THE CHEISTCHUECH ELECTION.
We take the following from the Sansard report of the debate on the motion for adopting the Committee's report : —
Mr Moorhouse : If I might be allowed to make a short statement, it may perhaps relieve the mind of the honorable member for Eden of a misapprehension. What he has Btated are not tho facts of tho case. The question was not put to the Committee. All the honorable members of the Committee, except one, had stated their opinions, and when ho was called upon to do so, ho said he would like further time for reflection. The question was never put until after the adjournment, and the vote3 were not recorded as the honorable gentleman states. Mr Tole : All I can say is, that I was told by a member of the Committee that he had recorded his vote before lunch, and another gentleman came back afterwards and recorded his vote;
MrHislop: If it .be in order, I will move — "That the minutes of proceedings of the Committee be read."
Minutes of proceedings read.
Mr Hall : lam not sorry fchab the honorable gentleman requested that tho minutes of the proceedings of the Committee should be read, because I take it that the only possible ground upon which. —in tho face of tho Act of 1858 — the House could abstain from immediately doing that which the law prescribes it to do, is, that there was something in the proceedings themselves so grossly and absolutely irregular as to invalidate those proceedings. Failing that, I take it the law is distinct and clear. It says" that, " Tho Houbo, on the same being reported to. them,, shall order such report to-be entered on the Journal, and shall give the necessary, directions for confirming or altering the return ;" and so on. Therefore, if the proceedings of the Committee have been arrived at without any such gross irregularity as would- involve tho upsetting of its proceedings, I take it the House has no power to go behind the report, which ;the law declares shall bo fltnal. I trust, therefore, we Bhall have n» further interference with the law being given effect to; but that we Bhall proceed as. we have done on all previous occasions
Mr Hialop : I accept the challenge of the honorable gentleman . with regard to the irregularity of the proceedings of tho Committee. The first irregularity I submit is this : It does not appear from the minutes
that the witnesses oxamined were examined om oath, aa required by the .law; secondly, there was no evidence before the Committee that the Hon Mr.Eichardaon was a candidate
:or election at the last election for the", dis-
trict of Christchurch, or that ho waa a voterupon the.elector&l. roU for .that district. The omission' of. evidence on those two points shows that the proceedings of the Committee ■were • conducted with .great . irregularity.. Another matter is, that the minutes do not show whether the CoHimitteo entered into
the consideration of whethor the statements in the petition wore sufficient to disqualify a person occupying the position which Sip George Grey occupied from being a member of this Houso. It seems absurd that thoie, should be entered upon the records of this House two decisions of sworn, pommittees.o? this House, one in 1876, declaring that matters which would disqualify a person at : Home would not disqualify him here, and another one now, stating that they would disqualify him. Under those circumstances, I submit it would bo ; a very bad precedent for the House to adopt this report. I therefore move, on the grounds I have stated, that the House refuses to ratify the report.
Mr Speaker : I cannot put that question. It is clearly laid down by the law that the report of the Committee is final, and that the House cannot revise it. The only question I can pub is, that the report be entOrdd on the Journals. ■ • Sir Or. Grey : Sir, I would Venture to put another caso to you. I argue nothing for myself, but what 1 have to say affects pthera. At the time I stood for Ohristohurch the l^w, of the land was declared— that is, that according to procedent I was justified in the course I took. . That was the declared law at the time : doclarcd by this House — the highest Legislature in the Colony. And, haying stood, 1350 persons voted for mo, and they certainly voted under the law existing at that time, ; I apprehend the House ought not to disqualify them, and prevent them from returning such, members as they like, even if it is determined that henceforth such a system shall nol prevail. Then, if it is determined that lam not the sitting member^ let the House determine that there shall be a new election, so that 1350 electors shall not be disfranchised. They acted in conf brmityi with the law at the time — they followed out the course Parliament prescribed as the existing law ; and I say that to disfranchise them absolutely by the decision of a Committee would bo one of the moßt
unjust acts ever" perpetrated. That is the point on which I rest ; that is the point which I wish the House to consider ; and I do not believe the House will think it just or right to inflict an injury of that- kind- upon 1350 innocent persons, who were absolutely obeying the law at the time they" gave their votes. The Act,- says that the determination df the Committee shall be final between the parties that is,,, between- the person-who prosecutes the petition and myself} ;but it' does not say that the decision of the Committee is to be anal as to the punishment— the disfranchieement of a large number of electors. Then there is another point which is reaUy worth considering: that is, whether, justly, this petition ought not tohavabeen presented before 14 days expired. Now, I apprehend the result of that may be that it may be impossible now, supposing Mr Richardson is declared to be the sitting member, to bring a petition against him for bribery, if it be thought proper to do so. In this particular case, there was no reason .why the petition should not have been presented the first day after Parliament met — there was no necessity to get up evidence ; and I think it would be most unjust, under the circumstances, that a large proportion of the electors of Chriatchurch, who obeyedthelaw> of the land at the time, should lose the right of choosing a member of Parliament. They committed no crime, they broke no law, they committed no offence, wherefore inflict eo heavy and great a punishment upon them? I trust the House will consider that.
Motion Rgreed to. • Mr Fulton : I am, instructed by the City of Christchurch Election Committee to lay on the table of the House a resolution, and move that it be read.
Resolution read as follows : " That this Committee is of opinion that the provisions of the present law respecting election petitions are unsatisfactory, and require amendment." Mr G. S. Cooper, Clerk of Writs, being in attendance, was directed by Mr Speaker to alter the writ of election for Christchurch City by substituting for the name of Sir George Grey the name of the Hon B. Richardson ; which was accordingly done. Sir G. Grey : Sir, I feel it-my duty to rise to a question of privilege. It is this: Whether it is possible in this way to virtually disfranchise a large number of electors. I submit that this is an unheard of case, and is contrary to every precedent. Any one who looks at the precedents which decide English elections and which settle these points, will seethat it is absolutely unlawful to do that which the House is now doing. Mr Speaker : The honorable member is not in order in bringing up this question. The House has orderod that the report of the Committee be entered upon the Journals. I shall call upon Mr Richardson to come up and be sworn in.
Sir G. Grey: I move the adjournment ;of the House.
Mr Speaker : The member must be sworn in.
Mr E. Richardson then took the oath and
his seat for Ohristchurch City. Sir G. Grey, : I rise to another question of privilege. I wish to know whether it >is not the House that should order the writ to be altered, and not the Speaker. The House has not ordered the alteration to bo made.
Mr Speaker: The House has ordered: the report to be entered upon the Journals. Sir G. Grey : The House gives the necessary direction for altering the writ, and not the Speaker. I submit that point for your consideration.
Mr Speaker : I believe the course I have pursued is the correct course to adopt. Sir G. Grey : I would ask you to look at the law. It is a mo3t important point, and 1 1 think, if you will patiently read the law before pronouncing this decision, you will see that I am absolutely right in what I , say. This is perhaps the most important thing . that has ever been done.
Mr Speaker : With all due deference to the honorable gentleman, I must say that the decision of the Committee was final. The House expects me to see that the law, ia carried out. It is well known that- the, House does not over-ride the decision of the Committee.
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THE CHEISTCHUECH ELECTION., Star, Issue 3608, 3 November 1879
THE CHEISTCHUECH ELECTION. Star, Issue 3608, 3 November 1879
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