HC Deb 18 June 1880 vol 253 cc389-92

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his" Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown (Ireland) to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Dungannon, in the room of Thomas Alexander Dickson, esquire, whose Election hath been determined to be void."—(Lord Richard Grosvenor.)


said, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would consent to postpone the issuing of this Writ for a few days, in the same way that the Writ at Evesham had been proposed. He was aware that there was this small difference—that in the Return of the Judges in the Evesham case, there was a peculiar phrase used— That from the evidence before us, and to which we confined our attention, we have no reason to believe that extensive bribery and corruption prevailed in this case. The Judges, however, did, in the present ease, not say that they actually were satisfied that corruption had not prevailed, but merely that it was so on the evidence placed before them. He (Sir George Campbell) had been looking at two or three Election Returns, and the evidence given before the Judges; and it was perfectly clear that, in a great majority of cases, the Judges did not consider themselves bound to make any inquisition into the actual facts of the election, but only considered the evidence the parties chose to give. Now, it was notorious that, in the great majority of cases, the parties petitioning merely proved enough to serve their own purpose, and did not at all care to give evidence from which general bribery and corruption might be inferred. They were asked, in this case, to issue a new Writ without knowing whether or not extensive bribery and corruption prevailed. In illustration of the point he wished to make, he might allude to the Gravesend Election, where not only the two Parties abstained from giving evidence on the question whether general bribery had prevailed, but the Judges actually stopped parties who were going to give evidence, and declared that a sufficient case had been made out without going into the minutice which one of the counsel had alluded to. On a suggestion of that kind coming from the Judge, the counsel for the Petitioner did stop his ease, and was content not to adduce further evidence; but the displaced Member wanted to go on, and the Judges actually warned him that if he did so it would be at his own peril. He must draw attention to the very peculiar words, for instance, used by one of the Judges, when he remarked that that was not an inquisitorial tribunal sent there to make an absolutely exhaustive Report to the Speaker of the House of all the ramifications and details of election. They had it on the authority of one of the Judges themselves that they did not consider it necessary for them to go into all the details connected with each election, Then he might again allude to another case, that of Bandon. There a Petition was presented and was abandoned. The Judges asked why it was, and then they reported that there was no evidence to show that the abandonment of the Petition was the result of a corrupt bargain; but it was perfectly notorious what the reason was for the abandonment of that Petition. The case was notoriously so bad, that the sitting Member could not defend his seat; and the bargain was that, on the Petition being withdrawn, he should apply for the Chiltern Hundreds. Surely that was conclusive evidence that the Judges did not consider it was necessary to inquire into the real facts of this election. He (Sir George Campbell) did not say, in the particular case of Dungannon, there had been extensive bribery; but they knew perfectly well that in point of numbers it was a rotten borough, and rotten in the extreme. The place only contained about 3,800 inhabitants, which was one-twentieth part of the average of the constituencies of England and Scotland; and, therefore, it was not a case in which there was any real necessity for the issue of a Writ immediately. He only asked to have time to examine the evidence returned by the Judges, in order that the House might see whether there had been such bribery or corruption as to make further inquiry desirable. He would move that the issue of the Writ be postponed for a week.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the issue of the Writ for the Borough of Dungannon be postponed for one week,"— (Sir George Campbell,) —instead thereof.

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


trusted the House would not accede to this request. He must, in the first place, protest against the position which the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell) had taken up in thus attacking and stigmatizing a borough of which he confessedly knew nothing. He must remind the House that every constituency had a right to return its Representative or Representatives to Parliament; and he trusted that no one would be permitted to deprive the electors of the borough of Dungannon of their legal rights. The hon. Gentleman actually wanted the issue of the Writ to be delayed for a week, until the shorthand notes and evidence should be printed; and, no doubt, if they were not ready by the end of the week which he now asked for, he would then seek to postpone the Writ for another week, until he was able to get those notes and consider the evidence, that evidence, be it remembered, which had already been considered by two Judges in Ireland, but which the hon. Member wished to see, in order to ascertain whether he might not find an excuse for differing with the Report of those Judges. They had reported that there was no corrupt practice proved on either side save this—that an agent of whom the sitting Member knew nothing, without his knowledge, gave a man a small sum of money to abstain from voting. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL said, there was nothing of that in the Judge's Report.] With great respect to the hon. Member, he could assure him that if he took the trouble of reading the certificate of the learned Judges he would find that they so stated. The result of the inquiry was that out of the whole borough one man was found to have taken a bribe without the sitting Member's knowledge, whilst the Judges certified that they had no reason to believe—and as they heard the evidence he (the Attorney General for Ireland) submitted they were quite as capable of considering it as the hon. Member—that corrupt practices extensively prevailed. The hon. Member wanted this Writ to be postponed for an iudefinite period, and that, in the meantime, the electors should be deprived of their Constitutional rights. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) protested against the proposal, and trusted that it would not be accepted by the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown (Ireland) to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Dungannon, in the room of Thomas Alexander Dickson, esquire, whose Election hath been determined to be void.