§ 63. Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
asked the right hon. Member for Morpeth as Chairman of the Public Petitions Committee, whether, having regard to the statement in the Special Report from the Select Committee on Public Petitions, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on the 18th ultimo, that many signatures in the case of the petition from Llanbadrig against the Established Church (Wales) Bill are in the handwriting of the same person, signed without authority and repudiated by those whose names have been used, any and, if so, what steps have been taken towards the discovery of the persons guilty of forgery and fraud in the preparation of this petition and in the signatures attached thereto, with a view to their punishment by this House for a breach of privilege in bringing discredit upon the right of petitioning the House of Commons?
§ Mr. BURT
Most of the irregularities complained of in the Special Report of the Committee are due to the ignorance or carelessness of those who promote petitions, and there is seldom intentional fraud. Where names are written in the came handwriting the practice is to deduct the names from the petition. In the case of graver irregularities, such as the signing names without the authority of the signatories, these have been inquired into, and further investigation is being made. The Committee fully recognise the importance of strictly adhering to the rules relating to petitions, since violation of such rules tends still further to weaken and discredit the value of petitions generally.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
Do I understand that it is the intention to take 521 proceedings in reference to the forgers of that petition being brought before the House?
§ Mr. BURT
That will be a matter for the Committee to consider. On the last occasion, as far as I have been able to inquire, when a culprit was brought to the Bar of the House—it was twenty-six years ago—that was a case of gross forgery and fraud; indeed, I believe the culprit admitted that he spent the greater part of a Sunday in copying the names from a directory. I should not like myself to have to bring anyone to the Bar of the House, or make a Motion to that effect. I have all the more difficulty, because on that occasion the case was brought before the House about four times, and occupied a considerable proportion of the time of the House. I think everybody will agree that the present House is fully occupied, and it would have to be a very grave case indeed that would justify anyone in making a Motion to bring anyone to the Bar of the House to be admonished by Mr. Speaker, but if such a case arises, or anything approaching such a case, I will consider it.
§ 64. Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
asked the right hon. Member for Morpeth, as chairman of the Public Petitions Committee, whether he is aware that many signatories to petitions are under the misapprehension that Parliament must take action on the petition; and whether, with a view to the removal of that misapprehension, he will consider the advisability of the adoption of the precedent of the Special Report of the Select Committee on Public Petitions of the 30th June, 1904, in reference to Indian petitions, in which it is stated, in order to put petitioners on their guard and in order that the limited result of petitioning may be better understood, that nothing follows beyond printing the petition in the Appendix to the Report of the Committee unless the subject of the petition is of such urgency and importance, which is scarcely ever the case, as to be formally brought before the House of Commons on the Motion of a Member?
§ Mr. BURT
. I do not think that there is any such general misapprehension as that referred to by my hon. Friend. Nearly all the petitions presented to the House are for or against particular Bills. As regards petitions from India, special information is sent to the petitioners whenever it is necessary.