HC Deb 31 May 1866 vol 183 cc1666-8

moved that Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in the present Parliament for the Borough of Bridgwater, in the room of Mr. Henry Westropp, whose election has been determined to be void. The evidence taken before the Election Committee had been in the hands of Members for a fortnight, and he hoped that those who had read it had come to the same conclusion as the Election Committee that it was not desirable that a Commission of Inquiry should issue on this case.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Bridgwater, in the room of Henry Westropp, esquire, whose election has been determined to be void."—(Colonel Taylor.)


moved an Amendment that a Commission be appointed to inquire into the proceedings connected with the Bridgwater election. The Committee which had already sat on the case, had reported that at the last election for that borough corrupt practices had extensively prevailed, and the usual course in such cases was the appointment of a Commission to investigate further into the matter. He believed there was an honest desire on both sides of the House to put down bribery and corruption, which formed a plague-spot on the Constitution of the country, and they ought to strike at the root of the evil and find a remedy for it. The last election for Bridgwater had produced so much demoralization there that the innocent men had sent in a petition praying that the borough might be disfranchised.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:— Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Tour Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave humbly to represent to your Majesty, that a Select Committee of the House of Commons, appointed to try Petitions complaining of an undue Election and Return for the Borough of Bridgwater, have reported to the House that there is reason to believe that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed at the last Election for the Borough of Bridgwater: We therefore humbly pray Tour Majesty, that Tour Majesty will be graciously pleased to cause inquiry to be made, pursuant to the provisions of the Act of Parliament passed in the sixteenth year of the reign of Tour Majesty, intituled,' An Act to provide for more effectual inquiry into the existence of Corrupt Practices at Elections for Members to serve in Parliament,' by the appointment of Mr. George Chance, Mr. Henry Mather Jackson, and Mr. James Eardley Hill as Commissioners for the purpose of making inquiry into the existence of such corrupt practices. That the said Address be communicated to The Lords, and their concurrence desired thereto."—(Sir Harry Verney.)


hoped the House would not agree to the Motion for the issue of the Writ, but that they would bear in mind that only on Monday last they agreed to a Motion to discourage and put down bribery as far as they possibly could. They would stultify themselves and negative that decision if they issued this Writ. He was unable to understand why the usual course should be departed from by the issue of a Writ in such a case. What sort of spectacle would they present to the country if they voted for putting down bribery on Monday, and on Friday flew in the face of an Act of Parliament?


hoped hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House would not vote inconsistently with the vote they gave on Monday last, and suggested that there might be discourtesy in dealing with the question without waiting for the expected clauses on the subject of bribery.


said, the Committee of which he was a Member could not conscientiously report that corrupt practices did not extensively prevail, because the evidence compelled them to unseat the Member; but, on the other hand, the evidence was not sufficient to warrant the Committee in recommending a Commission.


supported the Amendment, and expressed the hope that the hon. Baronet would divide the House.


drew attention to two cases in which it was reported that corrupt practices had prevailed, and in one of which only a Commission was issued, the Member being unseated.

Another hon. MEMBER, who was one of the Committee in this case, said, there were others in which a similar report had been made, and yet no Commission had issued. He was authorized to speak for the Members of the Committee not in the House, and to say that they were unanimously of the opinion, not expressed in the Report, that a Commission should not be issued.


said, it was a mistake to suppose that Reports of this kind were made by Committees without ulterior measures being taken. A Commission would be moved for in the case of Galway. Inquiry by Commission did not depend upon the unseating of a Member—the House had agreed to an Address for a Commission in the case of Yarmouth, although the Member was declared duly elected. He regretted the absence of the Chairman of the Bridgwater Committee, because they had taken a course that placed the House in difficulty, by reporting in the words of the Act, "that corrupt practices prevailed extensively," and afterwards stating that the evidence would not justify a Commission—an opinion which, he hoped, future Committees would, if necessary, embody in their Reports. The Act of Parliament did not say that in every case of this kind Parliament should address the Crown for a Commission; but only said that upon an Address from both Houses a Commission should issue; and, therefore, the Act of Parliament would not be violated if there were no Commission.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided;—Ayes 123; Noes 12: Majority 111.

Main Question put, and agreed to.