations were laid to try the right of two persons to sit and vote in the town-council of Poole; let it be remembered, that of the two wards into which the town of Poole was divided, each of them electing nine councillors, in the north ward, not one of these elections had as yet been disputed, either before the Committee or in Court at Dorchester; and of the nine elections for the south ward only two had been disputed at the late trial. It was true that in those two cases verdicts had been found for the prosecution, but several points of law had been taken by the defendant. Even admitting, however, that these points were finally resolved in favour of the prosecution, what then? The case stood thus:—In the north ward, the whole of the nine elections were admitted to be good—unimpeached before the Committee—undisputed at the trial—not disputed even by the hon. Member for Shaftesbury himself. In the south ward, out of nine elections, seven were admitted to be good—allowed to be so by all parties. And what did this Bill do? It was a Bill to set aside the elections for the sixteen councillors of the Borough of Poole! He (Mr. Praed) could see neither reason nor justice in such a measure, and he should feel it his duty to move, that it be an instruction to the Committee to leave undisturbed the elections of any persons which had not been impugned by legal proceedings. He only asked the House not to commit the gross injustice of ejecting persons from their offices, against whom there had not been made even an allegation of undue election.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the instruction moved by the hon. Member was not consonant with Parliamentary proceeding, or with the orders of that House. He objected to the course which the hon. and learned Member had adopted in his opposition to this Bill, for he conceived, by his own admission, that opposition was not upon a question of principle, but a question of time. The hon. Member wished, for the sake of obtaining time, to obstruct the House going into Committee upon the Bill, and as they had now got so far into the Session as July, the hon. and learned Member speculated upon worrying the House into compliance. Let him go into the Committee, and he would prove to that hon. and learned member, that every provision of the Bill was consistent and just with its object and preamble. He insisted that this course was an unfair mode of opposing a Bill. If generally adopted it would give to every Member an opportunity of moving motions, by way of instruction, upon almost all the points which must necessarily be discussed in the Committee, and thus unnecessarily absorb the time of the House.

Mr. Twiss

could not refrain from making the remark, that the heat and warmth which had been displayed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, justified the old adage, that "always the warmest in argument was most in the wrong." His hon. and learned Friend had been justified in the course he had taken, for a stage had been gained by the promoters of this Bill during the absence of his hon. and learned Friend. This case was one which overset all precedent, and he hoped would never be followed hereafter by any other hon. Member, as a precedent for a similar act of injustice. His hon. and learned Friend need no other apology for his stern opposition to this Bill than the avowal of the Solicitor-General in his place, that the enactment was fraught with gross injustice.

The Speaker

It is my opinion that instructions are not necessary, nor indeed consistent with the practice of the House, unless when they are required to enable the Committee to do something, which without an instruction they would not have the power of doing. And the question here is, whether or not supposing the House to go into Committee, the object of the hon. and learned Member for Yarmouth could be attained by an alteration in the Bill in Committee, without this instruction.

Mr. Praed

said, he had often heard of instructions being moved when the subject matter of those instructions was considered of such importance as to deserve the separate consideration of the House before going into Committee, even though the Committee might be fully competent to make the proposed alteration without the instruction, If it were the opinion of the Chair, that his object could be attained in Committee he would not press the instruction.

The Speaker

Upon that I give no opinion; I only gave a definition of what I considered to be the object of an instruction.

Mr. Praed

Then, Sir, I must divide the House.

The House divided on the motion for an instruction:—Ayes 43; Noes 117:—Majority 74.

List of the AYES.
Alsager, Captain Inglis, Sir R. H.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Jones, T.
Archdall, M. Knightley, Sir C.
Beckett, rt. hon. Sir J. Law, hon. C. E.
Blackburne, I. Lincoln, Earl of
Bonham, R. F. Lowther, Viscount
Bramston, T. W. Palmer, G.
Brownrigg, S. Parker, M.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Perceval, Colonel
Codrington, C. W. Price, S. G.
Corbett, T. G. Pringle A.
Darlington, Earl of Richards, R.
Duffield, T. Sandon, Lord
East, J. B. Sheppard, T.
Ferguson, G. Sibthorpe, Colonel
Freshfield, J. W. Trench, Sir R.
Gladstone, W. E. Trevor, hon. A.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Twiss, H.
Hale, R. B. Vere, Sir C. B.
Halford, H. Walter, J.
Hardy, J. TELLERS.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Praed, M.
Hogg, J. W. Trevor, R.
List of the NOES.
Adam, Sir C. Etwall, R.
Aglionby, H. A. Evans, G.
Attwood, T. Ewart, W.
Bagshaw J. Ferguson, Sir R.
Baines, E. Ferguson, R.
Baldwin, Dr. Fergusson, rt. hon. R. C.
Bellew, R. M. Fitzgibbon, hon. Col.
Benett, J. Fitzroy, Lord, C.
Berkeley, Hon. C. Gordon, R.
Bernal, R. Goring, H. D.
Bewes, T. Grey, Sir, G.
Blamire, W. Grote, G.
Bowes, J. Gully, J.
Brady, D. C. Hall, B.
Bridgeman, H. Harland, W. C.
Brotherton, J. Hastie, A.
Buckingham, J. S. Hawes, B.
Burrell, Sir C. Hawkins, J. H.
Burton, H. Hay, Sir A. L.
Callaghan, D. Hindley, C.
Chalmers, P. Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.
Chetwynd, Captain Hodges, T. L.
Chichester, J. P. B. Horsman, E.
Churchill, Lord C. Howard, P. H.
Dalmeny, Lord Hume, J.
Dillwyn, L. W. Hutt, W.
Divett, E. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Donkin, Sir R. Leader, J. T.
Dundas, J. D. Lefevre, C. S.
Elphinstone, H. Lennard, T. B.
Lennox, Lord G. Scott, Sir E. D.
Lennox, Lord A. Scrope, G. P.
Loch, J. Seale, Colonel
Lushington, C. Smith, J. A.
Lynch, A. H. Stanley, E. J.
Mackenzie, S. Stewart, R.
M'Namara, Major Stewart, P. M.
M'Taggart, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Marjoribanks, S. Strutt, E.
Maule, hon. F. Stuart, Lord D.
Moreton, hon. A. H. Talbot, C. R. M.
Murray, right hon. J.A. Tancred, H. W.
O'Connell, J. Thomson, rt. hon. C.P.
O'Connell, M. Thompson, Alderman
O'Ferrall, R. M. Thornley, T.
O'Loghlen, M. Tooke, W.
Oswald, J. Townley, R. G.
Palmer, General Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Palmerston, Lord Tulk, C. A.
Parker, J. Tynte, C. J. K.
Pattison, J. V'illiers, C. P.
Philips, M. Wakley, T.
Pinney, W. Wallace, R.
Ponsonby, hon. W. Warburton, H.
Potter, R. Wilbraham, G.
Pusey, P. Williams, W.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Young, G. F.
Rolfe, Sir R. M. TELLERS.
Russell, Lord J. Baring,—
Sanford, E. A. Poulter, J. S.

The House went into Committee; Clause I, agreed to. On Clause 2,

Mr. Praed

said, that he had been charged by the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with consuming the time of the House for the purpose of delay. He should, however, not be deterred by sneer, or taunt, or imputation, or by clamour, from pursuing the course which he thought it right to take. He now wished to move, as a proviso to be added to this clause, words to the effect, that supposing no final proceedings be had in any court of law setting aside the election by the end of twelve calendar months, all bonds and agreements entered into by the Corporation during the time they should have exercised bona fide the powers of a Corporation should be good and valid to all intents and purposes. He would not argue the question—it spoke for itself.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

would, in a few words, detail to the House the course which the hon. and learned Member for Yarmouth had taken upon this Bill; and he would leave the public to form their own judgment upon it. The hon. and learned Member said he only wished for fair play. That was all that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) desired. But what was the hon. and learned Member's definition of "fair play." First of all, he interposed an obstacle to the progress of the Bill upon the ground that certain affidavits were wanting. Why, if those affidavits were really necessary, had not the hon. and learned Member moved for their production within the last few months. Next, when defeated in his first attempt, the hon. and learned Gentleman moved his instruction obviously for the purpose of delay, and only with that object; for the instruction was quite unnecessary to the attainment of his end. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) thought he was justified in the observations he had before made upon the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he repeated that the two divisions which had been already taken, and that which was about to be called for, were only for the purposes of delay. He was willing to leave the public to decide between the hon. and learned Gentleman and himself; and he would only put it to the House, and even to the hon. Gentleman himself, whether the kind of opposition which he had offered to the Bill, the getting up of unnecessary debates, the moving unnecessary amendments, the calling for repeated divisions, with continually decreasing minorities, and deserted by all those who would have given character to his proceedings [loud cries of "Hear."] He would put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman, the House, and the public, whether that was a fair and open course of dealing with any legislative measure whatever.

Sir Robert Inglis

rose only to remark, that it was not fair, nor indeed, in his opinion, orderly, for the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer to advert to the absence of certain hon. Members on his (Sir Robert Inglis's) side of the House, and draw from that circumstance inferences unfavourable to the hon. and learned Member for Yarmouth. Neither was it fair of the right hon. Gentleman, after the disclaimer of his hon. Friend, the Member for Yarmouth, to impute to him unworthy motives in the course which he had thought proper to pursue on this Bill.

Mr. Poulter

said, the second clause depended upon the first, and after having agreed to the first, it was unfair for his hon. and learned Friend to oppose the second. He only wished to observe, that though he did not intend to offer any offence to his hon. and learned Friend, he must say, he did consider the opposition which had been given to this Bill as most unfair.

Mr. Praed

In answer to what had been objected by his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Shaftesbury, begged to say, that the only reason why he had not opposed the first clause was, that having already, before going into Committee, stated his objections to the principle of the Bill, and the first clause involving that principle, he did not wish to trouble the House by again stating objections which had been virtually decided. As to what the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, he begged to ask, whether it was not for the promoters of the Bill to produce the affidavits on which their Bill professed to be founded. They were, in this instance, acting the part of prosecutors, and surely it was for them to prove their own case, not for the defendants. Besides, though the evidence had been printed by order of the House, these affidavits were wanting. As to the imputation of delay, whose fault was it that the House was counted out on Friday? He (Mr. Praed) would also say, that if every amendment which was moved by a minority was to be stigmatised as intended to create delay, there was an end to freedom of discussion, and a rule would be laid down which the right hon. Gentleman, when he was a member of a minority, would have been slow to submit to. He should certainly press his motion, for he considered the Bill as most unconstitutional in its nature, and was so termed by the first law adviser of the Crown.

Lord John Russell

—Without entering into the question before the House (which has already been sufficiently argued), I only wish to say, in reply to one remark which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Yarmouth, that it was not the fault of the Government that the House was recently counted out; that it was my expectation and my wish that a House should have been made, and that I was as much disappointed as any body could have been, that the House was counted out. And I beg to ask the hon. and learned Member who has this night so loudly complained of unfounded imputations, upon what ground it is that he has presumed to make this charge against the Government.

The Solicitor-General

denied that he had ever thought that the question was one which ought to be decided only by a court of law. He had only concurred in the ap- pointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the facts. But when his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Shaftesbury, moved the second reading of this Bill, two persons being then about to be tried before a court of law, he gave it as his opinion, that the House ought to wait till the result of that trial was known. But since that time, the very circumstance which he regarded as an insuperable obstacle to the progress of the Bill had been removed. The trial had taken place, and the facts disclosed on the trial, were the same in effect as those which were brought out before the Committee. He cared nothing about the motion for a new trial. It was not pretended that the facts were not proved. The only question was, had frauds been committed at the Poole election, and when he found that the trial by the country brought out some facts which were proved before the Committee, he adopted those facts. It was very true that only two persons were prosecuted, but the evidence showed that the greatest frauds had been practised during the election, even in the ward which the hon. and learned Member for Yarmouth contended was quite pure.

The gallery was then cleared for a division, but none took place; and the clause, as it originally stood, was agreed to.

The remaining clauses of the Bill were also agreed to. House resumed, and Bill reported.