§ On that relative to "Strangers," which is in the following words—"That the Serjeant at Arms attending this House do, from time to time, take into his custody any Stranger or Strangers that he shall see, or be informed of to be, in the House or Gallery, while the House, or any Committee of the whole House, is sitting; and that no person, so taken into custody, be discharged out of custody without the special order of the House,"
§ Mr. Hume
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to this particular order. It was an order of very old standing; indeed it was so ancient, that it was disregarded in practice; and he therefore put it to the House whether they had not now arrived at the time when they could avowedly admit the public to hear what passed within their walls, a privilege which it substantially possessed already, although liable to certain penalties for exercising it. It was well known that, if any member wished the gallery to be cleared, he had only to intimate that "Strangers" were present, and the gallery must, be cleared without any debate. Last year, as a gallant friend of his (colonel Davis), whom he had not the 135 pleasure to see in his place, was making a statement relative to the conduct of Mr. Nash, and the expenditure incurred in the erection of Buckingham Palace, to the manner in which the public money had been squandered upon it, and to the degree in which a public board, appointed to control the expense, had neglected its duty, an hon. member rose, and, in order to prevent the truth from getting before the public, had the gallery cleared. Now, so long as this was one of their standing orders, no one could object to such a proceeding. He considered it, however, as a great hardship—he considered it as shutting the door upon all the beneficial results which arose from publicity. Indeed, when he saw what passed in that House, he saw enough to convince him that if their debates did not go before the country, it would be much better that the country should have no House of Commons; indeed that had long been his opinion. He therefore submitted to the House, that it should allow, for one year, the suspension of this order, and see whether any evil was likely to arise from it. It would be open to the House on any occasion when the question was raised 'that the gallery be cleared,' to determine, from the character of the proposition under discussion, how far it was fitting that the debate should be concealed from the public. Thus they would at any time be able to prevent improper disclosures from being made, whilst, by opening their doors widely to the public, they would show that they were not averse to have their conduct known and examined. He was sorry to say, that even if that were done, the accommodation for the public would remain so inconvenient, that he should much wish to see it corrected. He therefore suggested the propriety of not pressing this order at present, but of suspending it for this session. He thought that no regulation ought to be made by the House which it was not intended to carry into effect; and that when any regulation which was never carried into effect was regularly brought under their consideration, it ought to be repealed.
; by no means acquiesced in the proposition which had just been made by the hon. member for Aberdeen. The proposal to abandon so important a privilege as the present, was one of those matters on which the House ought not to decide instantly and without due 136 notice. The speech of the hon. member for Aberdeen proved that there was no necessity for the alteration which he recommended, for the hon. member admitted that the order was a dead letter. No practical inconvenience resulted from its standing on their order-book; for the good sense of hon. members was a sufficient security that it would not be enforced without due cause [hear]. With all the pains which he had taken, the hon. member for Aberdeen had only been able to remember one instance in which this order had been acted upon. Every body knew that full and regular publicity was given to the debates which took place in that House. What might be the consequences of the right of unlimitted publicity, he would not venture to predict [hear]: but he doubted whether the present uninterrupted decorum of their proceedings could be maintained concurrently with unlimited publicity.
could not consent to that proposal, because it would seem to call in question the propriety of the existing order. The passing of that order now would not prevent the hon. member for Aberdeen from calling the attention of the House to it on a future occasion. He hoped, however, that the House would pause before it parted with the power of clearing the gallery, [hear]