HL Deb 14 April 1853 vol 125 cc1110-2

Conference held at the desire of the Commons upon the subject matter of an Address to be presented to Her Majesty, under the provisions of the Act 15 & 16 Vict., cap. 57, in reference to the Report of the Select Committee of the Commons on the Clitheroe Election Petition; and report made that the Commons had agreed to an address [which was offered] to be presented to Her Majesty; to which they desire the concurrence of their Lordships.


said, that before entertaining the question of the address, it was highly desirable that a copy of the evidence taken before the Clitheroe Election Committee should be placed in the hands of their Lordships. He, therefore, intended to move that a message should be sent down to the other House for the purpose of obtaining a copy of that evidence. It was, however, right for him to state, in consequence of what had been said on Tuesday night in the other House of Parliament, that he appeared to have been misunderstood—perhaps it was in consequence of having been misrepresented—in the observations which had fallen from him on the previous evening. On that occasion he stated that he thought their Lordships would be establishing a dangerous precedent by inserting, in an address to Her Majesty, words not in accordance with the report of the Election Committee—in fact, by adopting other words in lieu of those used. And he further stated that he thought their Lordships had no right whatever to refer to the report of a Committee, or to its evidence, for the purpose of extending or varying the terms of that report. Now, he begged to assure their Lordships that that was no mere technical point, but that it, in effect, embodied a principle—the very principle upon which the Act of last Session was founded. But as to whether or not their Lordships would deem the advice which he gave upon that occasion prudent or otherwise, when they came to consider the Clitheroe case, was a point upon which he would not venture to anticipate a conclusion. It seemed, however, that there were some very extraordinary circumstances attending that case; for he found that, on looking into the proceedings of the other House on Tuesday evening, both the sections of Her Majesty's Government, including the Attorney General, had voted against the presentation of the address.


said, that, after what had occurred the other evening, he had himself intended to move for a copy of the evidence taken before the Clitheroe Committee.


wished to certify to the perfect accuracy of his noble and learned Friend's statement as to the principle upon which he proceeded on the Canterbury election case. That principle was, that in dealing with questions of that kind their Lordships were acting judicially, and not legislatively; and they were, therefore, bound by the Act of Parliament which regulated their procedure. Under the statute, their Lordships had no right to address the Crown unless the Election Committee reported that there was reason to believe that extensive bribery had prevailed in the particular borough. If, however, those exact words were not used, but words of a nearly equivalent import, it was, nevertheless, the undoubted right of their Lordships—indeed, they were bound so to do—to proceed under the Act of Parliament passed to meet the case of boroughs where a system of extensive corruption had been reported to prevail. He utterly disclaimed, however, the idea that, in the absence of such a report, their Lordships would have any authority to join in such an address, or that a Commission should issue. Before anything of that kind could be done, the conditions must be fulfilled upon which their Lordships' power was founded; and unless it were substantially shown that there existed such a report on the part of the Election Committee, they had no right whatever to join in an address to the Crown; and in any instance in which an effort to that effect should be made in the absence of such a report, he (Lord Campbell) would resist it by every means in his power.

Afterwards—Message to the Commons for the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Clitheroe Election Petition, together with the Proceedings of the Committee.

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