HC Deb 03 May 1836 vol 33 cc527-31

On the Motion of Mr. Grantley Berkeley, the Report of the Select Committee appointed last Session with respect to the admission of Ladies into a part of the Strangers' Gallery, was read by the Clerk.

Mr. Grantley Berkeley

said, that in rising in pursuance of his notice to move that the recommendation of the Committee be adopted, he felt great regret at the circumstance that, owing to his motion not having come on in the ordinary course of time, many friends of that motion were not present. He was at a loss, however, to understand what objection could be made to the adoption of the recommendation of the Committee. That Committee had been fairly chosen, and their report was impartial and unprejudiced. He had never heard a single sound reason advanced why ladies should not be admitted into that House for the purpose of hearing the debates, provided they were placed in such a situation that they could not interfere with the business of the House. He did not know what might be the case with other Members, but he was sure that their presence would make no difference in his thoughts. There might certainly be hon. Gentlemen of a more inflammable nature; but he did not think that was an objection which would be seriously urged. For his part he was persuaded that if ladies were once admitted into the gallery much good would be the result; and especially that, in many cases, debates would not be so prolonged as they were at present. It had indeed been alleged, that if ladies were present, many hon. Members who were not now in the habit of speaking, would hold forth, and at considerable length; but he did not think that such would be the case. On the contrary, in his opinion many hon. Members who spoke much better in the newspapers than they did in that House would abstain from speaking, if ladies were present to judge of the comparative merits of their spoken and their reported speeches. Knowing, however, that almost every hon. Member who was listening to him wished to dine, and anticipating no objection to his immediate proposition, he would detain the House no longer, but would at once move, "That it is the opinion of this House, that the recommendation of the Select Committee appointed in the Session of 1835, with respect to the admission of ladies into a portion of the Strangers' Gallery be adopted, together with the plan for the purpose of Sir Robert Smirke; and that directions be given to that architect to proceed as speedily as possible in the execution of his plan, at such hours as may not interfere with the business of the House."

Mr. Potter

hoped the House would agree to the motion of the hon. Gentleman; for he really could not see any objection to ladies hearing the debates of the House. The plan had been already tried in both Houses of Parliament—in that House when the Lords occupied it, and. no objections were urged against it, that he ever heard of. In the ventilator of the old House of Commons every evening ladies had been seen listening to the proceedings, without any objection being made, or its being considered improper. Females were as much interested in the proceedings of Parliament as the other sex, and if any portion of them were desirous of hearing the debates, why should they be prevented? It was well known, and acknowledged by all, that they possessed very great influence in society, and it was, surely, of importance that they should be treated as rational beings, and be enabled to exercise that influence properly. The beneficial influence of a virtuous and enlightened mother over her son generally continued through life, and why should she (if her son were in Parliament) be prevented from hearing the manner in which he discharged his duty? Why should the wife of a Member be prevented from hearing the debate? During the Session of 1833 and 1834, he had repeatedly observed hon. Members take their wives and daughters into the ventilator, particularly when subjects of importance were under discussion, and he felt convinced they would not have done so had they supposed the least injurious consequences to have followed. In the Chamber of Deputies at Paris, the front seats of the galleries were appropriated for ladies—he had repeatedly seen them there, and they appeared to take an equal interest in the proceedings—and he had never seen the least appearance of levity in their behaviour. In Congress Hall, at Washington, they were admitted, and he understood, also, at other legislative assemblies. Surely in this country they were not going to act on exclusive and oriental principles towards the female sex.

Mr. Kearsley

hoped and trusted, that every hon. Member who was blessed with daughters would negative this idle and ridiculous proposition.

Dr. Bowring

had supported the former motion on the subject, and would support the present. No evil had resulted in other countries from allowing females to hear the debates of their legislative assemblies. In the German states they were admitted; and their presence had not been found in any respect to hinder the progress of public business. On the contrary, their influence, as on all other occasions, had been found friendly to decorum, and friendly to the bridling of the manly passions. The character of females in this country stood so high, that he was persuaded no improper language would be used in their presence, and therefore that they would exercise salutary control. He had never known anything but good result from the presence of females; and he was therefore at a loss to understand why they should be refused admission into that House.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that in the Irish Parliament ladies were allowed to be pre-sent. The cause of their original admis- sion was this. In former days a hospitality of a particular kind was exercised in Ireland to such an extent, that Members, of the Irish House of Commons used to come drunk to the House. The remedy proposed and adopted was to admitla dies into the gallery, and from that moment not a single drunken man ever presumed to make his appearance.

Mr. Villiers

observed, that as he was neither "blest with daughters," nor felt any necessity to "bridle his manly passions," he might be considered an impartial judge on the present occasion. They had had friends of all classes in that House— friends of the Church, friends of the farmers, friends of the manufacturers, friends of the people, and now they had friends of the ladies. The change which it was proposed to make might be considered an organic change. In the first place, however, he was not aware that it was called for. He was not aware that any excitement existed among ladies on the subject; he was not aware that any petitions had been presented from them respecting it. He certainly did not see that any harm could result from the admission of ladies into the gallery. But would the thing end there? Were there no ulterior views? He wished to learn also how the admission of ladies was to be regulated? It would be impossible to admit as many ladies as there were Members of the House. Was the right of selection to be vested in the Secretary of State for the Home Department? If so, that right hon. Gentleman might subject himself to the charge of giving an undue preference to ladies of a peculiar description; he might be accused of being influenced in his choice by corrupt motives. He hoped that if the hon. Member for Gloucestershire really intended to introduce a Bill on the subject, he would not do so in the present Session: he hoped the hon. Member would give an opportunity of letting the matter be canvassed in all the populous towns of the kingdom.! To him it appeared to be so difficult to understand all the bearings of the subject, that he did not think that in fewer than three Sessions it would be possible to comprehend them all.

Captain Pechell

had last year supported the motion, and would support it on the present occasion. He hoped that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire would be more fortunate with respect to his fair clients than he (Captain Pechell) had been with respect to the client whose case he had brought under the consideration of the House.

Mr. Grantley Berkeley

shortly replied, assuring the hon. Member who had addressed the House last but one, that he had no ulterior views whatever.

The House divided—Ayes 132;— Noes 90;—majority 42.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Gully, J.
Archdall, M. Hale, R. B.
Bagshaw, J. Halford, H.
Baldwin, Dr. Harland, W. C.
Baring, H. B. Harvey, D. W.
Barnard, E. G. Hay, Sir A.
Bateson, Sir R. Henniker, Lord
Beaumont, T. W. Hindley, C.
Berkeley, hon. F. Hogg, J. W.
Berkeley, hon. C. Horsman, E.
Bish, T. Hume, J.
Blunt, Sir C. Hutt, W.
Bowes, John Jackson, Sergeant
Bowring, Dr. Jones, W.
Brady, D. C. Kemp, T. R.
Bridgeman, H. Knightley, Sir C.
Brotherton, J. Law, hon. C. E.
Brudenell, Lord Lawson, A.
Buckingham, J. S. Lister, E. C.
Buller, C. Lowther, J. H.
Burdon, W. W. Maclean, D.
Butler, hon. P. Maunsell, T. P.
Campbell, Sir H. Molesworth, Sir W.
Cayley, E. S. Mullins, F. W.
Chapman, L. Musgrave, Sir R.
Chapman, A. Nagle, Sir R.
Chetwynd, Captain O'Brien, W. S.
Chichester, A. O'Connell, D.
Codrington, C. W. O'Connell, J.
Coote, Sir C. O'Connell, M. J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. O'Cennell, M.
Crawford, W. S. O'Conor, Don
Dick, Q. Oliphant, L.
Divett, E. Parrott, J.
Dundas, hon. J. C. Parry, Sir L. P. J.
Dundas, J. D. Pease, J.
Eaton, R. J. Pechell, Captain
Elley, Sir. J. Perceval, Colonel
Etwall, R. Pinney, W.
Fancourt, Major Plumptre, J. P.
Fector, J. M. Plunket, hon. R. E.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Polhill, F.
Fergusson, rt. hon. C. Potter, R.
Forbes, W. Poulter, J. S.
French, F. Power, J.
Freshfield, J. W. Price, S. G.
Gaskell, D. Pryme, G.
Gaskell, J. M. Richards, John.
Gisborne, T. Robinson, G. R.
Gore, O. Roche, D.
Goulburn, Sergeant Roebuck, J. A.
Grote, G. Ruthven, E.
Guest, J. J. Scholefield, J.
Scott, Sir E. D. Twiss, H.
Scourfield, W. H. Vivian, Major C.
Sibthorp, Colonel Wakley, T.
Smith, B. Wason, R.
Smyth, Sir H. Whalley, Sir S.
Strickland, Sir G. White, S.
Stuart, Lord D. Wilkins, W.
Surrey, Earl of Williams, W.
Talbot, J. H. Williams, W. A.
Talfourd, Sergeant Wiliamson, Sir H.
Tennent, J. E. Wood, Alderman
Thomas, Colonel Young, Sir W.
Thompson, Colonel TELLERS.
Trevor, hon. A. Berkeley, hon. G.
Tulk, C. A. Forrester, hon. G. C.
List of the NOES.
Baillie, H. D. Lennox, Lord G.
Baines, E. Lincoln, Earl of
Balfour, T. Mackinnon, W. A.
Baring, F. M'Leod, R.
Baring, T. Manners, Lord C. S.
Barry, G. S. Marjoribanks, S.
Bentinck, Lord W. Marsland, T.
Bethell, R. Maule, hon. F.
Bolling, W. Morgan, C. M. R.
Bonham, R. F. North, F.
Bramston, T. W. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Buller, Sir J. Palmer, General
Cavendish, hon. C. Parker, M.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Chalmers, P. Pigot, R.
Chandos, Marquess of Rickford, W.
Chaplin, Colonel Rooper, J. B.
Childers, J. W. Russell, C.
Churchill, Lord C. Russell, Lord J.
Clerk, Sir G. Russell, Lord C.
Clive, hon. R. H. Ryle, J.
Colborne, N. W. R. Sharpe, General
Conolly, E. M. Sheldon, E. R. C.
Crawley, S. Smith, R. V.
Curteis, E. B. Somerset, Lord E.
Dillwyn, L. W. Speirs, A.
East, J. B. Steuart, R.
Eastnor, Lord Strutt, E.
Egerton, Lord F. Stuart, Lord J.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Sturt, H. C.
Evans, G. Trelawney, Sir W.
Fort, J. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Turner, W.
Grimston, Lord Vere, Sir C. B.
Halse, J. Vesey, hon. T.
Hastie, A. Vivian, J. H.
Heathcoat, J. Walker, R.
Hill, Sir R. Wallace, R.
Hodges, T. L. Walpole, Lord
Hope, J. Walter, J.
Hotham, Lord Warburton, H.
Howick, Lord Weyland, Major
Ingham, R. Wood, C.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Wood, Colonel
Kearsley, J. H. Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
King, E. B. Young, J.
Knatchbull, Sir E. TELLERS.
Lefevre, C. S. Villiers, C. P.
Lefroy, rt. hon. T. Methuen, P.