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 Citizen to serve in this present Parliament for the City of Bristol, in the room of John William Miles, esquire, whose Election has been determined to be void."—(Mr. Noel.)
MR. BASS moved, as an Amendment, that—
The writ for the City of Bristol be not issued till seven days after the evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Bristol Election Petition has been printed.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Adam) had given notice that he intended to move for the Writ; but the matter had been allowed to drop, and the prevailing opinion among hon. Members was that the Motion would not be made without a renewal of the Notice. In the case of Derby, in 1858, the Committee reported that there had been nine nets of bribery committed, and that in only one instance had the bribe reached £5. But under those circumstances the House had not permitted a Writ to be issued for that borough for a period of six months. He was informed, he might add, that great excitement prevailed in Bristol, and that a regular saturnalia was in progress there, owing to the impression that the House would find it impracticable in the present state of affairs to deal with any acts of bribery or to visit them with punishment. That being so, he hoped the House would see the propriety of assenting to his Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Writ for the City of Bristol be not issued till seven days after the evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Bristol Election Petition has been printed."—(Mr. Bass.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
contended that the question was one of too much importance to be discussed at so late an hour as one o'clock, and moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he thought the occupants of the Treasury Bench ought to give the House some reason for the mode of proceeding adopted by them in the present instance. It could not be necessary at that hour of the morning to surprise the House with such a Motion, unless an election were necessary within two or three days. The Report of the Chairman of the Bristol Election Committee was to the ef- 422 fect that bribery had not extensively prevailed at the recent election, considering the number of the electors. Now, that was a statement which involved some ambiguity, and the House could not, in his opinion, properly deal with the matter until they had before them the evidence which had been taken. ["Divide!"] He had no doubt that Gentlemen opposite, in the state of the House, wished to divide; but he objected to this matter being made the subject of a "catch" majority, as was the case the other night when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was placed in a very peculiar and difficult position. A stigma would attach to the Government if they lent themselves to the proposition just made by one with less responsibility than themselves, and he thought that the course in which the Government was now engaged was derogatory to their honour.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had spoken with his usual fluency, had not adduced a single argument to induce the House to postpone the issue of the Writ. The hon. and learned Gentleman assumed that corrupt practices extensively prevailed at the last election for Bristol; but had not adduced one fact in support of his assumption.
§ MR. AYRTON moved that the Report of the Bristol Election Committee be read.
§ Report of Committee [25th June] read.
§ MR. LOCKE
observed, that the commission of every improper act which could occur at an election—bribery, corruption, treating, and personation—was mentioned in the Report; and he therefore thought that the House should not be in a desperate hurry to issue the Writ. They should have the opportunity of considering how the Bristol election had been conducted. He was at a loss to know why the Ministerial Benches should now be so well filled, and why there was now such a great desire for the issue of the Writ. He would sit to any hour, and move those Motions which were necessary to save the honour of the House on this occasion, when such a surprise was attempted by the other side.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he thought the sudden proceeding on the other side required explanation. The Report of the Committee showed that corrupt practices did not extensively prevail in Bristol, and when a Report of that sort was presented it was the practice to issue 423 a Writ in order that a large number of persons who had a right to be represented should not suffer by the misconduct of a limited portion of the constituency. No surprise was intended, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Noel) told several hon. Members that he was about to move the Writ. He did not see why they should not come to a conclusion to-night, rather than adjourn the matter to another evening.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
considered that the Writ should have been moved at the commencement of the proceedings, not at the rising of the House. There were twenty-four cases of bribery proved, and a strong case had been made out for making an example in such a case. He was disappointed at the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, as he thought he would have acceded to the Motion to adjourn the debate. There were good reasons to postpone the issue of the Writ until the evidence was before the House; and there was no time when it was more necessary to give a warning to the new constituencies.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he could see nothing to warrant the suspension of the Writ; but the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) having expressed his determination to employ his great physical strength in preventing the decision of the question to-night, and misapprehension having been said to exist on the part of some hon. Members, he thought the best course was to agree to the adjournment.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.