moved, that the following be the select committee to inquire into the Belfast election proceedings:—Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Shaw, Mr. Beckett Denison, Mr. Cripps, Mr. East, Mr. Liddell, Mr. Ellice, jun., Mr. Protheroe, and Sir Benjamin Hall.— Power to send for persons, papers, and records.
§ Sir R. Inglis
would not trouble the House to divide on that question, but he must protest against such a proceeding as the present. When his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and the noble Lord at the head of the party opposite, agreed upon any course, it was quite useless to oppose them.
wished to follow as ex- 1610 actly as possible the precedent laid down by the hon. Member for Bath. The period of the Session was later for inquiry than he could have wished; but he hoped, that there would be no objection to take the order now.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that after the direct allusion, that had been again made to him by the hon. Baronet, he must ask hon. Members to excuse him for adhering to his individual opinion. He did not wish to exercise the influence of the Government on this question, or any personal influence as the leader of a party; and he had not asked any one to vote with him on this or the other questions touching election matters; but he claimed the right of voting on this and other questions in an independent way. He thought, after the statements made to that House, that it was bound to inquire into those cases in which there was an appearance of compromise; and also as to the extent to which bribery had prevailed, in the last election, in those places in which it was alleged compromises had taken place. It was his deliberate opinion, that it would not be very creditable to the character and reputation of the House of Commons, to stand up against inquiry on a mere technical objection. He wished to have the House of Commons remain as it was at present constituted, and, with the view to uphold its character, he was anxious to put a stop to these compromises. If the House of Commons wished to appear before the country as sincerely opposed to the practice of bribery, it must adopt such a course as was proposed, and if it did not take such a step, its character must be impaired in the estimation of the country. If parties said on one side, that we will protect those who act with us, and if those on the other side were equally disposed to support their adherents in such practices, the character of the House must be lowered in the estimation of the country. For his own part, he never would act with the appearance even of a partizan, when parties were accused of bribery, or of a corrupt compromise. In such a case, he never would suffer his conduct to be influenced by party considerations. He gave this public notice (and he did not say, that bribery had, or had not taken place, in this, or some of the other cases—he did not know whether that was the case or not)—that he would not use the influence of party to oppose 1611 inquiry into those cases which had occurred at the last election, and where it appeared there was a primâ facie case of bribery. He was satisfied, that if such inquiries were refused, it would tend to lessen the influence and reputation of the House of Commons throughout the country. If any parties were guilty of bribery, they must take the consequences, and he gave notice, that he would not exercise the influence of office to protect them.
§ Sir R. Inglis
observed, that his right hon. Friend had mistaken what he had said. He did not insinuate, that his right hon. Friend had used the influence of Government in support of the motion. What he said was, that when his right hon. Friend and the noble Lord opposite, concurred in any one subject, it was vain to divide the House against them.
§ Motion agreed to.—Committee nominated.
wished to know whether there would be any objection to his proceeding with the bill to indemnify the witnesses to be examined before this committee.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought that it would be better unless in case of absolute necessity, not to bring forward bills of this kind. He thought, as he stated yesterday, that it was desirable that the House of Commons should rely, in the first instance, upon its own constitutional powers. If those powers were found to be insufficient it would be time to make alterations. He doubted the policy of resorting to the assistance of the other House for such bills as the present, as it might hold out an inducement to witnesses to doubt the power of the House to compel answers to questions. He hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not at present, unless on very strong grounds, ask for this bill.
said, that he concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He had been apprehensive, from what had formerly passed, that their present powers were insufficient, but after what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, he would withdraw his motion.