HC Deb 14 July 1842 vol 65 cc149-51
Sir R. Peel

would not preface the motion he was about to make by more than three sentences. On the 22nd of June, 1841, a bill was passed relative to the formation of a tribunal to decide upon the merits of contested elections. The duration of that act was limited to the two Sessions which should elapse after the then pending general election. One of these Sessions scarcely lasted six weeks; it was so short that there was no opportunity of appointing election committees, and the consideration of the petitions against returns at the general election was postponed until the present Session. In point of fact, there had been only one Session since the passing of the act, and he now proposed to bring in a bill which should continue the law as it at present stood, but not for a longer period than the act originally contemplated. The law would expire, as was originally intended, at the end of next Session; and he could not help thinking, that any discussion upon the subject should be for the present postponed, although he know that the hon. gentlemen acting upon the general election committee had some amendment to propose. For his one part, he would not say one word upon the merits of the question; but would simply content himself with proposing a bill to continue the operation of the act for the period originally contemplated. The right hon. Baronet then moved for leave to bring the bill

Lord Mahon

said, the intention he had entertained of moving an amendment to the proposition before the House was greatly modified by the length to which previous discussion on the subject had been carried. He doubted whether he should be treating the House with due respect, were he, under the circumstances, and so late in the evening, to submit an amendment to amotion of such importance as that now before the House, but he must say, that when he gave his notice of amendment, he did not know that the motion was such as it was now explained to be, namely, the prolongation of the operation of the existing law for one year only. There was nothing in the terms of the notice of motion to indicate its purport; and until very recently the impression in his mind was, that the right hon. Baronet intended to continue the act, not for another year, but to propose that the act, which had only been temporary in its nature, should be permanent. It was under that impression that he had now given notice of his intention to propose an amendment. He thought the right hon. Baronet had pursued a judicious course in proposing to continue the act for only one year; and he hoped that when it came on for discussion it might be at a period of the Session which would admit of its full consideration.

Mr. Sheil

had been a member of a committee under the act in question, during the proceedings of which he had had an opportunity of forming some judgment as to the working of the law and he had had occasion to remark how important it was to have some legal gentlemen to direct the committee on questions where men who were really most anxious to arrive at the truth and justice of the case were much at a loss to come to a sound determination. There were nice points of evidence on which the chairman felt some hesitation in pronouncing, and in which persons unacquainted with legal science were at a loss not help thinking, that any discussion upon what course to follow. Perhaps if the aid the Masters in Chancery was to be called in, the effects would be beneficial, but, at all events, he was sure that these tribunals would bring the House into disrepute, if some legal assistance was not afforded to them.

Mr. Bannerman

differed from the right hon. Gentleman as to the necessity for legal assistance. He thought, that in the cases referred to, after a little discussion, the committee were enabled to come to a sound decision

Sir R. Peel

must say, that he had proposed a bill of very limited duration, not from the slightest doubt that it was not necessary for the House, in order to preserve its own character, to keep its jurisdiction in disputed elections in its own hands, but he had adopted the course which he had pursued, because, from the advanced period of the Session, and the general anxiety of Members to leave town, he did not wish to propose any extensive changes in a measure of such importance.

Leave given. Bill brought in and read a first time.