§ MASTER of ELIBANK
moved: "That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New-Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the county of Dorset (Eastern Division), in the room of Captain the Honourable Frederick Edward Guest, whose election has been declared to be void."
§ Mr. MARKHAM
moved, after the word "do" ["Mr. Speaker do"], to insert the words "not during the present Session of Parliament."
In rising to move the Amendment, I make no apology to the House. If there ever was a case where, in the interests of honest politics, the writ should be withheld for twelve months, this is the case. I am sorry to see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in the House. I do hope that he will be in his place before the next quarter of an hour, for being President of the Gladstone League I have a few questions to address to him arising out of the very grave position he states that our public life is to-day in by reason of the intimidation that prevailed at the last election. I make, so far as my own opinion goes, no hesitation in stating that I believe that intimidation did prevail very extensively in the rural districts at the last election. So far as my own Constituency goes, I say at once that there was no intimidation. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but I represent intelligent men with strong arms who would flatten out anybody who attempted to intimidate them, whereas hon. Members who come from southern constituencies do not represent, I think, constituencies of that kind. At all events I have no desire whatever to receive any cheers directly or indirectly from the party opposite for what I have already stated.
I wish to draw the attention of the House first to the Bill, the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act. It was under that Act that the recent petition was heard in Dorsetshire. By that Act the House has set up a tribunal of judges to inquire into malpractices at elections; but it has in no way divorced the House itself 1060 from fully inquiring into what has taken place. That has been clearly held and laid down by all the authorities. In 1883 the Bill was introduced by Lord James in this House, and it was introduced also by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles W. Dilke), by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and by other gentlemen who have now ceased to be Members of this House. The Debates arising out of that Bill were of a very remarkable character. Clause 2, to which I am about to refer, was debated for, I think, at least four nights. The judges can only rely on what is the strict interpretation of the Act before them, but between the interpretation which they put on the Act and what Parliament wishes to determine there is often a very wide difference. As hon. and right hon. Members know the intentions of Parliament have many times been clearly expressed, as Parliament thought, while His Majesty's judges would put an entirely different construction on the law. The intention of the authors of this Act was, and they wished to make it their object, to prevent any intimidation or undue influence at elections held in any part of this country. Lord James resisted numerous Amendments and, as I say, it was the intention of Clause 2 to render void all elections where any undue influence could be reasonably brought home to the authors of that undue influence. Clause 2 reads as follows:—
"Every person who shall directly or indirectly by himself or by any other person on his behalf make use of or threaten to make use of any force, violence, or restraint, or inflict or threaten to inflict by himself or by any other person any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm, or loss upon or against any person in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting at any election or who shall by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance impede or prevent the free exercise of the franchise of any elector or shall thereby compel, induce, or prevail upon any elector either to give or to refrain from giving his vote at any election shall be guilty of undue influence."
Clause 4 states that if the judges of the election petition report certain corrupt practices then the candidate, "shall not be capable of ever being elected to or sitting in the House of Commons for the said 1061 county or borough." In this case His Majesty's judges have found in legal form that no legal intimidation prevailed. Before I pass from the Act, I want to state, and it is very important, what was the intention of the author of the Act, because I ask the House to disagree with the judges on the ground that the judges have not interpreted the intention of Parliament. It is for the House itself to place any construction it thinks fit on the facts and on the action of the judges, and their decision in no way binds this House. That must be quite clear. At this election, I say, in the first place, and my first charge is, that there were gross abuses and a vulgar use of the Wimborne purse with the object of preventing the return of a candidate to this House, or rather, I should put it, making it impossible for any but a rich man to compete against those abuses of the vulgar purse of the Wimbornes. Lord James said, in the course of the Debate:—Apart from the fact that extravagant expenditure is near akin to corruption, and that it was at least, the father of corruption [mark the words father of corruption'] it appeared to him and to many other Members of the Government that even if it were not corrupt expenditure, it was necessary to check it in order that they might maintain the character of the House and the position and character of the Members who sat there.I think I am right in saying that Sir Edward Clarke, then Mr. Clarke, strongly urged the House that they should be their own election judges. For my part, I believe that the House of Commons might act as a judicial tribunal as well as anybody. When we are acting as politicians we are dishonest. I wish now to state what was said by Mr. Parnell in the course of that Debate, because I think it will carry some weight with the Irish Members, whose votes I want if possible. I have always found that they are the party of democracy in this House, and that they are always ready to support a case whether the Front Benches do or not. Speaking on 14th June, 1883, Mr. Parnell said:—There was nothing that an Irish elector resented so much as being interfered with or talked to when on his way to perform the duty which the Constitution imposed upon him, to register his vote secretly; and he defied anyone to find out from a voter what candidate he had or had not voted for… Undue influence was a thing of the past, and the only abuses to be feared and guarded against were bribery and treating, and such other grosser forms of action which interfered with freedom of election.When hon. Members from Ireland hear what I have got to say about East Dorsetshire I think they will agree with what Mr. Parnell said twenty-seven years ago. 1062 I want them to come to the help of the democratic element to assist the people in East Dorset to exercise their franchise liberties without fear and without intimidation. I proceed to deal with some of the cases, not taking them in the order of merit; in fact I have not even prepared any order in which I intend to bring them before the House. Those cases are equally bad. Before I make any remarks on the East Dorset election I ought to say that perhaps no man has a more unpleasant duty to perform that I have, because I am going to make an attack on a lady. But when twentieth-century ladies come into the political arena, when they take an active part in the returning of Members to this House—when they, as in the case of East Dorset, where Lady Wimborne was election agent, and, in the words of Mr. Justice Lawrance, "a most useful agent," to Mr. Guest, who was a mere cypher in the election, which was carried out by Lady Wimborne, under those circumstances, regrettable though it may be, that I am going to make an attack on this lady, it is one of the disabilities that attaches to the exercise of votes by women. If they come down, as I have already said, to the political arena, they must be responsible for their actions, and they cannot claim that they should be above criticism. I think it is only just and right to say that so far as Lady Wimborne is concerned I have not the slightest personal feeling in the matter, and I make no personal attack, but I am going to make an attack in no half-hearted way in the cases I am going to put.
Let me briefly state to the House something of what prevailed in East Dorset. For many years this constituency returned a Conservative Member to this House. In 1873 the constituency was disfranchised for bribery and corruption, and remained so for a period. Lady Wimborne appeared on the scene, and proceeded to form branches of the Primrose League in every district of the Division, and, owing to her influence and the influence of the Wimborne estate, with its hundreds and hundreds of small tenant holders and with the great power of the Wimborne purse, no one dared to attack the seat for years, until a candidate eventualy came along. In 1904, about the same time as that at which the Home Secretary changed his political views, all the Members of the Guest family, and as is well known Lady Wimborne is an aunt of the Home Secretary, came over to our side of the House, or rather adopted Liberal principles. In 1063 point of fact they do not understand and never have been Liberals, and never will be Liberals. By some strange coincidence in the history of the Churchill family, whenever they have "ratted" it has always been at a time when it was of material benefit to themselves, or when they thought it was going to be of benefit to themselves. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Hon. Members may dissent, but is it not the truth? I might go back to the time of the first Duke of Marlborough—but I will not go into that.
Let me deal first with the case of the Labour party in this matter; they ought to have a full measure of criticism, as they are responsible for one of the incidents for which the judges held the election to be void. A man named Eli Best, who had worked on the Canford estate for twenty-five years, was a bricklayer in receipt of a wage of 27s. a week. On 30th April, 1908, the day following that on which Mr. Guest had been nominated by the East Dorset Liberal Association, Eli Best received notice that his services were no longer required on the Wimborne property. Three distinct tales were told as to the dismissal of this man—one by Mr. Moir, who at that time and until September, 1908, was agent on the estate; another by Mr. Andrews, who was appointed agent in 1908; and a third by Lady Wimborne. His Majesty's judges were not sufficiently far-seeing to observe this fact. Lady Wimborne must have known long before the 30th April, 1908, that Mr. Guest was going to be nominated by the association, as the association was her creature; but the judges seem to have lost sight of that point. Owing to the ill-health of Sir Lewis Mac-Iver, a question arose whether there would not be an election in 1908, and the Member for West Edinburgh told Mr. Guest or Lady Wimborne that he did not intend to stand at the next election. The point which the Solicitor-General will probably make is, Why should Lady Wimborne take this action only one day after Mr. Guest had been nominated? But, as I say, Lady Wimborne knew long before April that her son was to become candidate. I am about to quote from the "East Dorset Herald, Times, and Standard":—Eli Best, examined by Mr. Coward, said that for a quarter of a century, up to June, 1908, he had been employed as a bricklayer on the Canford estate. He was a Conservative, and he and his wife belonged to the Primrose League.Did you join that habitation of the Primrose League which was started by Lady Wimborne herself?—Yes, sir.Her Ladyship was the Dame President, I think, of the habitation?—Yes.1064And you are well known on the estate as a Conservative?—Yes.Now, on 30th April, I908, did you receive a notice terminating your engagement from the estate office, signed by Mr. Moir?—Yes.Witness, on request, produced a copy of this document, and Mr. Coward read it as follows:—Canford Estate Offices, Wimborne, Dorset,30th April. 1908.To Mr. Eli Best.Dear Sir, —I regret to have to give you format notice that your services will no longer be required by the above estate on and after 14th May, 1908. The necessity for this decision is obviously due to your being incapable of doing a regular day's work. In view, however, of your long services on this estate I am prepared to extend the notice for a particular month so as to enable you to obtain a situation elsewhere.Is not that generous after twenty-five years' service?At the same time you must clearly understand that this special indulgence must be exercised by you in the spirit in which it is given, and that during the time which remains while employed on this estate you must exercise your best endeavours at all times to do a full day's work.Yours faithfully,J. Moir.Were you surprised to receive that letter counsel asked?—Yes.It says in the letter that you were incapable of doing a regular day's work. Were you incapable? —No, that is not correct.On receiving the letter, witness continued, he got friend to write a letter to Lady Wimborne. He went to Canford Manor, and handed the letter to her Ladyship. He kept a copy which counsel read, as follows:If your Ladyship thinks it best for me to go I raise no complaint though I have served you faithfully for twenty-one years, but I do complain of the notice sent to me by Mr. Moir. He says "the necessity of this decision is obviously due to your being incapable of doing regular day's work." I have always done a regular day's work from 6 in the morning until 5:30 at night.Will the Labour party please note that?I have never shirked my work or been absent from it except when seriously ill last year and again this year, but only for nine days, not counting Easter holiday. I feel that the statement of your agent, is a distinct injustice to me, and I should like your Ladyship to know before I leave that I have always done my full day's work for you. Such a statement is unjust and ruinous to a working man, as no man can get a fresh place with such a charge against him in his notice of dismissal. Would your Ladyship be good enough to see that justice is done to me, and notice given me with no such charge contained in it?As time is getting on I will simply say that this man went to her ladyship, but Lady Wimborne refused to continue his employment.
Mr. Geikie, who was clerk of the works on the Canford estate in April, 1908, gave a totally different reason for Best's dismissal from that given by Mr. Moir. Mr. Geikie stated:—Best was dismissed because he was not satisfactory; there had been complaints against him for some time.Cross-examined by Mr. Dickens, witness said. Many years ago Lord Wimborne complained of Best, and asked that he should he dismissed, but the agent, intervened and used his influence, and he was retained. He had not done his work properly for many years, and would not carry out his instructions.' But you bore it bravely until 1908,' said Mr. Dickens.What Lady Wimborne said was that she was sorry she did not prevent the notice. 1065 That is reported in none of the London papers, but it is in the "East Dorset Herald." With regard to the charge that she caused this man to be served with notice to quit, she said that Mr. Moir told her that the man was idle and slack and a bad workman. In cross-examination she said that it was a curious fact that he was the only man Lord Wimborne had noticed as being very idle, and his lordship had some time previously spoken of how he noticed the man's slow movements on the roof of the house. There appeared in the "Labour Leader" a fortnight ago a curious cartoon which thoroughly fits this description. There is the usual appeal to ignorance. A man is depicted sitting in a large room. He has an enormous stomach and a bloated appearance, and he is resting his feet on the mantelpiece. By his side are a bottle of champagne and a bottle of whisky. He is smoking a big cigar, while a flunkey is handing him a glass of champagne. The cartoon was headed, "Go Easy." There is the usual appeal to the prejudice of the working man. I suggest to the "Labour Leader" that next week there should be another cartoon, headed "Canford Manor," and that in it there should appear the same table, with champagne and cigars, and not one flunkey, but half a dozen, whilst sitting in the chair should be the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward).
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I do not know the internal differences of the Labour party; there are so many different sections that I may be mistaken. At any rate, Mr. Havelock Wilson, who represents the seamen, was imported into the constituency because of the sailors at Poole, and the Member for Stoke also went down. This case is precisely similar to what has time after time been charged against the party opposite. This man had worked on the estate for twenty-five years. He was an active Tory in the middle of the camp, and Lady Wimborne said, "My son has fought three elections; he has been kicked out at Brigg, Cockermouth, and Kingswinford. Now at last he is coming here "—to use her own words—"to fight under my own doorstep."
She said definitely that "on no account must we be beaten; we must win." Very well, this man had been taking an active part in politics. He was an active agent of the Tory party—a very silly man, I think. Still, there he was. Why was it, 1066 in view that in the first case Lady Wimborne says he was dismissed because he was slow on the roof of a house many many years before—that was the reason that Lord Wimborne had spoken about—and that Mr. Geikie says he would not carry out his orders that the dismissal given to him on 30th April was of an entirely different character? What did the judges say? Mr. Justice Lawrance, with that sound common-sense which always distinguishes his observations, said this:—Now, dealing with the Best case as we go along, it was not made much clearer by the gentleman who was called, Mr. Geikie, I think, was his name, another Scotsman. Mr. Geikie's evidence (I am only repeating it from memory—we need not trouble to look it up) was this: I did not get rid of him because he could not do a day's work; I got rid of him because he would not do what I told him.' 'Well, you gave him orders, I suppose? 'Yes, I continued to give him orders, and I knew those orders would not be carried out.' I see Mr. Foote shakes his head; he will shake it a great deal more, I daresay, before I have done; but still, that is what he said to me. I said, 'You knew he would not carry out those orders." and he said,' Yes. I knew that.' And they continued in that way until the time came, when his account of getting rid of this man is entirely different from that which was given before, and given by the man himself; that it was due to his being incapable of doing a regular day's work.Now, the other case of that kind of undue influence that is mentioned is the case of King, who had been a tenant of some twenty-five acres of land for some fifteen years. … Well, again all one can say about that is that it may be said, and rightly said, that they are isolated cases and have nothing whatever to do with the election at all, or with Captain Guest's position as adopted candidate on 29th April, 1908. But, again, they are unfortunate — that is all one can say —and unfortunate because they might be looked upon, and probably were looked upon, by some of the people who were occupying land under the Wimborne Estate, as an indication of what would happen to them if they did not what I may call 'come to hand' when the next election came on.Mr. Justice Lawrance said exactly what I am trying to ask the House to agree with me in—that probably these people were intimidated. Mr. Justice Lawrance said:—Now, with regard to both those cases, I do not come to the conclusion that it is made out that they amount to undue influence. I only mention them to show that in my judgment they have been very proper cases to be inquired into. The result has been favourable to the respondent so far as it goes; that is to say, I do not find with regard to those cases that they support the charge that has been founded upon them of undue influence by the Wimborne family.Mr. Justice Pickford said:—It was done at a remarkable time. I mean remarkable if it was intended as undue influence, because it was done on the very day after Captain Guest was accepted as a candidate, and one would think it must have been under contemplation before.So it was. Captain Guest was selected, or nominated, on 28th April. Lady Wimborne was perfectly well aware days before that her son would be, on 28th April, accepted or nominated as the candidate. Therefore, I fail to see why the judges should have tied to the particular period 1067 stated. They evidently did not appreciate the fact that the East Dorsetshire Liberal Association was the creature, the purely servile creature, of Lady Wimborne.
With regard to King, his case was even a more remarkable one than that of Best. He had held land. In August, 1909, Lady Wimborne came round to introduce her son, Captain Guest, to the various tenants on the estate at Canford. Time after time the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated—as I shall show later on—that any landlord who goes round canvassing his tenants or who exercises any pressure, either by canvassing or taking any active part, ought to be ashamed of himself, and is not a proper person to hold land. But here Lady Wimborne spoke at 115 meetings, she—or her agent—canvassed personally all these people, the 800 allotment electors. I need not say that at the last moment before the election a card was sent out by Lady Wimborne frankly putting forward the great virtues of the Wimborne family and saying what they had done for the district. That was, it was said, in reply to an attack in relation to Dowlais which had been made six months previously, and which had not been answered. Three days before the declaration of the poll this pamphlet was sent out to the voters, drawing attention to the cheap allotments and other matters. All this was a direct incentive to the bribery of the electors. If this was not a bribe why was not this charge answered before? Why was it kept? The charge had been lying for eight months, and it had not been circulated in the Division. Here at the last moment you have the great lady of the estate dealing with this charge, and letting every elector in the constituency know what she had done. Is that not undue influence? Is that the unprejudiced return of the Members of this House? There has never been any question that in East Dorset personality has stood first and the cause second. I know Dowlais intimately, and the case there is the antithesis to this.
But what about this case? I quote from "The Times":—Lady Wimborne called at his house with gentleman whom she introduced as Captain Guest. She said she hoped witness would support Captain Guest. Witness said that would he a consideration. Lady Wimborne said she would call again later. She did not call again. Two or three days later a man who was in a motorcar came to sec him. He did not know the man, who asked him: 'Are you a supporter of Captain Guest?' Witness replied, 'No, I am a Conservative. I have a principle, and I must use it.1068 This report is from the "Daily Telegraph":—Her Ladyship said she wished to introduce Captain Guest as the prospective candidate, and hoped witness would support him. Her Ladyship said she would call again. Witness replied that that would be for a consideration.Lady Wimborne denied that consideration. On 29th September King received notice from Lady Wimborne, who was managing the estates, to the effect that he must give up his holding. It was given in evidence, and proved, that the parish council had an abundance of land at that time. What happened? Mr. Andrews, the surveyor, wrote in October, saying that the case was under his consideration, and the man had to give up the land. He was about to leave the land. The petition was filed, and as soon as it was filed he was allowed to retain the land. I ask if it was right—and in cases of the sort where any notice was given, it was not given to a Liberal, they were all Conservatives—if this land was required—as it was not required—why was it that Lady Wimborne gave notice for the land to be given up on 29th September, 1908, and then dangled on with that land up to the time of the petition, and then said that the men could stop?
The most remarkable evidence given in the whole of the cases is, in my opinion, that connected with the allotments. I am not going to deal with all the numerous cases of the allotments. I am going to take one case, and one case only. That was of a man named Meadows. [An HON. MEMBER: "The case was withdrawn."] An hon. Member says that the case was withdrawn. He interrupts me before even he has heard the evidence, for I do not suppose that he has read the newspapers, as I have done. I have spent two or three days going through them, and have given this case my most earnest consideration. I have not a single prejudice against Lady Wimborne, but desire that this intimidation shall be put a stop to. It is only by dealing with a concrete case of this kind that you can deal with the matter—hard though it may be on Lady Wimborne—and that you can deal with this system of terror which has prevailed in the rural districts. It is not a pleasant thing to make an attack of this kind. Let me take the case of Mr. Bantten, who was a cycle agent in Poole. On 3rd August he agreed with Mr. Andrews to purchase a plot of land on the Canford estate, for which he had to pay £65; the total purchase money was £68. That was on 3rd August. Mr. Bantten said the trans- 1069 action occurred in September, but the estate agent stated definitely that the money was paid on the date actually given. On 4th October the conveyance of this piece of land was executed, and three days later the sale took place. On 3rd August the man bought this land at a reserve price. Two months later there was another sale of land, when the reserve price, doubtless owing to the election, was reduced. This is a very curious case. Let me read what Mr. Bantten himself says:—He came to the conclusion that he had paid too much for the land. Shortly afterwards, learning that Captain Guest was in the Poole Liberal Club, he went in, interviewed him, explained the matter, told Captain Guest that be thought he had paid too much, and asked him the best way to deal with the matter. The witness was told that Captain Guest has nothing to do with the matter and witness said he was fully aware of that. He did not remember all the conversation with Captain Guest, but Captain Guest took notes on a paper as to the price of the plots and said he would see what could be done in the matter for witness Subsequently he met Mr. Andrews, who told him he had received the letter instructing him to hand witness back the sum of £8 1s 6d., remarking that there had been a mistake in the price of the land.There had been no mistake. The mistake was due to the fact that Lady Wimborne reduced the price of the land on 4th October, 1909, and then this man, who purchased by private treaty two months previously, comes to Lady Wimborne or to Captain Guest and says: "I paid too much for my land. You are now offering the same land at £8 12s. 6d. cheaper," and he got that amount back; and yet the judges said that that was a fair case on the part of Lady Wimborne. If the land had gone up in price would Mr. Bantten come along to Captain Guest and hand him back the difference in price? The contract in this case had been made previously. The witness had paid his price, and had no reason to claim, but he goes up to Captain Guest in the Liberal club, and Captain Guest said he would see into the matter. "Previous to the polling day Captain Guest called at witness's house and asked if that little job was settled satisfactorily. Witness could not remember definitely what he said, but Captain Guest said it was the best thing that could be done, as there was no case, as witness had no business claim." Of course he had no business claim—" Captain Guest said he was on the right side." Of course he was. "And Captain Guest said he would look in in a few weeks."
In cross-examination witness said that "Mr. Andrews called and said there was something wrong about the reserve price, 1070 and that Lady Wimborne had reduced it to £65." I cannot for a moment see why His Majesty's judges could say that Lady Wimborne was entitled to give back that money and that that was not a corrupt act. A contract is a contract; the sale had taken back two months previously, on 3rd August, 1909, the reserve price in the October sale was reduced, and at the time of the election the chief agent, Lady Wimborne, has no right during that election to reduce the price clearly and only with the object of getting consideration for her relatives.
Captain Guest was examined and he confirms entirely Mr. Bantten's statement. He says he accepted Mr. Bantten's statement as practically correct. There is no dispute about the fact of this case at all. Captain Guest was not very sure about the notes, though he recognised Mr. Bantten, and said, "How do you do?" He also afterwards said, "What about that matter you talked to me about some weeks ago? "He believed Mr. Bantten was satisfied—so he ought to have been with £8 12s. 6d. in his pocket. "I told him," said witness, "that I would mention his name on the first opportunity to my mother that this man had come to me about something he was in doubt in regard to the purchase of land." Lady Wimborne said her son mentioned the case of Mr. Bantten to her, and that the man had a grievance. She told Mr. Andrews about it, and she told him to look into the matter. He looked into the matter, and a cheque for £8 12s. 6d. found its way into the pocket of Mr. Bantten. I cannot for the life of me see why this House should not say that that was a corrupt act within the meaning of the Act of 1882.
The judge, in connection with this charge of personal bribery against Captain Guest, said:—The next matter in order to which I come is the charges of bribery. One of those was a personal charge against Captain Guest himself. The others were charges against his agents. I can see no grounds whatever for the personal charge against Captain Guest. A man who had bought the property came to the conclusion, in consequence of some subsequent sale, that he had paid more than he ought justly and fairly to have paid. He went to Captain Guest and told him so and Captain Guest said: 'It is not a matter I have anything to do with, but I will report the matter to the estate office,' which he did, and according to the evidence from the estate office there had been a mistake. The price the man had been asked to pay had been based upon a certain reserve fixed a year or two before, with a permission to build shops upon the property. As a matter of fact, he did not get the permission to build shops, and a different reserve was fixed when the remainder of the property was put up to be sold, just after the man Bantten had bought his plot.1071 How came it to be decided to give this man this bonus? Perhaps in other circumstances it might have been right to give the money back, but when you want to have purity in your elections the best thing you can do is not to give these bonuses.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I will read the whole if you like.Whether the treatment of him by the estate office which seems to me to be nothing but fair, although he had no legal claim against them, was in any way affected by the fact that there was possibly an election going on, I do not think it matters. But certainly there is, in my opinion, not the slightest ground for saying that anything that has been done by Captain Guest—I am not talking about Captain Guest, I am talking about Lady Wimborne. Captain Guest was a dummy right through.was done in any way improperly, or was more than anybody in his position would have done. I think that charge against Captain Guest entirely fails.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I admit that it was against Captain Guest, and that the charge failed, but it was really Lady Wimborne who was behind the scenes. The petitioners did not know who was behind the scenes. They were at that time in doubt and difficulty to know who was directing and pulling the strings. Lady Wimborne herself says that she instructed this money to be paid.
I will now deal with the case of intimidation which I think makes a fitting conclusion to the part Lady Wimborne and family have played in East Dorset. On the day of the poll Mr. Meaby, who was the estate agent to Lady Wimborne, and had been appointed to that office, I think, in September, 1908, received definite instructions from Lady Wimborne on the eve of the poll that he was to visit certain polling stations, Broadstone and Cranborne, with what purpose? I propose to read some of his evidence so that the House can decide for itself. Here we have, notwithstanding what has been said from the Front Bench, Mr. Meaby, the agent of the great landlady, standing, pencil and book in hand, before the polling booths on the polling day, taking note of the electors. That is not denied. What does the Chancellor of the Exchequer say about proceedings like those? There were 400 electors on the polling day in Broadstone, where 1072 Meaby went, and no less than 100 of these small men get their living through the estate office. This agent went to this place on the polling day purely and only for the purposes of intimidation. He stated in his evidence that he neither said nor did anything to intimidate or to obstruct the election. He had a little notebook in his hand, but it does not now exist. He made no entries in it, he said, until the afternoon, when he copied out the names of persons who had not voted, so that he could send and bring them to the poll. In reply to Mr. Dickens, in cross-examination, he said he was there until about 7.30 or eight o'clock in the evening and that he canvassed about seven or eight voters. The little book was evidently carried for the purpose of making notes. He had put it in his pocket that morning, it was an ordinary pocketbook, for the purpose of making any notes he might want to keep. Mr. Justice Pickford said he could not understand why Mr. Meaby had not kept the notebook in which he made his notes. Mr. Meaby produced a similar book and said the book in question was a similar one. In reply to Mr. Dickens he said he put the book in his pocket that morning. Mr. Dickens suggested that witness had put the book in his pocket because he might want to make notes, and witness said he had torn it up. Mr. Dickens suggested that that was a strange proceeding. Mr. Meaby further said he received a message from Lady Wimborne as to where he was to go, to Broadstone or Cranborne. He had no instructions except as to where he was to go for the day. No time was mentioned in the message, it was left to his discretion. He was there in the interests of Captain Guest. Whom are we to believe—Lady Wimborne or her agent? Arising out of this case I must briefly refer to the reign of terror which prevailed in this district. You are moving for this writ, and you know perfectly well that when it gets down to East Dorset the election is going to be fought on the election petition. All kinds of prejudices will arise which will affect the election, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us in plain language that before the next battle is over we have got to see that something is done to make intimidation impossible, I think there ought to have been after that remark "loud and continued cheers." The two Front Benches on this matter seem to have put their heads together, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman 1073 (Sir A. Acland-Hood) does not want to prejudice his own party, and he knows that if his party votes for my Motion they will prejudice their chance of winning this seat. There are independent hon. Members sitting below the Gangway who know perfectly well that the question of terrorism exercised in agricultural districts is a much greater question than the loss of this seat. I have been a Liberal and a Progressive all my life, and not merely for six years, like Lady Wimborne, and if I were an elector in East Dorset, nothing would persuade me to cast a vote for a member of the Guest family after what I have seen at this last election. I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the president of the Gladstone League, which was formed to put down practices of this kind. The "Daily News" advised its readers not to trust the fine ladies who came to the electors to steal away their votes, and urged them to profess Toryism and vote Liberal. That is what the "Daily News" advocates, and I say that that kind of argument is not calculated to do good but evil. Years ago my Constituents fought for their liberties and this canting, nauseating attack of the "Daily News" is the same kind of monstrous proposition that you must have Captain Coe to propagate the principles of the Liberal propaganda. I could keep the House a couple of hours reading what Liberal Members have said on this question of intimidation. The primary work of the Gladstone League is to defend the independence of the electors. I notice it has been decided by the Gladstone League to open a register of well authenticated cases of intimidation, and I hope the first place put on the register will be that of East Dorset. Let me give to the House an opinion of an honest journalist, probably the greatest we have in this country to-day, Mr. Alfred Spender, the editor of the "Westminster Gazette." [An HON. MEMBER: "He writes against his own party."] It is all very well to say he writes against his own party, but at any rate he writes honestly. The "Westminster Gazette" condemned the action of Lady Wimborne and expressed regret at any action which seemed to make it more difficult for the electors to exercise their vote with the utmost possible freedom. As everybody knows, the "Westminster Gazette" is a Liberal paper which cannot be accused of partiality, and it has stated the whole case correctly. That is the conclusion which I, at all events, have decided 1074 is the only possible conclusion which any sensible person reading the evidence on both sides can arrive at. As I stated in my opening remarks, this election has been characterised by gross expense. I am not a lawyer, and I am not going to attempt to say when an election starts and when it does not. From 28th April, 1908, up to the time of the General Election Captain Guest and Lady Wimborne spent no less than £2,541 in subscriptions to the association, in addition to the full Parliamentary expenses of £1,743. In all they spent during the period I have mentioned £4,284. I have deducted from that sum £153 for printing, and I have also struck out the cost of the meetings, and during the period I have named this vulgar abuse of the Wimborne purse resulted in £4,284 being spent when it was known that if there was a candidate before the electors at all it was Captain Guest. I feel sure that if the authors of the Act of 1883 could be made aware of what has happened their hair would stand on end at the construction which has been placed on the Act by His Majesty's judges. Here you have had all this vulgar abuse of wealth in the way of expenses and party subscriptions. Captain Guest goes into the constituency during the election, and he is nominated by his mother, as the president of the Allotment Society, where there are some 800 electors, and he contributes to no less than seventy slate clubs. If we only knew the money that was contributed during this election I think the House would be astonished. What I object to and what I raise my protest against is that the judges sent by this House to inquire into this petition never asked for Lady Wimborne's pass-book. It was never before the court. Why was not Lady Wimborne's pass-book brought before the full light of day, and why did we not have all the payments made by her? We know that in the case of the printer, Hentschell, Lady Wimborne said it was a German name, and would not do. It is not a German firm at all. It is a very respectable firm in the City, employing 500 hands, and they are all Englishmen. She need not have been frightened to have had the cartoons published by him, but she telegraphed:—Don't send them down in your name, send them down and I will get another name stuck on.Lady Wimborne also had a special edition of the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) printed at a cost of £50. I cannot understand why that was not seen by Mr. Dickens and His 1075 Majesty's judges. It works out at over 2d. a copy. The East Dorset paper is a miserable, thin, four-page paper, sold at a halfpenny, and Lady Wimborne paid £50. The reason the editor gave was that Lady Wimborne wanted all the electors to read what the hon. Member for Stoke had said. If you allow £5 for a portrait of Captain Guest in the paper, it leaves £45 for the speech, and that comes to over 2d. a copy. There is the same extravagant expenditure all through.
I know what the learned Solicitor-General is going to say. He is one of the greatest advocates at the Bar to-day, but the House of Commons is not a jury in the sense that he is going to persuade them that these cases have not been brought home to the people. Legal proof and common sense are two different things. The legal proof present to the minds of lawyers is necessary in the criminal law, but if the Government had wanted to bring cases home after all this shrieking and howling about intimidation in rural districts they ought to have had the courage to face the question practically, and to have said, "this is intimidation of the kind we have been protesting against"— the agent of the landlord watching and besetting electors as they come out of the polling booth. Not at all. The Solicitor-General is going to rely entirely on the dictum of the judges. That is not what was the intention of this House, and what was present to the minds of the authors of the Bill. The construction they placed on these acts was entirely different from the legal dicta which is going to be thrown at us by the Solicitor-General. I say, therefore, that, taking into account the general conditions in our rural life, the case of East Dorset is one where this House ought properly to withhold the writ for twelve months. It would be a punishment not to the constituency but to Lady Wimborne. Mr. Guest and the constituency are merely the creatures of Lady Wimborne. She wants the full reversionary interest of the money she has spent. We have a third Guest going up, and I say it is a scandal. I have the address of this gentleman in my hand. He says:—My brother has been completely exonerated from all the personal charges and accusations made against him by his political enemies, and has only been unseated because certain expenses, in themselves perfectly legitimateI say wholly illegitimate—were, through misinterpretation of the law, at once technical and very uncertain, not included in the return of his election expenses.1076 The "technical and uncertain misinterpretation of the law" is solely in the imagination of Mr. Henry C. Guest, or, rather, of the author, because he did not write this pamphlet. In view of the gross manner in which money was chucked about by the handful in the constituency, I think an overwhelming case has been made out for withholding the Writ, and I can only appeal to the independent Members below the Gangway, because, although they may get some support from the Irish Benches, they will not get any from the Opposition. I have only dealt with a quarter of the cases I have on my paper, but sufficient for the day is the evil thereof in connection with the Guests.
§ Mr. BELLOC
I rise to second the Amendment in the briefest possible manner. I would not trouble the House, and I would not even, I think, have come down to vote upon an ordinary case. It is not because one party is involved more than another. I dissociate myself entirely from the idea of party in connection with this matter, and I may add that I think the bulk of the electors to-day have almost forgotten that parties exist, so far as any difference of principle is concerned between the two Front Benches. I might also dissociate myself from something which fell from the hon. Member who moved the Motion, when he said that things of this sort were peculiar to the South of England. I think you could find men of gigantic strength and indomitable courage anywhere between Long Nose Buoy and Penzance; and I think you will find political corruption spread like thin butter over the whole of the electorate in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. It is the cynicism of this particular movement that causes me to rise. It is in the nature of English politics that a particular constituency is more or less dominated by one wealthy family, and that men should vote in large numbers, especially in rural parts, according to their interests, is a necessity of the case. How can they vote for principle when no principle divides the two Front Benches! There is nothing to vote for, except A or B, nominated by the two caucuses. The cynicism of the movement is this: A very wealthy family, which has subscribed, as is notorious, to both of the party funds, I think, equally, and, at any rate, in very large amounts to both, having been unseated with regard to one of its members, proposes that another of its Members shall be mechanically returned with the aid of the two Front Benches and 1077 their organisations in their interests. That is perfectly intolerable, and it is to protest against that that I rise to second the Motion. There is nothing more to be said about it. We all know it is a scandalous case and that the man has been unseated, and I think it is cynically adding to that scandal that, in the interests of a moribund party system, we should be asked to whitewash them by permitting the same family to exercise the same influences again.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
If the whole or indeed one-half of the facts as stated by the hon. Member who moved had been proved, and if he or the petitioners could have substantiated anything like the statements he has made to this House, then there would be no doubt that the word "scandalous" would be properly applied to what has taken place at the East Dorset election, and I think equally there would be no doubt that the judges' report must have been a very different one from that issued to this House. It is very easy—and I am not quite sure that anyone knows it better than the hon. Member who moved this Motion—in a case of some eight days' hearing to pick out from the great body of evidence certain parts and read them to the House of Commons, knowing—I do not think I am exaggerating—there are not half a dozen Members who have read that evidence, and relying upon being able to make out his case. I have no doubt, approaching it as he does with evidently strong prejudices against the Wimborne family, he found no difficulty in arriving at a conclusion which would make them appear to the House of Commons as persons who were worthy of the greatest blame, who have behaved in the most scandalous manner, and who have used their wealth and position only for the purpose of intimidation, of undue influence, and of doing the very things that we, as a party, and which I think I am justified in saying hon. Members opposite as a party, and all the Members of this House, will always protest strongly against. I do not think it would be right to take up time going through detail the evidence so that I may place the House in a position of forming a judgment upon the matter, but I will take one case and ask the House to consider that carefully, because I noticed the hon. Member devoted to it twenty-five minutes of the one hour twenty-five minutes which his speech occupied. He apparently thought it was the strongest 1078 point he could make, and that it was a, strong case. When the House appreciates how this point stands—and I will tell it very shortly—it will be seen that really nothing but the strongest prejudice in the hon. Member's mind could have blinded him to fairness and have so led him to forming a wrong judgment. What has happened in this particular case? I am not accusing the hon. Member of having wilfully or consciously formed a wrong judgment. I am saying he has approached the case apparently with a strongly biassed mind, and has not observed a balance of judgment when he examined the evidence. He referred to the Bantten case — the £8 12s. 6d. case. That is a case which, he said, showed in the strongest degree a corrupt act. The House will remember that in the conclusion at which the judges arrived, they had the benefit not only of seeing and hearing the witnesses, but also of hearing the speeches of the counsel who appeared on both sides, for days they had been examining into this matter, and they had come to the conclusion that so far as any question of attack on the honour of either Captain Guest or Lady Wimborne were concerned, the case might be dismissed. I come to the Bourne Valley case. My hon. Friend is quite right when he said there was no substantial dispute as to that. The evidence showed that a fixed price was arrived at on the understanding that a certain reserve had been placed upon lots of a certain character, and upon that footing the figure of £68 12s. 6d. was arrived at. It was ascertained subsequently that that was not correct, that that particular reserve did not apply, although my hon. Friend was perfectly right in saying there was a legal contract by which this man was bound to pay £68 12s. 6d. After it was discovered that the reserve upon which that figure was based was not the same reserve as was fixed for other lots under similar circumstances, and that consequently, he had paid £8 12s. 6d. too much, he very naturally complained; he complained that the price fixed was higher than that paid by others similarly circumstanced, and he made the complaint to Captain Guest, who referred him to the estate agent. Inquiry was made, and it was found to be perfectly true that the man had either paid too much or was being called upon to pay £8 12s. 6d. in excess of the proper price. My hon. Friend said in respect of that there could be no stronger evidence of a corrupt act. But the judges say, although 1079 it was perfectly true either he was bound to pay the money or had paid it under a legal contract, there was a moral obligation on the part of the Wimborne estate to return the money although it could not be recovered in law. It had been received under circumstances which, in the words of Justice Lawrance, would render it unfair to keep the money in the pockets of the Wimborne estate, and thereupon in view of those facts it was determined that the amount should be returned. That was a fair position, and what happened was that the man was placed in exactly the same position as others who had not paid the same amount of money. Can the House wonder, when the judges came to consider this, and when they examined the evidence and found there was no dispute of fact at all about it, that they themselves put to themselves the question, "What would we have done in similar circumstances?" and that they came to the conclusion they would have said that this money was to be returned. Unless they were administering the estate of a deceased person or a minor that is exactly what would have been done. Numbers of land owners would have done the very same thing under similar circumstances—finding that there had been a mistake and that the money had been paid under a contract of payment under a mistaken impression, it was returned, although there was no legal right of recovery. The judges said, as a matter of common sense, and trying the case with a considerable knowledge of human nature, that it was a right and honourable thing to do. Therefore they acquitted Captain Guest of any corrupt motive in that matter.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I have the report—I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman has—of the evidence of Mr. Kendal, which is exactly opposite to what he has been saying.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I should like to read what has been said with regard to the facts. I have not Mr. Kendal's evidence, and I really do not understand how it applies.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
We are discussing the evidence given and heard by the judges upon which they came to their conclusion, and I am asking the House to bear in mind what the judges stated upon those facts. They said:—The next matter in order to which I come is the charges of bribery. One of those was a personal charge against Captain Guest himself. The others were charges against his agents. I can see, no grounds whatever for the personal charge against Captain Guest. A man who had bought the property came to the conclusion, in consequence of some subsequent sale, that he had paid more than he ought justly and fairly to have paid. He went to Captain Guest and told him so and Captain Guest said: 'It is not a matter I have anything to do with, but I will report the matter to the estate office, which he did, and according to the evidence from the estate office there had been a mistake. The price the man had been asked to pay had been based upon a certain reserve fixed a year or two before, with a permission to build shops upon the property. As a matter of fact he did not get the permission to build shops, and a different reserve was fixed when the remainder of the property was put up to be sold, just after the man, Bantten, had bought his plot. That was taken into consideration, a calculation was made as to the difference between the price based upon one reserve and upon the other, and that was repaid to hint. Again whether the treatment of hint by the estate office, which seems to me nothing but fair, although he had no legal right against them, was in any way affected by the fact that there was possibly an election going on in the district, I do not think matters, but certainly there is in my opinion, not the slightest ground for saying that anything that was done by Captain Guest was done in any way improperly or was more than anybody in his position would have done. I think that charge against Captain Guest entirely fails.That is the gravest charge made by my hon. Friend. I would remind the House also that it is the gravest charge in the case, because it is a charge of bribery made against Captain Guest—the only charge of that nature made in the petition —and when we find that, after a long examination of the evidence, not only Justice Lawrance but Justice Pickford come to the same conclusion, it does become difficult to understand how my hon. Friend reconciles that unbiassed view of the evidence with the statement he has made. He put forward the Bourne Valley case as a reason for the suspension of the issue of the Writ for the remainder of the Session, but may I point out that so little were the judges impressed with the evidence on this part of the case that when counsel proposed to address them in regard to it Mr. Justice Pickford stopped him.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
My hon. Friend is quite wrong, that case was abandoned by counsel for the petitioners. I have pointed out to the House in respect of the Bantten case the judges, having heard the evidence and seen the witnesses and docu- 1081 ments, thought so little of it that when counsel for the respondent was proposing to address himself to that part of the case the learned judge waived it on one side and said, "Do not trouble about that." But that is an entirely different matter from the Bourne Valley case. The case upon which the allegations were made in the petition against the respondent so entirely and completely broke down very soon after the evidence had been started by the petitioner that it was abandoned by counsel for the petitioner and nothing further was said in regard to it; indeed, the costs had to be paid by the petitioner to the respondent in respect of that.
Before I sit down I would say one or two words upon some other aspects of the case. I want first to call the attention of the House to how this matter stands. Why is it that my hon. Friend has moved the suspension of the issue of the Writs? It is not because the learned judges have reported that there has been general bribery, corruption, and illegal practices in this particular case. Apparently my hon. Friend has not told the House that the judges in their report, which they are bound to make under the statute to this House, have actually stated that there is not only no charge proved, but that there is no evidence establishing it. It does not stop there, but there is a duty imposed on the judges, notwithstanding that the charge is not proved, to state if necessary that there is reason to believe extensive bribery and corruption or illegal practices were prevalent in the constituency, notwithstanding that individual cases could not be proved; and thereupon the House would, in the ordinary circumstances, suspend the issue of the Writ until further information was obtained. Let me point out in this case we are dealing with the judges' report. They say corrupt and illegal practices have not been proved to have existed, and that moreover they see no reason to believe that corrupt or illegal practices extensively prevail in the constituency. Under these circumstances, just see what it is that the House is being asked to do. It is to disfranchise—because that is what it means—during the whole of the Session this constituency because apparently proper returns have not been made of the election expenses of Captain Guest by his agent or by Lady Wimborne, who, as was found by the judges, was acting as his agent. When you have this state of fact proved and this report made by the elec- 1082 tion judges—not only that there was no personal charge made against the candidate—not only that there was no corruption or illegal practice prevalent in the constituency, but, further, that they had no reason to believe any such state of things existed, really it does seem absurd to ask this House to disfranchise a constituency apparently in order—I am using the words of the hon. Member himself—that Lady Wimborne, who has no vote, may be punished. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this matter more at leisure, and really to bring his judgment more to bear upon the position that he has put forward, and, if he does. I am quite sure, if he approaches the consideration in a more equable frame of mind, he will see that he stands forward here not as the champion of justice, but as asking the House of Commons to do as unjust a thing as it is possible to conceive.
You have something like 14,700 electors in East Dorset, and a very large number of electors are electors who did not vote for the Liberal side, and, so far as I understand, the fortunes of the constituency have wavered a good deal. I see that so far back as 1906, and after the conversion of the Wimborne family to Liberal views, the Liberal majority was only twenty-one, although it had been some 820 in 1904. How is the House of Commons to say, that as the result of the indictment which has been brought by the hon. Member against Lady Wimborne— because his attack has all been directed against Lady Wimborne, and he must put his proposition in this way—that as the result of his attack as against Lady Wimborne we ought to punish the general electorate. He says fairly enough, with regard to the general electorate, "I have nothing to say, I have no attack to make upon those who are entitled to exercise the franchise in that constituency, but I am very angry with Lady Wimborne, and, in my opinion, the judges who tried the case have come to an utterly wrong conclusion," and therefore, he says, we should take the course he proposes. He is quite entitled to hold the view that the judges have come to a wrong conclusion, but he is not entitled to go this step further, that he wishes this House to travel with him and say the judges are wrong in the view they have taken of Lady Wimborne, and the consequence is the constituency has to be disfranchised. That is actually what his proposal is. Will the House bear in mind that formerly the House of Commons 1083 itself used to deal with these election petitions, but in 1868 it was thought desirable that they should not be tried by a Committee of this House, but that they should be relegated for trial to the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice. The consequence has been that ever since that time we have had them tried in the High Court, and when the House of Commons parted with its jurisdiction over election petitions so far as control of them was concerned, then I say that they placed with the judges the right to determine these matters, although I am not suggesting, and do not for one moment suggest, that the House of Commons is not entitled to examine the evidence and to examine what has taken place. I never made any such suggestion. What I do say is that it would be a somewhat curious result if Parliament, having sent these matters to be tried by the judges, who have had an opportunity of hearing and seeing the witnesses and of testing their veracity, were then to sit as a court of appeal without having anything like the same advantages that the judges have had, and to overrule their judgment, although in respect of the certificate which has been given by the judges Parliament cannot overrule that.
The judges have declared that the election is void, and there can be no possible means of overriding that certificate. It is final to all intents and purposes. What the House of Commons can do, and what it is quite entitled to do, is to consider the report of the judges, and it is for the House of Commons to say whether the writ shall issue now in respect of the seat for which the election has been declared void by the judges. I really feel that I should be almost wearying the House if I went into any detail as to what has been said by my hon. Friend in regard to other matters, and if I do so it is only because I do not think it is right or fair that this House should only have a one-sided view of what has been proved and what actually took place at the trial of this petition, but I shall deal very briefly with the matters referred to by my hon. Friend. First of all, he dealt with the complaint in regard to Eli Best, and I do not think as to that he made quite the use which he was entitled to make as to the incident of the man who did some work upon the roof, because the real explanation of that was simply and solely this: It was suggested that the man was a very good man, and that no fault could 1084 be found with him at all, whereupon it was said that Lady Wimborne stated: "I know that is not so, because Lord Wimborne complained to me of this man and of some work he was doing on the roof." The only value of that is as a piece of evidence, but really my hon. Friend seemed to seek to make out that it was sought to justify the sending of this man away on the day when Captain Guest was selected as a candidate, and he was sent away because, some weeks before, he had been found fault with. With reference to this and other matters the whole point which the judges have to consider is whether there is a corrupt motive in the cases which are charged, and they also have to consider whether there has been any undue influence exercised. They considered that, and they came to the conclusion that none had been established, and therefore the charges failed.
I come to what was said about the Dowlais affair. My hon. Friend might have told us a little more in justice to the Guest family than what he actually said with regard to that. The pamphlet, to which the publication complained of was a reply, was, it was quite true, published some six months before, but it was a pamphlet which was characterised by Mr. Justice Pickford as a scandalous and disgraceful attack upon Captain Guest and the Wimborne family. That matter was again resuscitated by an article in one of the newspapers, and, Captain Guest being abroad at the time, it was pointed out to Lady Wimborne what the effect of this was in the Division where it was doing harm, and I ask hon. Members who have fought constituencies just to imagine this. Suppose in the Division they represent a scandalous and disgraceful attack was made upon themselves and their family, and it was ascertained that in point of fact it was being repeated in the constituency, and had had some effect. What was done in this case? A reply was published, and I should have thought that there could be no further attack made upon that score; quite the reverse. They were not only justified, but they were bound to make a defence to this charge the moment they found that the attack was having weight in the constituency. All that could be said about that and the whole gravamen of the attack against them in the election petition was that they had not issued it for six months after the first attack was issued. Thereupon the answer, which I suggest to this House was quite obvious, 1085 was explained to the judges, and except in so far as it has any bearing upon the return of the election expenses, it has no bearing upon this matter, and that would be said, I have no doubt, by the election judges and by the counsel engaged in the case.
It all came down to this one point: was the answer which was made to that Dowlais attack, one for which the expenses ought propertly to be attributable to election expenditure? That was the point upon which the question was raised, and I again remind hon. Members of this; and I am speaking to men, many of whom have sat before, and many of whom will sit again, in this House. I say, speaking as a lawyer and as one who has contested several elections, it is very difficult to say at what precise moment when you are a candidate your election expenses begin to run, and how far you are entitled to incur them, without counting them in your election expenses. It is, after all, a technical question, and it is in respect of this question that the judges have found against Captain Guest, and declared that his election is void. So much for the Dowlais matter. Now, as to the next point, which I think was the only other one of any importance—Mr. Meaby's case, who was accused of intimidation and undue influence. If Mr. Meaby was sent there for the purpose of directing undue influence, and was directed to stand, and did stand, there with that object, in my opinion nothing more is necessary, in order to make it plain that he was guilty of undue influence. And I say more than that. Speaking for myself, I make this observation, that there is no more reprehensible practice at elections than that of sending a representative of the big landowner, the big manufacturer, or the big agriculturist—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or of the trades unions."]—I make no distinction, but I say to send men of that character to stand by the door of the polling booth for the purpose of finding out how a man votes, and for the purpose of exercising any undue influence upon him is very reprehensible. Speaking for myself, and I am only expressing my own opinion, I would like to see the system of appointing persons to stand at the doors of polling booths checking electors as they go in and as they come out done away with, and certainly with regard to any man holding a position of influence in the constituency. I think that it is most objectionable that he should stand at the door of the polling booth and see 1086 who is going in and who is coming out. No one expressed herself more strongly upon that point than Lady Wimborne when she was asked the question in the witness-box. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Are hon. Members quite doing justice to Lady Wimborne when they cheer, and are obviously inclined to treat with derision her statement on oath, which was accepted by the judges, and which further led them to say that she had most fairly, frankly, and fully made answer to the questions they put, whether they told in her favour or not? I do not think hon. Members are really treating her quite fairly when, without knowing what has taken place, they are at once so inclined to scoff at a statement made on oath.
Let me say what really happened with regard to that. According to Lady Wimborne, this Mr. Meaby, who was described by one of the judges as the meekest and mildest old gentleman he had ever seen and by the other as a benevolent person, who, he was sure, was not able to intimidate anyone, was sent to one of two places simply for the purpose of seeing whether the voters who had promised their vote had actually voted according to the promise. That, I think, happens in every constituency, or, at any rate, in most constituencies, where it is the object of the Member and those who are working for him to see that the promises which have been made have been fulfilled as far as they are able to influence their fulfilment. I leave out all controversial matters with regard to it. This fact is quite sufficient to deal with any motive which was in Lady Wimborne's mind. She said he was either to go to Cranborne or to Broadstone. Cranborne is twelve miles from Broadstone, and the benevolent old gentleman chose the nearer place, Broadstone. With respect to that, the denial and the statement which had been made by Lady Wimborne was accepted by the court after she had been cross-examined at length, quite rightly and properly, by counsel for the petitioner, and what the judges say is what, I think, we shall all agree to, that it was a most undesirable thing, and indeed a reprehensible thing, that any man should go and stand at the door of the polling booth under these circumstances. Lady Wimborne emphatically denied that she sent him there for that purpose or gave any such instructions. She denied it on oath, and was 1087 cross-examined on it, and her statement was accepted by the judges. That disposes of Mr. Meaby.
With reference to the slate clubs, I do not quite know whether the hon. Member meant that as an attack or not, but certainly with regard to this the evidence was perfectly plain. Lord Wimborne had years ago subscribed to slate clubs. Captain Guest himself subscribed to slate clubs, and, having done it, his attention was called to it by his opponent, Captain Nicholson, and he thereupon took counsel's opinion upon the matter and did everything he could to ascertain whether he was doing anything wrong. He was told he was entitled to do it, and that there was nothing wrong in it, and he went on doing it. He never made any secret of it. It was done quite openly from the first, and everyone in the constituency knew it. There again the judges acquitted him clearly of anything in the nature of improper action in reference to these slate clubs, as they did in reference to everything else. I have travelled over the ground, not I agree in such detail as my hon. Friend, for the reason that it is an absolute impossibility for this House to pass a judgment upon the evidence given during eight days unless hon. Members read the evidence for themselves. When they have read the evidence they are not in the same position as the court which tried the case, because no one who has experience of courts of justice will doubt this, that it is invaluable to see the witness when he is giving evidence, and to observe his demeanour; and that no one can be in such a good position to form an opinion of the credibility of the witness as a person who has been present and heard the whole of the evidence and the argument from beginning to end. It really would be the height of absurdity to ask the House to resolve itself into a Court of Appeal in these matters. I am only repeating what was said some few years ago by the Attorney-General in the last Conservative Administration, who is now absent at The Hague, representing Canada in the Newfoundland Fisheries Arbitration, upon whose views, of course, reliance was placed. I commend the same views to the House. I will merely ask any Member of the House to consider for himself for a moment whether, after the speech he has heard from my hon. Friend of an hour and twenty-five minutes, of which perhaps twenty minutes were taken up in reading evidence, they 1088 are satisfied to dissent from the judgment of two of His Majesty's judges after eight days' trial, and after hearing the arguments of counsel on both sides? If the House of Commons is going to do that, it will make it absolutely impossible, it appears to me, for anyone to come to any sound judgment upon this matter unless he sits himself down and prepares to weigh carefully all the evidence on both sides with the greatest care, and I know something of the labour of it, although, of course, I am used to dealing with documents of this character, and used to reading evidence. I am quite certain the House never could be expected to take up that position. I would really ask my hon. Friend, now that he has ventilated the views which he has formed upon the evidence, whether he desires to proceed further with this Motion, which, if carried, will only have the effect of disfranchising some 14,700 electors, and for which there is no justification?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I have not dealt with Worcester, because it is, of course, a totally different case. In Worcester there were three Commissioners appointed in order to examine into the general bribery and corruption which was reported to the House—Sir Charles Matthews, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Tindal Atkinson, and Mr. Horace Avory—and they reported that in the constituency there were some 500 out of, I think, an electorate of just upon 8,000 who were corrupt, and I think the majority was about 180, so that it was clear that among the corrupt section of the constituency there was a sufficient number to have turned the scale of the election. They reported against it. This House discussed it, I think, three times, and eventually, after something like thirteen months, a Writ was issued. The difference between that case and this is all important. In this case there was a report by the judges that they found as a fact, or had reason to believe, that there was general corruption or illegal practices.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that the Commissioners at Worcester found that? They found the contrary.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I do not think he quite followed what I said. I did not 1089 say they found that the electorate was wholly corrupt. What I said was that they found that 500 out of 8,000 were corrupt, and that as the majority was only some 180, out of that 500 there were enough corrupt electors to have turned the scale.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I interrupted the hon. and learned Gentleman because he said that in the Dorsetshire case the judges found there had not been general corruption. He was contrasting this case with Worcester, and I thought he implied by that the Commissioners at Worcester had found there had been general corruption. They found that there had not.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I think we are only quarrelling about words, and we mean the same thing. If 500 electors out of 8,000 were corrupt, I should think I was justified in saying that there was corruption prevalent in the constituency, in the words of the Act of Parliament, and that there was general corruption, although I should take care to make it plain that I did not mean that to apply to the whole electorate. There you have the report of the judges, and you have the Commissioners who went down to examine some ninety persons who were named by the Commissioners in the return. There were a number of prosecutions, and the report dealt with them at length. In the Worcester petition there was this great difference, that the House waited, and the Commission returned with a report, and the House said, after a Debate, that there was a state of corruption prevailing in Worcester, and, therefore, they thought the writ ought not to be issued. When you once get a report from a Commission that there has been anything in the nature of corruption or illegal practices prevailing, I agree that the House must take some steps; but when, as in this case, the court says there has not only not been any corruption or illegal practice prevalent in the constituency, but that, apart altogether from the legal evidence which was brought before them, and after all the examination that the court had made into the circumstances, there is no reason to believe that there is such a state of things existing in the constituency, I think the House will follow the course it always does under such circumstances, and allow the writ to issue so that the constituency may no longer suffer from the disadvantage of the result of Captain Guest not having made a proper 1090 return of his election expenses. The last observation I desire to make upon this matter is this: If you take the charges as I have done, one by one and step by step, and deal with them on the evidence as presented in the Report, you must come to the conclusion that, so far as Captain Guest was concerned, there was no foundation for any charge against him, and that as regards Lady Wimborne she acted as his agent, and did not return the election expenses she ought to have done. In respect of that the court came to the conclusion that the election ought to be declared void, and it was declared void. My hon. Friend has referred to the question of the definition of election expenses. All I can say is that it has puzzled every judge who ever set himself to determine the precise point at which election expenses have to be included in the return. After all, if it has puzzled the judges it is not difficult to understand that it has also puzzled Captain Guest, Lady Wimborne, the election agent, or anybody in this House, however experienced in elections. I can only say that, although you may lay down some sort of indication of what election expenses are, there must always be some risk as to what are not legitimate expenses in an election. On these grounds I ask the House to allow the writ to issue and to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I am entirely in accord with the conclusion of the learned Solicitor-General, but I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Markham) has done well in initiating what has been a very interesting, and, especially to our side of the House, a very instructive and illuminating Debate, and particularly in eliciting the contribution which has just been given by the Solicitor-General. He said that the hon. Member for Mansfield had approached the case from the standpoint of prejudice against the Wimborne family. I think that is hardly doing justice to the hon. Member for Mansfield. He has introduced it from the standpoint of the Gladstone League, and it seems to me that his main point was that he wanted to give practical effect to the superfine views of the Gladstone League. Accordingly he initiated the Debate by making a personal appeal to one of his leaders, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who holds the honourable position of President of the League, to come and listen to a few home truths. I am pleased to see that in the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the Home Secretary is here, 1091 and perhaps he will communicate them to his colleague. I am bound to say that I welcomed one of the observations the Solicitor-General made at the outset of his speech when he said that he felt certain that hon. Members on this side of the House as strongly and completely condemned all such practices as the Gladstone League seeks to condemn them. I wish he could inoculate his colleagues who support the Gladstone League with something of his own fairness and charity. It shows how responsible position in the House of Commons tempers the language which men are very apt to indulge in when speaking on the platform. I only hope that not only the president of the Gladstone League, but all the members of that organisation, will take to heart the tone which the Solicitor-General has adopted to-day. If a change in the politics of the Wimborne family had not taken place, and if they had been on our side of politics, how would hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side have spoken of them then? Hon. Members opposite think, of course, that all the political virtues belong to them. This is an illuminating Debate, and I think the hon. Member for Mansfield has done done for the purity of election, not so much from his own party's point of view as from the point of view of getting fairness to their opponents from those who pretend to be so much better than other people. I hope we will have no more of the cant about wealthy landowners. The Solicitor-General, while he has spoken on nearly all the points that have been raised, said nothing about the strongest point which the hon. Member for Mansfield made. If I may borrow the language of the hon. Member, without expressing approval of it, that point was the vulgar abuse of the Wimborne purse. The Solicitor-General had not a word to say in condemnation of that.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I omitted to note it. He must have spoken very pianissimo on that point—certainly not nearly so audibly as in his peroration. I rise to emphasise the appeal that we may have less of the sanctimonious purity which condemns Conservatives and Unionists with respect to the power of the purse. I cannot support the Amendment because, in the first place, I think it would not be well for this House, after the scanty examination which it is possible to give to 1092 the question in a Debate like this, to overrule the considered judgment of the election judges. I think that would be unfair to the judges, to the House, and to the constituency. In the second place, even if we were to be told that the whole electorate of 14,000 are, like the Liberal candidate, in the pocket of the Lady of the Manor, I think it would be unfair that they should be disfranchised for a Session. I do not think that any reason has been shown why the Writ should not issue.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I wish to associate myself in the expression of thanks to the hon. Member for Mansfield for bringing the subject before the House, although I neither agree with his conclusion nor see my way to support his Amendment. The hon. Member for Mansfield appealed several times to those who sit below the Gangway. I listened very attentively to his speech in order to find some justification for going into the Lobby in support of his Motion, but during the whole hour and twenty-five minutes he spoke I never heard a single argument in favour of the punishment which the carrying of his Amendment would mete out to the electorate of this constituency. I follow very closely all these electoral matters, because I have old associations with electioneering, and I must say that when I read through the report of this case I could not see anything which implicated the electorate generally in the charge of corruption, or anything which would justify this House in inflicting any punishment on the constituency as a whole. I think none of us, on whatever side of the House we sit, can for a single moment condone the practices which were brought before the Court, and especially the part played in the election by Lady Wimborne, but I think myself that not only Lady Wimborne, but Captain Guest and the other members of the family, have got their punishment. It must have been, one would imagine, a tremendous blow, not only to the Member, but also to Lady Wimborne, that the election petition should have resulted as it did, for we must remember that it was Captain Guest's fourth election. In three of them he had been unsuccessful, and I have not the shadow of a doubt that much money was lavished on all the three previous contests. When eventually he was successful in getting a majority of the electorate in his favour, it must have been a blow to find himself dragged through the court, and finally unseated. As regards Lady Wim- 1093 borne and Captain Guest, I do not think there is a single Member of the House who would say that the punishment has been exaggerated, but when we go from this family to the electors, as a whole, I say that not a single charge has been found against them; and I venture to say that the judges, who are always very ready to detect these things, would have been the first to have said that the electorate, as well as the Member, were deserving of what punishment could be inflicted if there had been cause for that. The hon. Member for Mansfield strove very hard to identify the Labour party with this little episode. Let me say emphatically for his information that the Labour party were in no way, directly or indirectly, connected with it. Neither of the gentlemen to whom he referred has, so far as I am aware, ever received the Whips of any other party than the party responsible for moving the issue of this Writ to-day. I hope we have heard the last of the charges made against the Labour party in this connection.
§ Mr. LYELL
I listened to the hon. Member for Mansfield during the hour and twenty-five minutes he occupied in delivering his spech. He expressly disclaimed any desire whatever to receive the cheers of hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite, yet in spite of that desire time after time his speech, to his great embarrassment, was punctuated by rounds of ringing applause by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. LYELL
I have some small claim to speak in this matter, because I have some experience in the constituency. I arrived in that constituency and won my first election there without any help from the Wimborne family. When I arrived there I found an extremely flourishing Liberal association which I endeavoured to leave in an equally flourishing condition. Therefore the idea that the Liberal association down there is a child or a creature of Lady Wimborne's is a pure delusion. In addition, I have this claim to speak on the matter, that I suppose I am the only Member of this House who was present in court during the hearing of the petition. When I listened to the hon. Member's speech I was immensely struck by the close likeness between that speech and the speeches which I heard from counsel representing the petitioners in that case. I 1094 do not know whether the hon. Member is a lawyer or not, but if he is I have no doubt whatever that an excessively lucrative practice awaits him if he turns his attention to election petitions. He told us he spoke as a Member of the House of Commons which, when it acted in its judicial capacity, was eminently to be trusted. If the hon. Member's speech is an earnest of his idea of a judicial attitude of mind Heaven preserve the House of Commons from ever attempting to take up a judicial attitude or any judicial responsibility in matters of election petitions.
On the question of intimidation in the reference of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to Mr. Meaby, I think there was a point which he missed. Lady Wimborne offered Mr. Meaby his choice of two places. He could either go to Cranborne or to Broadstone. These two places are widely apart. At the polling station at Broadstone a considerable number of tenants on the Canford estate came down to vote, but at Cranborne itself there was not a single tenant on the Canford estate registered. The Wimborne family do not own a foot of land within seven miles of it, and the mere fact that Lady Wimborne gave Mr. Meaby the alternative of going to either of these two places shows that the whole idea of exercising intimidation of any kind was wholly absent from her mind. If Mr. Meaby had gone to Cranborne he could have done nothing whatever in the way of influencing anybody. One of the judges declared that it was only necessary to see Mr. Meaby in the box to make it impossible to believe that any human being could have been intimidated by him. Again, on the point of intimidation there is a kind of general allegation that acts of intimidation prevailed in this Division. I have just been informed that Captain Guest polled 600 more votes than he received promises. I think that that fact alone, if hon. Members will turn it over in their minds, disposes pretty effectively of the charge of intimidation. When intimidation is rife the side on which it exists receives a far greater number of promises than it acutally gets of votes, and the mere fact that Captain Guest's votes largely exceeded the promises which his side received is an effectual answer to the charge of a general atmosphere of intimidation.
All these charges of bribery and intimidation were expressly declared by the Commissioners to be not proved. The seat was vacated on the question of ex- 1095 penses. What were the expenses? There was a Liberal van. I think we are perfectly entitled to maintain that that was an educational measure. What is the object of all elections? It is to make one's own side prevail in order that the idea one supports may prevail in the House and in the nation. The machinery is laid down by which those ideas are to prevail by our constitutional system. The men are chosen. In order to get chosen, in order that the machinery may be worked so that the ideas may prevail, we all know perfectly well it is necessary that we should make ourselves acquainted with the electors so that our agreeable personality may become known. We are all so impressed with the charm of our own personality that we know it is only necessary for us to become sufficiently well known to the electors in the Division for the wheels to turn round and for us to be chosen and the ideas we represent to prevail. It has been laid down that our expenses of making ourselves known may begin to run at a far earlier time than we had supposed possible. I think every candidate has been left in a doubtful position by the decision of Mr. Justice Pickford. Before that decision was given counsel for Captain Guest entreated Mr. Justice Pickford, almost with tears in his eyes, to lay down a final definite rule on this point as to the time from which election expenses apply. Mr. Justice Pickford, in his judgment, said he had spent long hours in endeavouring to find some principle, but that he had totally failed, and that he must now fall back upon the old weight of authority given by previous judges.
I think that the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Belloc) is in a very happy position in this matter. He is now chosen to play the part of Minos to the Rhadamanthus of the hon. Member for Mansfield. I think he is one of the people who in the election of 1906, having made their appearance in the political field only a very short time before the election, were elected Members, and he has remained Member for Salford ever since, thereby gaining that privilege which we all value so very much of being able to send a Christmas card to our constituents without it being charged in our election expenses, as I believe it would be charged to a candidate. A Member has certain privileges, we are given to understand, by law which a candidate is not entitled to. I merely mention that to show the unsatisfactory state 1096 of the law. If the judges are not able to lay down, and if a judge of the acumen of Mr. Justice Pickford is not able to find a principle to go on, it is time that this House took the matter in hand and passed some legislation of a declaratory nature, in order that this whole matter of election expenses may be put upon a more satisfactory basis.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The learned Solicitor-General did not allude to the fact that in this case the judges found most distinctly that there had been intimidation. They said it had been proved to their satisfaction. They also found, as regards the charges of bribery, that they were not proved, but that considerable doubt was raised. As regards undue influence, it was held to be a matter of grave suspicion. Surely, after that decision of the judges, it was clear enough that at the East Dorset election there was intimidation. I rejoice that the eyes of the people of this country have been opened to the fact that at the elections, both in Hartlepool and in East Dorset, methods were used which are absolutely repulsive and repugnant to the feelings of the vast majority of the people of these islands. This would not be of so much importance were it not for the formation of that hypocritical organisation known as the Gladstone League. The party opposite support it. The Government is supported by the three different sections—the Radicals, the Labour Party, and the Nationalists. [An Hon. MEMBER: "I beg your pardon."] They have supported the present Government, as far as I have seen, this Session. Those sections have been in very large numbers elected by methods which absolutely reek of intimidation. Take the Irish Party first. Are we to suppose there was no intimidation in the United Irish League, or the Molly Maguires, or the Big Sticks? Take the Labour Party. Are we to suppose that, in their case, there was no intimidation, and that there were none of those insidious methods which are used by trade unions.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I have said that they were insidious. It is perfectly impossible to say exactly what they are; but every honest man knows that trade unions do use these methods of intimidating the electors. The country has now awakened to the fact that the Gladstone League is absolutely organised 1097 hypocrisy. And after this wonderful league has been started, what happens? The first two cases brought forward are most damning to the Liberal party, and will, I am thankful to say, undoubtedly lose them thousands of votes at the next election. As regards the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division, I cannot vote for it because I do not see why the innocent electors should be disfranchised for the sins of the Liberal supporters of Captain Guest. I am very glad indeed that both the late Members have been completely exonerated of any personal part in these disgraceful transactions, although I can only marvel at the laxity of the supervision which they exercised over those who were concerned in these matters. I consider that the hon. Member for Mansfield Division has done a public service by drawing attention to these two elections, and I hope that they will have a very great and marked effect in the country.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The hon. Member who has just sat down has spoken of intimidation which he alleges is pursued by trade unions. He was careful not to express what the acts of intimidation were, but by his assumption that every honest man knew that such things were done it is evident that the hon. Member, in his dealings with politics, lives in such an atmosphere of corruption and intimidation that he cannot conceive the possibility of other people acting independently and according to principle. The trade unions have no intimidatory power which they could exercise. They are formed for the purpose of protecting their members against intimidation by the very class for which the hon. Member speaks. The trade union does not give employment. It has no power of influence one way or the other which it can exercise over its Members who vote according to their principles. Therefore a charge of that kind is obviously baseless because of its absurdity. I was greatly interested in the speech of the Solicitor-General, especially in its omissions. His attempt to whitewash the Guest family and those responsible for the conduct of the election in East Dorsetshire, and to make it appear that the court had entirely exonerated everyone connected with that contest from all blame and responsibility, was worthy of his ability and powers of eloquence. Anyone who cares to take the trouble to read the judges' report in re- 1098 gard to corruption, intimidation, and undue influence will see that they were quite clear that the Guests and their agents had been sailing remarkably close to the wind, and that they simply managed to escape, and nothing more. In the case of Meaby, it is quite true, as the Solicitor-General said, that the judges described him as an old man of inoffensive appearance, who could not intimidate anyone, but Mr. Justice Lawrance went on to add that this did not affect the point that he was intended to exert influence by his presence. For the moment my point is this, that proceedings like those at Hartlepool have revealed a state of political life which I think must be becoming alarming to men of all parties—I mean the growing expenditure in connection with elections. There always must be a certain advantage on the side of persons of wealth and social influence in connection with electioneering work. That is natural, inevitable. We found it to be the case when we were fighting the Liberal candidates in East Glamorgan, where the colliery owners and their managers who were Liberals sought to exert influence in the interests of the Liberal candidates. I do not blame them for that. I am only trying to prove that Liberals are almost as bad as those on the other side. Social influence will always be a factor in elections, as will also great wealth, but it should be the object of all parties to minimise these influences as much as possible, and to prevent them from becoming either corruption or intimidation. The facts revealed in the East Dorset election petition inquiry in regard to elections point a moral which I should have thought the Solicitor-General would have taken advantage of in the course of his speech. He told us about the difficulty of deciding when election expenditure began, but here are the facts:
Captain Guest was adopted Liberal candidate in April, 1908, whereupon he began to subscribe to all the slate clubs in the constituency. It was admitted that up to that date no one of his family had done so before, but that Captain Guest had heard his father had done so; but certainly this was a fresh start on his part. He admitted that he had paid the financial secretary to the East Dorsetshire Liberal Association, in October, 1909, and February, 1910, the sum of £295. He paid various sums to two others, and he paid £100, being a portion of the instalments towards the formation of the Branksome Liberal Club. Lady 1099 Wimborne subscribed to the same effect. His subscription to the Women's Liberal Association was very small, but he could not tell how much. He subscribed £35 a month to the East Dorset Liberal Association, having commenced in July, 1908, three months after he was adopted a candidate. Lady Wimborne's subscription was £200 or £250 a year.
When you add to all these hundreds of pounds which this Liberal candidate and his mother were paying to the organisation, and which they only commenced to pay after his election—when you add the slate clubs, the county cricket club, the football club, the churches, chapels, flower shows, and the like, you get an insight into a degree of expenditure which no man of moderate means can pay. Therefore the moral of East Dorsetshire is that politics are becoming a monopoly of the rich. If this kind of thing is to be allowed to pass unchecked and unpunished, men—not merely workmen who do not pretend to fight their elections in that way—but men of moderate means will have no chance whatever of being selected as candidates. I intend to vote for this Amendment. I do not believe that the bulk of the electors of East Dorsetshire are corrupt, but the body of electors, if they allow a "second Guest" to be thrust upon them, are not worthy to be entrusted with the franchise. I will give one personal reminiscence of East Dorsetshire and Captain Guest's candidature which, I think, has an interesting bearing on this matter. There is a movement for the election of a memorial of those trade unionists who were transported in the early years of last century and a committee has been formed for the purpose. One method of raising funds is that well known public men should deliver lectures. I was invited to speak at a meeting. On the day of the meeting—this was after Captain Guest was adopted as Liberal candidate—one of the Wimborne agents called upon the secretary of the committee to ask whether the Tory candidate had subscribed to the memorial fund, because if he had his instructions were to go "one better." The secretary said that no subscription had yet come from the Conservative side, whereupon the agent left instructions that if a cheque came from the Tory side they were to at once advise him and he would "improve upon it." The hour of meeting drew nigh, and nothing had come from the Conservative candidate, whereupon the agent left two cheques—one from Cap- 1100 tain Guest, the Liberal candidate, and one from Lady Wimborne—with the intimation that if the Tory subscription exceeded the amount of these two cheques a third one would be forthcoming. If that was not corrupt influence it was certainly meant to be; there is no question about that. I should have thought, in a case like this, that the Solicitor-General would have said that the facts disclosed such a dangerous condition in connection with our political life that it was the duty of the Government to seek some means of limiting this kind of extravagant expenditure and exercise of undue influence. He made no such promises, he seemed to regard everything that went on in East Dorsetshire as right and proper, except for one little slip on the part of someone, whereas everybody knows that it was the exact opposite of that. In view of the attitude taken up by the Government, and in the interests of purity of election, I shall certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. STEPHEN COLLINS
As one interested in the honour of Dorset and Dorset men, and as one concerned for the honour and character of the House, I rise to resent the reflections cast upon them by the hon. Member who introduced the Amendment. He held up the people of his own constituency as paragons of virtue, and as independent electors who could not be got at in any way, while he almost said that with Southerners one would be able to do anything. I listened very attentively to his speech, and I thought I was going to hear some shocking story of how they had been bribed, and how they had been susceptible to bribery, but the evidence did not bear out the statements he made. He said that no such proceedings were possible in his constituency, and that if such influences were brought to bear there as had been exercised in East Dorset, the persons who made the attempt would be likely to be "flattened out." If the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division will go down to my county and venture to make those statements he will very soon find what will happen. In what I have heard in this lengthened Debate this afternoon I have heard nothing to prove that the men of Dorset are any worse, I will not say better, than any other men. I say they are as good as any others, and the evidence has not proved anything to the contrary. I ask the House not to go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for that reason, and also because of the bitter, 1101 prejudiced attack which has been made on the Wimborne family and the veiled, ungenerous attack he has made on the Home Secretary.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted" ["not during the present Session of Parliament"].
§ The House divided: Ayes, 24; Noes, 229.1103
|Division No. 71]||AYES.||[7.5 p.m.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Dalrymple, Viscount||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Royds, Edmund|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Sutton, John E.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hardie, J. Keir||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Harris, H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hudson, Walter||Winterton, Earl|
|Clough, William||Hunt, Rowland|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne (Brentford)||Jowett, Frederick William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Markham and Mr. Belioc.|
|Cowan, William Henry||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Esslemont, George Birnie||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Adam, Major William A.||Falconer, James||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Edgbaston)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Fenwick, Charles||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Allen, Charles Peter||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Fletcher, John Samuel||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Armitage, Robert||Forster, Henry William||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Gelder, Sir William Alfred||M'Callum, John M.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Mallet, Charles Edward|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gill, Alfred Henry||Manfield, Harry|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Glanville, Harold James||Marks, George Croydon|
|Balcarres, Lord||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Goldsmith, Frank||Middlebrook, William|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Greenwood, Granville George||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Barclay, Sir Thomas||Greig, Colonel James William||Millar, James Duncan|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott||Grenfell, Cecil Alfred||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Mond, Alfred Moritz|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen, W.)|
|Beale, William Phipson||Gulland, John William||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Muspratt, Max|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Birfell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hall, E. Marshall (Toxteth)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Nield, Herbert|
|Bowles, Thomas Gibson||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Nussey, Sir T. Willans|
|Brassey, Capt. R. (Oxon, Banbury)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Heath, Col. Arthur Howard||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Heaton, John Henniker||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid)||Helme, Norval Watson||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hemmerde, Edward George||Pearce, William|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Phillips, Sir O. C. (Pembroke)|
|Calley, Col. Thomas C. P.||Henry, Charles S.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs, Hey wood)||Hills, John Walter (Durham)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Radford, George Heynes|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Holt, Richard Durning||Rainy, Adam Holland|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Raphael, Herbert Henry|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Home, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Rees, John David|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Ridley, Samuel Forde|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. (Bath)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole (Walsall)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Crosfield, Arthur H.||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydffi)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Crossley, Sir William J.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lambert, George||Shackleton, David James|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lawson, Hon. Harry||Shortt, Edward|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-shire)||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Leach, Charles||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. (Glasgow, E.)||Lehmann, Rudolf C.||Soares, Ernest Joseph|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lewis, John Herbert||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Llewelyn, Major Venables||Stanier, Seville|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Starkey, John Raiph|
|Staveley-Hill, H.||Vivian, Henry||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Strachey, Sir Edward||Wadsworth, John||Wiles, Thomas|
|Strauss, Arthur||Walrond, Hon. Lionel||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Summers, James Woolley||Walton, Joseph||Williams, Aneurin (Plymouth)|
|Talbot, Lord Edmund||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wardle, George J.||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.||Winfrey, Richard|
|Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Wing, Thomas|
|Thomas, David Alfred (Cardiff)||Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Toulmin, George||Waterlow, David Sydney||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Trevelyan, Charles Philips||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Valentia, Viscount||Whitehouse, John Howard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Fuller.|
|Verney, Frederick William||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, "That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the county of Dorset (Eastern Division), in the room of Captain the Honourable Frederick Edward Guest, whose election has been declared to be void."