§ The EARL of DERBY
wished to ask a question of some Member of Her Majesty's Government upon a matter which he thought ought to be disposed of before the House rose. Their Lordships had in the course of that evening received a communication upon a very important subject from the other House of Parliament; and it was due to that House, in courtesy and respect, that their Lordships should pay the earliest attention to any communication from it, especially to one of such deep interest as the present. That communication had reference to certain proceedings which had been taken by the other House of Parliament under the Corrupt Practices Act, which was brought into operation last year, and with respect to which Act it was not unlikely that several other messages of the same kind as the one to which he was now referring would be received by their Lordships. As this was the first instance in which their Lordships had been called, under the provisions of that Act, to concur with the House of Commons, and to act in co-operation with that House for the purpose of effectually repressing those acts of bribery which appeared to have been so prevalent at the last election, be thought it important that their Lordships should ascertain from Her Majesty's Government what course it was their intention to pursue with reference to the message in question; because, that communication having been received from the other House of Parliament, it necessarily became the duty of Her Majesty's Government to suggest what course they thought it advisable for their Lordships to pursue with regard to it. He had expected that some communication would have been made to their Lordships on the subject before the Motion for the adjournment of the House. It was probably owing to inadvertence that that communication had not been made by some Member of the Government; but he thought it right to recall their attention to the circumstance, and to ask whether they were prepared to state what course they intended to recommend their Lordships to pursue with reference to the message which had been received from the other House of Parliament?
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
said, he was quite prepared to answer the question of the noble Earl. He apprehended that the only reason why no notice had hitherto been taken of the matter by any of his Colleagues was, that they had not been previously aware that any such message 309 was to come from the House of Commons that evening. The course which Her Majesty's Government proposed to take, in consequence of the alteration effected in the measure of last year by the Amendment introduced by the noble Earl, was this—that in any case in which the House of Commons called upon their Lordships, in conformity with that Amendment, to join them in an Address to the Crown to issue a commission of inquiry into the state of any borough, their Lordships should send a message to the other House, requesting them to favour their Lordships with copies of the evidence which had been taken in the case. Her Majesty's Government considered that this would be a proper fulfilment of the obligations imposed upon them by the Act of last year. The noble Earl would possibly recollect that he (the Duke of Newcastle), for one, as well as the Members of the present Government, objected to the introduction of the provision by which this step was rendered necessary; but, of course, apart from any individual opinion as to the advisability of enforcing that provision, the Government considered it to be their duty to carry it out in a proper spirit; and he believed that this would be done by asking the House of Commons to furnish their Lordships with copies of the evidence which had been taken before the Election Committee. After that evidence had lain on the table a sufficient time to enable their Lordships to consider it, the Government would then propose that their Lordships should concur with the Commons in addressing the Crown, as provided by the Act of Parliament.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, that, as far as his judgment went, the course which the Government intended to recommend was that which the Act of Parliament appeared to require. He must say, however, that he differed from the noble Duke as to the propriety of that course, because it certainly appeared to him that when the House of Commons asked their Lordships to concur with them in addressing the Crown to issue a commission, their Lordships ought to have before them the evidence which had led the House of Commons to that conclusion. However, apart from the propriety of the step, this was the course which was prescribed by the Act of Parliament; and the course which the noble Duke had intimated that the Government intended to pursue was clearly the correct course. He did not know whether 310 the noble Duke would have any objection, but it appeared to him that it would be more in accordance with the usual courtesy between the two Houses that their Lordships should not separate without sending some message to the House of Commons; and, perhaps, it would be better that they should request to be furnished, not only with copies of the evidence, but also of the report of the Committee.
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
said, that personally he had no objection to the course proposed by the noble Earl. At the same time, he thought it would be a somewhat irregular course, and that it was undesirable as a precedent. He had not the slightest objection, however, to give notice that either he or some other Member of the Government would make a Motion to the effect suggested To-morrow.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.