HL Deb 25 July 1856 vol 143 cc1422-4

EARL ST. VINCENT rose to put to the Lord Privy Seal the Question of which he had given notice:—Whether, inasmuch as the Judgments of the highest Legal Tribunals are Matters of Public Record, and may be referred to as Facts in the Knowledge of Government, and considering the severe Censures that have been passed in Three successive Judgments, pronounced by the late Lord Chancellor Cottenham, by Sir John Dodson, Judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and by the Judicial Committee of Privy Council, upon the Conduct of a Noble Member of this House holding the Situation of Constable of the Tower of London, and also a distinguished Office near Her Majesty's Person, Her Majesty's Government have thought proper, for the due Preservation of the high Character of this House, to take any Steps in reference thereto? or if they intend so to do? The noble Earl requested that their Lordships, in indulgence to his infirmities, would permit the clerk at the table to read extracts from the judgments referred to, which was accordingly done.


said, that Her Majesty's Government was not prepared to institute any proceedings in this matter. He must deprecate the discussion of circumstances which had occurred in a civil suit—circumstances which related to a noble Lord who had been no party to that suit—and who had had no opportunity of being heard in his defence. At the same time, whilst Her Majesty's Government was not prepared to institute any such proceedings, it must be understood that it expressed no opinion as to the opinions stated in these judgments, or the opinions which successive Judges had pronounced as to the conduct of this noble Lord. If it were necessary to institute any proceeding, it ought to be one to enable the noble Lord to come forward in his own defence and state his whole case. He had had no such opportunity; and, under these circumstances, the Government was not prepared to take that course which the noble Earl opposite seemed to think they should. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) appreciated the motives which induced the noble Earl to bring the subject forward—that warm affection which he must bear to his nearest and dearest relative—a most distinguished and accomplished lady; but, believing that no good could result from any proceeding, he trusted that the matter would be suffered to drop.


said, that the noble Marquess was under an erroneous impression in thinking that Lord Combermere had had no opportunity of being heard in his defence, for that he (Earl St. Vincent) had given to Lord Combermere early notice of what he intended doing, and had subsequently forwarded to him a copy of the question when he had determined upon that course. He would give every consideration to the suggestion of the noble Marquess that this matter should be suffered to drop; but, as a matter of precaution, he would notice that on an early day on the ensuing Session he would move that copies of these judgments be laid on the table with a view to further proceedings, feeling a strong conviction that these public judicial censures for a contempt of Court ought not to pass unnoticed.

House adjourned till To-morrow.

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