HC Deb 28 March 1893 vol 10 cc1298-300
MR. BENN (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

said he had been asked to present three Petitions against the Liquor Traffic (Local Veto) Bill, but he found, after examination and inquiry, that they contained a number of forged signatures. He hesitated to present a Petition which he knew to be partly fraudulent, but, on the other hand, he was anxious to avoid the charge of having suppressed the prayer of any of his constituents, the more so because he did not happen to agree with the prayer; he therefore desired to have the Speaker's guidance in the matter. He could not return the Petition because the source of origin was obscure, and he wished to know what means existed for preventing so great an abuse of the right of petitioning.


I think the hon. Gentleman is quite justified in bringing the matter before the House. The hon. Gentleman has several courses open to him. One is to refuse to accept the Petition, for no Member of this House is obliged to present a Petition which is not in accord with the custom or Rules of the House. Secondly, he may refer it to the petitioners for the purpose of procuring more accurate information as to whether the signatures are forged or genuine; and, in the third place, he may take a course which probably will be the best under the circumstances, and bring the matter officially under the notice of the Committee of Petitions in this House. If he takes that course it will be his duty to move an Instruction to the Committee that they should ascertain, with such information as the hon. Gentleman can give them, the truth or falsity of the signatures attached to the Petition.

MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

wished to know how the hon. Member had discovered that the signatures were forged. He himself had to present a Petition containing 2,758 signatures from the East End of London. He had carefully looked through the signatures, but thought it was impossible to say whether they were genuine or not.


In this case the hon. Gentleman says the signatures are obviously false, and, that being so, he is quite justified in bringing the matter before the House.


said he had taken the best possible means of ascertaining whether the signatures were genuine by calling upon the persons whose names appeared on the Petitions.

DR. MACGREGOR (Invernessshire)

said he had received a Petition on a printed form, which appeared to have been circulated amongst public-houses of Scotland. He had not presented, and did not intend to present, the Petition, but he thought he might mention the matter to the House.


The hon. Member would be entitled to refuse to present a Petition which is against the Rule prohibiting the presentation of Petitions on printed forms.

MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.), in presenting a Petition from Manchester in favour of the Liquor Traffic (Local Control) Bill, said the signatures were all genuine, and not one of them had been purchased with free drinks.

MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON, in presenting two Petitions, one from Stepney, with 78 signatures in favour of the Bill, and the other from East London, with 2,758 signatures against the Bill, said, as to the first, he could not guarantee that the signatures were genuine, whilst, as to the second, they appeared to be genuine, but he could not vouch for them.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

Mr. Speaker, might I ask whether it is in Order for an hon. Member, in presenting a Petition, to say that the signatures have been obtained without giving free drinks, thereby insinuating that possibly some signatures are obtained by giving free drinks?


As to the statement of the hon. Gentleman who preceded the hop. Member who put the question to me, I must say that the presentation of Petitions in this House is a very solemn right, and no ridicule ought to be thrown upon it. As to signatures, it is a very grave offence against the dignity and honour of this House to present Petitions with any names on them which are not genuine.

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