HC Deb 23 June 1848 vol 99 cc1080-8

SIR J. PAKINGTON moved— That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for electing two Burgesses to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Derby, in the room of the right honourable Edward Strutt and the honourable Edward Frederick Leveson Gower, whose Election has been determined to be void. Writs had been issued in various other cases; and he did not see why the writ for Derby should not also be issued. It was true the writ for Yarmouth had not been issued; but it had been intimated that as soon as the Bill of the hon. Member for the Flint boroughs received the Royal Assent, it would be proposed to issue that writ. Was it intended to disfranchise the town of Derby? Believing that there were no sufficient grounds to justify the suspension of the writ, he should move that it now be issued.


would remind the House that the hon. Member had himself stated that corruption was now more rife, and bribery more unblushing than ever. Yet the hon. Member called on the House, with the facts before them, to issue the writ in this case. If he could believe it was the intention of the hon. Member to hold up the House really to the contempt of the people, he might congratulate him on his success; for the proceedings of late, as to these cases of bribery, appeared eminently calculated to draw down that contempt on the House. One day the House refused to issue a writ—another day they consented. This was the case of a writ which had been refused three or four times. It was recorded of Derby that the practices which had prevailed at the last election had existed for many former elections. On that ground he thought an example ought to be made, and the writ suspended till an inquiry had taken place.


had enjoyed the honour of having a seat in that House before the Reform Bill. During many weeks the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) dwelt on the great advantages which would accrue to the country when the Reform Bill passed. The hon. Member then occupied as large a space in the public mind, and occupied still more largely, if possible, the time of that House, in what he (Sir J. Tyrell) considered at the time very useless and hopeless prognostications on his part. The hon. Member had now come forward to get up a little measure of his own. He (Sir J. Tyrell) confessed that it was matter of comparative indifference to him what might be the details of the hon. Gentleman's measure. He had moved for a return from which it would be seen that the hon. Member for Montrose, though he assumed the peculiar guardianship of the public purse, had succeeded by "polishing the knocker" of the Treasury, in getting a place for one of his family which was worth some 500l. a year. He thought he should be in a condition to show that it was one of those useless commissions which the hon. Gentleman so loudly condemned. When he had obtained his returns, and completed his budget, he expected to be able to show that large sums were obtained by several other hon. Members.


appealed to the hon. Member for Essex, whether it was right to introduce this personal matter, with respect to the hon. Member for Montrose. He (Mr. Ellice) believed that the son of his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) held and executed with efficiency an office of no great value in the public service. He believed that he had been appointed without the solicitation, or even without the knowledge, of the hon. Member for Montrose, to be secretary of a valuable commission now sitting, to inquire into the management of the Mint. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but he believed the inquiry was an important one; and he considered that one of the best practices lately introduced into Parliament had been to appoint commissions composed of scientific and intelligent men to inquire into a number of subjects which had been too long left to Committees of that House.


said, that having been a Member of the Committee on the Derby election, he begged to mention that there were 166 cases of bribery set down for inquiry, and that, after investigating the first ten, Mr. Wrangham, the counsel for the sitting Members, threw up his case. There was an unanimous feeling on the part of the Committee, that there ought to be an inquiry into the case.


said, that after the charge which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir John Tyrell), he thought it necessary to say a few words in defence of the Government, as well as of the hon. Member for Montrose. The hon. Baronet had charged the Government with having proposed a useless commission for inquiring into the Mint, and with having appointed a relative of the hon. Member for Montrose to the situation of secretary. With respect to the first point, he (Mr. Labouchere) felt bound to say that, having once filled the office of Master of the Mint, he became convinced that that establishment very much required investigation and reform, and, accordingly, he felt it his duty to move for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the subject. ["Question!"] He must say he thought it very hard that, after an attack had been made, it was not allowed to be answered. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had felt it to be their duty to call "Question" when the worthy Baronet the Member for Essex introduced this irrelevant matter, and travelled out of the subject before the House, it would have been much more to their credit than calling "Question" now. He felt that a few words were due to the hon. Member for Montrose. He had differed on many important subjects from that hon. Member. He had voted against him, he believed, as often as with him; but this he would say for him, that no individual that had ever sat in that House had ever brought to the public service more entire disinterestedness than that hon. Member; and of this he was quite sure, that if the objects of the hon. Member had been sordid and personal, and if he had devoted a tithe of the industry, ability, and unwearied exertion which he had used in the public service to the promotion of these objects, he might easily have attained them—just as many men of far inferior qualities had attained them. But he had trodden another path, and he had his reward in the approbation of the country and the esteem of all the Members of the House, whatever were their political opinions. He said that the more freely because he was strongly opposed to many of the opinions held at the present moment by his hon. Friend; but, having sat with him many years, he had thought it due to him, in common justice, as well as due to his own feelings, to make this declaration with respect to him.


I beg to say, that the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Flint (Sir J. Hanmer) has been supported by the Government. But owing to the opposition—I do not say the unfair or factious opposition—which the Bill has encountered, both on its second reading and in Committee, a great delay has taken place, and further delay will doubtless take place before the Bill can pass. I think, then, that it would be unfair towards the borough of Derby to insist upon completing the inquiry before the writ shall be issued; for it is obvious, I think, that as the matter at present stands, the inquiry cannot be completed till after the prorogation of Parliament; and, therefore, it would not be until next Session that any remedy could be applied with respect to this borough. I should certainly have hesitated in voting for the issuing of this writ if the House had not decided as they have done in the cases of Horsham and Cheltenham; but, having done so, it appears to me that the best course now to pursue will be for me to give my vote in favour of issuing the writ.


had a strong feeling on this subject with reference to the tribunal by which election petitions were tried. This was the first Parliament which had assembled since the passing of the Act of 1844 for the trial of controverted elections; and, though the country at large had little confidence in Election Committees generally, yet the experience they had had of the working of this Act had given uni- versal satisfaction. He had on every occasion voted against the issuing of the writ in cases like the present, because, in his opinion, it was the duty of the House to sustain the decision of their Election Committees. There had been a great many petitions presented against the return of Members, which never went to trial. And why? Because, after the admirable decision of the Committee in the case of Great Yarmouth, the sitting Members and the petitioners came to an understanding with each other, thinking that the Election Commits tees were now so honest that if the petitions went to trial the boroughs would be disfranchised. There were many Members sitting in that House now who would not be there if the petitions had not been withdrawn. He regretted the decision of the Government on the present occasion. In his opinion every other business should been set apart until they had carried a Bill to have an investigation in every borough where a Member had been unseated.


I stated on a former occasion that in my opinion it was the duty of the House to have postponed all other business until they had determined the course they should take with respect to the question of further inquiry into these cases. Now, I well know the important avocations of the noble Lord, and the extent of important business which presses upon the Government; but I still retain the opinion that it was the duty of the noble Lord to have made some proposition to the House, when there was such a multitude of instances of proved corruption brought under our notice, with a view of instituting some new inquiry. There might have been a Committee of the House, or a Bill might have been introduced, reciting in the preamble that many cases of corruption had been proved to have taken place, and providing that a new tribunal should be appointed for entering fully into the subject; and it is my opinion that if the Government had proposed that course the House would in one night have assented to it. [Lord J. RUSSELL: The debate on the Bill of the hon. Member for the Flint boroughs occupied three nights.] But I have had some experience in these matters; and I know it is a perfectly different thing a private individual bringing forward such a question, and a Member of the Government coming forward to make a proposal and saying, "If you object on the second reading to the principle of this Bill, you are responsible for it." And I believe that under the very peculiar circumstances of the case—under the demand for a fresh alteration in the constitution of this House—and under the apprehension that these instances of corruption exist to a great degree in large towns—the confidence you created in the settlement of 1832 would have been unanimous that you were determined to correct abuses; and I think upon deliberate consideration the House of Commons would have confirmed such a course. If these inquiries be incomplete, the House of Commons should appoint a tribunal specially constituted, with power to examine these matters, and it should be appointed to adjudicate upon questions of private rights rather than upon general questions. Now, what is the case here? The hon. Gentleman says you are about to issue this writ; and he says that in this case of Derby the corruption was not confined to the freemen, according to his opinion, and what he believed to be the unanimous impression of the Committee; but in only a few instances was there actual bribery. But he says— There were 160 cases brought before us; we took the first ten, and in every one of these instances the bribery was brought home. It was proved that 200 persons were brought into a room for the purpose of bribery, and those who could take a bribe did take it. The hon. Gentleman is fairly entitled to full credit for the testimony he gives; and what is his statement with respect to the impression of the Committee on the evidence brought before them in this case? He says, that so soon as it was brought home to a few persons that bribes had been given, the Committee were satisfied, and considered that they were released from further proceeding. It appears, then, that there were many cases or alleged bribery, and that in the first ten which were examined, the parties charged could not hear the ordeal, and bribery was brought home to them. I still adhere to the opinion I expressed on a former occasion. I think there ought to be some further inquiry; and, until that inquiry has been made, I must continue to give my vote against the issuing of the writ.


said, the report was presented on the 28th of March, and he would ask whether sufficient time had not elapsed to justify those who urged the issuing of this writ in supposing that the House was not prepared to make such inquiry as was now called for? The right hon. Baronet who had just spoken, said, that 160 cases of alleged bribery had been brought forward; but he would observe, that not more than nine were proved to be guilty; and, as the constituency of Derby consisted of 1,826 voters, were the 1,660 to be disfranchised, because the others were suspected of accepting bribes?


said, the hon. Member for the University of Oxford begged the question when he said that, because 160 persons were charged with bribery, they were going to punish the whole constituency. But what was asked for was not punishment in the first instance, but inquiry, with a view to punishment if the guilt were proved.


said, he had been sitting on an Election Committee for the last month, and he considered himself a victim of a system the most corrupt and frightful as respected an honest representation that could be conceived. He should not be expressing his opinion honestly if he did not say that the delay which had taken place as to the Bill of the hon. Member for the Flint boroughs, and as to this writ, was owing to the vacillating conduct of the Government.


said, if an hon. Member rose at a quarter to seven o'clock, he was put down by those who wanted to dine, and if he rose at ten o'clock, then he was put down by those who had dined. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester in thinking that the noble Lord the Member for the city of London ought to have been in the House to prevent the writ for Horsham being issued; because the noble Lord had pledged himself to bring in a Bill to deal with that case, and if he had been there, he would have prevented the writ being issued. However they might deal with this question in that House, it would be dealt with out of doors on a much larger basis. This was part and parcel of an outward and visible sign of a system of corruption that prevailed, and was the reason why this question was treated with so much levity and party clamour. He held in his hand a petition signed by a respectable person, and every word in that petition he believed to be true, praying that the borough of St. Albans might be put into the Bill of the hon. Member for the Flint boroughs. The petition stated that at the last election the bribery was open and unblushing; that bad as it had been before, never was it so unblushing as on that occasion; that the two hon. candi- dates who succeeded in being elected were diametrically opposed in their opinions, the one being a Conservative, the other a Radical; yet their election was conducted by the same agent, and the bribery and corruption were paid out of the same purse; and this gentleman told them in that petition that out of 400 persons who voted, there were not 50 who had not taken a bribe. From an investigation he (Mr. Cobden) had made, he was sure that the majority of Members of boroughs sent from England to that House, were returned either by bribery, or corruption, or patronage. That was his deliberate opinion after having taken pains to look into it. Could they say that that House was a fit tribunal even to deal with these cases? In 1841, when he was first returned to that House, he ventured to suggest that either the Attorney General or a prosecuting attorney should be appointed to deal with cases of criminality in election proceedings as soon as the Committee left the room. He agreed that under the Act of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) they were enabled to find out cases of corruption. But what did the House do? It sent the parties back again, and issued writs enabling them to sell their votes again. He believed that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not allow the Bill of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Hanmer) to pass; but what ought the Government to have done? They should have brought in a Bill at the commencement of the Session to disfranchise Harwich, Horsham, Kinsale, and those other small and corrupt boroughs that ought never to have had Members, and to transfer the representation to such populous places as Kensington, Staleybridge, Barnsley, and the like. If the Government had done that they would have pursued a far more conservative course than they were doing at the present moment. The country would see now how far the House was disposed to deal honestly with these cases, and they would come to the conclusion that the only solution for these difficulties was to improve the Reform Bill, as that, in its turn, had been an improvement on the former system. It was a remarkable thing that where the Reform Bill had given the representation to large constituencies, like London and Manchester, untainted by the old freemen, the House had never had an election petition from those places. The only remedy for these corrupt cases was to give the representation to large constituencies untainted by freemen, and to give the constituencies the protection of the ballot.


bogged to be allowed, as the borough which he had the honour to represent (St. Albans) had been alluded to by the hon. Member for the West Riding, to state that, until he arrived at the hustings on the morning of the election, he never saw his hon. Colleague, nor had he held any communication either with him or any of his agents. If such an arrangement had been entered into as had been described by the hon. Member, he would deny in the most solemn manner that he (Mr. Repton) had anything to do with it, either directly or indirectly. If the facts were truly described in the petition, why had it not been presented earlier, so that the House might have referred, it to a Committee of Inquiry?

The House divided:—Ayes 97: Noes 112; Majority 15.

List of the AYES.
Anstey, T. C. Kerrison, Sir E.
Baldock, E. H. Knox, Col.
Bellew, R. M. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Benbow, J. Lascelles, hon. E.
Bentinck, Lord G. Lewis, G. C.
Beresford, W. Mackenzie, W. F.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Mackinnon, W. A.
Boiling, W. M'Cullagh, W. T.
Bremridge, R. Maher, N. V.
Brooke, Lord Mahon, Visct.
Buller, C. Maitland, T.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Butler, P. S. Melgund, Visct.
Cholmeley, Sir M. Miles, P. W. S.
Christy, S. Miles, W.
Clive, H. B. Mullings, J. R.
Collins, W. Muntz, G. F.
Conolly, Col. Neeld, J.
Deedes, W. Neeld, J.
Duckworth, Sir J. T.B. Newdegate, C. N.
East, Sir J. B. O'Brien, J.
Edwards, H. O'Brien, T.
Farrer, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Forster, M. O'Connor, F.
French, F. Ossulston, Lord
Fuller, A. E. Palmerston, Visct.
Galway, Visct. Rendlesham, Lord
Godson, R. Repton, G. W. J.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Rice, E. R.
Grace, O. D. J. Robinson, G. R.
Greene, T. Rushout, Capt.
Grogan, E. Russell, Lord J.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Rutherfurd, A.
Gwyn, H. Seaham, Visct.
Henley, J. W. Seymer, H. K.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Shelburne, Earl of
Hildyard, T. B. T. Sibthorp, Col.
Hobhouse, T. B. Sidney, Ald.
Hodgson, W. N. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Hudson, G. Smyth, Sir H.
Hughes, W. B. Smyth, J. G.
Humphery, Ald. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Ingestre, Visct. Spooner, R.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Talfourd, Serj.
Tufnell, H. Willoughby, Sir H.
Tyrell, Sir J. T. Wilson, J.
Urquhart, D. Wilson, M.
Waddington, H. S. TELLERS.
Wall, C. B. Pakington, Sir J.
Walsh, Sir J. B. Stafford, A.
List of the NOES.
Adair, R. A. S. Lemon, Sir C.
Anderson, A. Lincoln, Earl of
Armstrong, Sir A. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Baines, M. T. Lushington, C.
Barkly, H. Mangles, R. D.
Barnard, E. G. Marshall, J. G.
Bernal, R. Marshall, W.
Blackstone, W. S. Martin, J.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Martin, S.
Brotherton, J. Matheson, Col.
Brown, H. Milner, W. M. E.
Burke, Sir T. J. Molesworth, Sir W.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Monsell, W.
Callaghan, D. Morris, D.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Chaplin, W. J. Mowatt, F.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Norreys, Lord
Cobden, R. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B. Nugent, Lord
Cockburn, A. J. E. Ogle, S. C. H.
Corbally, M. E. Osborne, R.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Parker, J.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Pattison, J.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hon.C.T. Pearson, C.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Duncan, G. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Duncuft, J. Perfect, R.
Dunne, F. P. Pigott, F.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Pilkington, J.
Evans, J. Pugh, D.
Evans, W. Ricardo, O.
Fagan, W. Richards, R.
Fagan, J. Robartes, T. J. A.
Fordyce, A. D. Romilly, Sir J.
Frewen, C. H. Sadlier, J.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W.E. Simeon, J.
Glyn, G. C. Smith, J. A.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Smith, J. B.
Greenall, G. Smythe, hon. G.
Greene, J. Somerton, Visct.
Guest, Sir J. Spearman, H. J.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Stanton, W. H.
Hanmer, Sir J. Strickland, Sir G.
Hardcastle, J. A. Stuart, Lord D.
Hastie, A. Thicknesse, R. A.
Hayes, Sir E. Thompson, Col.
Hayter, W. G. Thornely, T.
Henry, A. Trelawny, J. S.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Villiers, hon. C.
Hervey, Lord A. Wawn, J. T.
Heywood, J Williamson, Sir H.
Hindley, C. Wood, W. P.
Hood, Sir A. Wyvill, M.
Horsman, E. Young, Sir J.
Hutt, W.
Keogh, W. TELLERS.
King, hon. P. J. L. Bennet, P.
Langston, J. H. Hume, J.