HC Deb 18 November 1847 vol 95 cc3-8

The House met at a quarter after Two o'clock; and a Message being received to attend the Lords Commissioners, the House went, and a Commission having been read for Opening and Holding the Parliament, the Lords Commissioners directed the House to proceed to the Election of a Speaker, and to present him Tomorrow at Two o'clock in the House of Peers, for the Royal Approbation. And the House being returned,


, addressing Mr. Ley, the Clerk, said: Having heard Her Majesty's gracious communication to the effect that this House is now called on to choose a Speaker, I present myself to the House for the purpose of making a Motion, which, I believe, will meet with the cordial unanimity of all who hear me. Those hon. Members who, in former Parliaments, have witnessed the ability, the judgment, and the impartiality with which Mr. Charles Shaw Lefevre has discharged the high and important duties of Speaker of this House, will at once agree with me, that in the present Parliament no other selection could be made equally satisfactory to Members within this House, or equally advantageous to the public service. Those hon. Members who have not had the advantage of previously sitting in this House, and of witnessing Mr. Lefevre's conduct in the Chair, will, I believe, also best discharge this their first public duty by agreeing in the selection of that right hon. Gentleman, who, in very difficult times, amidst the heat of party conflicts and public debates, has been able, with great courtesy and firmness, to maintain the authority of the Chair, and thereby to uphold the dignity and character of this great deliberative assembly. I believe, also, that they will derive from that right hon. Gentleman's experience, and from his knowledge of the details of private and public business, the greatest possible advantage with respect to those matters with which new Members cannot at once be intimately ac- quainted. Anticipating for my Motion the unanimous concurrence of all the Members present on this occasion, I conceive it will be now unnecessary for me to say more; and I therefore shall conclude by moving, that the right hon. Charles Shaw Lefevre do take the Chair.


I rise to second the Motion of my noble Friend; and I do so with very singular satisfaction, because I believe that it rarely falls to the lot of any one to be able at the same time so perfectly to satisfy his sense of public duty, and also to gratify his personal and private feelings. High as has been the character of the distinguished men who in times past have filled the Chair of this House, and remarkable as has been the judgment of the House in the selection of those men who have been appointed to preside over its debates, I believe I may appeal with confidence to all present who have been before Members of this House, and also to public opinion, to decide whether among all those able and distinguished men who filled the Chair, there was ever any one who discharged the duties of the office more efficiently, or in a manner better calculated to command the confidence of the House and of the public, than the right hon. Gentleman proposed by my noble Friend. I do not intend to trouble the House with one single word with respect to the importance of the duties imposed on the Gentleman who is placed in the Chair of this House. This has been described so often, and so well, that it would be useless and presumptuous in me to occupy the time of the House by enlarging on the topic; and I feel also that a sense of the importance of the high office of Speaker is so firmly settled in the mind of this House, and in the mind of the country, that not one word is required from me in reference to that subject. But, with great humility, and with great deference, I would wish to say one word on a point which appears to deserve our attention. Every day, and every year, in my opinion, the character and influence of this House in reference to other countries are increasing in importance. We have recently seen important constitutional changes made in one of the most important States of the Continent. We have also recently seen changes proposed by another Power familiar to us by name, and closely connected with us by commercial ties, and we must shut our eyes if we do not acknowledge that constitutional and representative government, and attachment thereto, are making advances throughout Europe. Under these circumstances, I think that the character and moral influence of this House, and of the individual who is appointed to preside over us, are year by year acquiring increased importance. I shall, therefore, most readily give my support to the Motion of the noble Lord, which I have now the honour of seconding, because I confidently believe that the high and important duties to which I have alluded cannot be placed in safer or more able hands than those of the right hon. Gentleman Mr. Charles Shaw Lefevre. That right hon. Gentleman has already proved that unvarying courtesy may be consistent with unflinching firmness and impartiality. Neither the heat of debate nor the violence of party have moved him from the faithful discharge of his duties. I shall support the Motion of the noble Lord, because I also believe that the right hon. Gentleman will assert the privileges of the House without fear or favour, and that this House, under his able guidance, will give to the world a proof that perfect order in our proceedings, and ready acquiescence in the decision from the Chair, are entirely consistent with that freedom of debate which I regard as one of the chief safeguards of the liberties of the country.


I am unwilling to allow this opportunity to pass without doing myself the honour of joining in the proposal made by the noble Lord, and seconded by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I am the more anxious to do this, because, when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was less known than he is now to the House, I joined in opposition to his appointment to the Chair; but the experience of the equal impartiality and dignity with which the right hon. Gentleman has occupied the position of Speaker of this House, has made it a matter of great congratulation, not only to me, but I believe to every one who at the time referred to opposed the selection of the right hon. Gentleman, that defeat attended our opposition. I feel that the authority of this House depends much on the calmness and dignity with which our proceedings are carried on; and I am sure that all who have had the happiness to witness the manner in which the duties of the high office of Speaker have been discharged by the right hon. Gentleman will join with acclamation in conceding to him pre-eminence over all those illustrious and distinguished individuals who on former occa- sions have filled the Chair. I could not allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my great satisfaction in supporting the Motion that the right hon. Charles Shaw Lefevre he again appointed Speaker.


The same reason which has impelled the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) to address the House, would justify every one who had been in the same position in rising to express satisfaction at the Motion now made. I concur in all those observations of the noble Lord in which he expressed his sense of the successful manner in which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lefevre) has discharged the duties of Speaker, and also in those feelings with which the noble Lord now hails the resumption by the right hon. Gentleman of that high office; nor should I have troubled the House with another word if it had not been that, concurring in every word that has fallen from the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman, the Mover and Seconder of the present Motion, I did not also wish to add another claim which the right hon. Gentleman has to our gratitude and confidence, and particularly as that claim is connected with conduct which is not seen by the House in general, but which is not the less important on that account to the public interests of the country—I mean the time, the attention, and the labour which the right hon. Gentleman devotes to the conduct of the private business of the House. It is scarcely necessary for me to trouble the House with details of the manner in which the private business of the House has increased within the last ten years. It will be enough to state that the private business of the last ten years has greatly exceeded in amount not only the private business of any preceding ten years, but any preceding thirty years; and to the larger part of that business the right hon. Gentleman has given the most anxious, patient, and personal attention. The House would be ungrateful if it neglected to acknowledge the services thus rendered by the right hon. Gentleman.


In rising to address a very few words to the House, I beg to assure my noble Friend the Member for Totness, and my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester, that I fully appreciate those feelings of personal kindness and regard which have induced them to speak of my services in terms of such high commendation, far beyond any merit which I could even hope to possess. I beg to assure the House that I feel I owe to all its Members a very large debt of gratitude for the very favourable manner in which they have been kind enough to receive the proposition now made to them; and I feel altogether unequal adequately to express my thanks for this additional mark of their kindness. In all that has been stated in regard to the important duties attached to the office of Speaker of this House, I fully concur; and I admit with my hon. Friend (Sir R. Inglis) that they have been rendered of late years far more arduous by the vast accumulation of private business. The journals of the two or three last Sessions exhibit a mass of private business wholly unprecedented, affecting interests of the highest magnitude; and had it not been for improvements recently introduced, it would have been impossible satisfactorily to dispose of it. I cannot boast of having had much share in the suggestion of those improvements; but I shall always reflect with satisfaction that it has been my privilege to co-operate with hon. Members of this House in introducing those changes which have led to such beneficial results. Though experience has taught me that the ordinary duties of the Chair may be faithfully performed by unremitting diligence, patience, and strict impartiality, there are other duties of a more difficult nature, arising out of new and unforeseen circumstances, and allowing no time for deliberation or reflection, which continually occur during the progress of our debates, and which might well discourage much abler men than myself, and almost induce me to decline the honour now proposed me, were it not for the conviction that, should it be the pleasure of the House again to elect me to the Chair, the same indulgence and the same effectual support will be extended to me as I have hitherto received at all times and from all sides of the House. It is this conviction alone which at the present moment enables me in perfect confidence to place myself entirely at the disposal of the House.

Motion carried nemine contradicente.

Lord SEYMOUR and Mr. J. A. SMITH

then conducted the right hon. Gentleman to the chair.


I beg to offer to the House my sincere and grateful acknowledgments for the distinguished honour it has again conferred on me; and I will endeavour to prove myself not altogether unworthy of the choice it has made, by pursuing strictly that line of conduct which this day, for the third time, has received its sanction and support.


I now venture to address the House for the purpose of congratulating you, Sir, and, I must add, the House itself, on the choice just made. That you, Sir, will maintain the privileges of this House—that you will act with strict impartiality—that you will render great service to the public in the conduct of the private business of this House, and in maintaining order in our debates—that you will so preserve order in this assembly as to conciliate those whom it may be your duty to reprove—these are predictions which are no longer matters of surmise or expectation, but of well-founded confidence. Your previous conduct in the Chair justifies the House and me in entertaining this conviction. It was your fortune to succeed to a person of distinguished learning, of great knowledge of the constitution, and of great experience in this House, and whose conduct in the Chair was received with approbation by this House. Placed in this position of disadvantage by the qualifications of your immediate predecessor, you have, nevertheless, established a character as Speaker of this House which is not a matter of envy to any one, but is equal to that of any former Speaker; and I trust that, being long in the possession of the honour now conferred on you by the House, your reputation may continue to increase, and that you may leave as bright a name to posterity as that of the greatest Speaker that ever sat in that Chair.

House adjourned at five minutes to Three o'clock.