HL Deb 01 July 1844 vol 76 cc120-1
The Duke of Richmond

said, he wished to call the attention of their Lordships to a matter of considerable importance, of which he conceived it had become necessary to take notice; he alluded to the practice, which had recently been renewed, of canvassing noble Lords on the subject of Private Bills, as he considered that any person who canvassed a Peer was guilty of a gross breach of the privileges of the House. Their Lordships, he thought, ought to declare their determination that if any person was guilty of doing so, he should be liable to the penalties of such breach of privilege.

Lord Brougham

said, he was exceedingly glad the noble Duke had called attention to this subject. No one knew better than he did of the attempts daily made to infringe upon the wholesome and necessary rule established by their Lordships, a rule not more necessary for the administration of justice in that House, than essential to the character and honour of their Lordships. He received constant applications on the subject of Private Bills, and he had one answer, and only one answer, for the parties, namely, that he was the last person they ought to apply to, as he was the author of the Standing Order which prevented canvassing, and he uniformly, civilly he hoped, but firmly, turned his back upon the persons so applying, as if he were a judge or a juryman who was asked to misdecide a case. He asked their Lordships to pursue the same course, and thus put an end to what was little short of an insult.

The Earl of Shaftesbury

said, that he and every other noble Lord who had the honour of being a member of the Com- mittee, concurred in thinking that the subject was exceedingly well deserving of attention.

Lord Campbell

enquired whether it was to be considered a breach of privilege if a circular were sent round stating the case on one side or the other. [Cries of "No, no."] Well, but that would not be allowed by a Judge. On the contrary, a Judge would consider it a contempt of court, and would deal with the party offending accordingly.

Lord Hatherton

said, he protested strongly against any prohibition of two parties, or either of them, sending round a printed statement of their case. He had known several instances of the kind since his noble Friend introduced his measure.

Lord Brougham

said, what he objected to was the privately waiting and soliciting. As to parties being at liberty to send a printed statement, that was merely enabling noble Lords to obtain information that was necessary for their guidance.

The Earl of Wicklow

conceived that the sending a printed statement had no bearing upon the case referred to by the noble Duke. He understood the noble Duke's objection to be, not to any thing that was addressed to the Members of that House collectively, but merely to statements made privately to Members of a Committee appointed for a particular purpose. No doubt what the noble Duke said was perfectly correct, but the question was, how it was to be prevented. Was a Member of that House to come forward, and say, "Such a person came to me and endeavoured to lay his case before me." He conceived that their Lordships would not be competent to inflict punishment in such a case; but it was only for the Members of the House to understand that it was an insult to them, and to inform the parties coming to them with statements that it was improper to do so, and the evil would soon be put an end to.

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