§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
asked the honourable baronet, the Member for Walsall, with reference to the statement in the Third Report of the Committee on Petitions, that the Petitions presented by the Member for South Belfast, against a separate Parliament for Ireland, contained many names which were "in the same handwriting," Whether he will state the number of names to which this statement applies; and, what course he is prepared to take with those Petitions recently presented to which forged signatures were attached, to prevent the recurrence of such irregularities?
§ SIR CHARLES FORSTER (Walsall)
, in reply, said, it was an undoubted fact that the document purporting to be a Petition against a separate Parliament for Ireland, and presented by the Member for South Belfast, contained a large proportion of signatures which were in the same handwriting. Of 5,428 signatures, 1,268 appeared to be written in batches of three and four in the handwriting of 324 persons. His duty in the matter was purely Ministerial. They had not the power to reject spurious Petitions when the Rules were complied with. All they could do was to mention the facts of irregularities in their Report, according to their usual 1785 practice. He was sorry to say that this was the third Petition of the kind, and that the practice of putting forward fictitious Petitions appeared to be on the increase.
§ MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)
Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly inform the House whether it is not a fact that in the Petitions against Home Rule there are a large number of signatures of infants less than a month old?
§ MR. CLANCY
To make the answer clear, is the House to understand that of the 5,428 signatures all but 324 are fictitious?
§ SIR CHARLES FORSTER
No; out of a total of 5,428, 1,268 appeared to be in the handwriting of 324 persons.