HC Deb 27 June 1842 vol 64 cc637-40
Mr. Cochrane

stated to the House, that on presenting himself that day at the door of the committee-room occupied by the committee on election proceedings, he was informed that, although a Member of the House, he could not be admitted. He therefore wished to know whether the committee were justified in issuing an order for the exclusion of Members of that House?

Mr. Roebuck

said, that the hon. Member might have saved himself some trouble if he had first inquired whether such an order had been issued. It so happened that no such order had been issued by the committee, and that no one attending the committee had received any instructions whatever to exclude Members of the House.

Mr. Cochrane

observed, that he was not the only Member who had been refused admittance. The answer of the doorkeeper, upon refusing him admittance, was, that no persons were allowed into the room but the Members of the committee and the witnesses. The doorkeeper certainly said that he would send in his name to the chairman, and ask him if he might be admitted, but not wishing to solicit a personal favour of the hon. Member for Bath, he declined the offer.

Mr. Roabuck

wished to set himself right in the eyes of the House. An hon. Member had come into the committee room that very day, and not knowing him, he asked him if he was a Member. The hon. Member stating that he was, be informed him that the committee were under deliberation, upon which the hon. Member left the room. This plainly showed that Members were admitted. The committee had come to the unanimous conclusion that it would be for the interests of the inquiry, and all persons connected with it, that it should be conducted, if possible, without the presence of any other individual than the person under examination. He observed an hon. Member on the other side of the House who had applied to be admitted, and to whom, upon being admitted, he had read that resolution of the committee, by which the hon. Member stated he should feel himself bound. But upon the right of Members to enter the room the committee had never attempted to decide.

Major Beresford

hoped he might be allowed, as the Member alluded to, to state his impression of the circumstances which, he conceived, the hon. Member for Bath had not given with exact correctness. He had requested to be admitted as a principle in the inquiry. The committee deliberated, and in a short time informed him that he could not be admitted; but that if he applied as a Member of Parliament he should. His reply was, that he did not apply as a Member of Parliament, but chiefly as a person interested in the inquiry, and he believed he added that it was not the last time he should take the matter up. The committee sent for him again, and said that it was the unanimous opinion of the committee that it would be for the interest of all parties if no one were allowed to be present beyond the witness under examination. He did then enter into a further argument and demand of his rights, maintaining, not so much on the ground of his being a Member of Parliament, as upon the plain justice of the case, that as he was a party accused—and grievously accused—he ought to be allowed to be present to hear the evidence adduced against him. He did state that the veriest criminal ever called to the bar of public justice, although to be next day pronounced a felon, was permitted to hear the evidence brought against him. He stated that, because evidence might be adduced which it was possible he could explain or refute. But when a man had evidence brought against him in the dark his character might be calumniated without the power on his part of protecting it; he might in this way, as it were, be stabbed in the back by anonymous witnesses. He felt bound to say that the demeanour of the hon. Member for Bath and of the other Members of the committee was in the highest degree candid and courteous. They stated that they had unanimously resolved, that as a principle he could not be present, but that if he insisted on his right as a Member of Parliament he might. His reply was, that having laid his reason before them, and having stated that it was chiefly because he was a person interested in the inquiry that he claimed to be present, he should consider, where he to avail himself of his right as a Member of Parliament, that he should be entering the room under false pretences, and not in the straightforward manner in which he was desirous of acting. He had therefore declined being present, and bowed to the decision of the committee.

Mr. Cochrane

hoped the hon. Member for Bath would now see that some misunderstanding did really exist, and that he meant nothing uncourteous to the hon. Member in noticing the circumstance.

Mr. R. Yorke

confirmed the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. It was thought by the committee that the inquiry could be best conducted, and conducted with the greatest delicacy towards all parties, with closed doors. The hon. Member who had just addressed the House had come to the conclusion, that as he was not permitted to be present as a principal, he ought not to assume his right as a Member of that House; but the question of the right of Members of that House to admittance had never been disputed or raised in the committee.

Subject at an end.