HC Deb 16 April 1863 vol 170 cc264-5

Letter and Documents respecting withdrawal of Lisburn Election Petition considered.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL moved, that the Letter and Documents relating to the withdrawal of the Lisburn Election Petition be referred to the General Committee of Elections, to inquire into the circumstances of the case, and to report to the House. The documents sufficiently showed what the circumstances were that would form the subject of the proposed inquiry. It appeared that a Petition had been presented to the House against the Return of John W. Barbour, Esq., M.P. for the borough of Lisburn, signed by William John Knox and Moses Bullick. A letter, dated yesterday, had been received by Mr. Speaker, from a Mr. M'Cann, of Lisburn, enclosing a document purporting to be signed—and, in fact, signed—by the petitioners, desiring to withdraw the Petition. That document was dated the 24th of March, and M'Cann was the attesting witness. It further appeared that the Speaker, on the 27th of March, received another document, signed by the petitioners Knox and Bullick, and dated the same 24th of March, in which they disclaimed any intention to withdraw the Petition, and alleged that they had signed the letter setting forth that this was their intention under a complete misapprehension as to its nature and object; and that they desired to support the Petition. If the Petitioners had been induced to sign the document in question under a misapprehension as to its real nature, the House would probably be of opinion that there had been no withdrawal of the Petition in any fair and reasonable sense, and that it ought to be allowed to proceed; but that, on the other hand, if they had not been practised upon by M'Cann, but had put their hands to the document knowing what they were about, then the Petition ought to be considered to be withdrawn.


entirely agreed in the proposition; but there was a question involved which concerned the House that he hoped would not be compromised by this course of action. Here was a gen- tleman of the name of M'Cann, who had been the agent for the Petitioners, who, whether under a misapprehension or not, signed a letter to the Speaker and the House of Commons, stating that they wished to withdraw their Petition against the Lisburn Election Return; but, before the agent has had the time or the power to present it when signed, the Petitioners go to the agent and say, "We do not want to withdraw the Petition at all, and we desire you to give it back to us." But the agent says, "No, I insist upon carrying it to the House of Commons." And so they wrote a second letter, and took care that that should be in the hands of the Speaker at the same time as the first. He submitted that the Petitioners had a perfect right to do as they had done; and that their first letter therefore did not amount to a withdrawal of the Petition.


said, that although he believed that the course proposed to be adopted was in accordance with the last precedent, he should have preferred that the matter should, as was done in the Norwich case, about ten years ago, have been referred to a small Select Committee, specially appointed, rather than to the General Committee of Elections, more especially as that Committee was to be called upon to pronounce a legal opinion as to whether, under the 8th section of the Act of Parliament, there had been a withdrawal of this Petition.

Motion agreed to.

Ordered, That it be referred to the General Committee of Elections, to inquire into the circumstances under which the Document withdrawing the Petition complaining of an undue Election and Return for the Borough of Lisburn was signed by the Petitioners William John Knox and Moses Bullick; and whether such Document constitutes a withdrawal of such Petition under the Election Petitions Act (1848), and to report their opinion to the House.