Parliamentary Elections Act 1868

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Parliamentary Elections Act 1868
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Long title An Act for amending the Laws relating to Election Petitions, and providing more effectually for the Prevention of corrupt Practices at Parliamentary Elections
Citation 31 & 32 Vict. c. 125
Introduced byPrime Minister Benjamin Disraeli
Territorial extent
Dates
Royal assent 31 July 1868

The Parliamentary Elections Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c. 125), sometimes known as the Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections Act [2] or simply the Corrupt Practices Act 1868, is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament, since repealed. The effect of the Act was to transfer responsibility for trying election petitions from the House of Commons to the Judges of the High Court of Justice. The Act was designed to, and did, provide a more effective measure for preventing corruption and fraud in Parliamentary elections.

An election petition refers to the procedure for challenging the result of a Parliamentary election.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom Lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons, officially the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.

High Court of Justice one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales

The High Court of Justice in England is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC for legal citation purposes.

Contents

Background

The 1865 general election was regarded by contemporaries as being a generally dull contest nationally, which exaggerated the degree of corruption within individual constituencies. In his PhD thesis, Cornelius O'Leary described The Times as having reported "the testimony is unanimous that in the General Election of 1865 there was more profuse and corrupt expenditure than was ever known before". [3] As a result of allegations of corruption, 50 election petitions were lodged, of which 35 were pressed to a trial; 13 ended with the elected MP being unseated. In four cases a Royal Commission had to be appointed because of widespread corrupt practices in the constituency. [4] :27–28 When he came into office in 1867, Benjamin Disraeli announced that he would introduce a new method for election petition trials (which were then determined by a committee of the House of Commons). Disraeli proposed that this take the form of two assessors visiting the constituency and determining the outcome, with an appeal to the House of Commons which could appoint a select committee should it decide to take the matter up. [4] :32 This Bill was referred to a select committee which altered it so that the jurisdiction was given to the Court of Queen's Bench, with no appeal to the House, but with a three-member Court of Election Appeals for points of law. [2] At this point the Bill was withdrawn, so that it could be reintroduced the following year. [3] [4] :35

1865 United Kingdom general election

The 1865 United Kingdom general election saw the Liberals, led by Lord Palmerston, increase their large majority over the Earl of Derby's Conservatives to more than 80. The Whig Party changed its name to the Liberal Party between the previous election and this one.

Cornelius O'Leary was an Irish historian and political scientist.

<i>The Times</i> British daily compact newspaper owned by News UK

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

Legislation

When the Bill was reintroduced in February 1868, Disraeli noted that the Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn, had written to the Lord Chancellor expressing the "strong and unanimous feeling of insuperable repugnance" to their proposed duties under the Bill. He had therefore changed the proposal again, to propose an election court which would have three members. The Liberal opposition did not attack the principle of the Bill, although two individual Liberal MPs fervently opposed it, [4] :36–37 with Alexander Mitchell arguing he was "convinced that the retention by the House of its own jurisdiction and the right of determining who were its Members was essential to its dignity and independence". [3] There was a feeling in the press and in Parliament that a makeshift court was not of suitable esteem to take over what had been a matter of Parliamentary privilege. Disraeli therefore came up with a compromise, which William Gladstone accepted, whereby two Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, Exchequer of Pleas or Queen's Bench would be designated to try election petitions with full judicial salaries. [4] :39 The passage of the Bill was prolonged in the House of Commons because of opposition, but passed through the House of Lords in five days and the Bill received Royal Assent on 31 July 1868.

Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales position

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales and the President of the Courts of England and Wales.

Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet Lord Chief Justice

Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn, 12th Baronet was a Scottish jurist and politician who served as the Lord Chief Justice for 21 years. A notorious womaniser and socialite, he heard some of the leading causes célèbres of the nineteenth century.

Lord Chancellor Highest-ranking regularly-appointed Great Officer of State of the United Kingdom

The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest ranking among those Great Officers of State which are appointed regularly in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the Prime Minister. The Lord Chancellor is outranked only by the Lord High Steward, another Great Officer of State, who is appointed only for the day of coronations. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prior to the Union there were separate Lord Chancellors for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland.

See also

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References

  1. "Dublin Freemen Commission Act (32 & 33 Vict. c. 65)". The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1807–1868/69).
  2. 1 2 Morris, Caroline (2012). Parliamentary Elections, Representation and the Law. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN   978-1-8473-1936-4.
  3. 1 2 3 Kelly, Richard; Hamlyn, Matthew (2013). "The Law and Conduct of MPs". In Horne, Alexander; Drewry, Gavin; Oliver, Dawn (eds.). Parliament and the Law. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 93. ISBN   978-1-7822-5258-0.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 O'Leary, Cornelius (1962). The Elimination of Corrupt Practices in British Elections 1868–1911. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.