HC Deb 26 May 1879 vol 246 cc1232-3

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been directed to an article in the "Scotsman" newspaper of the 14th instant, making among other statements the following:— No doubt exists in the Haddington Burghs, and there would be little difficulty in procuring evidence of the fact, that money was spent in the assumed interest of the Conservative candidate in corrupt practices. It is notorious and easily susceptible of proof, that drink was supplied freely to voters in Haddington, Jedburgh, Dunbar, and North Berwick. In the case of the Haddington Burghs there was, beyond doubt, a deliberate conspiracy to debauch the constituency. It has been pointed out above that the law has been broken by the Conservative agents in at least three important particulars, and that for such breaches certain penalties are specified. If, after this, the officials who are responsible for the vindication of the law do not take prompt measures for bringing the offenders to justice, they will be open to a charge of gross and culpable neglect of duty; whether he can inform the House that the Procurator Fiscal is making the inquiry which is usual when information reaches him that a breach of law has been committed; and, if not, whether he will direct that the Procurator Fiscal discharge his duty in the matter?


Sir, I have made inquiry with regard to these matters, and I have not obtained any information to warrant a prosecution for any of the offences mentioned in the Question of the hon. Member. I desire further to say that it is exceedingly inconvenient and very difficult to deal with general accusations of this kind, such as are bandied about in times of excitement during an election. It is quite open to anyone to lay specific information before the Officers of the Crown; persons are protected by privilege in doing so, and whenever such in-formation is given, a full investigation will be made.