HC Deb 07 March 1837 vol 37 cc67-72

Mr. Hardy moved for leave to bring in a Bill to prevent bribery and corruption at elections of Members to serve in Parliament. [Mr. Hume: Will it contain a provision against head-money?] There was a provision to that effect in the Bill. He hoped that in the Bill remedies would be provided to put an end to bribery, as far as such an end could be obtained by legislation. To put an end to corruption altogether would, perhaps, be impossible by any human means. The provision on which he principally relied, was the power of calling both principal and agents to the bar, and subjecting them to a strict examination. It would prove more effectual even than the Ballot itself. When it was in their power to get at the most intimate agent, and to examine, it would strike a most effectual blow at corruption. Neither penalties, nor even the Ballot would be so effectual as that. The Ballot could afford no remedy in such a case as that of Carlow, where a candidate placed 2,000l. in the hands of an individual to be divided among a constituency. The Bill contained a provision to meet such a case. The most effectual way to turn a Member out of a seat which he had obtained by corruption would be to get at his agents. No other method could be so effectual as that.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that it seemed to him that the hon. and learned Member had taken the trouble to make a speech in opposition to the vote he had just given on the question of the Ballot. He (Mr. O'Connell) was obliged to the hon. Member for his vote, but he assured him he much preferred it to his speech. As to the Bill itself, he hoped it would have a retrospective effect, so that those who had heretofore been guilty of bribery in any shape whatever should be incapacitated from afterwards sitting in that House; or if a man gave head-money against his conscience, and afterwards solemnly declared that he had done no such thing, what was the value of such a declaration? However, he thanked the hon. and learned Member for bringing in this Bill. He seemed peculiarly qualified by learning, and talents, and experience—to undertake such a task. It seemed as though there were no shifts of bribery or corruption that the hon. Member could not discover. Therefore he had great confidence in the Bill. He believed that it would purge all bribery, from the head to the tail; but all he implored of the hon. and learned Member was, that he would allow it to have a retrospective effect on all past-going bribers, so that they might not boast of having a conscience clear of all crime in regard to bribery, when perhaps the sin remained as deep as ever.

Leave given.

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