HC Deb 26 June 1874 vol 220 cc511-2

movedThat Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the borough of Launceston in the room of James Henry Deakin whose election has been determined to be void.


said, he was aware that, in accordance with the Rules of the House, he was not entitled to submit any Amendment having reference to the Report of the learned Judge who had tried the Petition against the return of Colonel Deakin. The circumstances, however, were so extraordinary and unprecedented that he did not think the Motion ought to be allowed to pass without attention being drawn to the subject. He had endeavoured to understand the certificate of the learned Judge, and thought he was warranted in saying that if full effect were given to his Report, the result would be that they should hold that corruption did extensively prevail at the late Election, as, if the Report meant anything, a great many people appeared to have been corrupted, notwithstanding that the learned Judge reported that corrupt practices did not extensively prevail. He wished, however, to draw attention specially to the serious result of the case. A punishment all but criminal in its effect had been inflicted upon a former Member of that House under circumstances which he believed to be altogether unexampled. From that sentence there was no appeal, and from its consequences the gentleman to whom he referred could not purge himself for seven years. Such a state of things must necessarily claim the very serious attention of every hon. Member of that House to the risk each one of them might run if he ever again entered into an Election contest; for, according to the learned Judge, there was in the present case an absolute absence of corrupt intention. He distinctly negatived any such suggestion. The observations in respect of which he was ultimately unseated were, according to the Report, made by the candidate suddenly—upon the spur of the moment, and without any consideration as to the consequences of making them, or the audience to whom they were addressed. The House was placed in an unfortunate position, because while they could express an opinion upon a decision which affected the constitution of the House they could not in any way resist the legal consequences of that decision—the allowing that a vacancy had occurred and the consequent issue of the New Writ. It was, indeed, only by ordering another Election that they could do justice—scant justice it would be—to the constituency in question. A Motion was, he understood, likely to be made that night for the printing of the evidence taken at the inquiry and of the judgment delivered by the learned Judge, of whom he desired to speak with the highest possible respect; but he thought that before the House was asked to assent to the continuation of the Election Petition Act, the present and other cases which had been reported to the House ought to receive the most anxious attention of hon. Members. He hoped they would not continue to place any subject of the Crown in the position of having an all but criminal sentence passed upon him by one person against whose decision, even if it were founded on a misapprehension of the Law, there was no possibility of appeal.


said, he had given Notice of a Motion for that evening for the printing of the evidence and judgment referred to, because he thought they ought to have before them the grounds on which the decision was based. They had no power to review it, and he did not even suggest that it was not perfectly right. There was no doubt, however, that the judgment had excited some surprise, and not the less that the learned Judge had pursued the unusual course of mentioning a number of circumstances tending to exculpate Colonel Deakin. It was desirable that the House should know the extreme peril in which each individual Member of it was placed. They had now no authentic record to refer to in order to ascertain what the law really was as laid down by the Judges. Formerly such was not the case, for there was a regular series of Reports which recorded the judgments of Committees of the House of Commons. He would suggest to the House the expediency of agreeing to a Standing Order to the effect, that in each case a printed Copy of the Judgment should be laid upon the Table of the House in order that hon. Members might know the perils which they would have to encounter.

Motion agreed to.