HC Deb 30 April 1869 vol 195 cc2068-72

MR. GLYN moved that a new Writ be issued for the representation of Youghal, in the room of Mr. Weguelin, who had been unseated on Petition.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Youghal, in the room of Christopher Weguelin, esquire, whose Election has been determined to be void."—(Mr. Glyn.)


said, he would move as as an Amendment that the issue of the Writ be postponed until the evidence taken on the petition was printed. The evidence taken on the trial of the petition, as it appeared in the newspapers, was extraordinary; and, although he deemed it prudent to have only one rule as regards the acceptance of the Judge's Report, still cases might arise, and it was possible Youghal was one of those cases, in which the evidence was of such a character as to justify at least the suspension of the Writ. Mr. Weguelin had given his evidence in a very straightforward manner, and it appeared from the Irish Times that he stated his expenses amounted to £4,812. But Mr. Justice O'Brien said the expenditure was more than that, and that it was even more than £5,000. Now, it had been laid down by Mr. Baron Martin that £9,000 was an extraordinarily large sum to spend in the town of Bradford with its 106,000 inhabitants, but Youghal had only 6,000 inhabitants and 278 electors, of whom Mr. Weguelin polled only 127, so that the contest cost him £40 a head. His experience of county constituencies was that they cost from 15s. to 30s. a head, although the voters were scattered; it therefore surprised him very much to find that the cost of Mr. Weguelin's ingratiating himself with the electors of Youghal came to £40 a head. No doubt another election would be a splendid thing for Youghal, if another £10,000 were to be spent in the town; but, as the House had waited for the evidence in the case of the Bradford Petition, it would not stand well before the country if it did not pause also in this case, and say some explanation was required for this extraordinary expenditure. The country, indeed, would not tolerate the House allowing such things to be perpetrated in one case, and then in another to turn up the whites of the eyes and talk of special legislation. If ever there was a case demanding special legislation, it was that of Youghal.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the issuing of a new Writ for Youghal be postponed until the Minutes of Evidence taken on the Election Petition be printed."—(Mr. Collins.)


said, it would be unreasonable to suspend the Writ in this case; it was incumbent upon the House to abide by the legislation of last Session, and inasmuch as the Report of the Judge was most unequivocal as to the non-existence of general corruption, only one course was open to the House, and that was to issue the Writ. The result was arrived at after ten days' investigation before a most experienced and careful Judge. The hon. Member did not want the evidence; he was master of it already. Mr. Weguelin, unfortunately for himself, went down too early. He went there in July, and the election was not held until November.


said, that it was impossible that so large a sum could have been spent without corruption. The Act of Parliament did not forbid the issuing of a Commission, even although the Judge did not report that corrupt practices extensively prevailed.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite appeared to have forgotten that an Act of Parliament was in existence which expressly stated that a Commission should be issued solely upon the Report of the Committee, for which the Report of the Judge was now substituted. If there was no power of issuing a Commission, there was no power to suspend the Writ. He desired to see a uniform practice adopted in these cases.


said, he felt bound to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins). In the case of Bewdley, he and the sixty-five advanced Liberal Members who voted with him thought that there had been so much treating that it was due to the dignity of that House that the election should not immediately be held, and if that case was bad, that of Youghal was infinitely worse. He was anxious before the Writ was issued to see the evidence, and if it was in accordance with what had appeared in the newspapers, if no one else moved to suspend the Writ, he should do so himself. It was evident that there had been a grossly improper expenditure in this borough. He did not consider that Parliament in the legislation of last year had given up all power to act in grossly bad cases; and he thought this was a case in which the House should inflict the disgrace upon the borough of not permitting it to return a new Member, at all events, immediately.


said, he agreed with what had fallen from the Attorney General as far as concerned the suspension of the Writ, but he should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins), because he thought that the same course ought to be followed as had already been adopted in the case of Bewdley and Bradford, the Writs for which places were not issued until the evidence was printed. He believed that this would meet the view of Mr. Weguelin, who, when charged with corrupting Youghal by illegal expenditure, had asked the House to suspend its judgment until they had seen a correct Report of the evidence. He wished to make an observation with regard to a practice which he was afraid was frequent on both sides, and which he strongly suspected had been adopted in this case—that of only laying sufficient evidence before the Judge to insure that a Member should be unseated, without entailing a suspension of the Writ or the issuing of a Commission to inquire into corrupt practices. It had also frequently happened that where an hon. Member lost his seat he sent a relation or a friend, who was elected in his stead out of gratitude by the electors, who regarded him somewhat in the light of an injured party. He saw in the Irish correspondence of The Times of the 16th of April a statement that there were two candidates for Youghal—one, Sir Joseph N. M'Kenna; the other, Mr. Montague Guest, the nominee of Mr. Weguelin; and that Mr. Montague Guest announced that he came forward as a friend of Mr. Weguelin. If this were true—and it had not been contradicted—it was clear that the constituency at large looked upon the excessive expenditure of Mr. Weguelin rather with favour than with the blame which it deserved; and nothing could more stimulate such a feeling, nor more encourage candidates in proceedings which—even if they were themselves unseated—might, at the worst, benefit their friends, than that, under these circumstances, a Writ should hastily be issued for a fresh election, without any opportunity being afforded to the House to arrive at a full knowledge of the evidence in so suspicious a case.


said, the two cases referred to as those in which the Writs had been suspended were the first two of their kind; but since they had been disposed of the House had resolved not to print the evidence in any case in which there was not a necessity for doing so. No legitimate ground was stated in this case for printing the evidence; no hon. Gentleman alleged that he had reason to believe it would show that the certificate of the Judge, which was a par- ticularly full one, was not well-founded. He submitted, therefore, that there was no other course open to the House but to issue the Writ.


said, he thought a sufficient case had been made out for suspending the Writ till the evidence was printed.


said, he did not think the case was at all a satisfactory one. He had always feared that the Judges would be too full of the milk of human kindness to act with the strictness which the House would require. The jurisdiction which Parliament had given to Judges in these cases might have to be re-considered as a general question; but he objected to go behind the decision of a Judge in particular cases. If the House did this, it would be constituting itself a Court of Appeal. The reason why his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) supported the Bill of last year was that they might have a tribunal in which they could have confidence; but no means could be taken so certain to diminish confidence as to be always dragging the decisions of the tribunal before the House.


said, there was in this case no appeal from the Judge or from the Court of Common Pleas. The question before the House was one of legislative policy, and the House ought to show that it was determined to set its face against reckless expenditure at elections. As the re-distribution of the Irish boroughs was still an open question, he thought it was particularly important that the Youghal case should be considered.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 70: Majority 32.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Youghal, in the room of Christopher Weguelin, esquire, whose Election has been determined to be void.

House adjourned at half after One o'clock till Monday next.