§ Mr. Divett
wished to consult the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) as to a question of the proper construction of the 71 st clause of the Controverted Election Petitions Trial Act, before the committee on the Lichfield election, of which he was chairman. It had been found, that the attendance of certain persons as witnesses was required, those persons being at present prisoners in her Majesty's gaols of Newgate and the Fleet. They were stated to be important witnesses, and the question was, whether it was competent for the chairman under the section he had 1117 mentioned, to issue his summons for the attendance of those persons to give evidence before the committee. Some of the authorities about the House whom he had consulted, were clearly of opinion, that the chairman of an election committee had such power; while other persons of great authority thought that there was nothing in the act to enable a chairman to issue a summons in such a case, but they thought that the proper mode of proceeding was, that according to the ancient practice, the chairman should report to the House, and that the Speaker would then, by order of the House, issue his warrant to bring up the witnesses. Under these circumstances, he had thought it better to bring the matter under the consideration of the House, and he begged, therefore, to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) what was the proper construction of the 71st clause? In compliance with the forms of the House, he moved—That Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the keeper of her Majesty's gaol of Newgate to bring up Thomas Grew, a prisoner in the said gaol, to-morrow, in order that he might attend and give evidence before the Lichfield Election Committee, and so from time to time, as often as his attendance may be wanted.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he delivered an opinion on the point with the greatest diffidence, particularly as he had not had a moment to consider it in. However, he thought the hon. Gentleman had taken the best course, because the clause spoke of any person summoned by the said committee, or by the warrant of the Speaker. As it appeared to him, the summons of the chairman would hardly be a sufficient authority to the keeper of Newgate to bring up a prisoner to give evidence; it must be done, he thought, by the Speaker's warrant. The act did not appear to him to contemplate the case of a person being necessary as a witness who was already in custody. It appeared, however, that cases had formerly occurred where witnesses, who were in prison, were required to be brought up, and that it had been done by the Speaker's warrant. Having, as he had said, had no time to consider the question, he spoke with great diffidence, but he thought the hon. Gentleman had done right in the course he had taken of moving that the Speaker should issue his warrant.
§ The Solicitor-General
said, that the gaoler was in the habit of obeying the orders of that House conveyed through the Speaker; and, no doubt, if the summons were not obeyed, the House would treat the disobedience as a contempt.
§ Motion agreed to.
It was ordered on this, and on a similar case, on the motion of Mr. Divett, as follows:—
That the keeper of her Majesty's gaol of Newgate do bring Thomas Grew in safe custody to-morrow, to the select committee appointed by this House to try and determine the matter of the Lichfield Election Petition, in order to his being examined as a witness, and so from time to time as often as his attendance shall be thought necessary; and that Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant accordingly.
That the warden of the Fleet prison do bring Francis Sharratt in safe custody tomorrow, to the select committee appointed by this House to try and determine the matter of the Lichfield Election Petition, in order to his being examined as a witness, and so from time to time as often as his attendance shall be thought necessary; and that Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant accordingly.