HC Deb 25 June 1868 vol 192 cc2172-98

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 5. (Establishment of Court of Elections.)

MR. CRAUFURD moved, on behalf of the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Mr. Alexander Mitchell), in Clause 5, page 2, line 30, to leave out the words "Courts of Common Pleas," in order to insert "House of Commons." He thought before transferring their jurisdiction in such cases the House ought to be satisfied that the new tribunal proposed would be superior to the present one. The opinion of the Select Committee might be quoted against his Amendment; but it ought to be recollected that that Committee took no evidence on the subject, and that the first proposal to transfer the jurisdiction to the Queen's Bench had been withdrawn. It was not to be expected that at particular times—for instance, immediately after a General Election—two gentlemen would be sufficient to determine upon all the cases that would present themselves. He saw no case for parting with this jurisdiction. The decisions of Committees of the House were generally fair and impartial; and if anyone asked for proof of the satisfactory action of the present mode of trial, he would point to the decision of the Election Committee that very day in the case of the Bristol Election Petition. He believed that an Election Committee, the Members of which had gone through the ordeal of an election, and who understood all the artifices used to prevent agency from being found out, were more likely to discover cases of bribery than the tribunal proposed to be established by the Bill. It was said that: by the proposals of this Bill expense would be saved, but he saw no proof of this. If there were defects in the present system let them be removed. They should direct legislation so that a man guilty of bribery should be considered as guilty, not merely of a legal, but of a moral offence. He called upon the House not to part with a jurisdiction which they had possessed so long, and which had worked so well.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 30, to leave out the words "Court of Common Pleas," in order to insert the words "House of Commons."—(Mr. Craufurd.)


said, that the speech of the hon. Member was addressed to the whole principle of the Bill; for it was again raising the question that had been raised upon the second reading; and on going into Committee. The Bill was set down for to-night with a view of proceeding with the details. If the House was disposed to stop the Bill it could do so, but it was advisable that they should come to a decision whether they should discuss the clauses or debate the principle of the Bill at that late period.


said, he thought that the House, in affirming the principle of the Bill, declared not that it was prepared to part with its jurisdiction, but that it would feel itself justified in laying down more stringent regulations on the subject of Corrupt Practices at Elections. He was glad that the question was raised whether the House was prepared to part with its jurisdiction in reference to Election Petitions. The general feeling among the independent Members was in favour of the jurisdiction of the House being retained. He must say that he thought the argument of the Judges, that too much work would be imposed upon them, and that their office would be lowered if they were mixed up with elections, was unanswerable. It was said that the expense would be diminished by trying these questions on the spot; but he believed that it would cost more to take counsel down than it would to bring witnesses up. Moreover, it was intended to continue the system of Commissions for general inquiries, so that the Judges would be limited to particular inquiries. It would be derogatory to the dignity of that House part with its jurisdiction to try Election Petitions, and to hand such inquiries over to Judges who were the nominees of the Crown. Was it right that it should be left to nominees of the Crown to determine who were and who were not the representatives of the people in that House? It was unconstitutional, and if they wished to find anything like it they must go back to the days of the Star Chamber. There was, moreover, no necessity for adopting it; for he believed that the proceedings of the House on Election Petitions had generally been fair and just. The only thing wanting to their decisions was uniformity, and this could be obtained by having Judges or lawyers, in whom they ought to place confidence, to sit as assessors to Committees. The Bill proposed that the Judges should decide, without the assistance of a jury, questions both of law and fact. The present moment also was an unhappy one for adopting such a change, before they knew how the new constituency would work.


said, that all other representative assemblies retained in their own hands the power of verifying the election of their own Members, and on what ground was that House called upon to part with that power? He had observed, during twelve years, that the impartiality of Election Committees had not been questioned. If he were to be tried for his life he should be perfectly satisfied to trust his case in the hands of a Committee of that House. With regard to the case which had been decided that day, he should not have been at all surprised if the decision had been the other way, as the case in favour of the Petition was not very strong; yet still the Committee had considered it their duty to decide in favour of the Petitioners. He had not the confidence which some professed in the superhuman attributes of Judges; and he believed that, by changing one tribunal for another, you would not secure infallibility. At present the Judges were beyond suspicion, but he did not think they would long remain unsuspected if they were called upon to decide matters of fact in reference to elections. He was prepared to sit, if necessary, to the end of September in order to pass an effectual measure to put down bribery and corruption; but before visiting a man with the proposed disqualification, he would have him really convicted of bribery. In the Bristol case there had been no conviction of moral bribery, but only of an act made illegal by our preposterous laws—the paying of a lost day's pay—which was an old-established practice in other places besides Bristol. He admitted it was a vicious practice, but would any one say it was an offence against morality? He would punish the corrupt candidate as much as possible, but not the man who had no intention of breaking the law. The other day when he was going down to vote at a county election, to save him from inconvenience an hon. Member offered him a night's hospitality, and he believed that might have been treated as a case of corruption. He wished for certainty, which could not be obtained without a good definition of bribery; and he thought the present tribunal, at all events with a legal Chairman, was better than that proposed. But if a case was to be tried locally by a Judge, then he would give him a jury to decide questions of fact.


said, that the greater part of the speech of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. P. Wykeham Martin) was applicable to subsequent clauses, and had nothing to do with the present clause, which did not deal with punishment. He assured the hon. Member that there was not the smallest symp- tom of bribery or corruption in the incident he had mentioned; and he wished to explain that the unseated Member for Bristol had not been convicted of, but wholly absolved from bribery. His agents had been guilty of it, and therefore he lost his seat. That was not a new law, and it might be considered severe or wholly unnecessary; but it was a different thing from a gentleman himself being convicted of anything corrupt, and there was nothing in the Bill to condemn a person whose agents only had been guilty of corruption. The clauses only affected persons who were proved to have been knowingly guilty of bribery. Turning, however, from this digression of the hon. Member to the question really before the Committee, it must be obvious that all the argumenst adduced this evening were based upon the old objection to the Bill—namely, the objection to give up what was termed the authority and power of the House in the decision of election disputes. For his own part he had always been unable wholly to appreciate the force of the objection; for, in point of fact, the House did not really exercise any authority or power in deciding whether a Member should be displaced or not. This was obvious when it was considered that if the tribunal was a just and an efficient one, it had no choice at all; because, after the facts had been proved before it, the result followed as a matter of course. The truth was, that the House gave up its power 100 years ago, when it first allowed Election Petitions to be tried under a statute, instead of being investigated by the House itself. It had been urged in the course of the present debate that the House was not in a position to arrive at a decision on this question, as no evidence had been taken; but he begged to remind the House that the whole matter had been fully and carefully investigated by the Select Committee last year. Then it was said that the letter of the Lord Chief Justice was a conclusive answer to the view taken by the Committee. He wished, however, to point out that that letter was grounded on a misapprehension. One of the main objections raised by the Lord Chief Justice to the proposal of the Government was that the Judges would be required to inquire into Petitions which alleged general corruption, and that they would consequently be withdrawn from their ordinary duties for inconveniently long periods of time; but, in reality, the Committee carefully distinguished between the case of two Members claiming a seat and an inquiry into the subject of general corruption; for in the latter case it was proposed to continue the practice of sending Commissioners to the spot to investigate the subject. When they sent down Commissioners to the country to inquire into the existence of general corruption they did not send them down to act as Judges and to try cases, but only to collect evidence and make certain inquiries with a view to ulterior proceedings. He believed that the objections of many of the Judges were founded on the same misapprehension, and therefore he thought the letter of the Lord Chief Justice ought not to weigh very much with the Committee. It had also been stated that the proposed tribunal would be inefficient, as the two Judges appointed by the Bill would be unable to try all the Petitions after a General Election. Now, he did not think it was ever intended that Judges should be specially created for the sole purpose of trying Election Petitions. On the contrary, he had always imagined the intention to be that two of the existing Judges should be selected for the purpose, and he believed there would be no difficulty in seeming the services of the senior Judges. It had been said that it would be a degradation to a Judge to try questions of fact as well as questions of law; but this objection was easily disposed of, as every one connected with legal proceedings must be aware that the Equity Judges were constantly trying questions of fact without ever supposing that they were thereby degraded. The questions which the Judges would have to try would be comparatively simple, and he could not see that they would soil their ermine by trying election cases more than they did in trying any other cases. It had further been urged that the proposed tribunal would be ineffective; but could anyone declare that the present tribunal was effective? The great defect in the existing tribunal was that it sat in London. It was well known to lawyers of experience that the trial of a case in the town where the facts had arisen was of the utmost consequence in getting at the truth. When a witness was examined in his own town with the people standing before and around him, who all knew what he had been doing, it was almost impossible, from the instant murmur or gesture that arose, for the witness to tell an untruth. The case was often very different when the witness was examined in London, and the Committee were quite right in saying that a local inquiry in election matters was of the greatest importance in getting at the truth. It was said that a local inquiry would add to the expense, instead of diminishing it, because the fees paid to counsel who went into the country would be larger than the expense of bringing the witnesses to London. This was a question of fact, and not of opinion. As to the fees which it was said would have to be paid to counsel, the hon. Member ought to know that nothing was more exaggerated than the supposed amount of fees often said to be paid to counsel. Any one who had ever looked over an attorney's bill must know how small a proportion counsels' fees usually bore to the rest of the bill. With regard to the expense of bringing witnesses to London he had unfortunately had some experience in Election Petitions, and he could state that the great expense arose from bringing witnesses to London and keeping them there. They expected for some reason or other to be maintained in a lavish manner, and to be kept in a state of constant good humour and amusement. He did not imagine, as the hon. Member seemed to suppose, that the first counsel of the day would be brought down in these cases, because the services of other counsel could be obtained at a much cheaper rate. The main principle of the Bill was the change of tribunal. Three-fourths of the clauses referred to that subject, and if the Committee thought there ought to be no change of tribunal they might as well give up the Bill. The House had considered this question more than once; and would, he thought, do well to accept the principle of the Bill, and give up a power which added nothing either to its real influence or its dignity.


said, the discussion convinced him that it would have been better to have listened to his suggestion on a former occasion and have postponed all the clauses relative to the new tribunal, in order that those clauses might go before the Committee again. They would then have been in a better position to deal with the question of tribunal. His proposal need not have proved fatal to the Bill. The words now in question were of no vital moment, because they might as well enact for the present that an Election Petition should be presented to the House of Commons as to the Court of Common Pleas. If the words "House of Commons" were substituted for Court of Common Pleas, the next step would be the consideration of the Amendments of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). Though he had some Amendments on the Paper, he had placed them there with no intention of delaying the passing of the measure; all he wanted was to improve the measure, and make it such as would command the approval of the House. It was now admitted that the two Honorary Judges would not be sufficient for the trial of Election Petitions after a General Election. But here arose the point on which he joined issue with the Government. The Bill proposed that the Government should have the power of taking out two more Judges besides the Honorary Justices, and these two Judges were to be engaged for the nonce and for the job, and taken away from the trial of murders and other circuit business to hold Election Inquiries on the spot. Everyone must regard this as a proposal of a very monstrous nature, and it was to prevent such an interference with the business of the Courts and of the country by the nomination of two of the Judges by the Minister of the day, that he proposed to substitute the appointment of those who when there was a great deal of Assize business were thought well qualified to sit and assist the Judges. He did not care whether they were appointed by the Speaker and the two Honorary Judges, or by the latter alone; but they should be well-qualified barristers, say of twelve years' standing, who might assist in holding the inquiries that might be necessary after a General Election. The other Amendments he proposed were to provide that the tribunal should contain the element of a jury as well as that of a Judge. He asserted that it was most objectionable that an inquiry of this kind should be held before a single-seated Judge. Although there were tribunals of the Court of Chancery, where a single Judge tried questions of law and fact, there was no instance of a single-seated Judge having a very extensive and important criminal jurisdiction. The Bankruptcy Commissioners exercised, indeed, a somewhat analogous power; but could there be anything more ridiculous and unsatisfactory than the way in which that jurisdiction had worked? He believed that something in the nature of a jury would be requisite; and when there was a very expansive power of getting such jury among the Members of that House, they ought not to sacrifice the power of getting it from that body. There should be one person responsible for the law, and a body to decide as to the fact of guilty or not guilty.


said, he looked upon the Bill as the Bill of a Select Committee rather than of the Government, and he did not hesitate to say that the Bill, if passed, would defeat its own object. It would put an end to Petitions. There was scarcely any borough which could stand the test of an inquiry instituted before a local tribunal; and the consequence would be that candidates unwilling to kill the goose which laid the golden eggs would hesitate to petition against the return for a borough which they might hope to represent at some future period. Another disadvantage connected with a local tribunal would be that the services of a competent bar would not be likely to be secured. Then, the single Judge, from the fact of his sitting singly, must be open to suspicion.


said, that, in the course of the rather severe criticisms which had been made upon the Bill, it seemed to have been forgotten that, whatever might be its defects, it provided one of the most important remedies for bribery and corruption—a local investigation. His own opinion was that the worst plan which involved such an investigation would be better than the best plan without it. But if there were a local investigation the jurisdiction must be altered; and the question was whether a tribunal should be constituted composed of one of the Judges of the land as proposed in the Government plan, or of a Judge sitting with a jury as suggested by the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie)? However that might be he was anxious to impress on the House that any such tribunal would be only fit to be a tribunal of appeal, and that it would be necessary to have besides a tribunal of investigation. The best plan, therefore, to adopt, seemed to him that of which he had given Notice, and which he had drawn up with the assistance of Mr. Serjeant Pulling, providing that the Revising Barrister, an officer conversant with elections, and having a considerable acquaintance with the locality, should be the person to hold the investigation in the first instance. The investigation should take place before the return of the writ, and there should be a scrutiny. They must endeavour to put an end to excessive expenditure; and he thought the expense of the preliminary investigation should be borne by the public, either out of the borough rate or be charged on the Consolidated Fund. If the Amendment were pressed to a division he should vote for the provision in the Bill as against the Amendment.


said, that the plan of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) would require 400 Revising Barristers, and he thought the appeal to the Court of Common Pleas was objection able. Local inquiry was admitted to be very desirable, and at the same time there was an objection to get rid of the jurisdiction of that House in the trial of Election Petitions. There could be no question, especially after the speech of the Solicitor General, that local inquiry diminished expense. ["No, no!"] He spoke from some experience, for when he first came into Parliament, it was after an inquiry conducted in his own borough, the parties immediately engaged in which were solicitors on the spot. But he thought that House should not he the first Legislature in the world to give up its jurisdiction in reference to disputed elections. They ought to ensure local inquiry on the one hand, and the retention of jurisdiction on the other. At a time when a review of the whole of our Courts of Justice was imminent, it was most inopportune to create two new Judges. He would therefore suggest that on the presentation of an Election Petition, a barrister should be appointed by some impartial authority to go down to the spot to which the Petition referred, and there take evidence. The barrister should then net before the Election Committee of that House as assessor, being in a position to afford them information as to the manner in which the evidence had been given. No additional evidence should be taken by the Election Committee, unless it was substantiated before them that for special reasons such evidence was desirable. The Committee would retain the entire power of deciding whether the election was or was not an undue election. His scheme was not yet completed, and he should therefore support the Amendment to retain the jurisdiction, with the view of bringing up a clause at a future time to carry out his view.


said, that the plan just suggested of a double inquiry would double the expense. What the House desired was that there should be a Court constituted which would give satisfaction, not only to the House, but to the public. He did not think that the inquiry before an Election Committee afforded entire satisfaction, and he would, therefore, give his support in a considerable degree to the proposal in the Bill. He conceived that it would be desirable to have Election Petitions tried by Judges of the land, as they were removed from the region of party; but, instead of having two Judges appointed for the special purpose, it would be better to make controverted elections a matter of criminal inquiry, and to let them be tried by Judges taken from the whole Bench. That would be much better than appointing special Judges for this purpose. The mere fact of the Judge going down to the spot to investigate the case would have a great tendency to check corruption, as the Inquiry would be held under the eyes of the borough. He could not support the Amendment by which it was proposed to retain the jurisdiction of the House upon this matter.


said, he could not agree with those hon. Members who advocated local inquiry, which would have the effect of reviving the animosities attendant upon the election, instead of allowing them to die out. Moreover, the appearance of one of Her Majesty's Judges in a borough for the purpose of conducting an inquiry of this nature would tend to prolong the saturnalia which hon. Members strongly condemned as one of the vices of the present system. Although inquiries into bribery might be of the highest importance in one sense, yet the questions which were raised upon such an inquiry could hardly be classed with the social questions which usually came before the Judges. They would be taken from their important duties to decide matters of minor importance, and such inquiries, conducted without the assistance of a jury, would tend to bring the Judges into disrespect. It would be said perhaps that a Judge was influenced in consequence of his having recently been a barrister upon that particular circuit, or of his having recently given up a seat in the House in order to take his place upon the Bench. These matters should induce them to pause before they cast this duty upon Judges.


said, that last year the House of Commons delegated this most difficult question to seventeen of its Members, who entered into the inquiry free from all political bias, with the determination of seeing whether something could not be done to put down this crying evil, and those seventeen Members came to a unanimous Resolution which was in substance in favour of the principles embodied in the Government Bill. Under these circumstances, it would not be handsome nor even fair to the Government who had adopted their plan, if the Members of that Committee did not come forward and state the reasons which had induced them to come to the conclusions at which they had arrived. The shortest way of laying the matter before the House was for him to state what questions came before the Committee, and the decision at which they had arrived respecting them. He might state, in the first place, that every point that had been mentioned in that debate was well and fully canvassed by the Committee before they came to the unanimous resolution of placing the matter in the hands of one of the Judges. The Committee did not feel much embarrassed with reference to the question of taking away the jurisdiction of the House, because they felt that the House had already parted with it. It was true that the House retained the power of appointing from among its own Members a Court to try these Petitions, but having done that its power was exhausted. The Court thus appointed was as independent of that House as if its Members were sitting in Quarter Sessions. The Committee thought under these circumstances that the question of transferring the jurisdiction of the House was settled, and that all they had to consider was, whether the existing tribunal was the best and the most efficient that could be obtained? When they came to look at these Courts they found them thus constituted—they found—and he said so with no desire to speak slightingly of the decisions of these tribunals—that they were composed of persons who, from the very necessity of their situation, were political partizans, and were consequently liable to be suspected of political bias; and, indeed, it was not out of the question that they might be affected by an honest political bias. Another objection to the existing tribunals was that they could not be appointed until after the House had assembled, and therefore they could not meet to investigate the cases until months after the offences had been committed. They felt that the inquiry to be efficient must be speedy, so that there should be no time to tamper with the witnesses to see how the inquiry could be evaded or to square the petitioners. They felt, besides, the immense benefits that would arise from local inquiry. It appeared to the Committee that if the existing tribunals were to be retained all those advantages must be given up, and that they must make up their minds whether they would recommend the House, at such a sacrifice, to retain the shadow of jurisdiction that it possessed, or, by giving up that shadow, to obtain the realization of a satisfactory tribunal for the decision of these cases. The conclusion the Committee came to was that the House having already wisely and justly parted with any sort of power or direction over these inquiries, which nobody could be so unfit to exercise as this purely political body, the business of the Committee was to look out for the best tribunal that could be found—one combining certain specified conditions, such as a thorough acquaintance with the rules of law, and the power of controlling and shortening proceedings and of preventing time and money being wasted by irrelevant argument. Considering the enormous importance of the questions at stake, the Committee thought there was no tribunal too high or dignified to re-place Committees of the House; and therefore the question with him, and he believed with the rest of the Committee, was simply whether the present jurisdiction of the House should be retained, or whether that jurisdiction should be transferred to the very highest authority that could be found. The Committee were not prepared to recommend any compromise, and they were not prepared to delegate anything to barristers. The insuperable objection to the plan of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) appeared to be that a barrister would have immense power and latitude of conscience without responsibility, because, although he might manipulate the evidence cleverly, and advise on legal points, the decision would be that of the Committee. It was always wise, where it was possible, that the men who had to decide upon the evidence should hear it; for evidence taken secondhand never had the same weight as when you had listened to and watched the witnesses. It was a very different thing to read the evidence from a stupid blue book, sitting half asleep over the fire in dressing-gown and slippers. With great respect for the Gentlemen who had spoken he had heard nothing to shake his views. He could understand the House wishing to adhere to the existing plan; but he did hope that no compromise would be adopted. Let the House either boldly throw out the Bill or adhere to the present system. The opinion of the Committee was that the number of Judges should be increased, that there should be no selection, and that no one should know beforehand who would try a case. He would like to treat Judges in this matter as we treated jurors, who came out of and sunk back into the body of the community, thereby avoiding speculations as to their bias, politics, and private life which would be indulged in if jurors were always the same. Unfortunately this was not the course adopted in the Bill, owing mainly, perhaps, to the letter of the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench. This was a minor matter; but it would be better if the number of Judges could be increased. When there was a desperate duty to discharge the Duke of Wellington always took for it the regiment that was most available; he would not by selection make any distinction; and no doubt in that way he sustained the morale and confidence of every part of the army by showing that he had equal confidence in all regiments. On that principle he took objection to the measure of the Government. To conclude, a really efficient inquiry must be local and speedy, and must not wait for the meeting of Parliament. It could be obtained only by delegating the duty to Courts of Justice; and, therefore, he hoped the House would approve the decision of the Committee, which was most conscientiously arrived at with the single desire of doing what was best.


said, that the statement of his right hon. Friend had not shaken the opinion which he had formed when this Bill was first laid on the table of the House, and which all his subsequent reflection had confirmed. If the choice lay between the Bill, the plan of the Committee, and the present system, his own judgment would be in favour of adhering to the present system. He thought it was an error to say that the House—when it regulated by Act of Parliament the mode in which it would, by its Committees, decide upon Election Petitions—had already parted with its jurisdiction in the same sense, and with the same consequences, as it was now asked to do. When the Whole House decided on Petitions, it was party rallying against party, and it was impossible that an inquiry should be conducted judicially; but it was otherwise when a small number of Members, properly selected, were sworn to do their duty, with the eye of the House and the public resting upon them, within the walls, and, as it were, in the atmosphere of the House, The House still retained cognizance of what went on, and took constant interest in it, so that it could detect and check any tendency to corruption. In that way the House retained the control it ought to have over everything affecting its constitution, and he was decidedly of opinion that that authority should be retained, in whatever mode an inquiry might be conducted. Nor did he agree as to even the alleged incidental inconveniences of the present system, nor as to the tendency of the new remedy to correct the evils stated. Was it part of the plan that every Petition should be presented within a fortnight? To shorten the time for presenting a Petition would in many cases be as likely to have the effect of playing as much into the hands of corruption as it would be to have that of preventing the malpractices referred to. If the time were not shortened the people concerned would still manage things in their own way, much as they did at present. He did not hesitate to express his opinion that the plan proposed would diminish the number of cases in which corruption would be exposed and punished. It might be that an inquiry by a Committee was conducted more loosely than an inquiry by a Judge—but, if a Committee was not strict in applying technical rules, its very laxity tended to the discovery of truth in these matters. He was apprehensive that if a Judge was sent down to try these cases, according to the strict rules of procedure, the advantage would be altogether on the side of those who stood in the position of defendants. He apprehended it would be found that in many cases corruption might escape even in a more flagrant manner than it did under the present system. No doubt, in some cases, local inquiry would be most valuable and important, but not necessarily in every case; and he should like to see power given and machinery supplied to the Committees of the House to enable them to conduct such local inquiry when they deemed it necessary. As to the proposal of the Government respecting the appointment of two Judges, he ventured to say that of all the proposals which human ingenuity could possibly have thought of, it was the very worst. These two Judges would, in point of fact, be called upon to determine all matters relating to the constitution of the House, and of course they would not be removable unless they were guilty of grave misconduct. Judges, like other men, had their politics; but, at present, cases in which political bias might be supposed to affect their minds were rare, although, in those cases they frequently gave their judgments according to their politics. Indeed, this happened in almost all ecclesiastical cases. Still even in cases of this kind the public reposed confidence in the Judges, being aware of their high character, and the admirable manner in which they generally discharged their duties. But if two particular Judges whose politics would be well known were to be chosen to investigate Election Petitions, he ventured to predict that there would be an universal outcry in the country. A special jurisdiction was always an evil, and here it would be found in its worst and most exaggerated form. Then, two Judges could not get through the work with the necessary despatch; and if the whole Bench were employed, as was proposed by the Committee, they would be withdrawn from their ordinary duties in a manner most inconvenient to the public service. Therefore, if this proposal were adopted, it would soon become necessary to supplement it by the appointment of those barristers to whom his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) so much objected. In conclusion, he protested against a hurried change of this kind in a moribund Parliament. He believed that it was impossible by any machinery that could be invented, in the way of trial or punishment, to prevent corruption until there rose up in the constituencies a spirit opposed to corruption.


said, he agreed with what his hon. Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer) had said as to the real remedy for corrupt practices; but he wished to point out that the present scheme of a local inquiry, surrounded by judicial forms, had been adopted with the view of changing the spirit of the constituencies by striking at the root of corruption. Local inquiry afforded the best chance of effecting the object they all wished to secure.


said, that having been a member of the Select Committee which sat last year, he was unable to agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne that the decision of that Committee was arrived at unanimously. The Committee was unanimous only to this extent—that if the jurisdiction were transferred from the House it ought to be conferred on the highest existing judicial tribunal in the country, and not on a body of Commissioners or barristers. He himself had voted in conjunction with the hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) in favour of a proposal that the House should retain its jurisdiction over Election Petitions until they were ready to be sent for trial to a tribunal to be fixed upon by the House. His opinion was that, as the Court of Chancery was able to direct an issue on a point of law, the House should be able to refer any questions respecting an inquiry of that sort to such Court as they might think best suited to try them. With regard to the scheme now under consideration he could not see how the jurisdiction could be transferred till the House knew what was proposed to be done as to Ireland and Scotland, for the Bill, it should be borne in mind, applied to England alone.


said, he must acknowledge the value of local inquiry; but the House ought not to be misled into the belief that a mere transfer to a local tribunal would be necessarily an improvement. The House, he thought, should not be in a hurry to give up its jurisdiction without knowing that the tribunal which it was proposed to substitute for the present one would be an improvement. He should support the Amendment.


said, there was one argument which ought to carry weight. ["Divide!"] There were thirteen lawyers who had addressed the Committee, and only three from the general body; and since hon. Members would not listen to him he should move that the Chairman report Progress.


hoped the Motion for the adjournment would would not be persisted in. He never knew a Committee in riper mood for discussion. The subject had been discussed with great ability on both sides, and if they did not come to a decision that night he should begin to despair of progress. He was sure that the House would be quite prepared to listen to the hon. Member who had just sat down, and who had perhaps unnecessarily spoken; but if he would only condense his observations he was sure the Committee would not refuse to hear what he had got to say.


said, that an hon. Baronet opposite had spoken of the borough which he (Mr. T. Cave) represented as "one of those nasty little corrupt boroughs like Bridgwater." Did not hon. Members expect the representatives of boroughs thus classed to show a little self-respect when a Bill like this was before the House. Well, his argument was this—they were about to pass a Bill which offered two more prizes to the legal profession, and they would consequently have their House besieged by the profession more than it was at present. Practical men of business who sat in that House saw that the front Bench on both sides was flattered by one body of lawyers and bullied by another. He said that the Bill must be a had one, because it offered two more prizes to lawyers, who obtained promotion by their speaking powers.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, "That the words 'Court of Common Pleas' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 178; Noes 158: Majority 20.

Adderley, rt. hn. C. B. Evans, T. W.
Akroyd, E. Fane, Lieut.-Col. H. H.
Antrobus, E. Fawcett, H.
Archdall, Captain M. Fellowes, E.
Arkwright, R. Fergusson, Sir J.
Bagge, Sir W. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Barrington, Viscount Forde, Colonel
Bass, M. T. Galway, Viscount
Beach, Sir M. H. Goddard, A. L.
Beach, W. W. B. Goldney, G.
Beaumont, H. F. Gordon, rt. Hon. E. S.
Beaumont, W. B. Gore, W. R. O.
Biddulph, M. Gorst, J. E.
Bingham, Lord Gower, hon. F. L.
Bourne, Colonel Grant, A.
Bowen, J. B. Graves, S. R.
Brett, Sir W. B. Greenall, G.
Bruce, Major C. Greene, E.
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Grenfell, H. R.
Buller, Sir A. W. Griffith, C. D.
Burrell, Sir P. Gurney, rt. Hon. R.
Cartwright, Colonel Gwyn, H.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Hamilton, Lord C.
Cavendish, Lord E. Hardcastle, J. A.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hardy, rt. hon. G.
Cavendish, Lord G. Hardy, J.
Clay, J. Hay, Sir J. C. D.
Clive, G. Hayter, A. D.
Cobbold, J. C. Henderson, J.
Cole, hon. H. Herbert, rt. hn. Gen. P.
Cole, hon. J. L. Hervey, Lord A. H. C.
Collier, Sir R. P. Hesketh, Sir T. G.
Cooper, E. H. Heygate, W. U.
Cox, W. T. Hibbert, J. T.
Crawford, R. W. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Dent, J. D. Hogg, Lieut.-Col. J. M.
Dickson, Major A. G. Hood, Sir A. A.
Dimsdale, R. Hope, A. J. B. B.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Horsfall, T. B.
Du Cane, C. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Duff, M. E. G. Huddleston, J. W.
Du Pre, C. G. Hunt. rt. hon. G. W.
Dyke, W. H. Hurst, R. H.
Eaton, H. W. Ingham, R.
Edwards, Sir H. Karslake, Sir J. B.
Egerton, hon. A. F. Kavanagh, A.
Egerton, E. C. Kendall, N.
Enfield, Viscount Keown, W.
Knightley, Sir R. Repton, G. W. J.
Labouchere, H. Robertson, P. F.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Royston, Viscount
Legh, Major C. Russell, A.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Russell, Sir C.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Schreiber, C.
Lindsay, hon. Colonel C. Sclater-Booth, G.
Lindsay, Colonel R. L. Scourfield, J. H.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Severne, J. E.
Lowther, W. Seymour, G. H.
M'Lagan, P. Simeon, Sir J.
M'Laren, D. Smith, A.
Mainwaring, T. Smith, J.
Manners, Lord G. J. Somerset, Colonel
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Somerset, E. A.
Majoribanks, Sir D. C. Stanley, hon. F.
Mayo, Earl of Stanley, Lord
Melly, G. Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W.
Mill, J. S. Stone, W. H.
Moffatt, G. Stopford, S. G.
Monk, C. J. Stronge, Sir J. M.
Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R. Stuart, Lt. Col. W.
Montgomery, Sir G. Sykes, Colonel W. H.
Morgan, hon. Major Taylor, P. A.
Morgan, O. Thompson, M. W.
Morrison, W. Torrens, R.
Mowbray, rt. hn. J. R. Tracy, hn. C. R. D. H.
Nicol, J. D. Trevor, Lord A. E. H.
North, Colonel Turner, C.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Otway, A. J. Walsh, hon. A.
Packe, Colonel Warren, rt. hon. R. R.
Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J. Waterhouse, S.
Parker, Major W. Weguelin, T. M.
Patten, rt. hon. Col. W. Welby, W. E.
Pim, J. Whitbread, S.
Pollard-Urquhart, W. Woodd, B. T.
Potter, E. Wynn, C. W. W.
Powell, F. S.
Price, W. P. TELLERS.
Pritchard, J. Noel, hon. G. J.
Pugh, D. Whitmore, H
Rebow, J. G.
Acland, T. D. Chambers, M.
Adam, W. P. Cheetham, J.
Allen, W. S. Childers, H. C. E.
Amberley, Viscount Cholmeley, Sir M. J.
Anstruther, Sir R. Cogan, rt. hn. W. H. F.
Aytoun, R. S. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Bagwell, J. Coleridge, J. D.
Baines, E. Colthurst, Sir G. C.
Barclay, A. C. Cowen, J.
Barnes, T. Cowper, hn. H. F.
Barnett, H. Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.
Barttelot, Colonel Crossley, Sir F.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Dalglish, R.
Biddulph, Col. R. M. Davenport, W. B.
Blennerhassett, Sir R. Denman, hon. G.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Dering, Sir E. C.
Bowyer, Sir G. Dillwyn, L. L.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Dunne, rt. hn. General
Bruce, Lord C. Dyott, Colonel R.
Bruen, H. Edwards, C.
Buller, Sir E. M. Edwards, H.
Buxton, C. Ellice, E.
Candlish, J. Erskine, Vice-Ad. J. E
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Esmonde, J.
Carter, S. Ewing, H. E. Crum-
Castlerosse, Viscount Eykyn, R.
Cave, T. Fane, Colonel J. W.
Fildes, J. Mills, J. R.
FitzPatrick, rt. hn J. W. Milton, Viscount
Floyer, J. Monsell, rt. hn. W.
Fordyce, W. D. More, R. J.
Forster, C. Morris, G.
Foster, W. O. Murphy, N. D.
Gaselee, Serjeant S. Neate, C.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. O'Brien, Sir P.
Gladstone, W. H. O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Onslow, G.
Goldsmid, J. Padmore, R.
Gore, J. R. O. Paget, T. T.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Palmer, Sir R.
Graham, W. Parry, T.
Gray, Sir J. Paull, H.
Gregory, W. H. Pease, J. W.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Pelham, Lord
Grey, hon. T. de Pemberton, E. L.
Grosvenor, Capt. R. W. Philips, R. N.
Grove, T. F. Potter, T. B.
Guinness, Sir A. E. Ramsay, J.
Hankey, T. Rearden, D. J.
Hanmer, Sir J. St. Aubyn, J.
Harris, J. D. Salomons, Mr. Ald.
Hay, Lord J. Samuda, J. D'A
Headlam, rt. hn. T. E. Samuelson, B.
Heneage, E. Sandford, G. M. W.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Saunderson, E.
Henley, Lord Seymour, A.
Henniker-Major, hon. J. M. Sherriff, A. C.
Speirs, A. A.
Hodgkinson, G. Stacpoole, W.
Howes, E. Stuart, Col. Crichton-
Hughes, W. B. Surtees, C.F.
Hutt, rt. hn. Sir W. Sykes, C.
Johnstone, Sir J. Synan, E. J.
Kinglake, A. W. Talbot, C. R. M.
Kinglake, J. A. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Kingscote, Colonel Vance, J.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Vanderbyl, P.
Lacon, Sir E. Verney, Sir H.
Lamont, J. Vernon, H. F.
Langton, W. G. Waldegrave-Leslie, hon. G.
Leader, N. P.
Lentham, E. A. White, J.
Leatham, W. H. Winterbotham, H. S. P.
Lee, W. Wise, H. C.
Leeman, G. Woods, H.
Locke, J. Wyld, J.
Lopes, H. C. Young, R.
Lorne, Marquess of Lusk, A. TELLERS.
Lyttelton, hon. C. G. Craufurd, E. H. J.
Martin, P. W. Bonham-Carter, J.
Milbank, F. A.

Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


said, he rose to express his willingness to proceed with the discussion of the Amendments which stood on the Paper in his name. At that late hour, however, he doubled whether it would be convenient to do so.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Bouverie.)


I have no objection to reporting Progress if the right hon. Gentleman will allow this clause to pass.


said, he had given way to several hon. Gentlemen that evening who had no more right than himself to address the House on the question before it. He had not sufficient confidence in himself to go against the feeling of the House; but he must say that after the discussion which had taken place he saw no good reason why Progress should not at once be reported.


said, he hoped that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock would withdraw his Motion and allow the clause to pass.


thought the right hon. Gentleman's object in making the Motion must have been to stop the progress of the Bill.


said, that if the Motion were not withdrawn a very bad impression would be produced in the country. It would be thought that the House was not sincere in the desire to put down corruption.


said, that it was too had that hon. Gentlemen should rise in their places and talk of what might be said by the country. What did that House, he should like to know, care about such threats? Its object was to put down bribery and corruption, and that could not be done by passing this Bill which was absurd as it stood. It was therefore necessary that the Amendments should be fairly discussed. It was too late an hour to proceed with so important a subject with advantage.


said, that questions had been repeatedly addressed from his side of the House to the Government with respect to the Bill, and great eagerness professed that it should pass this Session. The Government, in his opinion, had shown themselves most sincere in their endeavour to carry out that object, and yet the obstructions to the progress of the Bill that evening came from Members of the Liberal party. He for one was anxious to dissociate himself from such a line of conduct.


said, he hoped the Motion for reporting Progress would be persevered in. As far as he was concerned, at the risk of being accused of factious opposition, the clause should not pass tonight. The Bill, should it pass, would, he felt convinced, be received in Ireland with the utmost dissatisfaction and dismay. He would warn hon. Members that it was a measure which would dangerously touch the tenure of their seats.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 201: Majority 133.

MR. ESMONDE moved that the Chairman do leave the Chair.


I hope this course will not be pursued. On several occasions hon. Gentlemen opposite have expressed the greatest anxiety that this Bill should be proceeded with. By no one has that anxiety been expressed more strongly than by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone), Well, Sir, having just passed what have been called the Supplementary Reform Bills, we have taken the earliest opportunity to proceed with this Bill. But what do we find? That the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire votes to report Progress, so as to obstruct the passing of this measure. No doubt hon. Gentlemen have expressed in speeches and by votes their objections to particular portions of this Bill; but those objections afford no reason why we should report Progress. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) said he did not care about the country.


I beg your pardon, I said nothing of the kind; what I said was I did not care about the impression that was produced.


I am in the recollection of the House. The words which I caught were that the hon. Gentleman did not care about the country.


That I did not care what the country would say.


I accept the statement of what the hon. and learned Gentleman intended to say; but, for my part, I confess I am anxious about the impression produced in the country. I am anxious that the country should understand who it is desires to obstruct the Bill, and who it is desires that it should proceed. I do hope that, having had several hours' discussion and a division substantially affirming the principle of the Bill, we shall now be allowed to pass the clauses of the Bill, and not be met by alternate Motions for reporting Progress and the Chairman leaving the Chair.


Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Ex- chequer, on the part of the Government, is anxious to promote the progress of the Bill, I must say I never heard a speech more indiscreetly framed with reference to that object than the speech which he has just delivered; and in the defence which I shall endeavour to make against the charge he has so unexpectedly brought against me my principal aim will be that what I may say shall be as unlike as possible to what he has just said. Now I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that for thirty-six years this is the first time I have ever heard it stated in this House, even by any private, inexperienced, and independent Member, much less by a Minister of the Crown, that the vote for reporting Progress on a single Motion at one o'clock in the morning upon a Bill of great difficulty was a factious proceeding, which the Minister was justified in denouncing and exhibiting to the country as an obstruction of the Bill. Were I to approach the question in the spirit which the right hon. Gentleman has approached it, I should examine the proceedings of the Government, and should go night by night over the arrangement of the Business, and should make minute inquiries as to the signs which that arrangement shows of the anxiety of the Government to proceed with this Bill. But I refrain from such a course because I know well that when the right hon. Gentleman launched his unwise and unjustifiable charges, if I, with a not less plausible excuse, were to reiterate them the effect out-of-doors would be greatly to discredit Parliament in the face of the country. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that which he has very little title to ask from me—the reason for my vote. We have just rejected, though not by a large majority, the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd). My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) has a medium scheme, between that for retaining and that for parting with the jurisdiction of this House, which was completely excluded from consideration in the late debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock is a Gentleman who has held the Office which you, Sir, so ably fill. He has sat in this House for many years, and he is certainly entitled as well as any Member in this House to be heard upon any question connected with its proceedings. He desires to have the opportunity of explaining fully to the House the particulars of his plan, for which I may say I hare no violent prepossession, and to do this at a time when the House is not exhausted by lengthened statements. And what I contend is that to divide with my right hon. Friend upon a single Motion with a view to obtain for him the opportunity which he asks does not in any respect justify the extraordinary charges which have been made. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know much more of this House and of its proceedings before he ventures to make such charges; and if there are those who object to that statement, I want to know what title their experience or close observations of the proceedings of this House gives them to utter opinions in so singular a manner. This, I venture to say to the right hon. Gentleman—let him show me one single case where any man occupying his high position—I will go as far as to use the word presumed—["Oh!"]—yes, has presumed—["Oh, oh!"]—has taken on himself, if you like it better, to charge a Member of this House with faction and obstruction, because of a single vote to report Progress at one o'clock in the morning, in order to have a new question fully and fairly discussed. Let him show me one single case of such a charge made by a Minister of the Crown, and I will retract and apologize to him. But the right hon. Gentleman will find no such case; and in its absence I will venture to say that it does not become him to create a precedent so adverse to the liberty and independence of Members of the House. My sentiments with regard to the Motion just made are the same as those of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not in favour of alternate Motions such as the right hon. Gentleman has so unreasonably supposed are part of a scheme for obstructing the progress of this Bill. I challenge any hon. Gentleman opposite, and particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to point out any case where a similar charge of obstruction has been put forward by a Minister of the Crown. I cannot consent to have my liberty in any degree diminished or impaired by the right hon. Gentleman or by anybody who desires to pursue a similar course.


paid, it was not astonishing that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) should exhibit extraordinary anxiety to clear himself from the charge of factious proceedings, seeing that, after what had occurred, both the House and the country must be disposed to entertain a very strong opinion. When anybody—to use the right hon. Gentleman's own word—"presumed" to get up and rate a Minister, he ought to be very careful as to the facts in his own statement; and the facts in this case were that it was at half-past twelve, and not at one o'clock, that the Motion to report Progress was made.


said, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not understand the exact position of the question, or he would courteously have complied with the suggestion to report Progress. To pass this clause would put an end to the plan he (Mr. Bouverie) had to propose. Having been in the House nearly ever since twelve o'clock yesterday he felt tired, and he thought it not unreasonable to defer bringing forward at so late an hour a new and important Motion, which was favourably viewed by many influential Members of the House.


I do not think there is any misunderstanding upon my part. The plan of the right hon. Gentleman depends upon whether Petitions are to be presented to the House of Commons or to the Court of Common Pleas; and that question has been already decided. That decision has disposed of the plan of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). That being the case, it is utterly impossible that the right hon. Gentleman can propose his plan at all; and it seemed to me that decision having been virtually come to on the clause, to report Progress in order to prevent the clause being carried was really trying to cause delay for no purpose whatever.


I have been most extremely anxious to hear the plan of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) argued in this House. It has been long before the public, it has been advocated by high authorities out of doors, and by persons holding Conservative opinions; and, although I do not wish to pledge myself to it, I am extremely desirous of hearing it argued, as we have just heard another plan argued. Although that which has been argued has been supported by all the strength of the Government, they have only had a majority of 20 in a full House; and in the opinion of many of us the plan was effectively disposed of in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer). Before we finally put the clause into the Bill we want to hear the other plan dis- cussed; and fairness and the forms of the House are on our side. The Bill does not embody the original plan of the Government, but only an alternative one, substituted on the receipt of the letter from the Lord Chief Justice. If we insert the clause in the Bill we are shut out from discussing the plan of my right hon. Friend, who is in fair play entitled to an opportunity for its discussion; and in granting it we shall only be doing justice to our view as Members anxious to suppress corrupt practices.


There seems to be a desire on the part of many Members of the Committee to discuss the plan of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). Looking at the great quantify of Business that remains, and also at the period of the Session, perhaps the best thing we can do is to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.


complained that the Bill had purposely been kept back until a late period of the evening.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.


said, he wished to know when the Committee would be resumed, and whether the Bill could be taken at a Morning Sitting?


I have put the Bill down for Monday; but, candidly, looking at the Business on the Paper, I see little prospect of its being brought on. I think it, however, most convenient to put it down for that day. With regard to Morning Sittings for this Bill, no doubt there is a time when Morning Sittings will considerably help us; but until we have settled the general principles of the Bill I prefer that discussion should be confined to Evening Sittings.

Committee report Progress: to sit again upon Monday next.