HC Deb 19 April 1886 vol 305 cc16-7
MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the Judges in the Stepney election petition, to the effect that a Member against whom no illegal practices of any kind have been proved, but whose return has been unsuccessfully challenged by a scrutiny, may be compelled to bear the enormous costs of defending his seat, while the Petitioner who has initiated the litigation and whose claim to have had the majority of legal votes has been conclusively disproved, is released from payment of any part of the costs to which he has put the sitting Member, on the ground that the Judges, in the exercise of their discretion, considered there was a reasonable case for inquiry; and, whether, having regard to the limit of expenses fixed by "The Corrupt Practices Act, 1883," by which candidature for Parliament was believed to be open to men of moderate means and not to be exclusively within the reach of men of wealth, he will consider the desirability of limiting by Legislation the discretion of the Judges in awarding costs?


, in reply, said, that the facts, as stated in the first part of the Question, seemed, so far as he (the Attorney General) knew, to be accurately set out. He had no hesitation in saying that, in view of these facts, the case seemed to be a very hard one. He had not, however, the whole of the facts fully before him, or within his knowledge; and it would be presumptuous and wrong for him to attempt to pronounce an opinion as to the discretion the Judges had thought proper to exercise. With regard to the question whether it would be desirable to limit by legislation the discretion of Judges in awarding costs, he thought it was not undesirable that the costs should be made to follow the event, unless for good causes the Judges decided otherwise. This was already the case in ordinary litigations in the High Courts; and he (the Attorney General) believed the same rule was supposed to be substantially followed in the case of Election Petitions. He would mention the matter to the Lord Chancellor, with the view of ascertaining whether any change was desirable.