HC Deb 25 March 1878 vol 238 cc1961-76

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st March], "That the Special Report do lie upon the Table."

And which Amendment was, To leave out from the word "Report" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "be referred hack to the Public Petitions Committee, and that they inquire into the circumstances connected with the Petitions mentioned in the said Report, and make a Report thereupon to the House,"— (Mr. Mcldon,) —instead thereof.

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

Debate resumed.


said, that as he moved the adjournment of the debate last Thursday, he would remind the House of what the Question before it was. An Amendment had been proposed to the Motion that the Special Report of the Public Petitions Committee do lie on the Table, and that Amendment was— That the Report be referred back to the Public Petitions Committee, and that they inquire into the circumstances connected with the Petitions mentioned in the said Report, and make a Report thereupon to the House. Now, it appeared to him that the question involved in this matter was a most important one. Two different views of Petitions might be taken. One view might be that they were altogether worthless, and to be considered as nothing more than waste paper. He was not going to take that view of the matter, though he did not say that it might not be attended with great convenience, and save a good deal of trouble. Moreover, if it were desirable that the House should take that view, they would know exactly where they were. But, on the other hand, it seemed to him that if they were to have Petitions sent to that House at all, they should secure that they really were what they professed to be. He thought that there were good grounds why the Petitions in question should be referred back to his hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir Charles Forster) and his Committee, that they might make a further investigation into them. He would simply content himself with stating the facts which, he believed, could be proved if these Petitions were referred back to that Committee. In the Special Report, 12 Petitions from Dublin were reported upon; but there were in all 120 of these Petitions, which, he believed, upon inquiry, would be found to be mainly in the same handwriting. That was a strong fact to begin with. But, in addition to the Petitions presented from Dublin, there were 17 from Naas, the signatures to which would be found to be in a similar handwriting to that in which those affixed to the Dublin Petitions were. Then these Petitions were devoid of addresses. It was found that there were 93,000 names appended to these Petitions which purported to come from Dublin, and of that number there were only about 500 which had any addresses at all opposite to them. Now, out of these 500 names to which the addresses were appended, inquiries had been made into 39 of them, taken at random; and the result had been that no less than 22 had been found to be cases of forged or fictitious addresses. That was a pretty strong fact. But the remarkable thing was that there were 93,000 signatures to these Petitions from Dublin, and, according to the Census of 1871, there were only 79,000 male inhabitants in that city. But, besides that, there were another 25,000 persons who had given their addresses, but who had petitioned in the contrary way, which made the number of 93,000 even more extraordinary than it at first appeared; and when they remembered that there must be a great number of people who could not write, it became still more extraordinary. These were the facts upon which he grounded his support of the Amendment that these Petitions should be referred back again to the Public Petitions Committee. But he did so upon this further ground — that this was a most important and peculiar case. It was one, where, perhaps, it was more necessary than in any other that they should have a strict investigation into this matter; because these Petitions had been presented in reference to a Bill on which public opinion had been challenged. The opponents of the Bill in question told that House last Session that they believed the public opinion of Ireland was against it, and that if they had time they would take means to prove that statement. The House knew that there were only three important ways in which the state of public opinion could be arrived at. One was through the Press, another through the agency of public meetings, and the third by means of Petitions presented to that House. With respect to the Press, he found that there were only two daily papers in Ireland which were against this Bill, while all the others were in favour of it. As to public opinion, as expressed by public meetings, their opponents had been able to hold only 8 or 10 such meetings in all Ireland; whereas, as many as 100 had been held in favour of the measure. Now, it should be remembered that this was not the first time that a question of this kind had arisen. Three years ago a similar matter was brought before the House, and his hon. Friend the Chairman of the Public Petitions Committee (Sir Charles Forster) then told the House that there had been great irregularity, although they did not think they would be warranted in proposing to the House the adoption of any strong measure on that occasion. Under all the suspicious circumstances of the present case, it was due to the House, and still more to hon. Gentlemen who opposed the Bill, that these Petitions should form the subject of further inquiry. He was quite sure that those hon. Members who had based their case upon them would be the first to support the Amendment.


said, he would venture to say a very few words upon the subject. It seemed to him that it was of the highest importance to that House that they should guard, in every possible way, the right of petitioning; and certainly nothing could be more important towards guarding that right than the exercise of proper vigilance to prevent it being abused, and the right of petitioning itself suffering from the abuses to which it might be exposed. Now, undoubtedly, the Committee on Public Petitions had only reported to that House two cases of forgery out of a very large number of signatures; but, still, it was not always easy to discover the cases at first sight, and it was quite possible that there might be reasons why there should be a more full investigation into the circumstances connected with these Petitions. Under these circumstances, and considering the importance of not appearing to trifle with what was a most serious offence— namely, attaching false signatures to a Petition—he thought that the House would do well to assent to the Amendment, in order that the Committee, if they were willing to undertake the duty, might inquire into the circumstances connected with these Petitions, and make a Report upon them.


said, he should like to know why they should depart, in this instance, from what he understood was the usual practice with reference to Petitions to which were attached signatures that were not genuine. He understood that the more usual practice was to discharge such Petitions. As only two signatures out of 686 had been found to be forged, he did not think it was desirable that a Public Committee of that House should be charged with a roving commission to inquire into the genuineness of a large number of signatures. If it were proved to the satisfaction of the House that even one signature had been forged, he thought that by far the simpler plan would be, as he had said, to discharge the Petition. Because, if the Committee were to sit to inquire into this matter, they would be asked to hear a very large amount of evidence, and thus a considerable portion of the Session would be consumed in a futile investigation. He did not think that the House ought to allow such a battle as that of Sunday closing in Ireland to be fought out upon Petitions in a Committee upstairs. Again, he would ask whether the more usual practice was not to discharge the Petition by rescinding the Order that it do lie upon the Table?


remarked that, on the part of the opponents of the Bill, he was prepared to support the Amendment on condition that all Petitions, both for and against the measure, were inquired into. He would show the House that it was not alone to Petitions against the Bill that fictitious names had been signed, but to Petitions in favour of it. He held in his hand affidavits to prove that people whose names appeared to the latter had never signed them. He found from the Report that there were two names which appeared to have been forged out of 96,000. But the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had told the House that there were 22 forged and fictitious names. The hon. Member had, however, mixed up the 20 that were fictitious with the two that were forged, and had thus made it appear to the House that there wore a large number of forgeries. He thought it would be very unfair if the House, by its Committee, were only to inquire into the Petitions against the Bill, and not into those for it. He need not tell the House, in reference to Petitions emanating from a large city like Dublin, and laid out, it might be, in 15 or 20 different places, how easy it would be for any smart man to go and put down any names he wished on these Petitions. And, perhaps, the House was not aware that the advocates of Sunday closing had most of the smart men in Dublin in their employment. Not that he said they would send a man specially for that purpose; but he was himself surprised that the names of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Lieutenant, and even of the Recorder, were not put down against the Bill. He would tell the House what he knew of a Petition which had come from his own neighbourhood. He knew as a fact that a Petition had come from his neighbourhood signed in the names of two children, one being an infant in arms, and the other being only four years old. Yet those two names were signed in favour of this Bill. He would ask the hon. Baronet and the House whether they considered that a case of forgery? It was not fictitious, for the children were there; but one was 12 months and the other four years old, and they were both put down as students. He had seen another Petition from his own neighbourhood, and he knew there were certain signatures to that of persons who could neither read nor write. A lady who had put her name down, when asked why she had done so, replied that a man came and continually annoyed her, and at last she told him that she could not write, think- ing to get rid of him, whereupon he said he would write the name for her. Another man, who had been very much annoyed by being asked to sign a Petition in favour of the Bill, had said in excuse that he would rather sign nine times than submit longer to these impertinent people. He knew how a great many of these Petitions were got up— it was by people who belonged to the Moody and Sankey class. A Petition had been sent to a school in his county, and a large number of signatures were got up in favour of it; but upon inquiry he found that, although it was supposed nobody under the ago of 16 signed the Petition, yet 60 per cent of those above that age in the school could not write their names. No doubt that was a strange statement to make, and he confessed he was ashamed of it; but he could prove every word of it. It was for such reasons as these that he asked the House to refer the whole of this question to the Committee, and not merely one side of it. He wanted both sides to be dealt fairly with. They had heard about the Dublin Petition, and he held in his hand two affidavits, duly stamped, in reference to that Petition. The following wore copies:— County of the City of Dublin, to wit—I, Patrick Flood, residing at 2, Queen Street, in the city of Dublin, shopkeeper, do solemnly and sincerely declare that, to the best of my recollection, about the 1st of February, 1878, a man called at my shop with a Petition in favour of the Bill at present before Parliament, known as the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, and requested me to sign the same. I say I peremptorily refused to do so, and ordered the man to leave my shop. I say I have been informed and believe that my name appears as one of the signatories to the said Petition. I positively say I never signed any Petition in favour of the said Bill, and that I never authorized any person to do so on my behalf. And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of an Act made and passed in the sixth year of his late Majesty, &c, PATRICK FLOOD. Made and subscribed before me, a justice of the peace for the said county, at 30, Now Road, this 24th day of March, 1878.—H. O'RORKE, J.P. County of the City of Dublin, to wit—I, Patrick Timmons, residing at 35, Bridgefoot Street, in the city of Dublin, shopkeeper, do solemnly and sincerely declare that I never signed any Petition in favour of the Bill at present before Parliament, known as the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, and never authorized any person to do it on my behalf. I am informed and believe that my name appears as a signatory to a Petition in favour of the said Bill. I believe my name was signed thereto by my wife, Margaret Timmons, but the same was done contrary to my wish and without my authority. And make this solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true, &c.— PATRICK TIMMONS (x), his mark. Made and subscribed before mc, a justice of the peace for the said county, at 30, New Road, the 24th day of March, 1878.—H. O'ROBKE, J.P. The Committee on Public Petitions had reported that there were only two forgeries out of 90,000 names in the Petition against the Bill, and he thought that fact did not afford sufficient ground for referring the Petition back to the Committee. At all events, it would be most unfair if there was to be inquiry into the character of Petitions on the one side, and they were not to have inquiry into the Petitions on the other. He courted the most public inquiry into the whole matter.


considered that much of the responsibility in this case rested with the hon. Members who presented the Petitions. An hon. Member presenting a Petition need not necessarily join in the prayer of it; but when there was any apparent exaggeration in connection with the signatures appended to the Petition, he ought to take some responsibility in regard to it.


said, what the Committee on Public Petitions desired to do was to carry out the views of the House; and, therefore, if this Motion was agreed to, and the Petition remitted back to the Committee, they would be prepared to undertake the duty assigned to them. It had been said that the proper solution of this question would have been to have proposed to discharge the Order for the Petition to lay upon the Table; but the Committee, in the first instance, were restrained from taking that course, because, in spite of a few forgeries, the Petition was otherwise very largely signed. The Committee were quite alive to the importance of suppressing fictitious Petitions; and although, as the matter originally stood, they did not think it right to propose to take any farther action, yet if the House now entertained a different view, the Committee would willingly carry out any wishes which they might express.


said, it was very desirable, in order that the people of Ireland might be kept right in regard to this matter, that the whole of the Petitions—and not those merely referring to one side—which had been presented during the present Session, should be referred to the consideration of the Committee. He would not go so far as to say that they were to examine into the whole of the Petitions; but if the whole of them were referred to the Committee, they could exercise their discretion and deal with those which it appeared desirable to investigate.


said, the argument that the Petitions of both sides should be referred to the Committee seemed, at first sight, very equitable; but, upon consideration, it would be found that there was no argument to support it. What might fairly be asked was, that all Petitions which the Committee had reported as being irregular should be sent back to them; but this proposal went beyond that, and asked that Petitions, in reference to which the Committee had made no Report at all, should be referred back to thorn. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had said a good deal which would, no doubt, be excellent information for the Committee, and might induce them to report against other Petitions; but as yet the Committee had not so reported. It had been stated that there were only two forgeries out of the 90,000 signatures. It should, however, be remembered that there were only 500 addresses set forth, so that in the rest of the cases they could make no specific inquiry. What they did was to take at random 32 of these names and addresses, and out of these they found two absolute forgeries, and irregularities as regarded the others. If they were to go over the whole 500 names having addresses, he had no doubt they would be able to satisfy his hon. Friend that there had been a large manufacture of signatures. He spoke a little sorely on this subject, because his own name had been forged to a Petition against the Bill, together with the names of some 30 to 40 other advocates of Sunday closing in Ireland. The signature of his own name by the promoters of these anti-Petitions was certainly no oversight, though the Secretary of the Dublin Licensed Victuallers' Association had come forward and stated in a letter to the newspapers that a Mr. Andrew M. Sullivan had signed the Petition. Unfortunately, however, for' his friends, the A. M. Sullivan who signed the Petition put M.P. after his name. The names of Mr. Alderman M'Sweenoy, and other prominent public supporters of Sunday closing, were also forged to the Petitions against the Bill. Let the House remember that they had only appealed to thorn as a last resort; because this was not the first, or the second, but it was the third occasion when this kind of thing had happened; and they now asked that an effort should be made to find out who the parties were who had been committing such a breach of the Privileges of the House as that of manufacturing signatures to Public Petitions.


said it appeared to him that difficulties of this kind would arise whenever a great public question was before the country, and the best way would be to require in future that there should be appended the ad-dross of every person who signed a Petition. In this particular case, the large proportion of signatures had no addresses attached to them; and he believed it would be very useful if the Committee were to recommend some such alteration as that which he had just suggested. The hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan) had said that some person signed the Petition because he wished to get rid of the man who solicited him. That reminded him of the Irish lady who, after being proposed to 17 times, accepted her suitor for the purpose of getting rid of him.


desired to say a few words, because these Petitions had emanated from Dublin. He opposed the Bill to which they referred, and he told the House, if they wished to maintain an attitude of total impartiality, they must not be content with sending back the Petitions of one side, but must remit, also, those which had been presented on the other. The working men of Dublin conceived that this Bill was intended to restrict their liberties; and great dissatisfaction would be created if the character of the Petitions which had been presented in favour of the measure was not investigated as well as that of the Petitions which had been presented against it. Being in favour of an impartial and full investigation, he should like to move an Amendment that all the Petitions on the subject of the Bill should be referred to the Committee.


wished to point out that there was an Amendment now before the House, and until that was dis- posed of, it would not be competent for any other Amendment to be proposed.


thought it would be extremely unfortunate if this question was considered simply as regarded Petitions in favour or against a particular Bill. The House ought to consider the matter upon entirely different grounds. In this case, there was no doubt the Privileges of Parliament had been infringed, and it might have occurred in reference to other questions than that of the closing of public-houses in Ireland on Sundays. The Committee on Public Petitions had reported that a Petition had been presented which contained certain forgeries, and it would not be consistent with the respect due to themselves, or to the Privileges of Parliament, if they were to allow a Report of that nature to pass without some notice. Let them deal with the question entirely apart from the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, or any other Bill. It was a question which involved principles far beyond Sunday closing in Ireland; it affected the due expression of public opinion in this country on every subject; and if they were to allow such irregularities as these to occur, they would interfere with one of the most important Privileges of the House. If the Committee, acting within their province, could recommend any course which would prevent a recurrence of these irregularities in future, he hoped they would do so. The hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) seemed to think the affair was a trivial one; but he (Mr. Rylands) considered a very grave offence against Parliament had been committed, and that it was not sufficient to remove the Petition merely from the Table. They must endeavour to make people more careful as to the way in which they got up Petitions. He believed he should be supported in saying that whenever there was a large agitation in connection with any public question, the opponents of a Bill got up opposition Petitions at the instance of some wire-pullers in London and elsewhere. Now this was a danger which they were anxious to avoid in future, and it was most important that they should endeavour to protect this great right on the part of the people.


said, the House ought to confine its consideration to those Petitions respecting which the Committee on Public Petitions had made a report. The hon. Member (Mr. O'Sullivan) had read two affidavits not referring specifically to those Petitions, and on those affidavits he had urged that all the Petitions for and against the Bill should be referred to the Petitions Committee. It seemed to him that this would be imposing upon the Committee a very heavy and serious responsibility; and he thought the proper course for the hon. Member to adopt would be to move that the Order relating to the Petitions to which the affidavits referred be discharged, on the ground that they contained forgeries.


said, it-seemed to him they ought to consider the question immediately before them, and not enter into a discussion of other matters. The Committee had reported that there were forgeries in two Petitions; and, as regarded 10 others, a certain number of addresses were either such as did not exist, or were not the addresses of the persons they purported to be. The question was, whether they should be content with this Report, and take no further action; or, whether they should agree to an Amendment which had been moved, that the matter should be referred back to the Committee for further consideration? He confessed that, to his mind, a case for further reference had been made out; because this subject affected the whole question of whether future Petitions were to be looked upon as worth anything or nothing. These Petitions purported to be signed by 90,000 working people in Dublin; whereas the whole total male population of that city, he understood, was only 70,000, and it was known a considerable number of these had already petitioned in favour of the Bill. This was an allegation which pointed to a very large number of fictitious signatures; and it seemed to him that if they were to consider Petitions as expressing any opinion at all, sufficient had been said to prove the importance of sending the Petitions under consideration back to the Committee for a further inquiry and Report. As he understood the matter, the Committee had not, up to the present, gone into the particular allegation of forgery which was levelled against these Petitions. But, then, some hon. Members wished the House also to remit for inquiry certain other Petitions to which, as they said, fictitious signatures had been appended. There could be no doubt that inquiry as to such Petitions would be perfectly proper if they stood in the same position as the Petitions concerning which the Committee had already made a special Report. But they did not; and until the Petitions Committee reported, in reference to the second set of Petitions, the House could not, in his opinion, take any action in regard to them.

Question put, and negatived.

Question proposed, That the words be referred back to the Public Petitions Committee, and that they inquire into the circumstances connected with the Petitions mentioned in the said lleport, and make a Report thereupon to the House,' be there added.


said, there was some fallacy lurking in the minds of hon. Gentlemen as to the way in which the Dublin Petitions against the Bill had been got up and signed, and also as to the persons whose names were appended. It seemed to be forgotten that there was a county as well as a city of Dublin, and that the Petitions emanated not from the city alone, but from the whole of the metropolitan district, which included Kingstown, Rathmines, Pembroke, and other smaller places. He would, therefore, move to amend the Amendment, by adding the words after the word"Report"— And all other Petitions presented to the House during this Session for and against the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Eorster) had stated that there would be good ground for urging that the Petitions in favour of the Bill should be referred to the Committee when primâ facie grounds had been made out in support of the statement that they bore forged or fictitious signatures. Was the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that two affidavits had been read to prove what he desiderated as a preliminary to inquiry was actually the fact? In addition to that, he had himself received innumerable complaints from residents in Dublin, to the effect that their names had been apended to the Petitions without their consent.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, To insert, after the words "the said Report," the words "and all other Petitions picsented to the House during this Session for and against tile Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill."—(Mr. Maurice Brooks.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Brooks) had urged in support of his Amendment the fact that the signatures to the Dublin Petition against the Sunday Closing Bill, were not confined to the city, but included the county and the whole metropolitan area. He thought it would be in the recollection of the House, that when the hon. Member presented the Petitions, he claimed for them that they were solely signed by the working men of the city of Dublin. He would remind the House that, according to the Census of 1871, the whole male population of Dublin over the age of 15 years, including the soldiers in the garrison, was only 70,000; yet it was said that' over 90,000 signatures of males were appended to the Petitions presented to the House by the hon. Member for Dublin. They had been told, over and over again, that the Irish people were opposed to the Sunday Closing Bill; but if the feeling of the people was to be judged by the so-called working-men's Petition from Dublin, there could be little doubt concerning it. He was, however, inclined to think, after all, that it would be the better course for the House to discharge the Petitions, and pass the Bill in the present Session, than to put extra work upon the Petitions Committee by referring the Petitions back to them.


said, he could not understand the grounds on which the hon. Member for Dublin had moved his Amendment; because the Motion before the House had no particular reference to the Sunday Closing Bill, but related simply to certain Petitions concerning which the Committee had made a special Report. The question really was whether certain Petitions, with regard to which the Committee had reported that forgery had been committed, should be further inquired into or not, and this had no connection with any particular Bill before the House. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had mentioned the case of another Petition to which certain forged signatures had been appended. Why, instead of mentioning the fact now, did not the hon. Member bring the circumstances to the knowledge of the Committee on Petitions? If he did this, and the Committee were of opinion that the case was one for a special Report, he had no doubt they would make such Report and that the House would at once deal with it. As far as he was concerned as one of the promoters of the Sunday Closing Bill, he should have no objection to the fullest possible investigation with regard to any or all of the Petitions; but the Petition should be first reported against before the House would deal with it.


assured the House of Commons that, if this proposition were agreed to as it stood, the idea would necessarily go forth, both in England and Ireland, that something approaching to injustice would be the result. So far as he could understand the matter, it was now quite rightly proposed by the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Brooks) that the whole case—or both sides—should be fully heard and investigated. He ventured to say, moreover, that the proposition made by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was got up by what he might call "The Teetotal Anti-Petition Party." He disagreed with the statement that this movement had emanated from the wage-classes of Ireland, either as expressing their wishes, or as having any spontaneity about it; for they must all be aware— at least he cared not who knew it to be his (Mr. Wheelhouse's) firm conviction —that this movement was one got up nearly, if not absolutely wholly, by Teetotalers and Sabbatarians, and that the entire thing emanated from a certain class of people who held Teetotal views. Besides, it was perfectly well known that, on certain occasions, there were men who were engaged, day by day, occasionally, in obtaining signatures to Petitions such as those in favour of this Bill, who, having possessed themselves of a tub or a barrel—he did not know which they called it in Ireland — pens, ink, and paper, were paid a certain sum for their day's work, or for the number of signatures appended. He, therefore, was convinced that, unless the whole of this matter, on both sides, was fully presented to the notice of the Legislature, the idea he had named would not only go forth, but would be alike strongly and correctly entertained by the public at large. All he wished and all he said was, let the Petitions on both sides be examined, and then they would see the precise value of this kind of petitioning—or rather, of a fashion, which came very close to something that might be called "manufacturing Petitions."


said, the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) entirely misapprehended the question before the House, which had nothing to do with the merits pro or con of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill. The question was simply whether a Report of the Committee on Public Petitions should or should not be referred back for further inquiry. The Committee had already presented a Report; but it appeared to him, as to many other hon. Members, that further information, which could only be obtained by means of further inquiry, was necessary.


entirely agreed in the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson). The only object the House could have in view in referring the matter back to the Committee was to protect the Privileges of the House in the matter of Petitions, and not to raise in any way, either directly or indirectly, the question of the strength of Parties upon this particular question. In the course of the discussion, the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had brought forward an argument which, on the one hand, was a strong additional reason for referring the question back to the Committee, and, on the other hand, furnished matter for a further inquiry which it might be necessary to make. The two affidavits which the hon. Member had read to the House showed the necessity for further inquiry as to the matters already reported upon; because it showed, presumptively, that there had been forgery of signatures on both sides. If the hon. Member would bring the matter of his affidavits before the House in the proper and formal way, he had no doubt that the Committee would inquire into it; but the present was not the proper occasion for so doing. He would, therefore, suggest that the hon. Gentleman should consult with the Chairman as to the proper course to be taken, and he had no doubt that all he wished in the way of inquiry would be done.


said, that unless the Petitions on both sides were examined by the Committee, a feeling would inevitably arise that justice was not being done by Parliament on a question to which considerable importance was attached. He was perfectly well aware of the fact that some people were paid so much per hundred for signatures to a Petition; but he would ask the House to remember that whereas on the Motion of the hon. Member for Dublin they had only a verbal statement, in his possession was a sworn affidavit of two persons to state that their signatures had been appended to the Petitions without their consent. The House must also recollect that this was a piece of class legislation. ["Order, order!"]


It is right I should point out to the hon. Member that he should confine himself to the question before the House.


remarked, that he did not intend to go into the merits of the Bill.


said, that in view of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Ordered, That the Special Report be referred back to the Public Petitions Committee, and that they inquire into the circumstances connected with the Petitions mentioned in the said Report, and make a Report thereupon to the House. Power to send for persons, papers, and records.