HC Deb 30 June 1848 vol 99 cc1409-13

rose to move that a writ be issued for the election of a burgess to serve in Parliament for the borough of Sligo. The House had ordered the evidence taken before the Sligo Election Committee to be printed; but he did not see that that should form any reason for delaying the issue of the writ. The evidence might be of importance in enabling the House to come to some conclusion on the general question; it might furnish materials for future legislation. He had no means of knowing whether the Gentleman who was formerly returned for Sligo was likely to be again sent to that House by the constituency. He did not know whether they were likely to send an adherent of the old Conservative party, or a supporter of the Government, or one who would join the small party which had encamped under the banner of the hon. Member for Montrose. In Sligo, no bribery had been proved before the Committee, no special report had been made, and all that was charged against the candidates was, that they had been guilty of treating. But the greatest purist would, he thought, be disposed to admit that, if anywhere treating was excusable, it was in the province of Connaught. It was most desirable to secure the attendance of Irish Members from that period of the Session, for on that, the last day of June, they had not commenced the Irish business. Convinced as he was that the inquiry with respect to this borough, as with respect to other boroughs, might be carried to a successful termination after the issue of the writ, he would move— That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a New Writ for the Election of a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Sligo, in the room of Charles Towneley, Esq., whose Election has been determined to be void.


was sorry the hon. Gentleman should have proposed his Motion, apparently in contravention of the rules of the House. ["No, no!"] He had never known an instance in which a Motion had been made for the issue of a writ for a borough where any Member had in the meantime proposed that the evidence taken before the Election Committee should be printed. The hon. Member for Portarlington had moved that the evidence be printed in the present case, and this was not the time, therefore, for issuing the writ.


had supported the Motion for issuing the writ in every other case, and would do so in this instance also. He was glad the hon. Member for Montrose had intimated his opposition to the Motion, and so indicated an intention to diminish the representation of the small constituencies. The fate of Sligo would hereafter be that of Youghal and every small borough.


said, there was no accusation in the report of the Committee against the borough of Sligo; and he conceived, therefore, that he might move the writ at once. He heard afterwards, however, that it would be more consonant with the forms of the House that the evidence should first be moved for; and therefore he altered his Motion to the effect that the evidence should he printed. He felt that there, as well as in the case of the English Members, the suspension of the writ was exceedingly inconvenient.


had been told within the last few minutes that they might expect a new petition from the borough of Horsham. He could not understand the distinction which some Gentlemen drew between the guilt of treating and bribery. The one as well as the other caused the loss of a Member's seat; and that was a thing which Members ought to take into their serious consideration. He was the less inclined to pass by treating as less worthy of punishment than bribery, because he entertained the opinion that the law with regard to treating was ridiculous and absurd: and he saw no chance of its being altered until the House had made inquiries into the particulars of those elections which had been declared to be void in consequence of treating. He should vote for the suspension of the writ till the evidence had been laid on the table of the House.


With respect to the present question, it appeared that the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne) had moved for the evidence under an error. That evidence was not moved for by the Chairman, or any Member of the Committee; but the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, not being well acquainted with the forms of the House, and having the intention to expedite the issuing of the writ, moved that the evidence be printed, which, instead of forwarding his object, had proved the only obstacle to it. Under these circumstances, it was very hard that the Sligo constituency should suffer.


said; the simple question was, whether a Motion having been made that the evidence be printed, and it being probable that that evidence would be forthcoming in two or three days, it would not be better to wait till the evidence was in the hands of Members, than to follow the course proposed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stafford), and issue the writ now. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion; but if the hon. Member did, he would vote against it.


supported the Motion. It would be unfair to take advantage of the mistake of the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, who had been led to believe that it was according to the established practice of the House that no writ should be issued until the evidence was printed; whereas the practice of the House during the present Session could scarcely be said to have been established at all, writs having been issued in almost every possible way. The only thing that seemed to be established was, the office of suspender-general, which had been assumed by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Flint boroughs. It appeared to him to be ridiculous to suspend writs in cases where the Committee had decided that the evidence involved no matter which would justify disfranchisement; and if the House really wished to deal with this class of be roughs on some comprehensive scheme, like that proposed by the hon. Member for the Flint boroughs, it would be far better that the boroughs so to be dealt with should be represented in that House, and there would thereby be some security that they would receive fair play.


, as Chairman of the Committee on the Sligo Election, begged to state that the inquiry did not impress the minds of the Committee with the idea that the House would ultimately decline to issue a writ for the borough of Sligo. It appeared to him that the evidence had most unnecessarily been ordered to be printed, for when they had got it, he did not believe it would have the least effect in inducing them to suspend the writ. He should certainly vote for the issuing of the writ himself; but, at the same time, as the evidence had been ordered to be printed, and as other Members had not had the same opportunity of knowing the facts as the Committee had, it would be the most correct course for the House to delay taking any further step in the matter till the evidence was printed.


hoped the writ would be issued without waiting for the evidence.


There certainly does seem some inconsistency in ordering the evidence to be produced, and then not waiting until that evidence is produced before issuing the writ, because the ordering of the evidence is the act of the House of Commons; but, at the same time, if we have been betrayed into the adoption of an act without sufficient consideration, I think the rights of the constituency ought to prevail over a desire to consult appearances in regard to the character of the House. The hon. Gentleman who moved for the evidence is a Member of the House for the first time. He moved for that evidence, not intending that its production should he a reason for delay; and it was a very pardonable inadvertency on his part to make that Motion. Still, as the House has adopted the Motion, I should have been disposed to acquiesce in the proposed delay of a few days if it had not been for the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northallerton (Mr. Wrightson), which I think is quite decisive. It is rather unfortunate that the Chairman is not the organ of a Committee, and that he is not requested as Chairman to state what he thinks fit; but I have great confidence in the impartiality and justice of the views of the hon. Gentleman, and he tells me that his impression is, that when we have got the evidence, he does not believe we will suspend the writ. I must say, therefore, that I think the rights of the constituency, where there is no valid reason for delay, ought to prevail with us, and that the writ should be issued forthwith.


, as one of the Members of the Committee, begged to corroborate the statement of the hon. Member for Northallerton as to the impression on the minds of the Committee that the evidence afforded no proof of such I general corruption as to warrant the suspension of the writ,


, after the statement that had been made by the Chairman of the Committee and the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, would not persist in opposing the Motion.

Motion agreed to nem. con.

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