HC Deb 14 February 1838 vol 40 cc1106-9

The Order of the Day for the further consideration of the petition of J. P. Somers, Esq., having been read,

Mr. Freshfield

contended, that the preliminary objection which had been taken to the petition could not be sustained, and he would show that the practice of the House had been contrary to that suggested by the hon. Member for Roscommon. In one instance a petition had been signed by six persons, and it was admitted by a witness, whom the sitting Member intended to call, that the petition was not bona fide, but had been signed at the instance of others. The Committee, however, had decided that with respect to the five to whom that charge applied, they were not petitioners; but as a witness had seen the sixth petitioner within two days of the sitting of the Committee, when the petitioner had expressed his hope that the petition would succeed, and that was held by the House to be a sufficient interest in the subject. In the Nottingham case a similar judgment was entertained. In two cases objections were made that there was not a sufficient description in the petition, of the character in which the petitioner claimed to have the right to petition, and in those cases the Committee decided, that, inasmuch as the petition had been received by the House, they were bound to proceed upon it, and they therefore decided against the preliminary objection. Mr. Fox afterwards, in that House, upon petitioner having seen a defect, moved that the petition should not be proceeded upon. A debate took place. The Attorney-General objected to the House taking the discussion, on the ground that the subject was one for the consideration of an Election Committee, and the House decided in favour of Mr. Fox's motion. He would not detaint he House further except to say, that if ever there was a case that was proper to be brought before an Election Committee, it was where the signatures were disputed, because the House did not allow election petitions to proceed unless they were properly subscribed.

Mr. F. French

had never stated, that a Committee could not take cognizance of the signatures to a petition. He was quite aware of the Nottingham case and of the other cases to which the hon. Member had referred; but he felt satisfied that the proper course to adopt was to bring the subject under the consideration of the House.

Mr. Williams Wynn

said, that it appeared to him that the present was not only an investigation which a Select Committee might entertain, but he thought the House was absolutely bound to send the subject to such a tribunal. Nothing could be gained by an inquisition before the House. The Committee was to be ballotted for to-morrow, and it must at once take cognizance of the allegation made against the genuineness of the signatures. If it was not the petition of the parties, then the Committee would give the sitting Member the costs of his defence.

Mr. O'Connell

thought, the petition had better be referred to a Select Committee, because the whole House would be as clumsy a jury as it was possible to invent. He himself had never desired to be a judge. If the matter were referred to a Select Committee the real merits of the case would be thoroughly investigated.

The Speaker

thought, it would be admitted by all parties that if an individual's name were forged in any petition presented to the House that was a breach of the privileges of the House; and if a petition were presented to the House containing such an allegation, it stated that which the House would recognise as a breach of privilege. In the present case, a petition had been brought under the notice of the House, which contained an allegation that the signatures attached to a former petition, yet to be considered by a Select Committee of the House, were forgeries. But then, looking at the case in connexion with the Grenville Act, the House would not take cognizance of any election petition, but acting ministerially, would appoint a Select Committee for the consideration of such petition; such was the course to be pursued in the present case, and as the Committee was to be appointed to-morrow, perhaps the more convenient mode would be to let the Committee examine witnesses as to the validity of the signatures, and if they found any of them to be forgeries, let them report the same to the House. If the Committee found that all the names were forgeries, then, of course, they would not proceed to try the merits of the petition. It would be very inconvenient, he thought, for the House to prolong a discussion on this case, which was within forty-eight hours of being referred to the regular tribunal. Therefore, without at all involving the question as to whether the House would delegate to the Committee any power to settle a question relating to the privileges of the House, perhaps the House would decide upon leaving the matter to the Election Committee.

Mr. F. French

reminded the House that the whole of the signatures were alleged to be forgeries, and if that could be proved, there would be an end of the case. He believed that since the passing of the Grenville Act no case analogous to the present one had occurred. The cases of Athlone and Carrickfergus were not so. He would leave the House to deal with his proposition as it thought proper.

Mr. Williams Wynn

wished to explain that neither directly nor indirectly had he had any communication with the hon. Member for Sligo, or with any other hon. Member as to the course which he pursued, for he was not aware that the question would come on, and did not, therefore, come down to the House till near six o'clock. He would not have taken the objection, but that he felt a judicial question of this kind ought not to be left to the consideration of the House, and that he was bound to state the point as it occurred to him at the time.

Colonel Perceval

felt it his duty to state for the information of his hon. Friend, the Member for Roscommon, and for the information of the House, that he never was more astonished than by the speech of the hon. Member for Penryn, and never regretted anything more than that he should have interrupted the course of proceeding last night, or, indeed, that any proposition of the kind should emanate from that (the Conservative) side of the House. He felt, however, that there was a difficulty in bringing this matter before a Select Committee, and for this reason he was anxious that the witnesses should be called to the bar of the House, and a decision given upon it forthwith.

Mr. Williams Wynn moved that the order be discharged.

The House divided on the motion:— Ayes 128; Noes 142: Majority 14.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Hardinge, right hon. Sir H.
Aglionby, Major
Ainsworth, P. Hayter, William G.
Alston, R. Heathcoat, J.
Archbold, R. Hobhouse, T. B.
Baines, E. Hodgson, R.
Ball, N. Howard, P. H.
Barnard, E. G. Hume, J.
Barrington, Viscount Hurst, R. H.
Barry, G. S. James, W.
Beamish, F. B. Lambton, H.
Bellew, R. M. Langdale, hon. C.
Blake, M. J. Langton, W. G.
Bowes, J. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Brabazon, Sir W. Leader, J. T.
Bridgeman, H. Lefevre, C. S.
Brotherton, J. Lennox, Lord G.
Buller, C. Lennox, Lord A.
Bulwer, E. L. Lushington, C.
Butler, hon. Colonel Macnamara, Major
Callaghan, D. Maher, J.
Campbell, Sir J. Mahony, P.
Carnac, Sir J. R. Marsland, H.
Cavendish, hon. C. Maule, W. H.
Cayley, E. S. Morpeth, Viscount
Chapman, Sir M. L. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Chetwynd, Major Nagle, Sir R.
Clive, E. B. O'Connell, D.
Collier, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Curry, W. O'Connell, M.
Dalmeney, Lord O'Conor, Don.
Darlington, Earl of Palmer, C. F.
Davies, Colonel Palmer, R.
Dennistoun, J. Parrott, J.
Divett, E. Pattison, J.
Dundas, Captain Phillpotts, J.
Ellice, right hon. E. Poulter, J. S.
Etwall, R. Power, J.
Fitzsimon, N. Pryme, G.
Freshfield, J. W. Pusey, P.
Gaskell, James Milnes Redington, T. N.
Gladstone, W. E. Rice, E. R.
Goring, H. D. Rice, right hon. T. S.
Grattan, H. Rich, H.
Halford, H. Roche, E. B.
Roche, W. Verney, Sir H.
Rundle, J. Vigors, N. A.
Russell, Lord C. Wakley, T.
Salwey, Colonel Warburton, H.
Sanford, E. A. Ward, H. G.
Scholefield, J. Wemyss, J. E.
Seale, Colonel Whalley, Sir S.
Seymour, Lord White, A.
Sharpe, General White, L.
Shaw, right hon. F. White, S.
Slaney, R. A. Wilkins, W.
Smith, R. V. Williams, W.
Somerville, Sir W. M. Wood, G. W.
Stanley, W. O. Wood, C.
Stewart, J. Woulfe, Sergeant
Stuart, V. Wynn, right hon. C. W.
Strickland, Sir G.
Talfourd, Sergeant Yates, J. A.
Tancred, H. W.
Thornley, T. TELLERS.
Troubridge, Sir E. T. French, F.
Turner, W. Horsman, E.
List of the NOES.
A'Court, Captain Douro, Marquess of
Adare, Viscount Dowdeswell, W.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Duffield, T.
Bagge, W. Dugdale, W. S.
Bagot, hon. W. Duncombe, hon. W.
Bailey, J. Duncombe, hon. A.
Baillie, Colonel Eastnor, Viscount
Baring, H. B. Egerton, W. T.
Barneby, J. Egerton, Sir P.
Bateman, J. Ellis, J.
Bell, M. Farnham, E. B.
Bethell, R. Feilden, W.
Blackburne, I. Fellowes, E.
Blackstone, W. S. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Blennerhassett, A. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Boldero, H. G. Forbes, W.
Boiling, W. Forester, hon. G.
Bradshaw, J. Fremantle, Sir T.
Bramston, T. W. Gibson, T.
Broadley, H. Gordon, hon. Captain
Broadwood, H. Gore, O. J. R.
Brownrigg, S. Gore, O. W.
Bruce, Lord E. Grant, hon. Colonel
Burr, H. Grimsditch, T.
Burrell, Sir C. Grimston, Viscount
Burroughes, H. N. Grimston, hon. E. H.
Chandos, Marquess of Halse, J.
Chaplin, Colonel Herbert, hon. S.
Chisholm, A. W. Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Christopher, R. A. Hillsborough, Earl of
Clive, hon. R. H. Hinde, J. H.
Cole, Viscount Hogg, J. W.
Compton, H. C. Holmes, hn. W. A'C.
Conolly, E. Holmes, W.
Coote, Sir C. H. Hope, G. W.
Corry, hon. H. Hotham, Lord
Courtenay, P. Houldsworth, T.
Creswell, C. Hughes, W. B.
Darby, G. Ingestrie, Viscount
De Horsey, S. H. Irton, S.
Dick, Q. Jephson, C. D. O.
D'Israeli, B. Johnstone, H.
Dottin, A. R. Jones, W.
Jones, T. Pringle, A.
Jones, J. Reid, Sir J. R.
Knatchbull, right hon. Sir E. Richards, R.
Rolleston, L.
Knightley, Sir C. Round, J.
Law, hon. C. E. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Lefroy, right hon. T. Rushout, G.
Lewis, W. St. Paul, H.
Litton, E. Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Lowther, hon. Colonel Scarlett, hon. R.
Lucas, E. Shirley, E. J.
Lygon, hon. General Sinclair, Sir G.
Mackenzie, T. Somerset, Lord G.
Mackinnon, W. A. Stanley, E.
Maidstone, Viscount Stuart, H.
Manners, Lord C. S. Sturt, H. C.
Marsland, T. Style, Sir C.
Master, T. W. C. Vere, Sir C. B.
Maunsell, T. P. Verner, Colonel
Miles, W. Villiers, Viscount
Miles, P. W. S. Wilberforce, W.
Moneypenny, T. G. Wilbraham, hon. B.
Mordaunt, Sir J. Winnington, H. J.
Neeld, J. Wodehouse, E.
Pakington, J. S. Young, J.
Palmer, G. Young, Sir W.
Perceval, hon. G. J.
Powell, Colonel TELLERS.
Praed, W. M. Jackson, Sergeant
Price, R. Perceval, Colonel

Witnesses were then examined who proved that the signatures complained of were genuine.

The motion was then put:—"That the allegations in the petition had not been sustained," which was agreed to.

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