HC Deb 23 February 1842 vol 60 cc881-3
Mr. G. W. Wood

rose, in pursuance of notice, to move That the petition of the three undersigned free burgesses of the borough of Queenborough be printed, for the use of Members only, together with the names of the persons who have signed the petition. The petition in question was presented by the noble Lord the Member for London on the 11th inst., and was referred to the public petitions committee. That committee, having considered the petition, found that it contained inculpatory matter, which it would not be expedient to print for general circulation, and had therefore agreed to the following report:—*

In conformity with the opinion contained in that report, he now submitted his motion to the House.

Sir E. Knatchbull

said, as to the charges contained in the petition, and which were brought before the committee, he had had no opportunity of forming any opinion. The practice of the House he understood to be, that when any hon. Member presented a petition which it was deemed necessary to have printed, such hon. Member should give notice of his intention to move that it be taken into consideration by the House. Now, as the noble Lord who brought forward this petition did not give notice of his intention to bring it specifically before the House, be did not think that it ought to be printed, as it contained such serious charges against individuals. If it were printed for the use of the 658 Members of that House it would be, in fact, equivalent to a general publication.

Lord J. Russell

said, that when he introduced the petition he did not himself move that it should be printed, but that it should be referred to the committee on public petitions to decide as to the course which ought to be adopted with respect to it; and, in his opinion, the committee had taken a correct view of the question. He was not bound to make a motion on the subject; but still it was not his intention to leave the matter where it then stood. He meant, on a future day, to ask for leave to bring in a bill which would touch in this, and all other small corporations, matters (such as those that were connected with this petition) that were not provided for in the general measure affecting the large corporations.

Mr. G. W. Wood

said, the committee, referring to the words of their instructions, thought it right that the petition should be printed for the use of Members only, but they would not, as it contained inculpatory matter, allow it to be printed for sale.

Mr. Estcourt

was opposed to the print- * See Ante Feb.22, ing of the petition, which he thought could only serve to calumniate individuals.

Mr. Wallace

observed, that the present was an excellent exemplification of what he said a few evenings ago, namely, that petitions from the people were not attended to or understood, in that House; and they would find that when to-morrow's papers came out not a single word of this conversation between Gentlemen across the Table would be printed. It would be said that after a little conversation across the Table the petitions of the people were dismissed; and this would continue until the people were differently represented.

Mr. W. Wynn

would not leave it in the power of any individual to give currency, through the medium of a petition, to any slander which he might think proper to send forth to the world. It was tremendous to think, that any person should have the power to give currency to slanders throughout the kingdom, before an opportunity was given for examining and thoroughly investigating the allegations which he might think proper to make to the prejudice of others. About a year ago a party against whom a verdict had been given in a court of law petitioned that House, imputing partiality to the judge, (though a more upright administrator of the law was not to be found in Westminster-hall), declaring that he had given an unjust charge, and that a verdict had, in consequence, been given contrary to evidence. Now, he would ask, how could they ascertain the truth or falsehood of such allegations? Thus it was that, if they did not watch this power with great jealousy, they might be made the engine of giving currency to accusations that, if properly examined, would perhaps be found totally without foundation.

Mr. T. Duncombe

moved as an amendment to leave out the words "for the use of Members only."

Amendment negatived.—Original motion agreed to.

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