HC Deb 03 February 1840 vol 51 cc1100-3

The messenger of the House appeared at the bar, and read the minutes of his proceedings for the purpose of serving the order of the House upon Mr. Thomas Burton Howard. He stated, that on the 27th of the past month he was furnished with the order of the House of Commons, and proceeded to the residence of Mr. Howard, but did not find him there. Having gained admittance, he was informed by the son of Mr. Howard that his father was absent from town, and on his inquiring where he was to be found, the son informed him that he had gone to Hull upon particular business, and would not return for some time. The messenger stated his business, and announced himself as the officer of the House of Commons, and left the order with the son. He called on the next day and saw Mrs. Howard, but he obtained no satisfactory answer from that lady. On the subsequent day he called again, and requested the son to show him a letter which he said that he had received from his father at Hull, and also to post a letter to his father. To the former request the son acceded, and proceeded to an inner room. After a short delay he returned, and said that he could not find the letter, but gave his father's address at Hull upon a piece of paper. The messenger, before proceeding to Hull, inquired at the coach-office from the clerk to know whether he I had upon his books the name of Thomas Burton Howard, when no such name could be found as a passenger to Hull. At length the messenger went to Hull; inquired at the post-office; found no letters addressed to Mr. Howard had been received there; went to the residence of the person with whom, on the representation of the son, his father was said to reside. That person knew nothing whatever of Mr. Thomas Burton Howard. The messenger watched for hours round the house, but could see no one whose description in any way corresponded with that of Mr. Howard. Seeing no chance of finding the object of his search, he returned to town. By some private information he heard that Mr. Howard was residing in the neighbourhood of Kentish- town or Somers-town, whither the messenger proceeded, and having inquired at the Assembly Rooms for a person named Edwards, he was roughly answered by that individual, who told him that all he knew of Mr. Howard was, that he was not in town. His efforts to find Mr. Howard had been perfectly abortive. On being ordered to withdraw,

Lord John Russell

said, that it was to be understood by the House that the officer should continue to execute the order of the House.

Sir R. Peel

concurred, stating that the warrant would be still in force, and that the messenger should endeavour to exert himself, and use all possible despatch in the execution of his duty.

Mr. Hume

said, that the House ought to present an address to her Majesty, praying that her Majesty would be pleased to offer a reward for the apprehension of Mr. Thomas Burton Howard. Since he (Mr. Hume) had entered the House, he found that an attachment had been issued against the sheriffs, in the name of Mr. Thomas Burton Howard, to compel them to pay the money over to Mr. Stockdale, and he had actually seen the warrant for the attachment. It was imperative that the House should come to some definite conclusion upon the subject, in order that they might not become a laughing-stock to the public.

The Attorney General

said, that he would accede to the proposition, if he were convinced that Mr. Thomas Burton Howard had been evading the authority of the House; but it might turn out that Mr. Howard had not received the order of the House,

Sir F. Trench

said, that the family of Mr. Howard were evidently trifling with the House. There appeared to be no reason whatever to suppose that Mr. Howard was at Hull.

Sir R. Inglis

said, that there was no evidence whatever to show that the notice bad been served upon the individual for whom it was intended, and before any severe measures were adopted, it was important that proof of the delivery should be previously established.

Viscount Howick

considered that it was necessary to fix the precise course to be adopted. If he did not mistake, not an order but a warrant from the Speaker had been issued. Though the House did not possess strict legal evidence that the order had been delivered, yet there existed a moral conviction in the minds of every Member of the House that Mr. Howard had been evading the service of the House. It was incumbent upon the House, then, to furnish the messenger with plenary powers to enforce the order; and he felt that the proper course would be to address her Majesty, praying that a reward should be issued for his apprehension.

Lord John Russell

expressed his concurrence with the suggestion of the noble Lord, provided it were known that Mr. Howard had been endeavouring to evade the order of the House.

Mr. Wakley

stated, that a short time before, he had been called out to the lobby of the House, and in his official character, as coroner, had been served with a notice, importing to come from Mr. Howard, for attaching the property of the sheriffs. His mind had been made up as to the course he ought and he would adopt, but that resolution he would confine to his own mind for the present until he consulted with his colleague. On Saturday last Mr. Howard had been seen in the streets by a friend of his, and if he was about town, and so active in his office as to send him a notice to attach the properly of the sheriffs, surely there could be no difficulty in serving him with the order of the House.

Sir E. Sugden

wished to know what was the precise course which the hon. Member for Finsbury, as coroner, intended to pursue?

Mr. Wakley

declined giving an answer until he had consulted with his colleague.

Lord J. Russell

said, that in his opinion it would be premature then to inquire from the hon. Member for Finsbury the course he meant to pursue. However, he hoped the hon. Member would take no steps in the matter without previously informing the House.

Mr. Kelly

said, that it would be wrong in the House to pledge itself to any definite course of proceeding until the document was formally laid before it.

Mr. Goulburn

concurred with his learned Friend, and considered that the House could not be supposed to have any cognizance of the matter until the documents were produced and laid upon the table. Then, and then only, could any steps be taken.

Mr. Hume

believed, from all that had taken place, that Mr. Howard's object was to evade the notice, and the only question for the House to consider was, whether its orders were to be treated in the manner the order of the House had been treated by Mr. Howard. He was adverse to harshness being resorted to; but he was anxious that the House should not be trifled with, and its order become a laughingstock. He would, therefore, move, if the House would permit him, "That the Speaker issue his warrant against Mr. Thomas Burton Howard for evading the order of the House."

Sir E. Sugden

expressed his intention of giving to the motion his decided opposition. Was the evidence sufficient to show that Mr. Howard had evaded the order of the House? The issuing of the warrant would be both oppressive and premature.

Sir R. Peel

said, that the regular course would be, to have those who gave that information to the messenger on which he had acted, brought to the bar and examined. If in the course of the examination it should appear that Mr. Howard had been in town on Saturday last, then the House would have firm grounds upon which to direct a warrant to be issued.

Sir R. Inglis

would give his decided opposition to any motion which would operate to bring the wife and the son to give testimony against the husband and the father—and for that reason he trusted that the House would not sanction any such proceeding as would lead to such unnatural conduct.

Mr. F. French

believed that the object of Mr. Howard was evidently to evade the order, and the object of his wife and son was, to mislead the messenger of the House. For that reason, he saw no reason why the wife and the son should not appear at the bar, to account for their conduct in misleading the messenger, and not to give evidence against Mr. Howard.

The matter dropped.