HC Deb 12 December 1837 vol 39 cc989-91

Mr. Horsman moved the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the practice of creating and registering fictitious and improper votes in Scotland. As a similar Committee had been appointed last year, he did not anticipate that any objection would be now offered.

The names of the Committee having been read,

Mr. Pringle

said, he had never heard the names till then, and he must confess that he heard them with considerable surprise. He had hoped that the Members of the Committee of last year would have been re-appointed, at least so many as were still in the House, if it was expected that the Committee should draw up a fair report. At present it appeared to him that the names had been selected in such a manner as best to ensure a report favourable to the hon. Member's (Mr. Horsman's) own views. He would move that the names of the hon. Members who constituted the Committee should be again restored to the list; and if that were not complied with, he would move that the consideration of the nomination be adjourned to a future day. He thought that he had reason to complain that the hon. Member for Cockermouth should have nominated this Committee without holding some communication on the subject with the opposition side of the House.

Mr. Horsman

said, that it was impossible that the hon. Member could have heard the names of the Committee, or he would not have brought an accusation of unfairness against him. There certainly was one charge to which he must plead guilty. It might be for want of discernment on his part, but he was not aware that the hon. Member for Selkirkshire was the authorised medium of communication with the other side of the House. He had thought it his duty to communicate with an hon. Member on the other side of the House, who had been a Member of the Committee of last year: he alluded to the hon. Baronet the Member for Buckingham (Sir T. Fremantle.) There was one objection to the course proposed by the hon. Member for Selkirkshire; namely, that if hon. Members told him that they had rather not serve on the Committee, that circumstances prevented them attending, he had no means of compelling their attendance. Under these circumstances, in every instance in which he had been compelled to substitute a name he had substituted a Member of the same politics. The Committee of last year had been struck as fairly as possible: there were eight from that side and seven from the opposition side. On the present occasion the same thing was done. The two hon. Members who had been selected to replace the Members of the other side of the House who had served on the Committee of last year were recommended by the hon. Baronet the Member for Buckingham. He had done everything in his power to obtain a fair inquiry.

Sir R. Peel

considered that the mode adopted by the hon. Mover was perfectly satisfactory. The principle on which the Committee was appointed appeared to him to be a fair one, but he hoped that the nomination of the Committee would be delayed for at least twenty-four hours, in order that hon. Members on the opposition side of the House might have an opportunity of considering the subject.

Sir T. Fremantle

said, that certainly the hon. Member for Cockermouth had consulted with him as to the names, and they had entered into the arrangement mentioned; but of course that arrangement was in no way binding on the House—it was merely a matter of convenience to both parties, which was usual in such cases. He must, however, say that he had not seen the names of the present Committee before. He understood that the names of the Members of the Committee of last year would have been retained as far as it was possible to do so, but he found several Gentlemen who had not served on the last Committee proposed now. These were Mr. R. Stewart, Lord J. Stewart, Mr. E. Ellice, junr., and Mr. Gillon. He must therefore protest against his name being used as agreeing to this Committee, which had to inquire into a matter involving a great deal of party interest.

Mr. Horsman

said, that he did not say that the hon. Baronet had seen the names of the Committee. All he said was that the hon. Baronet agreed to substitute the names of two Gentlemen from his own side of the House in the room of two other gentlemen of the same political opinions who had retired from the Committee, or who were no longer Members of the House. He had asked all the old Members of the Committee to serve again, but on the refusal of some of them he had been obliged to substitute others. He was quite prepared to hear to-night the names of several Members on the hon. Baronet's side of the House who would not be able to serve; and he fully intended to allow the hon. Baronet to supply their places as he thought proper. As to the names on the old Committee which he Mr. Horsman had substituted by others, he thought the hon. Baronet would admit that there was no great difference in their politics when he mentioned the names of the former Members, namely, Mr. Fox Maule (no longer in Parliament), Mr. Dunlop, Mr. Divett, and Mr. Warburton.

Appointment of the Committee postponed till next day.