HC Deb 06 February 1854 vol 130 cc289-90

said, that in pursuance of the notice he had given he would now move that a Select Committee be appointed to take into consideration the petition of John Patrick Somers. The petition had been printed with the Votes, and consequently hon. Members were in possession of the facts of the case. The allegation stated in it was, that an attempt had been made by the present sitting Member, or, at least, by persons professing to be agents of the sitting Member, to tamper with the witnesses of the petitioner. He believed that this Motion would be seconded by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sadleir) himself, and this made him feel that the better course would be, anticipating no opposition, to move for the inquiry without any statement. It was enough for him to say, that the allegations of the petition disclosed a state of facts which, in the case of any tribunal exercising judicial functions, would be a contempt of Court, and would be punished as such. In no respect, however, did he hold himself personally responsible for the statements of the petition.


said, he begged to second the Motion. The petition was presented in the course of last Session, and he had then repudiated all knowledge of the transactions. He had now only to repeat that statement, and, of course, he was most anxious that the matter should be submitted to the strictest investigation, and at the earliest possible period.


said, he had very considerable doubt whether a Committee of that House was the proper tribunal to investigate the charges contained in the petition. If subornation of perjury had been committed, the parties were liable to be punished by the regular tribunals, and he would submit, therefore, to the consideration of those who took an interest in the regularity of the proceedings of that House whether it would not be best to decline to enter into an endless inquiry of this nature, but to leave the parties to proceed by the usual course of law.


said, he did not think it would be right, if subornation of perjury had been committed, that the House should leave the vindication of the honour of its own proceedings to the chance of a private prosecution. Here was an allegation which, he had no hesitation in saying, if it were submitted to any Court of Justice in the country, and if it were found true, would be treated as a gross contempt of Court, and be punished accordingly. The petitioner in this case came forward prepared, on his own responsibility, to prove all his allegations, and he (Mr. Butt) would be betraying his duty to the House if he had not asked them to grant an investigation. If, upon inquiry, it turned out that the allegations were true, it would be for the House to consider what steps it would take to vindicate its own authority; and he must say that, after allowing these allegations to be printed and to go forth to the public, it would not be just to the parties themselves that no investigation should take place. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not acquiesce in the views or bow to the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, but would grant an inquiry, in justice to others implicated in the transaction, but whom he had not named. At all events, if the hon. Gentleman divided the House, and if he succeeded in defeating this Motion, he (Mr. Butt) would have the consolation of having done his duty in bringing this matter under their consideration.


said, he had no intention of dividing the House, but had merely wished to point out the inexpediency of going into an inquiry of this sort before a Select Committee.


said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to divide the House, because he agreed with him that, as it was perfectly competent for the parties to proceed for subornation of perjury in any of the ordinary tribunals of the country, it was not fitting to involve a Committee of that House in a prolonged and useless inquiry.


said, that during the short time he had been in Parliament he did not remember a single instance in which, it being proposed to inquire into the conduct of any Member on his side of the House, hon. Members opposite had not been most eager in pushing on an inquiry; while, on the contrary, if an hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House was attacked, every effort was used by the majority opposite to do away with all inquiry. For that reason he should certainly support the Motion

Motion agreed to.

The House adjourned at half after Six o'clock.