HC Deb 16 August 1831 vol 6 cc95-7
Sir George Clerk

said, he wished to call the attention of the House to a subject of much importance, as connected with the privileges of Parliament. The subject he alluded to was, the delay in the return of two Members for the borough of Great Grimsby. It would be in the recollection of the House, that the former election had been declared void by a Committee, and that the Speaker had been called upon, on the third day of this month, to issue his warrant for a new election. The warrant had been issued, and it would seem, that it had been forwarded in the regular manner, and without any delay, to the proper officer; for the election had been held and was completed on Wednesday last, but, although two gentlemen were then elected, no return had been made. Although these two gentlemen who had been elected came, after the election was over, to town, and although they were ready to take their oaths and their seats upon Friday or Saturday last, and yesterday and to-day, they were unable to do so, because, upon inquiry at the Crown-office, it appeared that no return of the election had been made by the Sheriff. There was, he thought, no question on which that House could more properly entertain a strong feeling of jealousy, than that of seeing the numbers of the House kept incomplete. He knew that, although the law relating to the transmission of the lists of voters was considered perfect, that which related to the return was supposed to be in an imperfect state, and by that means, a returning-officer might, as he feared it would be found in this case, commit a gross breach of the privileges of the House. The case which this most resembled was that of Waterford, in 1806, when the right hon. Baronet, Sir John Newport, was elected, after his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland. On that occasion, no return appearing to have been made in due time, the course adopted was, to call on the Deputy Clerk of the Crown to appear at the bar, and state whether the return had been received in his office. On the present occasion, he proposed, that the House should pursue the same course, and he should therefore move, "that the Deputy Clerk of the Crown should immediately attend the House, to give information to the House relating to the said Writ, and whether a return of the election of two Members for Great Grimsby had been received by him."

Lord Althorp

fully agreed with the hon. Baronet, that it was not only a duty, but one of the first duties of that House, to keep their numbers full; but it was, if possible, a still more imperative duty on them to see that their numbers were not prevented from being full by any trick whatever. He thought that the House ought to accede to the Motion, in order at once to know the reason why the return had not been made.

Motion carried.

The Serjeant-at-Arms on being called to the bar, said, that the Deputy Clerk of the Crown was in attendance.

The Speaker directed that he should be called in, and then asked him, whether he could give the House any information as to the election of two Members for Great Grimsby?

The Deputy Clerk of the Crown answered, that, under the authority of the Speaker's warrant, he had issued the writ on the 3rd day of August, but that, as yet, he had received no return.

He was ordered to withdraw.

Sir George Clerk

said, that he had, on the former occasion, avoided imputing any improper motives to the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, or to the Returning-officer of the borough of Great Grimsby, because he wished rather to attribute the omission to make the return to some accidental circumstance, than to any wilful negligence. At the same time, the House must feel, that they were in that state, in which this matter must now be followed up, and that the High Sheriff must give some account to the House of the origin of this delay. He should therefore move, "that the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire do attend this House on Friday next." The case of the borough of Lostwithiel was subsequent to that of Waterford, which he had already cited; and in the Lostwithiel case, both the High and Under Sheriff were ordered to attend. It might be proper for the House to consider whether they would act in the same manner in the present instance, and direct the Mayor of the borough of Great Grimsby to attend at the same time.

Lord Althorp

believed, that the omission of the return was accidental; but, as he had before said, the matter ought to be inquired into. He should, therefore, support the Motion of the hon. Baronet.

Sir Thomas Fremantle

said, he begged to call the attention of the House to a case in which the course now recommended was pursued with regard to Westminster, when the Sheriff of Middlesex and the High Bailiff of Westminster were both ordered to attend at the bar of the House. He therefore wished the Returning-officer of Great Grimsby should be also ordered to attend.

Motion agreed to. The Returning-officer of Great Grimsby ordered to attend at the same time.

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