§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, I beg, with your permission, to ask the following Questions:—First, whether, having regard to your ruling of the 21st Feb- 1821 ruary last, when you allowed me to move as a matter of Privilege a new Writ for Northampton, I am now entitled as a matter of Privilege to move that Mr. Speaker do make out his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to issue a Writ for the election of a Member to serve in the present Parliament for the borough of Northampton in place of Charles Brad-laugh, Esq., disabled from sitting and voting in this House by the Resolution of the 6th of March, 1882? Secondly, Sir, whether, in regard to a petition that I have this day presented from the electors of Northampton, having regard to the proceedings of this House in the matter of the Middlesex election of the 29th of April, 1769, I am entitled as a matter of Privilege to move that the electors of the borough of Northampton be heard at the Bar?
§ MR. SPEAKER
In reply to the hon. Member's Question, I may say that Motions for new Writs are ordinarily made without Notice, and have precedence as concerning Privilege. Such Motions are founded upon certain events which have recently caused a vacancy—as, for example, the death of a Member, his acceptance of Office, or the report of Election Judges. In such cases there are obvious reasons for giving precedence to a Motion for a new Writ. The grounds are clear and of recent occurrence, and the seat ought not to be left vacant, in the interest of the electors. But none of these reasons are apparent on the present occasion. The Motion, indeed, can scarcely be proposed with the serious purpose of inducing the House to issue a new Writ for Northampton; but, like a similar Motion of the hon. Member on the 21st of February, seems rather designed to raise a discussion, indirectly and irregularly, upon the claim of the junior Member for that borough to take the Oath. For these reasons the Motion of the hon. Member is clearly not entitled to Privilege. With regard to the second Question of the hon. Member, I have to say that there are Standing Orders with regard to Petitions which were not in existence when the Middlesex Petition referred to by the hon. Member was heard. On that account there is no ground for dealing with a Petition of that kind stated as a matter of Privilege.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I beg to give Notice that on Tuesday next I shall move that the Petition from the electors of Northampton, which I have this day presented, be printed with the Votes of the House.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
With the kind indulgence of the House, I wish to make an explanation. Before I had taken the Oath, the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) wished to have certain questions put to me, of which he had informed me in the most kindly manner, and I then stated that if the House insisted I was prepared to make my declaration of belief in the words of the Nicene Creed, or that of St. Athanasius. Ever since that speech of the hon. Baronet was made, I have received a series of letters week by week, requesting to know if I do not hold Atheistical opinions. I had a Petition sent to me from a town not very long ago in favour of the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh to the House, with a request that I would present it, on the ground that I was a sympathizer with him. Now, I am not going to weary the House by reading the whole series of letters. But I will read one, and an extract from another. This is a letter which I received from Rochdale—DEAR SIR,—Excuse me the liberty I am taking in writing to you on a delicate subject. It being constantly asserted by the admirers of Mr. Bradlaugh that you are an Atheist, I shall be very glad if you will give me your authority to contradict such a statement. As the report is generally believed, I shall be glad if you will allow me to publish this correspondence.—SAMUEL TAYLOR,Well, the other day a meeting was held near Manchester, at a place called Harpurhey. It was a meeting of a Liberal Club, and, after passing a resolution condemnatory of the conduct of this House in refusing to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath, a Resolution was passed declaring—That the meeting condemns the hypocritical and cowardly action of the Conservative Party, who, while objecting to Mr. Bradlaugh on account of his conscientious opinions, allow one of their own political partizans of the same opinions to take his seat in the House without question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House is always very indulgent to hon. Members in matters of personal explanation; but it appears to me the hon. Member does not refer to any matter concerning debates in this House.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
I refer to this matter, because of the hon. Member for Carlisle having brought it before the House, and having caused me to receive these annoying letters. I am not a thin-skinned man. But, at the same time, the noble Lord, a Member of the late Government, and the Member for the East Riding (Mr. Broadley) who introduced me, may have been caused some pain in being supposed to have introduced a man holding unworthy views. I hope that, after this explanation, I shall have no more of these Petitions,, and no more statements of this kind alleged against me.