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put a question to the noble Lord respecting of those attempts to violate the duties of a the alleged occupation of the territory of neutral Power, the King of Greece will the King of Greece by the allied forces of France and England. I am desirous to know whether that allegation is correct; and, if true, to ask whether the noble Lord has any objection to state the objects and conditions of the occupation of the territory of an independent Power with whom England and France are not at war?
find protection in the forces which have been sent to him, and the means of compelling his people to observe those duties. If, on the other hand, the protestations which we have received from the Greek Government should turn out not to be sincere, those forces may prove useful in another way. As has been stated in the French Moniteur, there is no intention of declaring war against Greece, but we mean to take care that the Government of Greece shall not be secretly or avowedly an ally of Russia in the present war; and we have taken means, which I trust will be sufficient, to prevent a covert or avowed war against Turkey from that quarter.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL: We have not received any account of the occupation of any part of the Greek territory by the forces of the Allied Powers. But it is perfectly true that a force, consisting, I think, of about 6,000 men, has been sent from France with instructions to occupy the Piræus; and Her Majesty's Government, in entire conjunction with that of MR. BRIGHT: The noble Lord, before France, has desired that a regiment of Easter, made a statement with regard to infantry which left this country about a the Greek Government, very much in the week ago should likewise be employed in tone and temper of that which he has now the occupation of the Piræus. The cause of made; and, in answer to a question from this measure on the part of the Allied the hon. Member for Pontefract, he proPowers is the intelligence which they have mised to lay before the House certain repeatedly received, that, by the connivance papers to prove the statement which he of the Greek Government, Greek officers then made. Since the Easter recess I, have been attempting to raise insurrec- upon several occasions, have asked for tions in the Turkish provinces adjoining those papers, but they have not yet been Greece, and that in some instances they produced, and the noble Lord has failed have succeeded in their attempts. There to give any assurance when they will be is besides a correspondence which was found on a late occasion in the possession of a secretary of General Tsavallas, which shows that persons in the Greek Government were cognisant of all the attempts which have been made to create an insurrection; and especially of a suggestion which was made, that Greek regiments should be sent from Athens to the frontier, with a view to their being there allowed to desert, and meeting again in a body in order to form the nucleus of a force of Greek insurgents acting in the Turkish provinces. That is one only of the very many instances which show that the menbers of the Greek Government, instead of acting with that good faith which the Government of Turkey has ever shown since the recognition of Greece as an indepen- LORD JOHN RUSSELL: I will not dent State, have been endeavouring, con- enter into particulars, but may state that trary to the faith of treaties, and contrary the instructions are generally to occupy to the obligations of good neighbourhood, the Piræus, and not Athens. They are to raise insurrections against the Sultan, to occupy Athens only in the event of cerand to carry fire and sword into his terri- tain contingencies. tories. Such being the case, the Governments of France and England have thought it necessary to send a force to occupy the Piræus. If the King of Greece disapproves as we have been repeatedly told Mr. M. Milnes
placed upon the table. The noble Lord has now made certain other statements with regard to the Government of Greece, and, as the noble Lord's words go all over the world, I ask him that he should give us those papers, together with additional ones, if there are any, bringing down the course of events to the present time, with as little delay as possible.
LORD JOIN RUSSELL: Those papers are now, I believe, in a printed form, and I hope to be able to lay them on the table of the House-perhaps to-morrow-or, at all events, not later than Thursday.
MR. COBDEN: Is the House to understand that the allied forces are to occupy Athens as well as the Piræus, or that they are to remain at the Piræus?
THE BRIBERY PREVENTION BILLS. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL said, that, having brought these Bills into the IIouse, he thought it right at once to state
that he feared, even if the House should assent to the second reading, that there would arise very serious difficulties in pass ing them through Committee; so that he despaired of being able to carry them through their ulterior stages and to pass them into law. He was bound also to state that, since the first reading of those Bills, circumstances had arisen which he thought went a considerable way towards impugning the principle upon which they had been founded. He would briefly state the nature of the difficulties to which he referred. Hon. Members who had been present during the previous discussions upon the subject would, he was sure, do him the justice to remember that, while he maintained that it was the duty of Parliament to deal with the bribery and corruption which prevailed in certain constituencies, he nevertheless said, in answer to the objection which was raised, that the disfranchisement of those voters whom these Bills proposed to disfranchise, would be a violation of the immunity which had been held out to them, while, on the one hand, he asserted, as a lawyer, that, looking at the term of the Act under which the Commissioners were appointed, he had no doubt that the immunity was an immunity from the penalties of conviction or judgment by law in respect of bribery, and did not go the length of tying up the hands of Parliament, if Parliament thought it necessary to interpose for the purpose of rescuing the electoral bodies from the state of venality into which they had unfortunately fallen; yet that, on the other hand, he most readily agreed that if it could be shown that, either in that House or out of it, language had been held by persons in authority which was calculated to lead those witnesses to believe that a bargain had been made, that if they would make disclosures to the Commissioners they should receive as a reward complete absolution and exemption from all consequences, penal, legal, or legislative, in respect of the deeds of which they confessed themselves to have been guilty-then he at once and frankly declared that, if that were made to appear, he should be the last man to ask that House to disfranchise those voters; for though it appeared to him in the last degree important that Parliament should do something to purify those constituencies which had been proved to be corrupt, still he most readily acknowledged that even so important an object would be dearly purchased if it were obtained at the
sacrifice of the public faith. Since the first introduction of the Bills, he considered that some case had been made out by those who had opposed them; and that, whether rightly or wrongly, a general impression had prevailed that those parties who had before the Commissioners made a clean breast of it with respect to their corrupt practices were not to be visited with the consequences, either legal or legislative. He was bound, also, to say, that in two or three instances the Commissioners had considered that the indemnity under the Act was capable of being interpreted in a larger sense than was originally intended; and this had perhaps given rise to the general impression that prevailed with regard to this indemnity. He knew that many Members whose opinions were eutitled to the greatest weight, entertained strong doubts as to whether parties were not, under this indemnity, free from future consequences. This opinion was not confined to one side of the House; and though on other questions he might differ from hon. Members, still he felt bound on this to receive some of these expressions of their opinion with respect, from such Members as, he might instance, the hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), of whose sincere wish to put down bribery in every form there could be no doubt-and several Gentlemen of the Opposition, who, looking at the case of parties under the indemnity as made out, had expressed some doubt as to the propriety of proceeding with these measures; and he confessed this had made considerable impression on his mind. Practical difficulties had also since arisen, which rendered it almost impossible to carry these Bills through Committee. The schedules to these Reports, and on which the present Bills were framed, contained much and not unimportant matter, and it had been discovered that mistakes and inaccuracies had been made in copying them from the Reports and transcribing them for printing; in some cases the names of parties were incorrectly written, and the result was that an innocent man was made to take the place of a guilty one. In some cases the description of parties had been transferred from one man to another, and in consequence uncertainty had arisen where the names of parties were the same. He had received communications from various parties who were so situated with reference to their names and descriptions, complaining that they had been called upon to bear the punishment for offences committed by
others; and it was quite clear that he could not call upon the House to disfranchise any number of voters under such circumstances. Then came the question, before what tribunal could such cases be decided; it could not be before the Commissioners, for having made their Report their powers had ceased-it could only, then, be before a Committee of the whole House, which would then have to decide on evidence not given on oath, but which was founded on records which were taken upon oath; they would have a vast quantity of claims poured in, which would give rise not only to delay and inconvenience, but the result would also probably be unsatisfactory. In consequence of these difficulties, the Government felt that they ought not to ask the House to proceed with the present Bills. He confessed that this was a result which he could not contemplate with any degree of pleasure. There could be no doubt but that the state of these constituencies was a scandal and a reproach; there could be no doubt that there was in every one of these constituencies a large body of voters who, inured to bribery, valued their votes only as the means of obtaining money, and sold their franchise to the highest bidder; and although these persons did not constitute the majority of these constituencies, yet they were numerous enough in all to turn the elections; and the issue of such elections could only be looked upon as the result of bribery. The question then came, what could be done to prevent this? He owned it was humiliating that Parliament should be prevented from specially legislating to put down such practices; but they could not disfranchise the whole of such constituencies as Cambridge, Hull, or Canterbury. Such a course might be thought unjust, there being only a certain portion of the electors contaminated by corrupt practices, the great majority still forming a good constituency. In such cases Parliament could hardly be asked to disfranchise the whole; and the only course that remained was to proceed on the principle of these Bills, and he regretted that circumstances should have prevented their being carried into effect. Something ought to be done, for it was not possible for them to expect anything like a pure or fair election while bribery and corruption were practised as they at present were in some constituencies. They might hope that something would be derived from the measures which were at present receiving the attention of The Attorney General
a Committee; but although they might prevent bribery from extending to places where it had not taken root, but where venality and corruption had become inveterate-as in the case of Canterbury, Cambridge, and the rest-he was not very sanguine that they would be able to extirpate it by any measure of general legislation. He hoped that the efforts of the Committee would be attended with a happy result; but when they came to another general election, he was afraid that they would still find it necessary to issue Commissions to probe still further these constituencies. He trusted that for the future no doubt would go abroad as to the true construction of the indemnity under the Act of Parliament; and he trusted that the assent given by a large majority of the House to the principle of these Bills would teach constituencies that, although in the present instance Parliament was indisposed to interfere, still that in future, when the Act of Parliament was looked into, they would perceive that, while it was compulsory on parties to give evidence even as to their own misconduct, still the only immunity granted to them would be that they were free from the penal consequences of the existing law, and that Parliament would not be prevented from interposing to deprive them of their franchise, given to them for the public good, but which they had abused to their own private ends, and shown themselves unworthy of possessing. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving, that the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Canterbury Bribery Prevention Bill should be read, for the purpose of being discharged.
SIR FREDERIC THESIGER said, that, having given notice of his intention to oppose these Bills, the House would allow him to make a few observations with regard to the course now taken by the Government, He must do his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General the justice to say, that throughout the whole of these proceedings he had unquestionably conducted himself in the fairest and most candid manner. At the time when he (the Attorney General) introduced these Bills, he distinctly stated that, if the House should be of opinion that, either directly or indirectly, a compact had been entered into with those parties whom it was proposed to disfranchise, he would be one of the last men in the world to stand up and say that such a compact should be violated, or that such parties
the haste and carelessness with which these Bills had been drawn. His hon. and learned Friend had given them one or two instances of the inaccuracies in the schedules, but not all, for he (Sir F. Thesiger) perceived that, among others, would be found a proposal to disfranchise two women. It appeared as though the party who had prepared this schedule had anticipated the time when universal suffrage was to prevail, and had taken the precaution that Elizabeth Williams and Jane Moon should not participate in the general boon. He would give another instance of haste and carelessness more important than this; he found, on looking over the different Reports, that the Commissioners, in respect to several candidates, had reported that bribery was committed for their benefit, and with their knowledge and assent; and with respect to one of these persons, whose name he would not mention, the Commissioners reported in the same terms against him in respect of the elections of 1841, 1847, and 1852; but on looking into the schedule of the names of persons to be disfranchised on the ground of having given bribes for the name of this individual, he had not found it. From this it was evident there had been great haste and want of consideration in the mode in which the schedules had been prepared. He regretted, considering the view now taken by the Attorney General, and which he (Sir F. Thesiger) took to be the view of the Goverument, that this opinion had not been entertained at an earlier period--for they had all the materials whereon to have founded their judgment-and so have been prevented from presenting these Bills, which the Attorney General had confessed himself unable to proceed with. He considered that the present proceedings on the part of the Government fully justified the course which he had been prepared to pursue in the event of their having proceeded with these Bills. He did not wish to say anything disagreeable, but he was quite satisfied that the character of the House would have been compromised by an attempt to proceed with these measures, and he therefore naturally agreed with the proposal that they should be withdrawn.
should not be protected by the indemnity. | the indemnity given to them under the Ile (Sir F. Thesiger) was obliged to his Act of Parliament. But he must make hon. and learned Friend for the observa- one or two observations with regard to tions he had made with respect to the Members who had been opposed to the course intended to have been pursued by the Government; for he (Sir F. Thesiger) was aware that the course which Members in Opposition had taken was open to great misconstruction, and it might easily have been represented that their object was to screen from punishment those parties who had been guilty of bribery :-and, though he was at all times averse to making professions of disinterestedness, still he felt bound to say that he did not yield to any man in aversion to corrupt practices at elections, and he should always be ready to join in any effectual measure for the suppression or punishment of such practices. Ile believed that no better punishment could be devised than that of the perpetual disqualification of parties who had been guilty of such practices; and, therefore, if he had not felt that by consenting to these Bills he would have been a party to a breach of faith, pledged to these individuals, and also have been violating one of the first principles of justice, he should most unquestionably have left those whom it was proposed to disfranchise to their fate. He had, however, had a strong opinion as to these measures from the time when they were first introduced-being convinced that the voters whom his hon. and learned Friend proposed to disfranchise were morally as well as legally entitled to the indemnity which was held out to them when they gave their evidence before the Commissioners and he had felt it his duty to interpose in the manner he had done. He begged that he might not be supposed to be making the slightest reflection on the Government, or those who took a different view of this subject from himself, for he believed that the Government originally entertained the opinion that they were entitled to pursue the course which they had taken, and he was himself of opinion that, were such course open to them, they ought to have pursued it. He would not enter into any arguments, as the Bills were withdrawn, to satisfy the House that the view which had been taken by those in opposition to the measures was the correct one, though he thought he might go the length of saying that he could satisfy the House, not merely on moral, but legal grounds, that the parties who had given evidence were protected by
MR. W. O. STANLEY thought the course taken by the Government was liable to considerable censure, and that, when the public came to consider, they would be
of opinion that Parliament was trifling with
the measure which he had introduced last Session with a view of appointing Commissions in order to ascertain where bribery existed, and then to punish and prevent it, had only been partially successful. He said partially successful, and presumed that he might do so, because he thought it a great matter that the House had now the means-which it had not before-of obtaining evidence on the spot, of bringing the evil home, and of ascertaining whether elections had been gained by bribery. This was certainly one step towards amendment; and he did trust that the measures referred to the Committee, and with which the Gentlemen composing the Committee were taking great pains, would be brought before the House in such a shape as would, at all events, tend to correct the evils which at present existed. It was the opinion of Government that the writs in the present instances should not be issued until the Bills before the Committee had been disposed of. If these Bills were approved by Parliament, there might be a chance that the disgusting scenes which had taken place at elections, as detailed in the Reports of the Commissioners, and avowed by the parties, would not be repeated at the next elections. If the Bills should be rejected either by this
he thought there would not be sufficient grounds to refuse to issue these writs, though he was afraid that then there would but be a renewal of the practices in those constituencies of the disgraceful practices complained of.
MR. VERNON SMITH said, he concurred in the proposal to withdraw these Bills, and he entertained great doubts as to whether they ought ever to have been introduced. He hoped it would not be understood that the Attorney, General, in saying that in some instances a wide construction had been put upon the terms of the indemnity by one or two of the Commissioners, had sought to cast any imputa-or the other House of Parliament, then tion on those gentlemen, or that they had, in so doing, gone beyond their instructions. He hoped the noble Lord would supply an omission of his hon. and learned Friend. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them that he trusted that something more efficient for the prevention of bribery than the present measures would result from the attention a Select Committee was now giving to several Bills; but he had not stated what course the Government intended to pursue with regard to the issuing of the writs for these places; and he would ask the noble Lord if he would do so? After the withdrawal of these Bills, any Member, having given seven days' notice, might move for the issuing of these writs in a manner which might take the House by surprise. He therefore wished the Government would state whether they intended to issue the writs, or whether they intended to ask the House to suspend them until they were made acquainted with the course which the Committee at present sitting might recommend the House to adopt?
LORD JOHN RUSSELL said, that it was certainly a disappointment to him that Mr. W. O. Stanley
MR. G. BUTT begged to say a few words on what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who would forgive him for suggesting, and, on reflection, would agree with him in thinking, that what he had just urged as a reason for the postponement of the writs was not a reason which ought to operate either with himself or the House. The noble Lord had said that the Committee now sitting was most anxious to do all in their power to submit the measures referred to them to the House in such a shape as would, to a great extent, cure the evils of which everybody complained; but the reason why the present Bills were withdrawn was, that though the letter of the Statute would justify the Bills, yet that the spirit of that Act would not do so-these Bills being withdrawn, though persons were found guilty by the Commissioners of bribery and corruption, yet they