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and of the under sheriff, in consequence grieved, he will be entitled to petition to of his name being omitted from the return; have the question adjudicated upon under and the question which I desire to submit the Elections Petitions Act. It will be a to the consideration and judgment of the very grave thing for the House to admit House is, what step it ought to take when that it can be in the power of a returning it finds that its own officer has so erred in officer, when an election has taken place, the conduct of his duty that the right to in fact, to send any one

he pleases sit in the House which has been conferred into the House, and that, on the mere by the election cannot be exercised in con- return, any gentleman can sit here to the sequence of the mistake which has been exclusion of one duly elected. If party made. I am not standing up to advocate feeling were to run high in this country, the taking measures against the high the leader of the House might be elected sheriff or the under sheriff. I am will beyond all question, and yet a returning ing to believe that it is an unintentional officer, who was not skilful in arithmetic, error, though one that any decent school might choose to suppress a hundred or a boy ought not to have been guilty of. I thousand in his addition, and might return am only here to consider whether it is in some one else ; and thus we might have the power of the House, and, if so, whether the leader of the House, upon a mere act it be not its duty to take some steps to of the returning officer, kept at bay for two repair this singular error. Undoubtedly, or three months during a contest on an we ought to regard the sheriff without any election petition. It seems to me that it feeling of vindictiveness, because the House would be most dangerous to the privileges will remember that he is not a volunteer of the House and the rights of every Mem. acting for hire and profit, but a gentle ber if we were once to allow that, where man taking upon himself a most onerous an unquestioned election in fact has taken office for the public good ; and, therefore, place, the returning officer may put any it is the practice in all courts of justice to name he pleases in the writ. If, when we consider any error of which the sheriff has have it on that officer's authority that he been guilty most leniently, and to give him had made a mistake, we were to say that every opportunity of correcting it, so that our hands are tied, and that we are unno interests should be compromised by his able to remedy that mistake, we should not error. If we are to treat the sheriff, who have the authority which every court of for this purpose is an officer of the House, justice in the country claims to exercise upon the same principle, it seems to for itself, where right is on one side and me that we ought to give him an oppor- form and ceremony on the other. I have tunity to correct the error in his return. deprecated the Elections Petitions Acts, It may be said that this is not an error because their terms are so stringent, and merely, but a matter of substance vitally I have thought it would be desirable if the affecting the interests of others ; but I House would legislate to qualify some of have read the Resolution of the House that their provisions ; but, apart from that draws a clear distinction between the right question, I maintain that wherever right is of election and the ceremonial of return. shown in fact, and where form does not In dealing with this question, the House correspond with right, it is in the power of will not deal with any question of right to every tribunal to take care that the form sit. On all occasions when the House, shall coincide with fact and right. And I acting upon its own authority, has inter- further say that the House has the same fered to amend a return, it has at the same power, and that this is a case in which it time recognized the right of individuals to ought to give effect to it. I am not willing petition, and it has always accorded to to draw the House into any controversy them the right to petition the Commons, about the facts. [Sir Patrick O'BRIEN: when the return was amended. A Resolu- Hear, hear!] The hon. Member cheers, and tion to that effect has always accompanied I hope that he will stand up and give effect any Resolution amending å return, which to that cheer, for if the hon. Member can not only shows that no question of right stand up and say upon his honour that he was involved, but also that the distinction was in fact elected, I am quite content I have drawn has been recognized. There- to withdraw the Motion with which I shall fore, if the House were to order this return conclude, and to move the House that the to be amended, it will be entirely without doubtful question of fact shall be referred prejudice to the ultimate right to the seat; for solemn investigation upon oath before and, if any gentleman think himself ag- an election committee. But until I hear

the hon. Member stand up and say that in own. He pledged his honour as a gentlepoint of fact he was and Mr. Hennessy was man that he believed on his honour as a not elected, until he is prepared to say that Member of that House that he was in a the representations of the sheriff and the majority for the King's County. under sheriff are erroneous, I must be THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sir, entitled to ask the house to proceed upon I must say I am somewhat surprised that the substantial justice of the case. In the the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets absence of any such representation of fact, should have lent the influence of his auI feel it my duty to bring this matter under thority to the course he has proposed. I the consideration of the House, so as to have great respect for the abilities of my enable the House to vindicate its privilege. hon. Friend, and I am quite sure on all I move that the high sheriff of the King's occasions he is actuated by a desire to disCounty be called to the Bar of the House charge his duty faithfully. Yet, speakto be examined touching this return; and ing for my own part, I must say I think it when that Motion has been assented to, it would be a matter most deeply to be will be for the House to consider what is lamented if the House of Commons gave the proper course to be taken in vindication its sanction, even for a single moment, to of those rights which I submit have been such a course. It is equally opposed to all violated on this occasion.

the principles upon which we ought to THE O'DONOGHUE seconded the act ; to the rules which guide the proMotion.

ceedings of the House ; and to all the in. SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN said, he terests of every Member of the House, should not for a moment attempt to put which are, as I think, involved in its rules forward his own personal opposition against and practice, as well as in the law on the the wish of the House ; but having been subject. My hon. Friend has attempted to elected by a large number of the King's draw a distinction between the privileges of County constituency, he should be forget- the House and the law of the land. He ting his position as their representative if says this House is not to consider itself dehe did not venture to address the House barred from exercising its powers of interafter the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton), of ference with matters of election, and that course with the kindest possible view those powers cannot be taken away except being connected with himself (Sir Patrick by the most express terms of an Act of O'Brien) in politics—had brought forward Parliament. Sir, I venture to say, when this Motion. He recollected some nine this House is a party to the passing of an years ago, when a young man in that Act of Parliament to regulate its own House, he had the honour to differ from the practice, in matters connected with its hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and own privileges, which experience has on that occasion he said a thing to that shown to be most delicate, liable to abuse, Gentleman which in those days was con- and liable also to the suspicion of abuse, sidered to be inappropriate. The hon. the House is best consulting its dignity, Member seemed not to have forgotten that and best preserving its own privileges in occurrence of nine years ago, and had the truest sense of the word, by showing selected him (Sir Patrick O'Brien)—he the highest degree of jealousy in maintainbeing a Member of the Liberal Party—for ing those several rules and regulations his (Mr. Ayrton's) attentions on that occa. which have been established by that Act of sion. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the Oppo- Parliament. The real question, viewing it sition.] He could understand that hon. Gen. on this and on all like occasions as one of tlemen opposite approved of that course ; principle, is, whether the course upon which but how the hon. Member for the Tower you are now invited to enter is or is not in Hamlets, who called himself one of his (Sir substance an evasion of the laws which we Patrick O'Brien's) people, could pursue have laid down for the government of our such a course, was difficult, except on proceedings, and by which we are bound, even the supposition referred to, to understand. although there be no authority to compel He believed the hon. Gentleman was look their observance except our own sense of ing in the balance, and that perhaps some. what is due to ourselves and to the law. For thing connected with the Council of India what is the principle involved in this case ? loomed before his vision. He merely rose to The Act of Parliament enacts that every make this statement, and this alone, and he complaint of any improper election or any should at once retire from the House, inas- improper return with respect to an election, much as the Question before it was his whether preferred by a candidate or an

Mr. Ayrton

elector, shall be received only under certain kind on the ground that a sheriff had made conditions, and investigated only in a cer- a mistake, one would have expected that tain way.

The conditions are that certain the sheriff would have forwarded his comrecognizances shall be entered into, and munication to the Speaker, who is the then there is the mode of proceeding in the authorized representative of the House. House with which we are all acquainted. But what has been the course pursued in Is any gentleman to escape from these this case ? I am now speaking with the obligations ? Is the House to be deprived utmost respect for my hon. Friend and for of those securities because a gentleman, the gentleman from whom he has received instead of going through the form of a his information. A private letter is written petition, thinks fit to enter into a private by a person complaining of an erroneous recommunication with the Sheriff of the turn, and then an individual Member of County, and then make a private commu- the House say he was told certain facts in nication to an hon. Member of the House, conversation by Mr. So-and-So. But if complaining of an improper return ? I the House is to act on private letters writ. think the House would enter upon a most ten to individual Members complaining of dangerous, a most unwise, and a most un- erroneous returns, and stating that the worthy course if it gave its assent to ony writers had been told by Sheriff A or Under such proposition. The practice in the Sheriff B that they were satisfied that a cases referred to by the hon. Member mistake had been made, no one could tell for the Tower Hamlets has nothing how far this would go or where it would whatever to do with the case before us. end. There are a great many other modes They were not cases of an alleged impro- of making mistakes at elections besides per election or return. They were cases in casting up the votes erroneously. Votes which hon. Members who took their seats might be taken after the poll had closed. had been returned as Members. About the Votes might be wrongly taken down at the return there was no question. The ques- poll; it would be as easy to allege that the tion was whether the forms by which the polling papers had been falsified, as that return ought to be communicated to the the numbers had been wrongly cast. House had been sufficiently complied with. The fear is that this evasion, once adThere was no case in which a return had mitted, would never stop ; and therefore been made and in which an hon. Member it must not be admitted at all. The statehad been permitted to take the oath and his ment of the under sheriff, that there was seat in the House and that return had been a mistake, may be true or not. The House challenged. There is no precedent for such knows nothing about it, and we have no a course, but there are precedents to the con- right to assume that an hon. Member who trary. In the case of the Dundalk election in has taken the oath and his seat has been 1826, and the elections of Dublin and Rye in returned in an irregular way. These mat1831, petitions were presented complaining ters can be investigated in the proper way. of the conduct of the returning officers, and The sheriff has made his return, he has no because they were considered to be in the more to do with the subject, and neither nature of election petitions, though not he nor the under sheriff can, by unauthodirectly assuming that form, the House rized information, impeach the accuracy of refused to receive them. But if the House the return made. In all cases in which had taken the singular view advanced by the accuracy of the return is questioned my hon. Friend, that the returning officer the proper mode of proceeding is by is to be considered an officer of the House, petition in the regular way. It is then the House, in all those cases, would have quite possible that when you come to received the petitions. But the House acted deal with the poll-books there will be a in those cases upon this most salutary rule, majority found for the party who claims it, that it would not suffer that to be done in- but the majority must be a real one, and directly or by evasion which could not be that it is so can be proved only by showing accomplished directly according to the rules that the votes recorded were good and valid. which regulated its proceedings ; and I The result of such an investigation, conhope the House in the present case will ducted in the ordinary way and according adhere to that rule. Let me say one word to law, may be to show that the hon. Genas to the manner in which the information tleman who now sits as Meinber for the in the present case has been given to the King's County has been duly elected. I House.

If the House were, under any cir. would ask the hon. Member for the Tower cumstances, to entertain a question of this Hamlets what would take place if there VOL. CLXXXI. (THIRD SERIES.

N

Es.]

should be an election petition presented | be a matter of surprise that a great change and it should be investigated in the regular of public opinion has very recently taken way. Would the duty of the Committee place in the estimate formed of the danger be confined to the recasting of the numbers arising from the spread of this disorder. in the poll-book ? No. The investigation The steady progress of the cattle plague, the having been opened, it would not stop until extensive ravages which it has committed the Committee had decided who ought to in a great many counties and districts, alhave been returned. If the investigation though there are still a considerable number should be made in the ordinary way the either absolutely free from the disease or result might be that, notwithstanding an very slightly affected by it—notwithstanding arithmetical inaccuracy, the hon. Member that, the progress, I say, made by the dihas been duly elected. The hon. Member sease, and its extensive ravages, amounting has stated to the House, upon his honour, almost to the desolation of certain parts of that he believes he has been duly elected. the country, form a sufficient cause for that I think my hon. Friend will be satisfied with alarm which now exists, and for that desire that. At all events, I should be greatly sur- which has been evinced within a short prised if the House is not satisfied that the period that the most stringent measures, course proposed ought not to be adopted. compatible with a due consideration of the

MR. AYRTON said, after the state- interests of all the parties concerned, might ment of the Attorney General, he would be taken in order to check, if possible, the not adhere to his proposition. He had progress of the disorder. As I have proceeded upon what he considered unques- stated, on this subject opinion has been tionable matter of fact. He asked leave greatly changed, and that within a very to withdraw his Motion.

limited period—I do not say even within Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

the last few weeks, but since the week

preceding the meeting of Parliament. If SUPPLY-QUEEN'S SPEECH.

we look back to the public meetings held in Queen's Speech considered.

agricultural counties with reference to this Motion for Supply Order for Con- disease, only two months ago, or even less, mittee on Motion, “ That & Supply be we shall find the tone of expression very granted to Her Majesty : Committee different from that with which we have thereupon To-morrow.

recently become familiar. We shall find,

indeed, that in many places a strong desire CATTLE DISEASES BILL.

was expressed that Government should COMMITTEE : BILL ORDERED: FIRST READING. take the entire management of this matter

SIR GEORGE GREY, in rising to move into their own bands; should lay down all that the Cattle Diseases Act be considered the rules and regulations which they conin Committee, with the view of asking ceived to be conducive to the check of the for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the disease; and that they should by officers law relating to contagious or infectious of their own, taking away the responsidiseases in cattle or other animals, said : bility from the local authorities, undertake Sir, the object of the Bill which I have the execution of those measures which given notice that I shall ask leave to intro- ) every one now desires to see put in force. duce is one which, in the terms of the But if we look at the suggestions emanatSpeech from the Throne, “deeply affects ing from these meetings or from any the interests of the people of this country;" | public bodies, we shall find in them very and when I speak of the interests of the little of that unanimity of opinion with repeople of this country, I do not mean the spect to the measures to be taken which, interests of one class or another, but of the to a great extent, has been arrived at interests of the whole community. That within the last fortnight. Take, for invirulent distemper which has appeared stance, the case of slaughter. The Gowithin the last few months in this country vernment, in the exercise of the powers affects, no doubt, primarily and immediately yested in them by law-that is, the Memthe agricultural interest, in so far as they bers of the Privy Council whose names are are the producers of that great supply of attached to the Orders on the subject, and food with which the country is furnished. who acted on the responsibility of the But it is quite obvious that the supply of Government generally - the Government, food intimately concerns the interests in from a very early period, doubted the the future of the great consuming popula- probability of any effectual check being tion of the country. It cannot, therefore, given to the disease by means of cure.

The Attorney General

They thought it their duty, therefore, to absolute opinion that slaughter was not authorize, as the most effectual means of the most effectual means of checking the repression, the slaughter of the diseased disease ; but they stated that, though it animals by inspectors appointed by the might have been effective at the early local authorities acting under the authority period of the disorder, they doubted its derived from Orders in Council — the Privy efficacy at a time when it had attained Council deriving their authority from an the head which it then had, and they Act of Parliament—in order to prevent thought it impossible to retain the power the possibility of the disease being pro- without giving compensation to the owners pagated by keeping the affected ani- of the cattle slaughtered, and compensation mals alive. But it will, I am sure, be from the public Treasury they deemed in the recollection of the House and of wholly impossible. Under those circumthose who have attended to the subject stances that Order was withdrawn, and -and who is there among us who has I only allude to it now to show that there not had his attention called to it from its has been a very great change of opinion extreme importance ?-that the power thus among those whose authority ought to given produced the greatest dissatisfaction have weight with this House. throughout the country ; that the strongest Now, the main points upon which reremonstrances were addressed to Govern presentations have been lately addressed ment against that power of slaughter, and to the Government, and by bodies enthat throughout the press there was univer- titled to the greatest consideration, are sal objection to adopt what was called a these-1. Coinpulsory slaughter, with conbarbarous mode of extinction of this disease pensation ; 2. Absolute or qualified proby means of the poleaxe, derogatory, it was hibition of the removal of cattle throughsaid, to our veterinary skill and science, out Great Britain ; 3. Isolation of susand unbecoming a civilized people, who pected animals, and disinfection of infected ought, at all events, to try whether some premises ; and 4. Regulations as to cattle mode of cure might not be discovered. brought by sea. There are, of course, For three months that Order of the Privy many minor matters upon which it may Council was in force, from about the 23rd be necessary to legislate, and to which of August to the third week in November. the Orders of the Privy Council relate, The Order was then not absolutely with and which those bodies hold to be of great drawn, but it was modificd to this extent, importance ; but these were the four printhe power given to slaughter animals simply cipal points in their recommendations. because they were affected by the disease Now, let me call attention to what these was taken away, and it was limited to those recommendations are.

I have had, as you cases in which the isolation of infected may suppose, passing through my hands a animals had been ordered and the order had great mass of correspondence both with been neglected or violated. Evidently the public bodies and individuals on this subowner could not complain if, having neg-ject; and I have had, during the last few lected those orders, the animals were de-days, the great advantage of receiving depustroyed as a penalty for the violation of those tations of gentlemen who have come to state Orders. It will be remembered that the their views, and who have, I believe, been Royal Commission reported against the actuated by a sincere desire to assist in the power of slaughter. Ai that time the Royal solution of a question which they admitted Agricultural Society, I believe, entirely con- was one of great difficulty. I now tender to curred in the opinion that that power them my thanks for the opinions which ought not to be continued. Deputations, they have expressed to the Government, both from the Royal Agricultural Society for the results of their own experience which and from the Farmers' Club, were received they have communicated, and for the readiat the Privy Council Office, and I think both ness with which they underwent a sort of -I am certain that one-of those deputa- cross-examination, which was resorted to tions expressed its entire concurrence in the in order that the Government, for its own limitation which was placed at that time on information, might elicit with the greatest the power of slaughter, in deference to accuracy the opinions which they enterpublic opinion and to the recommenda- tained. And, first, I will advert to the tions of the Royal Commission. In resolutions passed on the 7th of the prespeaking of the recommendations of the sent month five days ago—by the Royal Royal Commission, I do not wish to be Agricultural Society. I may say that these understood to say that they expressed an resolutions were not formally brought to

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