§ Honorable William De la Poer Trench, Petitioner;
§ John Philip Nolan, Respondent.
§ The Case stating certain questions of law for the determination of the Court having been called on for argument on the sixth day of June instant (the day duly appointed for the purpose) Serjeant Armstrong, with whom were Mr. Murphy, Q.C. and Mr. Persee appeared as Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner, and Mr. Macdonagh, Q.C., with whom was Mr. MacDermott, appeared as Counsel on behalf of the Respondent. Whereupon on reading said Case and on hearing Counsel the argument was adjourned until the seventh day of June instant (the succeeding day), on which last-mentioned day, the argument having concluded, the Court reserved judgment. And on this day doth adjudge and determine, in answer to the first question submitted to them, that the electors who constituted the majority of said Respondent were fixed with sufficient knowledge of the disqualification of the said Respondent, and should have acted on such disqualification and refrained from voting for said Respondent.
§ And, in answer to the second question submitted to them—whether the Petitioner (there being no disqualification on his part) was entitled to be declared duly elected,
§ The Court doth adjudge and determine that the Petitioner, there being no disqualification on his part, was entitled to be declared duly elected for said County. C. G. BURKE, Master,
§ Common Pleas, Ireland.
Sir, I beg to read to the House the 13th section of the Parliamentary Elections Act as the simplest mode of informing the House of the Motion I am about to make, and the rendering it unnecessary that I should make any statement, or give any reasons for the course I am about to pursue. The 12th section of the Act refers to the proceedings before the Election Judge, and then the 13th section providesThat the House of Commons, on being informed by the Speaker of such Certificate and Report or Reports, if any, shall order the same to be entered on the Journals, and shall give the necessary directions for confirming or altering the Return, or for issuing a writ for a new Election, or for carrying the determination of the Judge into execution, as circumstances may require.The first proceeding therefore is, that the House shall order the same to be 1677 entered in the Journals of the House, and as a matter of course I make that Motion.
Motion made, and Question put,
That the said Certificate and Report from Mr. Justice Keogh, together with the Special Case and Order of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, be entered in the Journals of this House.
§ Motion agreed to.
The further duty, as prescribed by the Act, is that I should moveThat the Clerk of the Crown do attend this House to-morrow, at Two of the clock, with the last Return for the County of Galway, and amend the same, by rasing out the name of John Philip Nolan, esquire, and inserting the name of Captain the Honourable William le Poer Trench, instead thereof.
§ SIR COLMAN O'LOGHLEN
Sir, I rise to ask the right hon. Gentleman not to press his Motion this evening. It may be perfectly true that under the provisions of this very extraordinary Act this House has no power whatever to refuse to seat Captain Trench, who has been declared by the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland duly elected for the county of Galway; but it is of the greatest possible importance in a case of this kind—which is a case of first impressions—that the attention of the House should be called to the decision of the Court of Common Pleas; but, of course, it is utterly impossible to do so this evening, as we have not before us the Certificate of the learned Judge, nor the decision of the Court on which it is founded. I do not propose to raise any Motion to-night; but if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister will postpone this Motion until the Papers are in our hands—say to-morrow or Monday—I shall be prepared to move the Motion of which I gave Notice yesterday as an Amendment to this extraordinary Motion. I take it that it is of the utmost importance that this decision, which is one of the highest constitutional weight, and for which there is no precedent, should be calmly considered by the House, and that it should be clearly ascertained by the House whether we are bound to carry it out according to the statute. The learned Judges who decided the case in the Court of Common Pleas stated that there was no decision in point to guide them—that this was a case of first impressions; 1678 and that being so, I think that before this House directs the Return to be amended in the manner suggested by the Prime Minister, we should have an opportunity of entering our protest against the decision even if we are bound to carry it out according to the statute. I look on the decision of the Court of Common Pleas as one of the most dangerous decisions as affecting the rights of the electors of the whole country that could be made by any Court of Justice, and the more it is canvassed and considered, the more it will be found to be a decision that ought not to have been made. I say it with respect, but as strongly as I can, that, in my opinion, this decision goes out without authority and will return without respect, and therefore I think the House ought to have an opportunity of considering the decision. I do not propose in so doing to raise any question as to the unseating of Mr. Nolan, but to bring under the attention of the House the decision of the Court of Common Pleas, but which I am unable to do to-night from the want of the necessary Papers. I think I am not asking too much in asking to have the matter postponed for a few days. We can carry out the provisions of the statute, if we are bound to do so, quite as well on Monday as tonight; and in the meantime we shall have an opportunity of looking into the case.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, if the Act of Parliament had given any discretion to the House, the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would not have been unreasonable; but the House must bear in mind that it is absolutely powerless in this matter. In spite of the protest of a powerful minority, of which I happened to be one, which pointed out, when the Parliamentary Elections Bill was under discussion, that we were parting with the power of dealing with the seats of this House which the common law gave us, and handing it over to the Judges, the House deliberately agreed by Act of Parliament to the taking of all authority and discretion in the matter out of their own hands. The right hon. Gentleman, in proposing his Motion, did not refer to the previous section to that which provides for the finding of the Judges, to which the 13th section was merely confined. The 13th sub-section of the 11th section provides that— 1679At the conclusion of the trial the Judge who tries the Petition shall determine whether a Member whose return or election is complained of, or any and what other person was duly returned or elected, or whether the election was void, shall forthwith certify in writing such determination to the Speaker, and upon such certificate being given such decision shall be final to all intents and purposes.The next clause provides for an appeal to the Court above, whose decision shall also be final. So that we have absolutely no power whatever in the matter, but we are in this position—that having no power we are unable to deal with the matter at all, and that Captain Trench is entitled to his seat, as has been found by the proper tribunal; and, moreover, that he was entitled to it from the date of the election, now some considerable time ago. Therefore, in common justice, and in compliance with the Act, we are bound to proceed as rapidly as the forms under which we act will allow us to do to place Captain Trench in that seat which he is entitled to occupy.
I was about, when my right hon. Friend who has just spoken rose, to remark that my right hon. Friend the Member for Clare had, in his speech, and in the procedure he suggested connected together two things which are really distinct. The one is whether the judgment of the Court in Ireland is a matter demanding or warranting the attention of Parliament; the other is, whether the attention of Parliament can only with propriety be called to it in the interval between our receiving the Certificate and Report of the Judge and our giving effect thereto. Now I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that this judgment is one of great importance, and while, of course, I give no opinion in relation to it, I admit that it is within the right or discretion of any hon. Member to call attention to it. No one can question the legitimacy of such a course, but I cannot see any connection between that and the duty we are now called upon to discharge. In the event of the House acceding to my Motion, it will remain perfectly open to my right hon. Friend or any other hon. Member to make any Motion he pleases, or give any opinion upon the judgment. On the other hand, it appears to us, on examining this section of the Act, that it is our duty neither to deny justice nor to delay it. I admit that we might be perfectly warranted in postponing our compliance 1680 with this positive injunction could it be shown that such postponement had a bearing upon something we were to do under the Act; but no discussion that can be raised can have the smallest bearing on the course which we are bound to take. As my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) has pointed out, we have parted with our powers as an independent portion of the Legislature in this matter. We are, therefore, now only called upon to perform Ministerial duties, and we must perform them with the same exactitude—I will add even the same submission and the same desire to set an example of obedience to the law—as the humblest agent of the law. It appears to me, therefore, that to delay compliance with the injunctions of the statute with regard to the consequences of the Certificate and Report of the Judge would tend to cast a doubt upon the dignity of the proceedings of the House, and would not really be warranted by the spirit and intent of the Act. I trust, therefore, the House will agree to the Motion I have made.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, being responsible for the introduction of this Act, I wish to say one word. The proposition which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to bring forward is that there should be an appeal to this House from the decision of the Court of Common Pleas. Now, without giving any opinion on the merits of that particular decision—quite unnecessary at the present moment—I beg to remind the House that the question whether there should be an appeal or not was brought under the consideration of Parliament, and was definitively decided in the negative.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Clerk of the Crown do attend this House To-morrow, at Two of the clock, with the last Return for the County of Galway, and amend the same, by rasing out the name of John Philip Nolan, esquire, and inserting the name of Captain the Honourable William le Poer Trench, instead thereof.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
Sir, I beg to move that the Evidence taken at the trial of the Election Petition for the County of Galway and the Judgment of the learned Judge be printed.
§ SIR COLMAN O'LOGHLEN
Sir, I wish to ask whether, as the Act expires on the 1st of August this year, and is proposed to be made permanent by a clause in the Corrupt Practices Act—as the working of the Act has been so well estimated by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House and out-of-doors—it is not worthy the consideration of the House whether the Act should be continued or not, or whether it had not better be amended by a separate Bill providing that Election Petitions shall be tried before three Judges instead of one, and that there shall be an appeal? It is of great importance to Irish Members—many of whom have to go on Circuit the first week in July—to know when the clause in the Corrupt Practices Bill, making this Act permanent, will come on for discussion, and I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will bring it forward some day in the present month.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I beg to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland that he should add to his Motion that there should be also printed the Case that was laid before the Court of Common Pleas, and upon which that Court delivered judgment.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
The Case that was laid before the Court of Common Pleas is already before the House, and I have no objection to its being included in my Motion.
In reference to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clare, when we come to consider what we shall have to do before many days elapse—the further order of Business after the disposal of the Scotch Education Bill and the Mines Regulation Bill, I will bear in mind what has happened to-night in reference to the Galway Election Petition, and we will make the best arrangements we can in reference to it.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland speaks of the Judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh, does he mean the shorthand writer's notes, or another document purporting to be the Judgment?
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Copy of the Shorthand Writer's Notes of the Judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh on the Trial of the Galway County Election Petition [No. 241]:
§ Also the Minutes of the Evidence taken at the Trial of the said Election Petition, and the Appendix thereto [No. 241], be printed.—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)