HC Deb 08 March 1883 vol 276 cc1727-9

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether his attention has been called to a report in the "Bucks Free Press" of the 2nd of March, of meeting held at Wycombe Abbey, since the writ was moved for the borough of High Wycombe, at which Lord Carrington was present; whether it is the fact, as there stated, that A meeting of notables was convened at Wycombe Abbey to discuss the position of affairs, and invitations were sent to the members of the public representative bodies of the town, namely, the Town Council and School Board, to attend; and, whether such interference on the part of a Peer of the realm in electioneering matters is in accordance with constitutional usage or not? The hon. Member said that, some additional facts having been brought to his attention since he had put the foregoing Questions on the Notice Paper, he had taken the liberty of giving the Attorney General private Notice of the following Questions:— Whether, on Tuesday, the 27th February, a placard appeared announcing that Colonel Carington had resigned; whether, at 11 o'clock on the morning of that day, a meeting—not a general meeting—was held at Wycombe Abbey, the residence of Lord Carrington, of certain electors; whether Lord Carrington was present and introduced the subject of the resignation of Colonel Carington; whether, after some conversation, Lord Carrington produced a letter from his pocket, which he said stated that Colonel Gerard Smith was willing to become a candidate for the vacancy; whether it was proposed and seconded that that Gentleman should become a candidate; whether his address appeared next morning; whether Lord Carrington was not Captain of the Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms; and whether it was a fact that Colonel Gerard Smith was lately gazetted to the office of Groom of the Chamber to Her Majesty, an office which he would have to resign if he were not returned for High Wycombe;


Sir, it is impossible for me to define with any legal accuracy the extent to which a Peer may constitutionally interfere in the election of Members of this House. I have heard rumours of Peers on both sides subscribing large sums of money to support different candidates, and of their being present at meetings when candidates have been selected; and I presume that those Peers have satisfied themselves that they were acting with propriety and constitutionally in so doing. But, Sir, in relation to the circumstances mentioned in my hon. Friend's Question, as it appears on the Paper—for his further Question only reached me some five minutes ago—I can safely say that if it should appear that Lord Carrington, not after, but before the issuing of the Writ, found that a profound and sincere regret was entertained by almost every elector of High Wycombe at the prospect of losing the Parliamentary services of Colonel Carington, and if, under those circumstances, Lord Carrington thought it was his duty to afford them as much consolation as he could by explaining to them the reasons which had induced Colonel Carington to undertake the duties of the office of the Steward of the Manor of Northstead—and if, having done so, Lord Carrington deprecated any resolution being taken as to any future candidate, I am sure that the House generally, and oven my hon. Friend, will feel that the noble Lord acted, not only within his Constitutional rights, but also gave another and valuable proof of the sympathetic feeling existing between him and the vast majority of the electors of High Wycombe.