HC Deb 16 July 1840 vol 55 cc760-1
Mr. W. O. Stanley

rose to call the attention of the House to what he considered to be a breach of privilege. It consisted of the following extract from a petition which had been presented to that House, and which had been signed by the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. O. Gore), for Carnarvonshire (Mr. J. R. O. Gore), and for the borough of Carnarvon (Mr. W. B. Hughes). Early in the present Session a petition was presented to Parliament, entitled The Petition of the undersigned landowners, and others, of the county of Carnarvon,' which bore the signatures of John Williams, high sheriff, the Lord Newborough, the Members for the county and borough, twelve justices of the peace, the mayor, and various other residents at Carnarvon, and which contained the following passages:—' That the interests of various landowners along the existing mail coach line through North Wales are deeply affected by the projects at issue; and that persons enjoying property at Holyhead, and in the island of Anglesea, have the deepest stake in the inquiry. That, under these circumstances, the strictest impartiality was called for, both as to the persons to be selected and the proceedings to be adopted in carrying the Address of the House of Commons into execution. That such impartiality in the choice of persons appears to your petitioners not to have been exercised, and that, under all the circumstances of the case, there is every reason to believe, that any report these persons may make in favour of a particular harbour and line of railway will be deemed by the public prejudiced and unsatisfactory. That the grounds upon which your petitioners have been induced to form the belief stated are as follow. That various public meetings and other proceedings took place before the address already cited was moved, at which the relative merits of Holyhead Harbour and the Harbour of Port Dynllaen, for the purposes intended, were canvassed and discussed. That at sundry meetings of this kind great pains were taken on the part of Lord Stanley, of Alderley, who is reputed to possess considerable property in the town of Holyhead and the island of Anglesea, and whose son, the hon. William Owen Stanley, represents the county in Parliament, to show that Holyhead was the fittest harbour for communicating with Ireland, and that a line of railway from Holy- head to a point in the London and Birmingham Railway was superior to a competing project from Port Dynllaen. That it appeared at one meeting (of which the hon. William Owen Stanley was the chairman) that Captain Beechy, R.N., had, for or at the instance of the parties interested, surveyed the Harbour of Holyhead, and reported upon its fitness for the intended purpose, and that his opinion in favour of Holyhead, had been delivered in and was quoted to the meeting by Captain W. J. Deans Dundas, Secretary to the Ordnance. That, under such circumstances, and after the decided part taken in the matters in dispute by the promoters of the Holyhead line and the Secretary to the Ordnance, the appointment of the said Captain Beechy, R.N., who had already given judgment professionally in favour of that conclusion which so greatly served the purpose and interests of the interested parties, was not, in the opinion of your petitioners, consistent with that impartiality and that perfect fairness to all persons or interests concerned or affected, which ought to be inseparable from the proceedings of Government acting on behalf of the Crown upon a public question of the very greatest importance. He had made enquiry, and he could not find that any such petition as was here referred to had been presented to that House, but he found that such a petition had been presented in the other House of Parliament; and he held it to be a breach of the privileges of this House to allude to a petition which had not been presented. He must also complain of want of courtesy, in the fact that a petition which alluded to him by name had been presented without his receiving any notice of it.

Lord J. Russell

said, that admitting all that had been said by the hon. Gentleman, he did not see in what way a breach of privilege had been committed. He wished the right hon. Gentleman, the Speaker, would give his opinion upon the point.

The Speaker

said, he had no hesitation in stating that he did not understand the petition in any way to involve a breach of privilege. The words referred to by the hon. Gentleman could only be taken as part of a petition that had been presented to that House. The petition certainly reflected upon the conduct of persons employed by the Government, and of Members of that House; but it referred to them in their private capacity, and not to their conduct as Members of that House. If any breach of privilege had been committed, it had been a breach of the privileges of the House of Lords.

Subject at an end.

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