§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he objected to the clause which enacted that a person found guilty of bribery in a court of law should be declared incapable of being elected or sitting in Parliament for five years. He thought that the punishment would be ample if the person so convicted should be incapable of being elected during the then existing 1894 Parliament. He would therefore move to leave out Clause 11, and to insert the following;
Clause (Any person who shall be convicted of bribery at any Election shall be incapable of being elected or sitting in Parliament at any time during the then, existing Parliament).
§ Clause brought up, and read 1o.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he objected to the clause as it stood, inasmuch as if a Committee of the House had decided in favour of a Member, yet, if a jury thought fit to give a verdict for a £10 penalty against him, his seat would be vacated, and be would be incapacitated from being elected for five years.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the 17 & 18 Vict., c. 102, already perpetually disqualified from voting all electors who might be proved guilty of bribery or undue influence, and the question was whether the same measure should not be meted out to candidates. Undoubtedly, under the clause, though a Member might be declared duly seated by an Election Committee, yet if subsequently he were proved guilty of bribery and treating, or Undue influence, before a court of law, and a penalty were recovered against him, he would be obliged to vacate his seat.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the true nature of the clause was a complete abandonment of the privileges of the House of Commons to reserve to itself the power of declaring the right to a seat in the House, and not to permit a court of justice to interfere in the matter. Would the House reverse all past legislation, and submit to the absolute judgment of any court which might happen to have jurisdiction, to determine whether a Member should continue to sit in the House. The higher court was to have its judgment reversed by the lower court, without knowing the ground upon which the reversal proceeded. Upon a judgment of bribery being placed upon the table of the House, a new writ was to issue without the House having power to ask a question, although the judgment might be the result of the most scandalous and most collusive action, and the proceedings in it most offensive to the honour and character of the House. Upon the part of his constituents he must protest against such legislation in an absurd fit of indigna- 1895 tion, and would call on the House to maintain its own dignity.
§ MR. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, that it was monstrous that the decision of a Committee of the House might be reversed by the most partisan and corrupt petty jury which could be collected for the purpose.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that Although there might be a bias in a jury, there was no great superiority in that respect in a Committee of the House of Commons. It was often said, that if they knew who was to constitute a Committee, they could tell what its decision would be. He should support the clause.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that whatever course the House might think fit to take, the subject was one which required more consideration than it had received. It was important, in a constitutional point of view, that the House should retain in its own hands the power to decide on the validity of the qualification of its Members; and although the verdict of a jury in a case of felony disqualified the person against whom it was found, no one could imagine that there would be any tendency in the minds of the jury to be influenced by the contemplation of that event, But it was impossible to say, that if the verdict of a jury on a question of bribery would unseat a Member, it might not have influence on the jury so as to affect their judgment. Under these circumstances, he would suggest to his hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire to withdraw the clause.
§ MR. PULLER
said, he felt that after what had been said by the hon. and learned Solicitor General he ought to withdraw the clause, and therefore he should adopt that course.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendments made.
§ Bill to be read 3o on Thursday.