HC Deb 12 April 1883 vol 278 cc69-70

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether it is the case that, at the recent election of Guardians for the Cork Union the returning officer after fixing a day for discussing a number of disputed votes refused to hear a solicitor employed for one of the candidates, argue the legal points in dispute, and announced that he would only hear the candidates themselves; whether, if this be so, the gentleman referred to was acting legally in so doing, or if he had a discretion in the matter; whether the Local Government Board would approve of the practice of excluding solicitors under such circumstances; whether it is the case that solicitors have frequently been heard before under similar circumstances by the returning officer in the same union; and, if so, whether there were any exceptional reasons for the returning officer's decision in this case; whether he is aware that it is the invariable practice for the returning officers at Parliamentary and other elections to hear any legal questions which may arise discussed by legal practitioners, and that the Acts regulating the Poor Law franchise are frequently confused and ambiguous so that questions of extreme difficulty and the determination of which requires much legal skill, often arise in construing them; and, whether, if the returning officer in question was justified by the present Law in the action he took, the Government propose to amend the Law in this respect in their promised measure dealing with Poor Law elections?


in reply, said, the Local Government Board had informed him that the Returning Officer stated that the question at issue in the case was the right of a landlord to vote for a candidate, and was one of fact, and not of law. Proofs had been promised, which were not forthcoming; and the solicitor desired to enter into a question of law which was not involved in the case the Returning Officer declined to hear him; and, in so doing, acted entirely within his legal rights. The Local Government Board saw no reason to deprive him of the exercise of his discretion in the matter. The predecessors of this officer had on no occasion heard solicitors, for this was the only occasion in which a solicitor had ever attended at the election of Guardians for the Cork Union. The explanations given in the case did not appear to call for legislative interference; for the whole point turned on whether the question was a matter of fact or of law which was brought before the Returning Officer, and the statements were very definite on that score.