HC Deb 22 May 1834 vol 23 cc1228-48
Mr. Tooke

rose to move, pursuant to notice, that it be an instruction to the Select Committee on the business of the House, to consider and report on the expediency of establishing or encouraging the publi- cation of an authentic report of the debates arising in the House relating to public and private business, and of the proceedings connected therewith. The hon. Member said, that it was well known, that however admirably the proceedings of the House were reported, for the information of the public, on questions of general interest and importance, still much of what was considered by the press of minor importance was omitted, while the private business which came before the House was altogether neglected. He thought in the present state of the country when that House was responsible to its constituents, that it was desirable that the fullest knowledge of what passed in Parliament should be communicated to the public, and while he would guard with jealous care the privileges of the House, he nevertheless conceived that, under the direction of the Committee, a plan might be adopted for recording their proceedings in such a way as would be attended with infinite advantage to the community at large. It was obvious that the publication of private business could not repay any individual, and that the object could not be effected unless the aid of the House were afforded for that purpose, or such advantages were given as should enable the channel which gave that description of business, to establish itself in the public favour. He did not wish to throw any responsibility on the House, nor to promote the interests of individuals, but he desired to obtain such information as the Committee could afford on the subject. He was conscious that the matter seemed to invade the privileges of the House, but he thought that objection might be obviated; and, further, he was of opinion that we had arrived at a period when whatever passed in Parliament ought to be communicated to the public. He put it to the House to consider the expediency of referring the question to the Select Committee on the business of the House, in doing which he did not think that they would compromise the dignity or privileges of Parliament. His object was, to examine into the best mode of ensuring the accuracy of reports of the proceedings of the House, and of extending a full publication of them. Having stated the nature of his Motion, he contented himself with presenting it to the House in the terms contained in the orders, and left it in the hands of hon. Members to deal with the matter as they thought fit.

Lord Althorp

said, that the House should not agree to the proposed instruction to the Select Committee unless it thought the object of that instruction one which ought to be adopted. The question for the House to consider was, whether the proposed object was desirable. The subject had been discussed on former occasions when the general feeling appeared to be, that what was now proposed with respect to the debates would be more inconvenient than otherwise, if carried into effect. With respect to public business, he did not think that the public felt any great loss in consequence of the manner in which the reports in the newspapers were now given, for certainly, to the extent to which those reports could go, their fidelity and accuracy were such as created surprise rather than disappointment. If the report of the debates were to be further extended, and every word was to be taken down in short-hand as it should be spoken, they must reach an enormous extent in the first place, and in the second, he was afraid that the record would not do any great credit to the character of Members for the purity of the English which was sometimes spoken. In fact, the debates would be so voluminous that the public would never wade through them. He had spoken of the reports of public business; and with respect to private business, he must add that he did not think when any matter of importance to the public in that way came before the House, that there was any deficiency in the reports even of that description of business. Certainly in ordinary cases of private business, where no opposition occurred, in which there was no contest or debate of much importance, but little notice was taken of those proceedings in the newspapers; he could not, however, think, that upon this ground alone it was desirable to concur in the hon. Member's motion. Having heard Gentlemen at different times moot the same question, he was not now convinced of the expediency any more than he had before been of recording every syllable that was uttered in that House. The record would be so voluminous that it would not find readers; it must be in a great measure perfectly uninteresting to the public. Under such circumstances he did not think it desirable to introduce any change in the existing system. With respect to referring the question to a Committee already sitting on the business of the House, he anticipated no advantage from laying fresh matter before it. They had already had other instances of reports from Committees on the business of the House, which were not likely to be adopted; he referred to the report on the subject of taking divisions, and he saw no prospect of any advantage from an inquiry or recommendation as to attempting a verbatim report of their proceedings. He was convinced that great difficulties must arise in the course of any such attempt.

Sir Samuel Whalley

observed, that he could well understand why members of an Administration might be reluctant to have their speeches reported at length, particularly if they had recently sat on the Opposition side of the House—lest by-gone speeches should be disinterred from their graves and quoted against their authors at a future opportunity. But there were other parties whose interests it was the duty of the House to consult—he meant the interests of their constituents, by whom Members had been sent to Parliament. It was right, that their constituents should be acquainted with the speeches and acts of Members. If Members wished to discharge their duty conscientiously, they would desire those whom they represented to be fully apprised of their proceedings. He was sure, that from one end of the country to the other there was no individual who would grudge the expense of an accurate report of all the proceedings of Parliament—none but would desire a faithful mirror of all that passed in the House, provided that the mirror were not so scrupulously accurate as to reflect in the strongest colours their occasional defects. He did not wish to interfere with the privileges of the House, the Committee would consider that subject. He might observe, that it would be possible to circulate the debates among Members themselves, without touching the question of privilege. He was of opinion, that it would be a national shame and a public loss, if the very able publication which he had in view in these remarks should be suffered to drop for want of funds. The debates in Parliament went to every nation in the world, and were commented on in every court in Europe [Laughter.] Gentlemen oppo- site might laugh, but it would be recollected that the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs had formerly observed that the sentiments expressed by Members in that House would reach the autocrat of Russia, and read him an useful lesson. On that ground he was entitled to the noble Lord's support in the present attempt to procure a full account of speeches in Parliament, or if the noble Lord declined to support the Motion, he could never again make use of the argument before referred to. In conclusion, he should merely observe that he did not wish to prejudice or impair the privileges of Parliament—his only object in supporting the Motion was, to promote the public interest.

Mr. Stanley

said: I cannot understand why any person who ever did fill the office of a public Minister in this country, or who does fill the office of a Minister, or whom anybody thinks should at any future time fill the office as a Minister—I cannot conceive on what ground such an individual should take the least interest whatsoever in the consideration of this question, or why he should imagine it to be one in the most remote degree personally interesting to himself. For with regard to the possibility of raking up long-departed speeches to which the hon. Member who last addressed the House has alluded—I say with regard to any speech that a Minister of the Crown may have delivered within the last eighty or 100 years, there are at present ample means for reviving it, and I would add, there are also persons quite willing and fully prepared to rake up such speeches—nay, half sentences extracted from them, whether so quoted and garbled as to disagree with the context and spirit of the body of which they form imperfect members it matters not—and this, it may be, for the purpose of putting a different interpretation on the extracts from that which they will fairly bear, and in order to contrast in the strongest light and most unfavourable manner the past and present sentiments of the individual, whether a Minister of the Crown or in some other public situation. But every man who aspires to any public situation in the service of his country must appreciate at its due weight—that is, he must utterly condemn—all such attacks upon an apparent want of consistency in public men as are brought forward merely as claptraps, and for the purpose of producing a momentary impression against the sentiments now expressed in a present speech, but not as sound and valid arguments against the principles which it involves. So much on the subject of the sentiment with which the hon. Gentleman commenced his speech—a sentiment which, as applied to public men or Ministers, I cannot understand. But I can very well understand, that there is a class of persons who may have seats in this House, and whose speeches, with all the pains they can take, and notwithstanding their great merits, may not be so widely promulgated by means of the public press as the speakers wish. I can very well understand that there may be persons who having risen from being prime orators in a parish vestry, do nevertheless find themselves very inferior in the House of Commons. I can very well understand that there may be reasons why such individuals should repine that their speeches are not reported at length in the newspapers, and complain that their fame is not extensive enough. I can very well understand the grounds on which those Gentlemen may think the Press wrong in taking a different view of their weight and merits from that which they themselves entertain. I can also understand why, though the speeches of those individuals would be considered entitled to great respect and ample dimensions in a parish meeting or a country paper—I say I can understand, or at least imagine, why they form but a small part of the printed records of the debates in this House, and are rather underrated by newspapers, whose object it is to publish matters generally interesting to the country at large. Such being the case, I can very well understand why the plenipotentiary of the kingdom of Marylebone calls upon his brother Minister (the Secretary of State for the Foreign Department) to support a Motion the object of which is to circulate widely his important ideas, and give currency throughout all the courts of Europe to his powerful and comprehensive views. I can very well understand, that the dignity of the kingdom of Marylebone ought to be properly sustained by its plenipotentiary and representative, that he ought not to yield to the Foreign Secretary; and I can as readily believe, if the autocrat of all the Russias should happen to hear that the hon. Gentleman had denounced him in the House of Commons—I can easily be- lieve, that in such an event, the Czar would think his empire gone for ever. The hon. Gentleman calls me to order, and cries "question." I am not aware in what respect I am out of order, and I always supposed, that it was not over civil to call "question" when a gentleman was speaking, especially if he happened to be speaking directly to the question. If the hon. Gentleman means to say, that I am not speaking to the point in debate, I maintain, and am ready to prove, the contrary. I am answering the hon. Gentleman's speech; and my object is to show, that those mighty interests in the country, which, according to the hon. Member, exercise so great an influence on the empire at large, and the whole of Europe, do now receive sufficient scope and currency,—that the feelings and sentiments of what is most important in the country, in the constituent and representative body, are carried all over Europe, and have due weight with every Power. But it appears, that some of those Gentlemen to whom I have before alluded, whose sentiments do not carry equal weight along with them, complain, that their speeches are not diffused so widely as they might desire. I am instancing the case which the hon. Gentleman himself puts. The hon. Gentleman says,—"I, the Representative of Marylebone, call upon you, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to join me in this Motion for the publication of an authentic report of the debates of the House." [Sir Samuel Whalley: No, not so.] Not so? Then I do not wonder, that the public Press should be occasionally mistaken. I think the authorized reporter of the hon. Gentleman will have a hard task. Certainly, if I were his authorized reporter, I should have put down, with the utmost confidence, that the hon. Gentleman called on my noble friend, the Foreign Secretary, to support the Motion. And why should I have done so? Because the hon. Gentleman stated: on the noble Lord's own admission, everything that falls from hon. Members in this House is circulated all over Europe, and must necessarily influence foreign powers; and, therefore, I, the Representative of the kingdom of Marylebone, call upon you, my noble colleague and Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to join me in this Motion for the communication of our joint sentiments in an authentic and influential shape to all the courts of Europe. Such were not exactly the hon. Gentleman's words, but such was the spirit of his statement. [Sir Samuel Whalley: You have a very bad case.] "A very bad case," does the hon. Gentleman say? That remains to be proved. The question is, as to the advantage or disadvantage of the present method of publishing the debates as opposed to the system which the hon. Gentleman proposes. How does the present plan work? I have very often occasion to trouble the House; it is true I have little time to read the reports that appear in the newspapers of my speeches, or those of other Members;—perhaps the hon. Gentleman has more time, and devotes it to the perusal of his own speeches. [Sir Samuel Whalley: I do not read yours.] The hon. Gentleman says, he does not waste his time in reading my speeches, whatever time he may devote to his own. Well, I do not complain of my speeches being mis-reported; and neither will the hon. Gentleman, for he does not read them. But the hon. Gentleman complains, that there is not sufficient space devoted to the speeches of the Representative of Marylebone in the newspapers, the writers of which have an awkward trick of being guided by their own judgments, or, better still, their own interests, in the admission of matter which they give or withhold, in proportion to their belief of its importance, or the reverse. Is it surprising, that the newspapers should contain what the readers of newspapers desire to read, rather than what nobody could be found to read? Is not this reasonable? The hon. Gentleman says, "No, give us not a selection of readable and interesting matter, but the whole debate; every word that is spoken in Parliament; everything without misrepresentation or omission, no matter how full of repetitions, or how devoid of interest." Now, suppose the hon. Gentleman gets his authorized reporter to take down every word spoken within those walls, and the whole is published,—what will be the consequence? I will tell the hon. Gentleman:—the public won't read a word of it. What is the state of things at present? Are not the proceedings of the House published and circulated? They are, and that by authority. Every petition is stated, every stage of every bill, and all the proceedings on every Bill, public and private, are recorded. This by authority; and further, so far as the newspapers think the matter important or in- teresting to their readers, the details of proceedings go forth to the public. But the full debates, all long and tiresome speeches, repetitions, and inanities, do not go forth, because all of a considerable number of individuals connected with the papers, but not acting in concert, agree, that, in those debates, there is a great deal of needless and worthless matter, which nobody cares for, unless it be the particular speakers, and which the public would not read. The hon. Gentleman proposes, not to leave it any longer to the good sense, or, better than the good sense, to the interests of the writers of the newspaper press to decide what they will publish upon a consideration of what the community—their customers—will or will not buy. The hon. Gentleman proposes, that every thing done or spoken in the House shall be circulated by authority in future. [Sir Samuel Whalley: I proposed no change in what is now done; I merely said, that it would be a shame and a national loss if the only accurate report of our proceedings were allowed to drop for want of support.] Very well, the hon. Gentleman wants no change: he merely says, that it would be a national loss if the only accurate report of the proceedings of the House were allowed to fall for want of support. I presume the hon. Gentleman refers to the Mirror of Parliament? [Sir Samuel Whalley: Yes.] If so, all I can say is, that, as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, that publication has been conducted with great enterprise, skill, and ability. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say, that the question whether that publication must drop or not was one for the public to decide. If the hon. Gentleman was so anxious that full and complete reports of his speeches—such, no doubt, as appeared in the Mirror of Parliament—should be given to his constituents, why, the hon. Gentleman might distribute a number of Mirrors of Parliament amongst his constituents for that purpose. His constituents, of course, would be obliged to him for them; those who chose would read them, and those who did not would not; but it was rather too much to call on the public to pay for such a thing. He (Mr. Stanley) believed, that, in all matters of importance—in all debates of interest—the public Press, at the present moment, gave of what passed in that House as long, as full, and as correct accounts as the public wanted, as the public wished for; and that the publication of the debates, as now given in the daily papers, viewed as the means of conveying information to the public of what was done there, and as thereby the means of affording the check of public opinion on the proceedings of that House, and on the Members of it,—he repeated, that the publication of all important debates was, regarded in such a light, given in the daily Press to as large an extent as the public themselves thought desirable. Besides, it should be considered, that, even were any plan of this kind desirable, it must be attended with considerable expense to the public. During the last fortnight they had imposed 1,000,000l. on the Consolidated Fund. They had, during the last fortnight, placed upon it votes for 120,000l., for 140,000l., and for 520,000l. They had, in fact, placed to the charge of the Consolidated Fund during that period, a sum amounting to no less than 1,000,000l. sterling. Now, what was, in reality, the proposition of the hon. and learned Member? It amounted, in truth, to this,—that, as nobody read their speeches when given at full length, as the public did not think it worth their while to read the debates in such an enlarged form, and as the Members were anxious that their constituents should know all that they did and said in that House, therefore that the Consolidated Fund should have a charge imposed upon it for the purpose, the public paying for the publication of speeches, which the public, which nobody, would think it worth their while to read. He would again repeat that he would, if there was no other reason, object to this proposition, on the ground of the total absence of any necessity for it. The debates were given, as he had already said, in the public papers at present as fully upon all important questions as the public required; making the public acquainted, as fully as was necessary, with what every man said in that House. But, above all, he objected to the proposition, because it would go to establish a monopoly in the publication of the debates in that House, in opposition to the newspapers, which published sufficiently full reports at the present moment. He objected to the establishment of a monopoly for an authenticated authorized publication of the speeches delivered in that House. The present system of reporting the proceedings of Parliament in the daily papers afforded to the public as full an account of them as they wanted, and afforded as complete a check upon the proceedings of that House as the public could desire to possess; and he, therefore, objected to the establishment of an authorized monopoly in the publication of speeches, which no one would ever read when they were published.

Colonel Davies

said, that they should adhere to the real question before them, and not wander into matters that had nothing to do with it. The right hon. Gentleman, in attacking the hon. member for Marylebone, had followed the example which he had condemned on the part of that hon. Member, and had indulged in sarcasm instead of employing argument. The question was, not whether the speeches of Ministers or of any other Members of that House were or were not fully reported; but the simple question was, whether, or not, there should be an authorized and authenticated publication of the speeches delivered in that House. All that was urged by his hon. friend on the subject was, that it should be an instruction to the Committee to take that question into consideration. The Committee might report, after doing so, that there was no necessity for any authorised report of the proceedings of that House, or they might report the contrary way. At all events, the question was one well worthy of being sent to a Committee for consideration. He was of opinion, that an authenticated publication of the proceedings of that House would be productive of great benefit. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the proposition on the ground of expense; but he would venture to say, that if they referred the matter to a Select Committee, it could be shown that they might have an authorized account of what passed in that House without costing the public a single shilling of expense. There was no one more ready than he was to admit the extraordinary accuracy with which the public papers gave the debates in that House; but it was perfectly impossible, that the daily papers could give all that occurred there at full length. The question, then, was,—whether they should not entertain the proposition for an authenticated publication of their debates, and send it to a Committee up-stairs for consideration. He supported the proposition, considering that it would be of great public benefit.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that he would not support the Motion, if the object of it was to establish a monopoly in opposition to the daily public Press. He, for one, would say, that the manner in which the public Press was conducted with regard to the debates in that House was such as hon. Members had no right to complain of. If hon. Gentlemen would only refer to the Reports of their speeches in the public papers, they would generally find, that when they were not reported at great length it did not arise from the fault of the reporters; but, that it was the fault of hon. Members themselves, who had not on such occasions spoken sufficiently well to entitle them to a detailed report. He (Mr. Cutlar Fergusson) believed, that, generally speaking, he was as shortly reported as any hon. Member in that House; but of that he did not complain. He thought, that if hon. Members would look to those speeches that were shortly reported, they would find, that in most instances it arose from such speeches being more deficient in point than those that had been given at greater length. The reporters were generally exceedingly happy in giving the points of a speech, and if an hon. Member should be happy in making points in his speech, he would have no reason to complain when he found those points preserved while the unnecessary verbiage was rejected. He would support the Motion, but he would repeat, that he would not do so if he at all thought that it would go to establish a monopoly against the public Press. He supported it because he thought, that it would be of great public advantage to establish an authentic record of all the proceedings in that House. It was not the interest of the public Press to give debates upon many questions, however important those questions might be to certain parts of the empire, at any length; and, indeed, it was often impossible for the daily papers, even upon questions of the highest public interest, to give the reports, owing to the time at which the debates occurred, at any length, if they would give them at all. Every one who attended that House was aware, that important debates often occurred at such late hours, that it was impossible for the reporters to do any justice to them. He had himself often heard good speeches delivered at two and three o'clock in the morning, when it was obvious to every one, that it was impossible that they could be reported at such a late hour at any length in the daily papers. It might be observed upon important debates, that while the speeches delivered early in the evening were given at great length, those delivered at a later hour, though perhaps more eloquent and important, were necessarily abridged in the daily papers. He himself could state several instances when subjects of the greatest importance were brought on at a late hour in the House, and where, without any blame attaching to those who conducted the daily Press, such discussions were greatly abridged, if not almost altogether omitted. It was obviously impossible, that anything like justice could be done to discussions that occurred after midnight, as important debates very frequently did in that House. There were also instances where the daily papers, it being their interest he supposed to do so, abridged to a very great extent discussions upon important subjects in that House. He could instance the discussions that occurred in Committee upon the East-India Charter. He had known a debate of five or six hours in that Committee despatched in seven or eight lines. He had known discussions upon the Scotch Reform Bill given with equal brevity; and he understood, indeed, that it was a general complaint throughout Scotland, that they could not tell what their Representatives said in the House of Commons. It was a general complaint throughout Scotland, that subjects relating to that country were not reported sufficiently fully. It appeared to him, indeed, that the discussions relating to Scotland might certainly be given at greater length than they usually were in the daily Press, the more particularly as Irish subjects occupied such a space in their columns; and the speeches of the Representatives from that country were given at such enormous length, while those hon. Members who had no right at all to complain on the subject actually complained, that their speeches were not reported. He thought, that more than justice was done to the speeches of those hon. Members, while there were no reports at all of several most important discussions relating to Scotland. It therefore appeared to him a great object to have a full and authenticated report published of the proceedings that took place in that House; any persons whose opin- ions were of consequence—any persons like Ministers of the Crown, filling high official situations; and who might have their opinions hereafter quoted in debates—it was of great importance to all such persons, that their opinions should be quoted correctly. No Members were so interested in that object as the hon. Members who sat upon the Treasury Benches. Though there were many things that passed in that House, that the daily newspapers might not think it worth their while to report; yet there was no doubt, that they were of importance to some portion or other of the people of England; and it would be, therefore, most desirable to have a full and authentic report of what passed there published. His right hon. friend said, that the public would not read such report when published. Those constituents who were interested in the subject would read the report of the debate upon it; and it was but right, that each part of the empire should know the part which their Representatives took in questions, to them, of great importance. He would therefore support the Motion, on the ground, that the people should have a full and authentic report of what occurred in that House. But it was said by his right hon. friend, that such an object would not be attained without great expense to the public. If it could not be otherwise done, he for one would abandon it till some future opportunity. But the hon. member for Worcester had stated, that it could be effected without one shilling of expense to the public. The question then was, whether they should not have a full and authentic report of what passed in that House. That was the question, and not whether they should establish the Mirror of Parliament. He thought, that such an authentic record of their proceedings might be established without any injury to the daily Press. He would therefore give his support to the Motion.

Mr. Wynn

said, that he could scarcely comprehend what was exactly the proposition before the House. It was, as he understood it, for an authorized and authentic report of their debates, and then it was stated that they should be published without any restriction save the discretion of the authorized reporters. There was no medium—no alternative to choose between those two propositions. Either it must, after all, be left to the judgment and discretion of the reporter to determine what shall be given, and what shall be omitted, or they must have every word that was uttered given. Now, in attempting to report fully all that occurred, it would be impossible for the reporters to avoid numerous mistakes, owing to the noise and confusion which so often prevailed in the House. Was it intended to report at full length every word that was uttered, whether the question regarded a rail-road, which, though totally devoid of national or general, might be possessed of great local importance, or whether the question was one that affected and interested equally all the parts of the empire? Let them but for a moment reflect upon the immense length to which the publication of their debates would reach, if every word that was uttered in that House upon every possible subject should be reported. They usually extended their debates in the evening sittings to eight hours. They had to add to that the debates which took place at the morning sittings. They generally sat for that time four or five days in the week. They must therefore see what an enormous extent of space the debates of thirty or forty hours' duration would, if fully reported, occupy in any publication, and what an immense time it would take to read through such a mass of matter. It was perfectly impossible that there could be any demand for such a publication. It could only be published at the public expense; and it would be impossible to find persons to read it. It was impossible, as he had said already, seeing the noise which so often took place in the House, that a reporter could take down accurately everything that occurred. It would therefore be necessary, if there was an authentic report of their speeches, for which Members would consider themselves responsible, that they should themselves correct their speeches, to see whether there was anything in them that they had not uttered. Now, it would be utterly impossible for Ministers, and for Members connected with the law, frequently to address the House, if they should be obliged to correct the report of every speech that they delivered. That they would be obliged to do so was manifest, if they established an authorized publication of their proceedings, as all Members would be responsible for their speeches inserted in such publication. Where was the utility of referring such a proposition to a Committee? What advantage would a Committee have in discussing it, that was not attainable by the House at large? The question was, whether the proposition would be fraught with any public benefit, and whether it would not be attended with great public expense. He had not heard any plan proposed by which it could be carried into effect without expense to the public. If it could be done so, it was fit that the House should be made acquainted with such plan; and then, if the House thought that the plan was a good one; and that it would be advantageous to adopt it, the House might refer it for consideration to a Select Committee. He believed, that the best security for the proper and impartial publication of the debates of that House in the public Press was to be found in the competition of that Press. At present, he was of opinion, that upon all important subjects, the debates were correctly given, and as fully given, as the public desired. He recollected, however, that some years ago a different system was adopted, and that a complete misrepresentation of the speeches of particular Members appeared in the daily papers. He remembered, that in one instance, the late Mr. Tierney having given some offence to the Press, his speeches were for a long period altogether omitted. With respect to the debates in the Committee on the East-India charter, to which allusion had been made, it did strike him, that though the matters which were discussed in that Committee were of great importance, yet, that the speeches made upon them had been so often repeated, that if they had been published in the daily papers, no one would be found to read a word of them. It was either intended by the present proposition that a full report of all that occurred in the House should be given, or that selections should be made of the most material and interesting points in each discussion. That selection should be made upon the responsibility of an editor appointed for the purpose by the House; but if that editor should happen to curtail the speech of an hon. Member shorter than he thought it should be given, that Member might say to him, "I have as good a right to have my sentiments reported fully, and they are of as great importance to my constituents, as those, for instance, of the hon. member for Dublin, or of any other hon. Member; and why should not I be reported as fully?" A great portion of time would, therefore, if the system of selection should be adopted, be taken up in answering and satisfying the complaints of Members who would complain, that they were not as fully reported, or at as great length, as they wished and deserved. He would certainly oppose the Motion.

Mr. Buckingham

said, that he did not think that any one had ever advocated the proposition, that everything that was uttered in that House should be reported; but, at the same time, it was plain that an authentic record of their proceedings was much wanted. Every one who attended to their debates, and who read the reports of them in the public papers, must have been struck with the inequality of their execution. Now, he would just inform the House how that difference in the merits of the Reports occurred. There were some reporters so extremely skilful that they could give most correctly every part of a discussion; after them would come a second class of reporters who were not so skilful, and in their portion of the reporting the discussion, a commensurate degree of inaccuracy would be observable; and lastly, they would be followed by third-rate reporters, mere students in the profession, who, with the best intentions to report accurately, would report everything wrong. Such was the cause of the different degrees of accuracy that might be observed in the different stages of the Report of a discussion in that House, as published in the daily papers. Nothing, besides, was more common than to find it stated in the reports in the papers, that the reporters regretted that they could not hear some observations; for instance, of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, owing to the low tone in which they were delivered, or to the noise that prevailed in the House. There was no intention not to give the observations, whatever they were, on such occasions, for regret was uniformly expressed at their not having heard them. He himself recollected an instance where the hon. Baronet, the member for Hampshire, delivered an important speech on the China trade, which was dismissed in five lines in the daily papers, though the hon. Baronet afterwards published it in a pamphlet. It was, therefore, desirable that they should have an authentic publication for preserving such important discussions, and he thought that such a publication might be established without a single shilling of expense to the public. He (Mr. Buckingham) had had some experience in those matters; and he would undertake to show to the Committee, that it was quite possible to establish such a publication without its costing the country or the House a single shilling. He would undertake to show how that could be done, and how they could have all their discussions reported in the best possible manner. His plan was this—let four or six of the most skilful reporters that London could supply be employed for the purpose of taking down all the proceedings of the House, and let their remuneration be regulated according to the scale which the newspapers paid for the slips sent round to them. Something of the kind it was most desirable to effect. Of course, in giving the speeches in the various debates, all the surplusage would be removed out of them. He pledged himself, if the matter should be referred to a Committee, to lay before them a plan for carrying the object into effect.

Mr. Moreton

said, that the question was whether they should refer a question relating to one of the grand privileges of that House to a Committee appointed for quite a different object. If it were necessary to refer it to a Committee at all, they should appoint a Committee for the special purpose of considering it alone. He did not think that the principle of reporting their proceedings as it at present existed called for any alteration. The present proposition involved a great privilege of the House, not only as regarded reporting, but as regarded the seeing strangers in the House.

Mr. Shaw

said, that, as an Irish Member, he did not rise to complain that the debates upon Irish subjects were not given at quite sufficient length in the daily papers for all public and general purposes. The question was not, whether the system of reporting their proceedings in the daily Press could not be better, for he believed that for all public purposes a sufficient quantity of their Debates was given in the papers; but the question was, whether it would not be advisable to establish a publication in the nature of a standard, for the purpose of affording an authentic record of their votes and pro- ceedings. He thought, that the establishment of such a publication would be productive of benefit, and he would therefore support the Motion.

Mr. Wilks

said, that all the world was interested in having a complete, accurate, and detailed account of the proceedings that took place in that House; and it was of the utmost consequence to the country that such an authentic record should be established. If this subject should be referred to the Committee, they would be enabled to collect information as to what had been done by Legislatures in other countries on the subject. They would find that in the American legislature, a regular system of ample and accurate reports of their proceedings had been carried into effect. In France, too, it was perfectly well known, that certain funds were appropriated by the Legislature for the purpose; that a reporting newspaper called the Stenographe was established for the purpose; and that it was supported at the expense of the Government and of the Chambers. In that paper the speeches of the Members were given in full, as they had been spoken. The Committee might, in this way, obtain information as to what had been done in other countries, so as to establish what he conceived would be a great improvement here. He would therefore vote for referring the subject to a Committee.

Colonel Evans

said, that he could not support the proposition of the hon. and learned Member. He thought that the plan was impossible in the first place, and, if possible, objectionable in the next. He quite concurred with those who thought, that the best security for the proper publication of the proceedings of that House in the daily papers was to be found in their competition. If the proposition was for providing better seats for the reporters in the House, and if, on the part of the reporters, it was shown, that they desired and wanted better accommodation he would be most anxious to support any proposition for providing them with it. But he agreed in the statements which the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies, had made in opposition to this Motion. He agreed with him, that the public papers were the best channels for communicating to the public the proceedings of that House; and he agreed with him that no Minister, pastor present, could feel any peculiar interest in such a ques- tion. He did not, however, consider that all the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman were quite consistent with the right hon. Gentleman's dignity.

Mr. Sheil

said, he wished the right hon. Baronet the member for Tamworth had been in the House, for, upon the occasion of a complaint made by the hon. and gallant member for Devonport (Admiral Codrington) last Session, he occupied the House two hours and a-half, and very properly occupied it, with his vindication, and he brought down the Mirror of Parliament, and upon the Mirror of Parliament the right hon. Baronet founded his defence. ["No, no"] He appealed to the recollection of every Member in the House at the time. [Mr. Stanley: The right hon. Baronet referred to the Morning Chronicle.] He (Mr. Sheil) had a distinct, it might not be an accurate, recollection, that it was to the Mirror of Parliament he appealed. He did not say, that the right hon. Baronet did not refer to the Morning Chronicle for confirmation. Then here was an ex-Minister, on a question of importance to himself and also to the country, having recourse to this publication as a standard work, and a parliamentary record of his speech. His (Mr. Sheil's) reason for rising was, to call the attention of the House to this fact, as showing the importance of having some work which should be an authentic record of what was said in that House; and no persons were more interested in this than the King's Ministers, in order that the country might have an accurate record of their speeches.


said, that, according to his recollection, it was the gallant Admiral who brought down the Mirror of Parliament; and the right hon. Baronet stated, that he had never read his speech from the time it was delivered, but that his recollection was so and so; and he brought down, next day, The Times, the Morning Chronicle, and Hansard, which he quoted against the Mirror of Parliament.

Mr. Sheil

At all events, the Mirror of Parliament was quoted. He spoke in explanation, if the House thought this matter of fact deserved to be explained. It was plain, that there was a reference to the Mirror of Parliament. With all respect for the right hon. Secretary, he (Mr. Sheil) did assert, that it was to the Mirror of Parliament the right hon. Baronet appealed. The case then stood thus.— He (Mr. Sheil) brought the authority of the right hon. Baronet—an authority to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) would be willing to pay deference. All he wanted to say was, that the Mirror of Parliament was quoted either by one side or the other. If it was appealed to by the hon. and gallant Admiral, the member for Devonport, was not his case made out.

Mr. Cayley

said, that the vote he should give in favour of the Motion was not for the purpose of having daily reports, but to have an historical record. He wanted to refer to them as to Johnson's Dictionary or an Encyclopœdia.

Sir Edward Codrington

said, that it was he who referred to the Mirror of Parliament as the document upon which he relied, as he was abroad at the time the speech of the right hon. Baronet was delivered. He admitted, that the The Times and Morning Chronicle and Hansard were produced against him, not, however, as contradicting, but as not confirming, the speech in the Mirror of Parliament professing to give the whole of the speech.

Mr. Tooke

, in reply, observed, that he did not wish to have verbatim reports, but an authentic record. The expense would be very trifling, and he hoped the House would not refuse to avail itself of such a mode of ascertaining and recording its sentiments.

The House divided: Ayes 99; Noes 117—Majority against the Motion 18.