HC Deb 21 June 1848 vol 99 cc966-70

rose to move— That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this Present Parliament for the Borough of Cheltenham, in the room of Sir Willoughby Jones, Baronet, whose Election has been determined to be void. He had to express his regret that the majority of the House differed from the opinions he strongly entertained with reference to the issue of writs for the boroughs at present unrepresented. He found, by the latest population returns, that the total population of the boroughs from which they withheld writs was 147,103, and the number of registered electors 10,122; and having done this injustice to the constituencies of the country and to their fellow-subjects, were they, without repairing it, about to decide on a question of so much magnitude as that which related to the colonies? It was a remarkable thing that, while it required the consent of that House, of the other House, and of Her Majesty, to disfranchise a single borough, the refusal of writs enabled the House of Commons to disfranchise the constituencies of the kingdom. Previous to this Session, it it was a matter of privilege, within the power of any Member, to move for a writ without any previous notice; but in the present Session, a resolution was passed that, in certain cases, one day's notice of the intention to move for a writ should be given. He did not complain of the arrangement that had been made, but objected that, in addition to that, any hon. Member might take three or four writs, and, assuming them to be under his own particular patronage, appoint a distant day for the moving of those writs, and express surprise that any other hon. Member should interfere between him and that cluster of writs. It was perfectly obvious that if such a precedent were established, any Member—a creature of the Government, or belonging to the Opposition—having a particular object to subserve, had nothing to do but to take certain writs under his protection. He called attention to the report of the Committee on the Cheltenham election, and submitted that it was impossible to conceive any election made void for slighter reasons than were given in that report. The report was made on the 28th of May; Cheltenham had therefore for three weeks been without a Member; and he put it to the House whether such a large and important place ought to be for any longer time deprived of its representation? The House must see that, however reasonable or just it might be to postpone the issuing of those writs in April, at the latter end of June it was unjust and unreasonable. He felt so strongly the importance of this subject, and the injustice they were permitting, as also the exceeding inconvenience and danger of bringing into the House those questions concerning elections which, in the case of election petitions, they were so anxious to keep put of the House, that no remonstrance should prevent him from bringing the subject under the consideration of the House.


hoped that before they came to a decision on the question, they would have some explicit declaration on the part of the Government. He had hitherto invariably voted in opposition to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman on the other side, thinking there should be an investigation into the cases brought under the consideration of the House; but at the same time, he felt they were every day getting into a more and more perplexed position. He hoped before the House went to a division, they would have some explanation from some Member of the Government. If he did not, he should vote for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.


had been asked as to the course which Government intended to take on this subject. He could give no answer to the question. He believed it was the duty of each individual Member, upon a question of this kind, to follow his own course; and certainly, as a Member of the Government, he had done so with reference to matters of this kind. The question before the House was whether they should issue a new writ for the borough of Cheltenham. He begged the House to recollect that this case stood on different grounds than that of Leicester and other boroughs, with respect to which the Committee had taken special reports. He was not aware before he came down to the House this Motion was to be brought forward to-day; but he had since referred to the proceedings of the Committee on the Cheltenham election. The Committee reported in the general and usual terms, that Sir Willoughby Jones was not duly elected to serve in the present Parliament for the borough of Cheltenham—that it was a void election—and that Sir Willoughby Jones had by his agents been guilty of bribery. The report then stated that three cases of payments of sums of money had been proved for alleged services, but which services never had been performed; and the report concluded by stating it did not appear Sir Willoughby Jones was cognisant of this bribery, or that it had taken place with his consent. It appeared, then, that there was no special report with regard to Cheltenham; but with regard both to Derby and Leicester, the reports were special. With respect to the Derby writ, although the Committee had reported that bribery had taken place, he had voted for the first Motion for its being issued. He did so, because he thought it was an objectionable proceeding to omit issuing a writ, until some steps were taken to procure a legislative measure for instituting inquiry into the practices at elections at that place. The House had decided against the view he had taken of the question, and had determined that the writ should not he issued then. After this he did not think it would be right for him or any other Member to set himself up against the opinion of the House upon a matter of this kind, decided as it was by a large majority. Since the House decided upon that question, the hon. Baronet the Member for Flintshire had obtained leave to bring in a Bill instituting local inquiries into the practices at elections at that and other places. His noble Friend at the head of the Government said he was willing to give every facility to the hon. Member for Flintshire to proceed with his Bill, and for that purpose had given up to him two nights set apart for Government business. The manner, however, in which this measure had been met on the other side, was such as to hold out little or no encouragement to adopt such a proceeding for the future. Still every assistance should be given consistently with the progress of important public business. With respect to this case he repeated he saw no ground for opposing the immediate issue of the writ, as no special report had been presented by the Committee alleging the existence of general bribery.


was sorry to hear some of the expressions which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, as he (Sir J. Hanmer) thought that the suspencion of these writs was a sort of recognisance entered into by that House, that they would proceed with the inquiries as proposed by his Bill. [Sir G. GREY: Cheltenham was not named in the Bill.] The reason of that was, that the Committee on the Cheltenham election had reported since the Bill had been brought forward; but the hon. Member for Montrose had given notice of a Motion to include Cheltenham in the Bill. He was of opinion that the House should adopt as an invariable rule, that whenever a place was reported upon for corrupt practices, a local inquiry should be instituted. He thought this should be the necessary consequence of the report, and there should in all instances be an investigation into the electoral condition of the place reported upon. He was alive to the evils which must arise from the suspension of writs without the fullest consideration. Nothing could be more unconstitutional; but in certain cases, like those which had recently occurred, he conceived the House was bound to suspend them. This proceeding was by no means unusual, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had mentioned several instances of the kind which occurred in the reign of William the Third; but he (Sir J. Hanmer) could mention a case which occurred in the time of Charles the First, when Parliament was laying "the foundation of our constitutional liberties. "The circumstances were simply these:—A contest arose, in 1628, as to whether the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal or the Speaker of the House of Commons should issue writs in cases of vacancies in seats during the Parliamentary recess. Such a case then occurred, and the Lord Keeper issued a writ for the election of a new Member for Hertford; but the House, on its meeting, took up the question, and declared that the election was void, and suspended the issuing of the writ for an indefinite period, because they thought that a great constitutional question was at issue. He thought this matter should not remain in its present condition, but that some general practice should be adopted by which local inquiry would be instituted in every case in which the Election Committee alleged corruption had prevailed.

The House divided:—Ayes 59; Noes 47: Majority 12.

List of the AYES.
Adderley, C. B. Maher, N. V.
Anstey, T. C. Maitland, T.
Berkeley, hon. Capt Melgund, Visct.
Bowles, Adm. Mulgrave, Earl of
Boyd, J. Newdegate, C. N.
Boyle, hon. Col. O'Connell, M. J.
Carew, W. H. P. Pakington, Sir J.
Christy, S. Palmer, R.
Clive, H. B. Patten, J. W.
Crawford, W. S. Pusey, P.
Cubitt, W. Rice, E. R.
Dalrymple, Capt. Sandars, G.
Deedes, W. Scrope, G. P.
Denison, J. E. Sibthorp, Col.
Drummond, H. Sidney, Ald.
Du Pre, C. G. Slaney, R. A.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W. Smollett, A.
Fuller, A. E. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W
Galway, Visct. Stanley, E.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G Stansfield, W. R. C.
Hamilton, G. A. Talfourd, Serj.
Hamilton, J. H. Towneley, C.
Haves, Sir E. Trollope, Sir J.
Henley, J. W. Verney, Sir H.
Herbert, H. A. Vesey, hon. T.
Hobhouse, T. B. Willoughby, Sir H.
Humphery, Ald. Wilson, M.
Jones, Capt. TELLERS.
Lewis, G. C. Stafford, A.
Mackenzie, W. F. Goring, C.
List of the NOES.
Bruce, Lord E. Kershaw, J.
Burke, Sir T. J. King, hon. P. J. L.
Clifford, H. M. Macnaghten, Sir E.
Currie, H. Marshall, W.
Divett, E. Milner, W. M. E.
Duncan, G. Mowatt, F.
Duncombe, hon. O. Mullings, J. R.
Duncuft, J. Norreys, Sir D. J.
East, Sir J. B. Pechell, Capt.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Evans, W. Perfect, R.
Fagan, J. Pigott, F.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Pilkington, J.
Fortescue, hon. J. W Pugh, D.
Greenall, G. Ricardo, O.
Hall, Sir B. Robartes, T. J. A.
Hamilton, Lord C. Smith, J. B.
Hanmer, Sir J. Strickland, Sir G.
Hastie, A. Stuart, Lord D.
Headlam, T. E. Thicknesse, R. A.
Hood, Sir A. Thompson, Col.
Jackson, W. Wawn, J. T.
Williams, J. TELLERS.
Wood, W. P. Evans, Sir De L.
Wyvill, M. Thompson, G.
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