THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said' he had on a former occasion explained to the House that the Acts on the subject of Corrupt Practices at Elections and Election Petitions would shortly expire, and, in conformity with the pledge he had given to the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon), he begged now to move that a Select Committee be appointed.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of 'The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854, "The Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868,' and 'The Corrupt Practices Commissioners Expenses Act, 1869,' and the several Acts by which the same have been respectively continued and amended, and to report whether any and what further measures are necessary for the prevention of Corrupt Practices at Parliamentary Elections."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
proposed, as an Amendment, to add, "and what, if any, improvements may The made in the law relating to the trial of Election Petitions." He feared the concluding words of the Motion would have the effect of narrowing the inquiry. Many 1526 hon. Members believed there was no necessity for imposing on candidates for seats in the House more restrictions with reference to corrupt practices, and as regarded the modern trial of Election Petitions, they were not satisfied with the present system, and therefore were anxious to satisfy themselves that this inquiry would not be entered upon with a foregone conclusion. If an understanding could be arrived at that the inquiry and Report should not be limited, both sides of the House would be content.
At the end of the Question, to add the words "and what, if any, improvements may be made in the Law relating to the trial of Election Petitions."—(Mr. Charles Lewis.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, he believed there was no substantial difference between the Attorney General and himself with regard to the Motion before the House; but he wished to add at the end of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion the words, "for the trial and do-termination of Parliamentary Election Petitions, and otherwise to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868." His object was merely to guide the Committee as to the subject-matter on which they would have to Report. He thought they ought to give the new system a fair trial; but they had observed it far enough to see that it had not worked with such success as to be incapable of improvement. If the hon. and learned Attorney General thought the words of his Amendment were too large he should be glad to accept any limitation which might be considered desirable.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he thought it would be well for the Attorney General to consider the suggestion thrown out by the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry, that the two last lines of the original Motion should be struck out, and that the Committee should be simply one of inquiry into all these Acts.
supported the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry. He was anxious to see a Committee which would have the largest possible powers of inquiry, and he should altogether object to limiting the scope of that inquiry. It ought to have power to go into the Act of 1868, 1527 and to suggest any alterations it might think proper as to the constitution of the Court. He also thought that all the three countries—England, Ireland, and Scotland—should be represented on the Committee.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
objected to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. C. Lewis), as it would give the Committee more work than it could do in the present Session. Instead of one Committee there might be two if the Amendments were accepted—one to inquire into the working of the Prevention of Corrupt Practices Act, and the other to inquire as to the Act of 1868, also to devise the best mode of obviating its defects, and to decide questions affecting the validity of Returns.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
explained that although the Motion had not been brought on at the previous night's sitting, he had, at the close of that sitting, given Notice that he would bring it on the next evening. Nothing was further from his intention than to limit the scope of the inquiry by the last words of the Motion. It was his desire that the Committee should inquire into the operation of the three Acts of Parliament and examine whether they had worked well or worked ill, and what Amendments should be made in them. He would have no objection, however, to leave out the concluding words of his Motion—namely, "whether any and what further measures are necessary for the prevention of Corrupt Practices at Parliamentary elections," and to substitute for them the words "and to report them to the House."
stated that he had not intended to impute any irregularity whatever to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "report," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "thereon to the House,"—instead thereof.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.1528
§ Select Committee appointed," to inquire into the operation of 'The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1854," The Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868,' and 'The Corrupt Practices Commissioners Expenses Act, 1869,' and the several Acts by which the same have been respectively continued and amended, and to report thereon to the House."
§ And, on March 18, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. CUBTT, Mr. GIBSON, Mr. HEK-SCHELL, Mr. LEATHAM, Mr. CHAULES LEWIS, Mr. LOWE, Sir COLMAN O'LOGHLEN, Mr. RODWELL, Mr. Serjeant SIMON, Mr. MARK STEWART, Mr. J. Gr. TALBOT, Mr. SPENCER WALPOLE, Mr. WHITEHEAD, Mr. VILLIERS, and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.