HC Deb 27 May 1853 vol 127 cc706-8

having requested that Members of Election Committees who had not been sworn should come to the table for that purpose.


called the attention of the House to the fact that Mr. George Duncan, one of the Members of the Durham Committee, was also a Member of a Committee on a group of railways which was still sitting, and had attended its meetings so closely from the commencement that, were he withdrawn, it would be like taking away the right hand of the Chairman. He begged to move, therefore, that the Committee appointed to try and determine the petition against the return of the election for the City of Durham be discharged, and the said petition be referred again to the General Committee of Elections.


did not intend to oppose the Motion, but he protested against its being made a precedent, because it was calculated to create delay and expense. The General Committee on Elections in every instance where previous intimation had been given that it would be inconvenient for Members to serve upon Election Committees, had attended to those representations. Scarcely a day had passed, indeed, in which he had not received a vast number of such applications, both verbal and written; and he thought that the Members who had made these applications would acknowledge that they had always met with courtesy and consideration at his hands. It would, he repeated, be attended with great public inconvenience if Members, after they had been chosen to serve upon Election Committees, were to be discharged from attending to that duty; but considering the peculiar urgency of the present case, it was not his intention to oppose the Motion which had been made.


regretted that no communication had been made to the Chairman of the General Committee on Elections, with respect to the inability of the hon. Member for Dundee to serve upon the Durham Committee, for in that case the General Committee could have selected another Member, and so not have interfered with the transaction of other business. The question now before the House was one of considerable importance, and in a case of contending duties the House should decide at once which was the first and more important. If they would read the Act of Parliament, they would see that the first duty of the House was, by means of Special Committees, to ascertain who were really Members of the House, and that all other duties were subordinate to that one. On the whole, he thought the House should pause before it resolved to interfere with the selections made by the General Committee on Elections.


agreed with the last speaker in regard to the importance of Election Committees; but in the present instance he thought the House would exercise a wise discretion by assenting to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cheshire (Mr. T. Egerton).


was inclined to think that the House could not do better than listen to the advice of the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth. It was unquestionably the first and most paramount duty of the House to attend to the business of Election Committees, and, considering the spirit of all their legislation and practice with respect to that subject, he thought they would do wrong in releasing any Member from the duty of serving upon an Election Committee, no matter how he might otherwise be engaged.


urged the importance of allowing Members serving upon private Committees to give their undivided attention to the business brought before them in those Committees.


thought the House would establish a good precedent if it now declared its opinion that the fact of a Member serving upon a private Committee should be held as a sufficient reason why he should not be appointed to serve upon an Election Committee.


regretted that his name should be mixed up with a discussion in that House; but the present question arose from no wish of his to shirk his fair share of public duty. He was willing to serve cither upon an Election Committee or upon a private Committee, and he would cheer-fully abide by the decision of the House, only reminding them that he could not be in two places at once.

Ordered—That the attendance of George Duncan, Esq., on the said Committee, be dispensed with.

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