HC Deb 30 March 1840 vol 53 cc232-4
Mr. Aglionby

said, there was a question which he wished to bring before the House, and which he did not think could be allowed to stand over another day, as the committee on the Ludlow Election had been appointed. If the House would permit him, therefore, he would call their attention to the petition, which had been printed that morning with the Votes, and which he had presented on a. former occasion from the electors of Ludlow. In the first place, he begged to move, which he believed was the more regular course, that the petition be read by the clerk at the table. [Petition read.] He had thought it his duty to present that petition, and to call the attention of the House to it. When the question was discussed on the 2nd of March, no two of the lawyers who spoke upon it were of the same opinion. It was unfortunate, that on that occasion the House did not take a more decided course, and lay down a rule by which the Committee should be bound. The parties were advised by their counsel that the committee, as at present constituted, was not a legal tribunal; and therefore they petition for leave to bring in a bill to render it legal, and to confirm its proceedings. The illegality of the tribunal would not affect only these petitioners. In what situation again, would either party be placed, in cases of perjury committed by witnesses. The contest would be severe, and the temptation to perjury would be great. An oath was not administered to witnesses before that House or its Committees, and if the proceedings were not legal, they could not be prosecuted for false evidence. The question being whether the words were positive or directing —a high legal authority declaring they were positive—if that were so, no act of the House could make the subsequent proceedings regular. The hon. Member moved that leave be given to bring in a bill to legalize the proceedings of the Ludlow Election Committee, and suspend the proceedings in the meantime.

Sir W. Follett

said, if there were any doubt upon the point, he would support the bill. There was no difference of opinion on the point to be submitted to the House. It was quite clear that the act expressed this, that if, at the close of a session, there should be a petition, the order for which had not been discharged, it should next session be referred to the General Committee—the recognizances entered into, and the petitions in their order referred to the Committee, in the order in which they were presented. This would not refer to a petition to defend a seat: the petitioners having been allowed to defend the seat, stood in the situation of the sitting Member. There was not the slightest danger of the proceedings being so utterly irregular, that indictments for false evidence would not be sustained.

Sir E. Peel

referred to the sixtieth clause, in which he considered every doubt was obviated as to the regularity of the proceedings.

Mr. Aglionby

said, if the House were clear on the point, probably the parties would be satisfied. He hoped the House would so far sanction the proceedings as to put it on the journals that they had negatived the introduction of the Bill, in the belief that no doubt existed.

Motion negatived.