HC Deb 05 February 1895 vol 30 cc54-6

said he wished to occupy the attention of the House for a short time on a matter of procedure which seemed to him to raise a question of Privilege. It related to what he believed was an irregularity in the return of the two hon. Gentlemen who had just taken their seats as Representatives of the Borough of Leicester, an irregularity which caused the return not to be complete or valid. It would be in the recollection of the House that the Secretary to the Treasury made two distinct motions in August last. He first moved for a Writ for the return of a Member in the place of Sir James Whitehead. Then came a second motion for a second election to take place. One election had only taken place, and therefore there ought to have been only one return made, but two returns had been made. They must deal with this subject from two points of view—the one as it affected the constituency, and the other as it affected the House. It was important that the House should see that its Orders were obeyed and its Precepts observed. On the first question he had nothing to say, because no elector had petitioned the House. In the second place, when the irregularity was pointed out, those most interested in the election met and agreed that, whatever should be the result of the election, it should be binding upon all candidates and their supporters, and that no objection should be made to it. He saw no objection to such a course being taken; and he was sure that all would agree that after that agreement had been made it ought to be loyally carried out. In these circumstances he did not think they were bound to consider the interests of the constituency; but the question still remained whether, if it were the case that no election had been validly held, and if these two gentlemen who had now taken their seats had not been elected, and were consequently Strangers in the House, they should be allowed to sit there. If there were a way out of the difficulty he should be glad if these gentlemen could retain their seats; but if there was no valid return they were not entitled to sit. It was impossible the House could let that subject pass without taking notice of it. It was entirely a question for the House to determine, and he would therefore take this early opportunity of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he saw any objection to this matter being referred to, and considered by, a Committee such as that which sat last Session to determine the position of the Eldest Sons of Peers sitting in this House. Such a Committee would inquire into the question whether that election had been properly held or not.


My right hon. and learned Friend has stated the case with great candour. He has not entered into any elaborate arguments on the subject, and he has therefore precluded me from doing so. Although I do not share his views I should be prepared to give reasons why I think that the course he has suggested would not be an inconvenient, but a possible, one under the circumstances. I will only give one illustration: Suppose there had been two elections on the same day and there were two candidates, and suppose a third candidate stood, as he might have done if there were separate elections, against both, and had been returned against both, then he would hold both seats for Leicester. My right hon. Friend has fairly avoided putting reasons before the House, but he has asked that the matter shall be examined into by a Committee. It would not be incumbent on the part of the Government to oppose such an inquiry; and I shall be happy to confer with my right hon. Friend as to the terms of the Resolution.


then gave notice that on Thursday or Friday he would move that the matter be referred to a Committee in the terms of a motion to be agreed upon with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.