HC Deb 15 June 1842 vol 63 cc1586-9
Mr. Fleming

said, that the two gentlemen whose petitions he had presented on a former evening, contradicting the allegations of John Wren, were in attendance, and ready to appear at the Bar. But if a select committee were appointed to inquire into the election, he would not move, as he had given notice, that they should be called and examined.

Mr. W. O. Stanley

said, it would be in the recollection of the House that he had moved for a select committee to inquire into the bribery and other corrupt practices which took place at the last election. He withdrew that motion at the request of the right hon. Baronet opposite, (Sir R. Peel) who stated that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was about to bring in a bill on the general subject, which might, perhaps, contain provisions to reach this case. The noble Lord had brought forward that measure, and he was, nevertheless, still of opinion that further inquiry was necessary into the transactions that took place at the last Southampton election. The petitions which the hon. Gentlemen opposite had presented, confirmed him in that opinion. The best thing that he could do was to renew his motion, and move at once, if the House would allow him, that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the cases of bribery and corruption which took place at the last election for the borough of Southampton.

Mr. Mackinnon

complained that the hon. Member had endeavoured to stop his motion for issuing the writ, under the plea of obtaining a committee of inquiry. Now he would be glad to know why any individual should interfere in the appointment or nomination of a committee, except the party who had moved for it. In consequence of the bill introduced by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) for the amendment of the law of elections, he (Mr. Mackinnon) had consented to postpone his motion for issuing the writ till the present day. He had hoped that in the meantime the hon. Gentleman would have taken the opportunity to investigate the question fully. Instead of that, he had lain by, and on that night he had asked the leader of the House of Commons to name the committee for him. He did not think it was the business of the right hon. Baronet or any other Member to do so. If the hon. Gentleman really meant to come to some conclusion upon the matter, he (Mr. Mackinnon) had no objection to postpone his motion for a week or a fortnight; but before he did so, he was anxious to know what the hon. Gentleman meant to do. Did he mean to examine witnesses at the Bar? Certainly not. An investigation where there was no power to examine witnesses on oath would be a most unsatisfactory one. What, then, did he mean to do? The hon. Gentleman was himself a member of the Southampton election committee, and he now sought to nullify the report and proceeding of that committee by the appointment of another. The hon. Member had induced him to postpone the motion for issuing the writ for nearly a month; and, in the hope that he would be prepared to state what course he meant to pursue, he would now move that the motion be postponed to that day fortnight.

Sir R. Peel

thought it was a great advantage that where cases were taken tip, they should be so by the chairman or some member of the committee. It was at his request that the delay in the present instance had taken place. If there was blame to be attached to any one on account of the delay, it rested with him, at whose request the postponement took place, till the noble Lord Would have an opportunity of being in the House. He thought the best course would be to proceed at once to the appointment of the committee. An inquiry at the Bar, besides being an impediment to public business, was not the best mode as regarded impartiality, and for judicial purposes. He must observe, too, that they were too prone to part with the inherent powers of that House. He should be sorry to sanction the doctrine that it was in all cases necesary to have the aid of the House of Lords in the conduct of these inquiries; and he also cautioned hon. Members against the doctrine that it was not possible to conduct these inquiries without a bill of indemnity. Let them first see whether there was likely to be an obstruction to public justice without it. He would recommend the hon. Member to proceed at once to constitute his committee with perfect impartiality. Gentlemen should be appointed upon it who did not bring previous prejudices with them.

Mr. T. Duncombe

thought, the inquiry could be conducted without a bill of indemnity. It must be clear to any one who had read the petitions of Wren, Abrahams, and Mackey, that an enormous falsehood lay between them; and when the matter should be investigated, he trusted the House would visit the guilty party with its displeasure.

Sir R. Peel

suggested that the best course would be, first, to move that the report of the Southampton committee be laid on the Table. Then with reference to the subject of the petition presented in the case, to move that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the allegations contained in that petition.

Mr. W. O. Stanley

thought, it would be better to move for a select committee to-morrow, to inquire into the bribery and treating at the last election for Southampton.

Motion withdrawn, to be renewed the next day.