§ Mr. Warburton
said, that two petitions had been placed in his hands, containing allegations very seriously involving the privileges of the House, and detailing proceedings directly in contravention of the standing orders of the House. The circumstances described in these petitions very materially affected the conduct of some hon. Members of that House, so far as those Members had entered into connexion with a 770 certain joint-stock company, either now in being or about to be established. Although the circumstances detailed in these petitions were well deserving of a more lengthened notice, yet he thought that he should most consult the convenience of the House, without, at the same time, neglecting what was due to public justice, if he merely moved that the petitions be now read, and that they be printed and circulated with the votes; because, when these petitions should be in the hands of all the Members of the House, and especially of those Members whose names were implicated in these charges, then it would be competent for him to-morrow, or the following day, to call the attention of the House to this very important question. The petitions purported to proceed from the undersigned occupiers and owners of lands on the line of the proposed railway from Deptford to Dover. The petitions had only been put into his hands a few minutes ago, so that he had had no opportunity of communicating with the hon. Members whose conduct was called in question; but he believed that one of those hon. Members had been informed by the agent of the petitioners, that these petitions were to be presented this evening. He was anxious to conform to the line which had been laid down for the guidance of hon. Members on similar occasions to the present, and he would, therefore, merely move that these petitions be now read by the clerk at the table. Proceedings were now in progress which were likely to affect seriously various individuals, and he thought, therefore, that no time ought to be lost in proceeding to investigate this matter.
§ Sir Edward Knatchbull
said, that as the line in question ran through the county which he had the honour to represent, he hoped he might be allowed to say a word on the subject. Not that he had the slightest idea as to what these petitions referred; he merely rose humbly to submit to the House, that the preferable course would be for the hon. Member for Bridport to give notice of his intention to present these petitions to-morrow, instead of moving that they be now read. This he felt would be the fairest course, because if these petitions were now read, a strong impression would be made on the minds of the House and of the public, which the parties affected would have no immediate opportunity of counteracting.
§ Mr. Finn
was decidedly of opinion that any petitions or allegations affecting the character or conduct of Members of that House ought not to be laid before the House without an opportunity being afforded to the hon. Members concerned of making their defence at the same time, in order that the bane and the antidote might circulate together.
§ Mr. William Duncombe
considered, that the hon. Members whose conduct had been called in question ought to have had notice of the presentation of these petitions, in order that they might have attended in their places, and have an opportunity of vindicating their conduct. He was, therefore, inclined to suggest that the hon. Member should defer the presentation until to-morrow or the day after.
§ Mr. Wakley
thought, that if the Members of that House were desirous of discharging their duty to the public faithfully and independently, they would pursue the same course with respect to themselves that they were in the habit of pursuing with respect to the public. If the parties whose conduct was impugned had not enjoyed seats in that House, no scruple would have been felt in bringing forward any allegations affecting their characters; and why, then, he wished to know, should they act with this extraordinary delicacy in the case of certain Members of their Own body? If they were not guilty, they would have an opportunity of refuting these charges and establishing their innocence; but, unless the petition were read, printed, and circulated previous to the discussion on the subject, the House would be wholly unprepared for that discussion.
§ Petition withdrawn.