§ MR. RODWELL
asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether he can explain the cause of delay in presenting the Reports of several of the Commissions appointed to inquire into corrupt practices at the late Elections; and, whether he will take steps to expedite the presentation of the remaining Reports?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
, in reply, said, it would be remembered that eight Royal Commissions were issued in September last year; seven in reference to alleged corrupt practices at the General Election, and one in connection with a bye-election some six weeks later than the General Election. On the appointment of the gentlemen who were chosen to act as Royal Commissioners, he thought it right to call their attention to the fact that legal proceedings could be instituted against persons for corrupt practices within 12 months of the alleged offence. As the Elections were held at the end of March or the beginning of April last year, it was obvious that the Reports ought to be brought under the notice of Parliament a reasonable time before the 31st of March in this year, and it was necessary that the evidence should be placed in the hands of the Attorney General in order that he might peruse it before instituting proceedings. Four Reports out of the eight were already in the hands of hon. Members—namely, Canterbury, Boston, Knaresborough, and Sandwich; but the evidence in respect to Sandwich had not yet been delivered to 544 the House. He had made inquiries of the Commissioners from time to time, and was informed that all the evidence, except that of the last two days, was placed in the hands of the printer before Christmas. The evidence of these last two days was placed in the hands of the printer six weeks ago; but it was not yet in the hands of the House, owing to the large amount of work imposed upon the printer consequent upon the early sitting of Parliament. The Oxford Commissioners had not yet reported. Three Reports remained—Macclesfield, Gloucester, and Chester. None of these Reports were yet completely printed, and certainly none of the evidence was in the hands of the printer. He was beginning, indeed, to be very apprehensive that the printing of the evidence would not be completed by the 31st instant, and that no reasonable time would be afforded for his careful perusal of it in order to decide what proceedings should be instituted, as the pressure of work at the printers was very great at this time of the year. He had, so far, perused the Reports which had been laid before him, and had determined what course ought to be taken against certain persons who were reported to be guilty of corrupt practices. He would suggest that the evidence in the cases he had last mentioned should be laid on the Table in manuscript, and he would do what he could to peruse it, in order that there should be no miscarriage of justice.
§ MR. HERMON
gave Notice that, in consequence of the answer of the hon. and learned Attorney General, he would, on a future day, ask, Whether some arrangement, independent of the Queen's printer, could not be made by which the extraordinary delay in the printing of Parliamentary Papers could be avoided?