HC Deb 13 February 1895 vol 30 cc689-90

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire and report on the Returns made to this House to the two Writs issued on August 22nd, 1894, for the return of Members to serve for the Borough of Leieester, and the circumstances attending the holding of the election: and whether the case is such as to require further action in respect of such Returns on the part of the House."—(sir Henry James.)

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

, objected to the terms of the Motion as altogether too wide. If it were passed it would, on the mere suggestion that something irregular had taken place, refer the whole question of the election of any seat to a Select Committee, which might make any Motion. Nobody had petitioned against the Leicester election, and why, therefore, should they he asked to consider this matter? They could not make the law. If a mayor liked to hold two elections, would a Resolution of that House stop it? They would either have to say that the election was regular or irregular. If it were irregular it was a matter for petition, and no petition had been lodged. Why was the House to engage in a roving commission of inquiry as to whether two Members had been properly returned or not? Parliament had already referred the decision of such matters to two Election Judges. He thought the proposal made was most anarchical, and would upset the regular and settled procedure of having Election Judges to inquire into all petitions as to irregularites at elections. If such a proposal as this were accepted, what, would be the position of the Irish Members supposing a Tory Government were in Office? If some suggestion, of a Pigottist character were made as to irregularities at elections, and this Resolution had been adopted, if a Coercionist Government were in Office the Irish Members might find themselves unseated before they knew where they were. Let them stick to the regular and settled procedure, which was, that two Judges should try the question of the regularity or irregularity of elections if any petition were lodged against the return of a Member. Suppose such a Committee as that suggested held the opinion that an irregularity had been committed by the Mayor of Leicester, what was the inevitable conclusion? It would be that the seats were vacant. What other conclusion was possible if the decision were arrived at that an irregularity had occurred? If the seats were not vacant, what harm was done? Either the matter was pointed at the vacation of the seats or it was not. They had no guarantee whatever as to what future Governments might do, and he should strongly oppose the appointment of this Committee in its present shape, as he regarded the proposal as most objectionable and revolutionary.

SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

observed, that nothing was further from his wish than to have a roving inquiry, as had been suggested by the hon. and learned Member, his only desire being to see that the Orders of the House were obeyed. The House had made certain rules as to elections, and if its Orders were disobeyed the remedy was for the House to see that they were properly enforced. When, for instance, ODonovan Rossa was returned, he, being a felon, was not allowed to take his seat, because the House had never given up its right of seeing that its Orders were carried out. They must see that the elections were duly held, and not leave it to any constituency to choose the way of conducting elections. He had taken the words of his Motion with one object alone in view, and that was to get over the difficulty that had arisen in this case, he desiring that, the gentlemen returned should retain their seats. He would point out that it was to be left to the House to decide whether any further action was necessary. He hoped the House would not accept the dangerous doctrine enunciated by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), that that House had no power to see its authority obeyed.


declined to withdraw his objection, and the consideration of the matter was accordingly deferred.

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