HC Deb 19 August 1839 vol 50 cc387-90
Mr. O'Connell

wished to call the attention of the House to a practice recently adopted, and which he thought ought to be forthwith discontinued. For some days past, whenever any Member took notice that 40 Members were not present, a bell was rung, in order to apprise all who were within the building, that the Speaker was about to count the House. Anciently the practice was, that the Speaker should not permit business to proceed unless he saw that thirty-nine Members besides himself were actually within the walls of the House. He (Mr. O'Connell) did not mean to impose a duty on the present Speaker, which his predecessors, with the acquiescence of the House, had for many years omitted to perform, but that which he meant to move was, that the modern practice of ringing a bell should be discontinued. It was absurd to say that forty Members were requisite to make a House, if they were to be called in, like domestic servants, at the ringing of a bell, then counted, and allowed to go away again. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving, that when notice was taken of less than forty Members being present, no bell should in consequence thereof be rung.

Mr. R. Steuart

believed, that the observations and motion which the House had just heard, arose out of a misapprehension. The practice to which the hon. and learned Member for Dublin alluded, was one which had not arisen within the last three or four days; on the contrary, two months ago a general wish was expressed on both sides, that some such mode of giving notice that the House was about to be counted, should be afforded to Members who at the time might happen to be in other parts of the building. He could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the practice had not been resorted to for the first time in reference to the bill then under their consideration. The bell, as the House knew, was rung by direction of the Speaker.

Mr. O'Connell

observed, that the hon. Member who spoke last confessed thus much—namely, that the practice was one of modern origin. He was as constant in his attendance as any Member, and he must say, that he had never heard of the practice till within the last four or five days.

The Speaker

said, there could be no doubt that the practice was modern. Complaint had been made by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that the business of the country was often delayed for want of forty Members being present, when, if the division bell were rung, a sufficient number to make a House would immediately attend. Upon which the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, suggested that it would be a convenience if on those occasions, the bell referred to were rung. The House appeared fully to concur with the noble Lord, and he gave directions accordingly. In doing this he conceived that he had been acting in obedience to the wishes of the House, and he was of course perfectly ready to obey any other order which they might think proper to make.

Mr. Wakley

thought that his hon. and learned Friend ought to carry his motion one step further. He ought to prohibit the ringing of the bell upon divisions. It appeared to him most mischievous, that hon. Members should come down there to vote upon a question without having heard one word of the discussion. He hoped that the House would agree to extending the rule to divisions. On several divisions respecting the Poor-law Amendment Act, which recently took place, a large proportion of the Members who voted, came down from Mr. Bellamy's for that purpose, and had not heard a syllable of the debate.

The House divided:—Ayes 13; Noes 34: Majority 24.

List of the Ayes.
Brotherton, J. Langdale, hon. C.
Browne, R. D. Muskett, G. A.
D'Israeli, B. Salwey, Colonel
Duncombe, T. Scholefield, J.
Easthope, J. Vigors, N. A.
Ellis, J. TELLERS.
Finch,F. O'Connell, D.
Hiadley, C Wakley, T.
List of the NOES.
Adam, Admiral Lygon, hon. gen.
Bernal, R. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Briscoe, J. T. Parker, J.
Broadley, H. Philips, M.
Cole, Lord Pigot, D. R.
Dalmeny, Lord Pryme, G.
Darby, G. Rice, it. hon. T. S.
Dick, Q. Rich, H.
Divett, E. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Russell, Lord J.
Du Pre, G. Rutherfurd, it. hn. A.
Fremantle, Sir T. Smith, B.
Gisborne, T. Surrey, Earl of
Gordon, R. Thomson, rt.hn. C.P,
Hodges, T. L. Troubridge; Sir E. T.
Hodgson, R. Vere, Sir C.B.
Hoskins, K. Wood, C.
Howard, Sir R. TELLERS.
Kemble, H. Stanley, E. J.
Lowther, J. H. Steuart, R.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved, that the Order of the Day for the Committee on the Bank of Ireland be read.

Mr. T. Duncombe

moved, that in the opinion of the House, the presence of forty Members was necessary for the transaction of business. The present state of the House was not only discreditable, but disgraceful. The original in- tention with which the regulation respecting forty Members had been adopted, was that no business should be transacted, unless that number were actually within the House. If the principle were adopted that they might debate with a few Members, and summon to the division those who were scattered about in different parts of the building, he saw no reason why a division bell ought not to ring in Down-ing-street—why not at the Reform Club— why not at the Carlton—why should not a crier go up and down the streets. He was glad a discussion and division had taken place upon the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin; it would open the eyes of the public to the way in which the business of the country was transacted in that House.

The Speaker

said, the motion could not be entertained unless it properly came within the description of an amendment to the order of the day. Now, the only amendments which could regularly be moved to that was, that the House proceed to the other orders, or to some other order.

Mr. Duncombe's

motion fell to the ground.

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