HC Deb 21 February 1901 vol 89 cc690-1

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Public Prosecutor will take proceedings against the persons scheduled in the Report of the judges who tried the Maidstone Petition, or whether other steps will be taken locally or by His Majesty's Government to bring these persons to justice; and whether the persons so scheduled will in any case be disqualified from voting in the election of a member to fill the vacancy created by the decision.


Persons scheduled who have received certificates of indemnity cannot be prosecuted. The few cases in which such certificates were not granted are under consideration. The persons so scheduled are in all cases disqualified from voting in the election to fill the vacancy.

MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney General if his attention has been directed to the judgment given in the Maidstone Election Petition case, when Mr. Justice Kennedy stated that there seemed to have been a more or less systematic provision made for the corrupt wants of the lower class voters, but that the total number of cases of bribery proved was only 25, and that there was no evidence which enabled the court to form a satisfactory opinion as to the proportion of the bribable class of voters; whether the representatives of the Director of Prosecutions who attended the trial called any witnesses able to give material evidence, as directed by Section 43 (3) of the Corrupt Practices Act, 1883, or took any steps, by applying for an adjournment or otherwise, to assist the election judges to form a satisfactory opinion as to the extent to which corrupt practices prevailed in the borough; and what further steps the Government propose to take to ascertain the truth before assenting to the issue of a new writ.


My attention has been called to the judgment in this case. The representative of the Director of Public Prosecutions was not in possession of any material evidence, and had no grounds on which he could properly have applied for an adjournment. I am informed by him that the court stated that they had no reason to doubt that all cases in support of which satisfactory evidence could be produced had been brought before them, and that he has no ground to suppose that this is not correct. It is extremely difficult to obtain legal proof in such cases. Under these circumstances it does not appear that any good would result from further delay.