HC Deb 21 February 1839 vol 45 cc715-20
Mr. Williams Wynn

brought up the Report of the Select Committee appointed to consider the papers relative to the appointment of Mr. D. W. Harvey, the Member for Southwark, to the office of Registrar of Hackney Carriages, and directed to report whether Mr. Harvey having accepted the said office has vacated his seat.

The Report was read as follows:

  1. 1. "That having considered the Statutes 6 Anne, c. 7, 41 Geo. 3, c. 52, and 1 and 2 Vic. c. 79, your Committee is of opinion, that the office of Registrar of Metropolitan Public Carriages is a new office of profit under the Crown, within the true intent and meaning of the first of the above mentioned Statutes."
  2. 2. "That your Committee is of opinion, that Mr. Harvey has accepted the said office, and has thereby vacated his seat."

Resolutions agreed to.

Mr. Wynn

said, in accordance with the decision of the Committee, which he would observe was unanimously agreed to, and in which they were assisted by the law officers of the Crown, unless any hon. Gentleman wished for time in order to induce the House to come to a different conclusion, he thought it due to the electors of the borough of Southwark not to keep them without a representative, and he therefore moved that a new writ be issued for Southwark, in the room of Daniel Whittle Harvey, esquire, who, since his election, has accepted the office of Registrar of Metropolitan public carriages.

Mr. Hume

had no hesitation in expressing his concurrence in the opinion of the Committee, and the question appeared to him as plain a one as could possibly be submitted. He rose only to state, that there had been many instances of Members of that House receiving the public money, and being appointed to public offices, without vacating their seats, and without any notice being taken of it, and it would appear that the objection in the present case was directed against Mr. Harvey. He hoped that the rule which had now been enforced would in future be rigidly observed, and that there would be no ground henceforth given for any imputation as to the partiality of the House, for there was nothing so important as that strict impartiality should be observed in their proceedings, and no person ought to be injured by that House on account of his political opinions. There was no doubt this was a very hard case as to Mr. Harvey, and he only hoped, for the credit of the House, that the same rigid rule would be followed in all other similar cases.

Mr. Ward,

as one of the Committee, felt bound to say the case was so clear, and the facts so settled, that there was not the slightest shadow of a shade of doubt upon the subject, and the Committee deemed, that they were only discharging a public duty in putting an end to the uncertainty with regard to the borough of Southwark, by the report which they had presented.

Mr. Aglionby

would not have said a word, but for the assertion of the hon. Member who had just sat down, that there was not the shadow of a shade of doubt among the Committee which was not strictly correct, for he (Mr. Aglionby) had suggested a doubt; which doubt he still felt, although he had on the Committee submitted to a superior legal authority, whether there was not a distinction between the acceptance of an office, to which a salary was at the time of its acceptance attached, and the acceptance of an office to which there was only a contingent and uncertain salary. In this latter case, as the Court of Queen's Bench would not grant a mandamus, neither did the rule of vacating the seat in that House apply.

Sir Robert Peel

trusted, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny would allow him to suggest that if he was aware of any other instances that fell within the same principle, that he would have the goodness to mention them, and move for new writs. If the hon. Member made such a motion, he should be disposed to second it for the sake of impartiality.

Mr. Hume

had no hesitation, in explanation of what he had said, to state to the right hon. Baronet that the first question he had put to some of the Members of the Committee was, whether they had inquired into the precedents of that House. He had asked whether they had inquired into the case of the hon. Member for. Marylebone, who had been sent abroad. Whether they had inquired into the case of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, who had been allowed a sum of money for a special commission, and also, whether they had inquired into that of the hon. Member for Dundee. This was the first blot that had been discovered. He (Mr. Hume) did not disapprove of that discovery, but he would take care, that in all future appointments, inquiries should be made, and also into those that were now existing.

Mr. Goulburn

said, with respect to the case of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, to which the hon. Member for Kilkenny had alluded, he (Mr. Goulburn) had called the attention of the House to the subject himself, and no person was more vigorous in casting imputations upon him for doing so than the hon. Member for Kilkenny.

Mr. Hume

denied the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. That right hon. Gentleman had made some imputation which he considered improper with reference to the estimates on that subject, and what be had stated was, to deprecate the course the right hon. Gentleman pursued.

Mr. Williams Wynn,

on behalf of the Committee, wished to state, that they were appointed to consider whether Mr. Harvey had vacated his seat, or not, and it was no part of their duty to inquire into the circumstances of the cases of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, or the hon. Member for Dundee. If the hon. Member for Kilkenny was aware of any other case, it would be his duty to bring it under the consideration of the House. He could not but observe, that the present law upon the subject was deficient, inasmuch as there was no provision calling upon parties to inform that House of the appointment of Members to official situations. There were other cases, but they were passed over sub silentio; if, however, these were brought before the House from any quarter, the House would then inquire into them.

Mr. Jervis

rose, to give an opportunity to the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Montgomery, to contradict a rumour which was very prevalent in Wales, that since the last election he had received a place of profit under the Government, the lordship of Denbigh, for which he received something for doing certain duties. Now it was within his own knowledge, that the patent was made out since the last election. It was true it was dated before, but it was dated on an era- sure, and be was informed it was not in fact made out till the month of Mardi, 1838, while the election took place in August, 1837. He was told, that the right hon. Gentleman had applied to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before the election, but he apprehended, that the appointment not having taken place until after the election, the date of application made no difference. The date of the warrant being upon an erasure, and having been dated subsequent to the election, the circumstances called for explanation. The right hon. Gentleman was originally appointed to the office in the year 1796—it was an office held during the pleasure of the Crown, and of course was vacated by the demise of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman had held the office during the reigns of George 3d and William 4th, he believed without any renewal of the patent. The election took place, and the right hon. Gentleman applied for the receipt of his salary. It was then inquired of him, whether he had any patent, which, being produced, was found to be dated upon an erasure. He had made inquiries at the office, and he was informed by the officer there, that though the appointment was made on the 5th March, 1837, it bore the date of the 18th July, He thought he had stated sufficient grounds to entitle him to call upon his right hon. Friend, if he would allow him to call him so, for an explanation. He could assure him, that it had excited a feeling in the minds of many Welchmen, that he had vacated his seat by the acceptance of the office in question.

Mr. Williams Wynn

thought, he had a good right to complain of the unfairness of bringing a question of that nature before the House without first favouring him with some notice, or without, so far as the hon. Gentleman was concerned, the slightest intimation of his intention. As it happened, however, he had had notice of this case, because his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had informed him, that the hon. Member had been making inquiries into the subject. He would meet the case by stating the real circumstances attending his appointment. It was true, that he received the appointment originally in the reign of George 3d, in the year 1796—it was perfectly true, that he had held the appointment throughout the reign of George 4th, without any new patent, under the provisions of an Act of Parliament which rendered such appointments legal unless there was an actual tender of them. Upon the death of William 4th, and prior to the election, he was still holding the office, which he might legally do for six months. Before the expiration of that time he wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to know whether it were intended to continue the appointment, and in reply, before the election, he received from the right hon. Gentleman a letter, stating, that the appointment would be continued, and that the patent would be prepared forthwith. Though he had received the patent after the election, still he apprehended that it would not vacate his seat, because, before he was re-elected, he had in fact in that letter received his re-appointment to that office. Under these circumstances he considered, that the hon. Gentleman had, what was vulgarly called, found a mare's nest.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that he felt it to be his duty to say a few words on the subject; he might, perhaps, not express himself so clearly on the subject as if he had been present the other night—but he believed there could be no doubt of the fact, that before the election, the hon. Gentleman had applied on the subject of the appointment, when he was informed, that the re-appointment would take place as a matter of course, and the only reason for the delay which had occurred, was, that a doubt had arisen as to whether the appointment was to take place under the Woods and Forests, or under the authority of the Treasury. With regard to Gentlemen accepting the Chiltern Hundreds, which was constantly occurring, Gentlemen were in the habit of applying for the appointment of steward to the Chiltern Hundreds, and between the making out the appointment and the acceptance of the office, a delay of two or three days frequently took place, In fact however, it was the acceptance of the office, and not the making out of the appointment, that brought the law into operation. If any had occurred, he was responsible for it, and it arose out of an uncertainty as to what department it should be referred to.

Mr. Jervis

certainly would not have mentioned the case at all if the right hon. Gentleman had not wished to know if there were any case at all analogous to that of the hon. Member for Southwark. Whether he might be right or wrong he really had no intention of doing anything injurious to the right hon. Gentleman. He contended, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no authority to give away the office; he merely recommended the appointment to the Crown, by whom the office was granted, and he subsequently signified his approval in the usual manner. Although the appointment was made on 5th of March, the office was not legally given away until the patent was actually made out, for all such appointments were made by record, and till the warrants were signed, the appointments were legally in existence. It seemed to him, therefore, that if they were to act with strict impartiality and were to subject the hon. Member to penalties for every vote he had given, that further inquiry was necessary, and other persons should be treated in the same manner.

Motion agreed to

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