HC Deb 18 March 1889 vol 334 cc123-4

May I ask you, Sir, if you can now give the House any information respecting the return of the Writ for the Kennington election?


I may say that, after what took place this afternoon in the House, I at once sent to ascertain what were the facts of the case regarding the non-receipt of the return of the Kennington Writ, and the information I have obtained I will, with the pleasure of the House, lay before it at once. It is this. The return of the Writ was delivered to the Clerk of the Crown at 9 p.m. this day. A telegram has been received from the returning officer, Mr. Abbott, to the effect that the Writ was left at the Kennington Post Office on Saturday morning. The Clerk at the Post Office at Kennington says, in a telegram, that the return of the Writ was sent in a registered envelope, addressed to the Clerk of the Crown, House of Lords, by the 1.45 p.m. despatch on Saturday. The postman whose duty it is to deliver letters to the House of Lords received it from the south-west district at 3.40 on Saturday. He left it for custody in the Central Post Office of the House of Commons in order to deliver it on Monday morning, he thinking that the Crown Office was closed. That was certainly a reasonable mistake, the closing hour of the Crown Office on Saturday being, I believe, two o'clock, by which time the clerks leave the office. It so happened, however, that the office was open as late as five o'clock last Saturday, and there were officers present until that hour, so that, if the Writ had been delivered there, the difficulty which has arisen would not have taken place. He took it out of the Post Office at five minutes to nine o'clock this evening to take it to the Crown Office, where, as I have already stated to the House, it was received at nine o'clock—five minutes later. That is all the information I have been able to obtain, and, if I may say so, it appears that there was certainly some failure in not sending the return of the Writ earlier on Saturday morning. As the House is aware the result of the election was announced in this House at 11 o'clock on Friday night, and an earlier hour on Saturday morning might have been chosen for the despatch of the Writ through the Kennington Post Office. It is the duty of the Returning Officer to deliver it at the Post Office either personally or by his clerk. Many of the Returning Offices in London return the Writs to the Crown Office personally, though there is no statutory obligation on them to do so. That is all the information I am able to give the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

House adjourned at ten minutes after Twelve o'clock.