HC Deb 11 May 1854 vol 133 cc165-9

then moved that Mr. G. H. Moore, the Member for Mayo, and one other Member of the House, to be named by the General Committee of Elections, be appointed on the Select Committee in the case of Henry Stonor to examine witnesses, but without the power of voting. When the Committee appointed to investigate this matter met, they found themselves involved in great difficulty with respect to the manner in which they should prosecute the inquiry, because none of the Members of the Committee had any knowledge of the circumstances of the case. The hon. Member for Mayo laid a statement of his case before the Committee, but declined to suggest to them the names of the witnesses to be called, because he considered that by the votes of the House he had no locus standi to act upon or with the Committee. The Committee upon this came to the resolution that it was very desirable that the hon. Member for Mayo should be appointed to serve with them, in order to conduct the case against the parties whose conduct was impugned; and also that another hon. Member, in the confidence of the accused, should be placed on the Committee, in order to watch the proceedings on their behalf. The appointment of such a person they proposed to leave to the General Committee of Elections, in whose selection there could be no doubt that the House would feel every confidence. The course which he now recommended was strictly in accordance with the precedent of the Carlow Election Committee in 1847, when Sir Frederick Pollock and Mr. Serjeant Wilde were appointed by the House to watch the proceedings on behalf of the parties.


said, he thought it would be highly advisable, before the House agreed to the Motion, that they should know who was to be the other Member. Whoever were appointed, both parties ought to be as nearly as possible equal in ability to discharge the duty required of them. He confessed he was surprised that the hon. Member for Mayo, who had moved the appointment of the Committee, had not been made a Member of it: he thought a slight thereby had been cast on the hon. Member.


said, he must deny that the General Committee of Elections, of which he was Chairman, intended to cast any slight upon the hon. Member for Mayo by not nominating him as one of the Members of the Committee. They had done so because they understood that, on referring the nomination to them, the House desired them to select five impartial Members to compose the Committee. If they were now directed to appoint another Member in addition to the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), merely to examine witnesses, but without the power of voting, they would of course act upon quite a different principle, and would conceive they best discharged their duty by asking the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies to name that Member.


said, that he had no objection to offer to that part of the Motion which related to the appointment of the hon. Member for Mayo. With regard to the other part of the Motion, it was the opinion of the Duke of Newcastle that it was quite unnecessary. The noble Duke would himself be able to state what had occurred with regard to the appointment of Mr. Stonor, and he (Mr. Peel) thought that a tribunal consisting of five impartial Gentlemen, Members of that House, would be quite competent to arrive at a correct conclusion without any other person being nominated to the Committee. The noble Duke was, therefore, perfectly willing that the question should be left to their decision.


said, that the statement of the hon. Gentleman was highly honourable both to himself and the Duke of Newcastle; but still he thought that, in order to assist the Select Committee to arrive at the truth, each side should nominate a Member to conduct their case.


said, he thought the House should beware lest, by appointing Members in the mode suggested, they should throw a doubt on the capacity of the Members of the Select Committee to conduct an inquiry such as the present. After the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, which was highly honourable both to himself and the Duke of Newcastle, he considered it would be highly improper to place any nominee Members at all upon the Committee.


said, that it was perfectly impossible that five men who were entirely ignorant of the facts of a case should arrive at the truth without the assistance of some one who was acquainted with the matter, and was in a position to bring forward evidence and cross-examine the witnesses. He was glad to hear what had fallen from the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies, who had, he thought, taken the proper course; but still he was of opinion that in order to have a fair inquiry into this matter, it was necessary that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), who could bring forward evidence, should be on the Committee.


said that the House should not consider merely the feelings of the person who brought the accusation and of the persons who were accused. What would be the result of having only one nominee, the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore)? He, being perfect master of his case, would be sure to manage it effectively; and as there was no person to represent the Government, the Committee, who were in a judicial position, and who ought to decide on the facts that were laid before them, would be obliged to fight the battle of the Government in answer to the accuser, who was a member of their own body. Such a result was not at all desirable. It was due to the five Gentlemen who had to perform so difficult and delicate a task, that they should not be placed in this unsatisfactory position. He did not think that they should sanction a sentimental feeling in matters of this kind. Let the accusation that was made in this case be met in the usual manner, and let all means be taken to secure a fair decision, by giving to both sides equal advantages, as far as that could be done. It would, he was sure, be most satisfactory both to the House and the Committee if nominee members were appointed on both sides.


said, that Mr. Stoner himself seemed to have been quite forgotten in the course of this conversation. As his character was involved here, he thought some hon. Member ought to be appointed to act upon the Committee on his behalf.


said, as a Member of the Select Committee, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Committee had hitherto most carefully determined to abstain from doing anything that should in any way implicate Mr. Stoner in the inquiry. The Committee considered that they had nothing whatever to do with that gentleman's conduct, but that they were appointed to inquire into, and report upon, an entirely different matter. Mr. Stonor's friends need not, therefore, entertain the slightest fear that anything unjust would be done in regard to Mr. Stonor. The hon. Member fur Manchester (Mr. Bright) had admitted that there should be on the Select Committee a Member whose duty it was to conduct the inquiry, but, then, in that case, there must also be an hon. Member appointed by the other side, because it was perfectly impossible for any judicial Member of the Committee to cross examine the witnesses with the strictness that was desirable, without exposing himself to the imputation of being a partisan of the accused party. To avoid that he hoped that the house would appoint another Member in addition to the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore). And while he perfectly recognised the feelings which actuated the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies, he could not help expressing a hope that he would reconsider his determination, and, by appointing a Member to represent the Government, relieve the Committee from the difficulty in which they would otherwise be placed.


said, that from the discussion which had taken place, it seemed evident that the House was unanimously of opinion that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) should be on the Committee, though without the power of voting; and also that the general sentiment of the House was favourable to the appointment of a nominee Member on the part of Government. His hon. Friend (Mr. Peel) had said that, so far as the feelings of the Duke of Newcastle were concerned, it would be more agreeable to him not to be represented upon the Committee by any person, or to be put before the Committee in the position of a partisan. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), however, wished to state on the part of his hon. Friend that he did not desire to insist upon this in opposition to the wish of the House; and if it was the general opinion that a nominee should be appointed on the part of the Duke of Newcastle, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would not offer any opposition to this step, although it would certainly be more agreeable to his Grace if a different course were pursued.

Motion agreed to.

Ordered—"That Mr. Moore, and one other Member of the House to be named by the General Committee of Elections, be appointed to serve on the Select Committee on the case of Henry Stonor to examine witnesses, but without the power of voting."