HC Deb 08 July 1834 vol 24 cc1299-303
Mr. Ward

, on bringing up the Report of the Committee, appointed to consider the best mode of taking authentic Lists of the Divisions in the House, after recapitulating the plans which had fallen under the consideration of the Committee, and been rejected by them, proceeded to explain the mode which the Committee recommended for the adoption of the House. As long as the Members met in the building which was at present appropriated to their Debates, it was impossible that the plan which the Committee thought the best could be carried into execution. That plan was, that the ayes and the noes should both leave the body of the House, and retire into rooms at the opposite ends of it, and as they re-entered the House the name of each Member might be declared aloud by one of the clerks of the House stationedat each door, and taken down by a person. But as this method was at present impracticable, the Committee thought it best, that those Members who were presumed to be the minority should, as was the rule at present, go into the lobby, and then the names of those in the House having been taken down, the names of the minority should be collected and written down. He need say nothing of the inconvenience resulting from the present method of preparing these lists. There appeared in the newspapers a constant succession of protests from Members against their inaccuracy, and he had sometimes seen as many as eight or nine letters in one day, to correct the mistakes that had been made. The editor of The Times had been so pestered with the applications, that notices continually were appearing in that periodical on the subject. On one occasion he read, "We have repeated usque ad nauseam that we have nothing to do with making out these lists; why does not the House find the means of correcting this anomaly?" To be sure, why did not the House adopt some method to authenticate the lists? He hoped that they would agree to his experiment, and he should therefore move that the House take the Report into consideration with a view to the adoption of its recommendation at the commencement of the next Session.

Mr. Hawes

hoped, that the independent Members of the House would unite, and work out one good measure at least during their prolonged session. He seconded the Motion.

Mr. Hume

considered the question of very great importance. Lists had been made out for a considerable period; but hitherto, for want of some authorized system, it had been done very partially and incorrectly. They had been prepared with a great deal of trouble, and had occasioned much loss of time to those Members who had undertaken the task of furnishing them. He himself had for many years taken as much trouble to make out lists as any Member in the House. Indeed, it was only within the last twelve months that, having been anxious to get other Members to attend to the matter, he had given to it comparatively less attention. He hoped that no man who came to this House was afraid of its being known how he voted. Every Member ought to be prepared to defend his vote, be it in accordance with or against the views of his constituents. He believed, that the effect of publishing the divisions would be to cause a fuller attendance of Members, though the limited attendance, deficient as were the present accommodations of the House, was rather in favour of those who were the more hard-working Members, and who regularly discharged their duties there. They ought, however, to have regard to what was the intention of the Reform Act, which unquestionably was, that every Member should be at his post. His opinion was, that till a new House of Commons was built, it would be impossible that divisions could be taken in the manner that was most desirable. Several plans had been submitted to the Committee, and only one of them met with unanimous approbation; but it was impossible to carry it into effect for want of more room. According to this plan two additional rooms were necessary, in order that one party might go out at one door, and another party at the other door; it was proposed that as the Members went out they should be counted, thus both sides could be counted at the same moment, and the time of the House would not be lost as at present. The want of the requisite accommodation induced the Committee to recommend the plan now before the House. He thought that in ordinary divisions it would answer very well; but when they had such divisions as they had the other night, when between 300 and 400 divided, the Members of necessity would be sitting so close, that the tellers, unless they had very good eyes, would not be able to distinguish one from the other.

Sir Robert Peel

was against the plan altogether. He would leave every man who gave his vote according to his conscience to state to his constituents, if he pleased, what his vote was on any particular occasion. As to the liability of being called on by his constituents to inform them as to such vote, if the principle of the Motion now before the House was a good one, there ought to be a division on every question on which there was not a perfect unanimity of opinion. He thought that the tendency of the proposed plan would be to multiply divisions. Thus, if 200 took one view of a question, and only ten the other view, there must be a division and a publication of the list, that the constituents of the ten virtuous patriots might know how they voted on the particular motion. He thought that most erroneous inferences would frequently be drawn from records of the names unaccompanied by explanation. What could the constituents understand from the mere statement of the Motion according to the forms of the House? For example, they would sometimes find it recorded thus:—That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question; the "ayes" voted in this way, and the "noes" in the other way. It would be necessary for Members to explain the grounds on which they gave their votes. It did not appear to him that they were in a situation to adopt any of the plans submitted to the Committee. The first was, that the names of all the Members should be called over; this the Committee objected to, on account of the loss of time that would be occasioned. The second was, that Members should inscribe their names in a book on entering the House; this also the Committee rejected as inconvenient. The third was, that the Members should go one side into one lobby, and the other side into another lobby; but to carry this plan into execution, extra room would be necessary. The fourth plan was, that now under the consideration of the House; and it appeared the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion had himself no great confidence in his proposition. The two tellers must be acquainted with every Member in the House; this was one great difficulty to be overcome. Then were the tellers to be appointed now at the latter end of the Session? If so, they would have a comfortable office during the recess. [Mr. Ward did not propose to try the experiment till next Session.] Then he would put it to the House whether the question had not better be postponed altogether. Why should they be called on to pledge their successors the succeeding Session.

Mr. Grote

hoped the House would not be induced to negative the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. It was unjust to the people of England to say, that when the votes were laid before them they would not have intelligence enough to understand on what principle their Representatives had acted. The Reform Bill having passed, the people should be placed in the best possible situation as regarded their means of obtaining accounts of information as to the votes of their Representatives, in order that they might be able to form a proper estimate of the claims of the candidates who might offer themselves. As to the principle of the Motion, he was strongly in its favour; but as regarded the means by which it was proposed to carry that principle into effect, he spoke with considerable diffidence, because the experiment had yet to be made.

Mr. Secretary Rice

said, the House had decided that this was a fit subject for the inquiry of a Committee, but there was still the question before them as to the means by which the object was to be effected. He would, in the first instance, ask whether, by the course pursued at present, their constituents did not obtain a competent knowledge of the votes of Members of that House? In all important questions the divisions were published, and they were generally accurate. When they were not so, he knew that Members were put to the trouble of writing letters to correct them, and he could easily understand why they should be desirous of relieving themselves from the performance of this task; but, on the other hand, if they adopted either of the plans proposed to remedy the evil, he feared that the sacrifice of time on the part of the House would be considerable.

Mr. Kennedy

thought the thanks of the country eminently due to the hon. member for St. Alban's, for his zeal in bringing this subject before the House, and trusted he would persevere and bring it to a happy conclusion. Whoever had seen the facility with which names were taken in such large assemblies as the halls of Lincoln's Inn and the Middle Temple, could have no doubt of the practicability of the recommendation of the Committee. He trusted the House would agree to the measure, and carry it into effect, as he considered it only next in importance to Triennial Parliaments.

Mr. Wynn

opposed the plan. He thought, firstly, that it was impracticable to any good purpose; and secondly, that the attempt to carry it into effect would only cause an increase in the number of divisions, and the consequent obstruction of public business.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

wished the consideration of the question to be put off until next Session.

The House divided: Ayes 76; Noes 32—Majority 44.

Mr. Ward

then moved, "That the plan proposed by the Committee be acted upon before the close of the present Session, and that clerks be appointed for the purpose of carrying it into effect."

Motion agreed to.

List of the AYES.
Baines, E. Ellis, W.
Barnard, E. G. Evans, G.
Beauclerk, A. W. Ewart, W.
Bellew, R. M. Faithfull, G.
Bernard, Hon. W. Fenton, L.
Bewes, T. Fergusson, R. C.
Blackburne, J. Fitzsimon, C.
Blake, M. Fleetwood, P. H.
Blamire, W. Gisborne, T.
Brodie, W. B. Goring, H. D.
Brotherton, J. Grote, G.
Buckingham, J. S. Hawes, B.
Chapham, M. L. Hoskins, K.
Clay, W. Hume, J.
Divett, E. Humphery, J.
Dobbin, D. Jacob, E.
Dundas, J. W. D. James, W.
Jervis, J. Ruthven, E. S.
Kennedy, J. Shawe, R. N.
Lister, E. C. Sheil, R. L.
Lloyd, J. H. Sullivan, R.
Lynch, A. W. Talbot, J. H.
Murray, J. H. Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C.
Nagle, Sir R. Torrens, Colonel
O'Connell, D. Tower, C.
O'Connell, J. Vigors, N. A.
O'Connor, F. Walker, C. A.
O'Conor, Don Walker, R.
O'Dwyer, A. C. Wallace, T.
O'Reilly, W. Walter, J.
Oswald, J. Ward, H. G.
Parrott, J. Wason, R.
Pease, J. Williams, Colonel
Phillipps, C. M. Williams, A.
Plumptre, J. Wood, Alderman
Potter, R. Young, G. F.
Richards, J.
Rider, T. TELLERS.
Robinson, G. R. Ward, H. G.
Roche, D. Hawes, B.
List of the NOES.
Berkeley, Hon. C. Lyall, G.
Bolling, W. Mangles, J.
Bruce, C. L. Newark, Viscount
Calvert, N. Peel, Rt. Hon. Sir R.
Cartwright, W. R. Pepys, Sir C.
Cayley, E. S. Reid, Sir J.
Elliot, Hon. Capt. G. Rice, Rt. Hon. T. S.
Forster, C. S. Ridley, Sir M.
Gladstone, W. Ross, C.
Graham, Sir J. Rumbold, C. E.
Grosvenor, Earl Tracy, C. H.
Hardy, J. Tyrell, C.
Harland, W. C. Vernon, G. H.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Villiers, Viscount
Lefevre, C. S. Wynn, Rt. Hon. C.
Lefroy, T. TELLERS.
Lefroy, A. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Littleton, Rt. Hon. E. J. Ross, C.