HC Deb 10 May 1848 vol 98 cc826-30

On the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Horsham Borough Bill,

SIR G. GREY moved that it be read a second time on that day week.

MR. STAFFORD objected to the postponement of the Bill. It was unfair to keep the electors of Horsham in a state of suspense with this Bill hanging over their heads; it ought either to be proceeded with immediately or abandoned.

SIR GEORGE GREY thought it advisable that a preliminary inquiry should take place upon oath. It would be better to include Horsham in the General Bill, which it was intended should be introduced for regulating cases of this nature.

MR. BANKES S said, that there was a considerable difference between the case of the Horsham Bill and the General Bill, which was this: with regard to the Horsham Bill, no one objected to it; but with regard to the General Bill, there was a great deal of objection to it, and it never would pass without a very considerable discussion. He looked upon it as a most unconstitutional measure, to which he trusted the House would never assent. Why, then, should the Horsham writ be suspended to await the discussion on the General Bill? The Horsham Bill was the result of the Committee which sat upon the inquiry. It was stated that it was a case which called for immediate inquiry. The noble Lord brought in the Bill, and he had no right to abandon it.

MR. NEWDEGATE said, that the question of the Horsham election was one which ought to be decided by itself. It was a case which had been proved and admitted to be worthy of a separate cognisance. He could understand the motives of the noble Lord in thus reserving the case of Horsham, to give strength to the grounds for a general Bill. He believed it was intended to lay the foundation of machinery which would have a more extended and complex operation than it appeared to have; and if the House of Commons meant to do their duty, they should take the advice of the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), who said that if they meant to do their business well, they should do one thing at a time. Here was an obvious case of corruption, which ought to be dealt with at once. There was an admitted necessity for further inquiry; the case being already proved before the proper tribunal, and delay was objectionable and improper.

SIR G. GREY said, that it would be hardly fair to deal thus peremptorily with Horsham. It was distinctly stated that it was a case only for suspicion. The Committee, not having gone into the case, only reported that it was one of suspicion, which warranted further inquiry.

MR. HENLEY conceived the course proposed to be taken would be found extremely inconvenient. Government, in their official capacity, had brought in a Bill on this subject, which they afterwards postponed, and postponed sine die until the general measure of the hon. Baronet was brought forward—a measure analogous to putting charges of murder, rape, and treason into one indictment. Every borough ought to be dealt with upon its own merits by a separate Bill.

MR. HUDSON called upon the House either to proceed with the Bill, or consent to the issuing of the writ. At all events, when the general Bill came on, it should have his most decided opposition; for he had no idea of commissioners being sent down to boroughs and towns to create heartburnings and dissensions. If he recollected aright, a pledge was given by the Prime Minister that this Bill should be proceeded with without delay, and he called upon the Government to fulfil that pledge. He saw the symptoms of a job in the Government Bill. It was for the purpose of assisting the lawyers, and if it passed into a law there would be lots of pettifoggers receiving the five guineas a day under it; but he trusted if the Bi11 did pass, that the first commissioner who was sent to a town would be kicked out by the people without ceremony. The Government appeared exceedingly anxious to find fault with a few poor men for getting a breakfast for half-a-crown; but how many of the supporters of the Government were not receiving favours just as palpable? The borough of Horsham ought not to be left so long unrepresented, and it would have a fair ground of complaint if the Bill was not proceeded with at once.

COLONEL SIBTHORP denounced the conduct of the Government on this occasion as another proof of Whig corruption. When there was so much talk of bribery out of doors, he would say that if bribery were to be punished, the Treasury bench ought to be scoured, for it was well known that all that the men had to do who got seats there was to play into the hands of the Government. It was notorious that the influence of the Treasury had been exercised very extensively in many boroughs. He firmly believed that a portion of the secret service money which was voted every year was expended in the return of Members who adorned the Treasury benches. He believed that the public money was so expended; and until he heard it distinctly and emphatically denied by the Government, he would remain of the same opinion. He had no objection to a general inquiry, and commissioners by the dozen might be sent to Lincoln, as he courted the fullest investigation into his affairs; and he believed that the Bill about to be introduced for the purpose of causing local inquiries to be instituted respecting local boroughs was of a most dangerous description, and therefore he would feel it to be his duty to give it every opposition in his power.

MR. SPOONER hoped the Government would give some explanation of their conduct with regard to the Bill for disfranchising the freemen of Great Yarmouth. He objected to the postponement both of Great Yarmouth and that of Horsham; and he had some apprehersions that there was something with regard to the borough of Horsham that the Government found it convenient to keep back. If it were really the intention of the Government to allow the Bill to be proceeded with, there should be no longer delay, but they should permit the matter to be finished at once. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would state to the House the reason why he wished to pursue in this case a course quite different from that which he had followed in the Great Yarmouth Bill, when he called on the House to proceed at once with it.

SIR G. GREY would confine himself strictly to replying to the question of the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, as to the supposed difference between the course taken by Government respecting the Bill of Great Yarmouth and that for Horsham. The whole mystery existed in the imagination of the hon. Gentleman. The cases were not at all parallel. In the instance of the Great Yarmouth election, the Committee reported that, owing to bribery and corruption, the election was void, and recommended that the freemen of the borough should be disfranchised. A Bill for that purpose was accordingly brought in, under the sanction of Government; but so far were Government from wishing to press the immediate consideration of it upon the House, that he, on last Wednesday, suggested the very same course which he now called on them to adopt, namely, that further proceedings should be stayed till the House determined whether or not they would give a second reading to the Borough Elections Bill, introduced by an hon. Baronet near him. The hon. Member who had charge of the Great Yarmouth Bill refused to listen to that suggestion, but the division was against him; and as he was influenced by the same feelings respecting the Horsham Bill, he would again take the sense of the House upon the question for its postponement.

The House divided on the question that the Bill be read a second time on Wednesday next:—Ayes 56; Noes 37: Majority 19.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Fordyce, A. D.
Armstrong, Sir A. French, F.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Gibson, rt. hon. T.M.
Granger, T. C
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Grenfell, C. W.
Bernal, R. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Boyle, hon. Col. Hall, Sir B.
Brown, W. Hanmer, Sir J.
Carter, J. B. Hawes, B.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Hodges, T.L.
Clifford, H. M. Hume, J.
Crawford, W. S. Kershaw, J.
Cubitt, W. Langston, J. H.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Lushington, C.
Divett, E. Maitland, T.
Ebrington, Visct. Melgund, Visct.
Evans, J. Mowatt, F.
Evans, W. Mulgrave, Earl of
Ewart, W. Ogle, S. C. II
Pechell, Capt. Towneley, C.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Townshend, Capt.
Pilkington, J. Tyne, Col
Romilly, J. Walmsley, Sir J.
Scrope, G. P. Wawn, J. T.
Shafto, R. D. Williams, J.
Smith, J. B. Wilson, M.
Stuart, Lord D. Wyvill, M.
Sullivan, M.
Thicknesse, R. A. TELLERS.
Thompson, Col. Hill, Lord M.
Thornely, T. Hayter, W. G.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, C. B. Hope, Sir J.
Baines, M. T. Ingestre, Viset
Bankes, G. Lacy, H. C.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Mackenzie, W. F.
Bremridge, R. Newdegate, C. N.
Buck, L. W. O'Brien, Sir L.
Buller, Sir J. Y. O'Connor, F.
Chaplin, W. J. Pigott, F.
Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B. Prime, R.
Colvile, C. R. Repton, G. W. J.
Compton, H. C. Sibthorp, Col.
Conolly, Col. Stafford, A.
Fuller, A. E. Stuart, J.
Galway, Viset. Urquhart, D.
Goring, C. Wodehouse, E.
Gwyn, H. worcester, Marq. of
Harris, hon. Capt. York, H. G. R.
Henley, J. W. TELLERS.
Hindley, C. Hudson, G.
Hood, Sir A. Spooner, R.
Bill Postponed.

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