HC Deb 07 August 1851 vol 118 cc1939-47

On the Motion of LORD JOHN RUSSELL, Resolved—"That it is expedient to insure regularity in the order of proceeding from this House to the House of Lords on occasions of Opening or Proroguing Parliament;


then moved, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee— That every Member desirous of attending Mr. Speaker do communicate his intention in writing to the Clerk of the House, in case the House be not sitting, before the hour of Five in the after- nood on the day preceding; and if the House be sitting, between the hour of Three in the afternoon and the rising of the House on the day preceding,


complained that the attendance in the House the day previously should be made a condition to accompanying the Speaker to the House of Lords. The rule was that there should be unlimited access to the House of Lords on the occasion of Her Majesty's visit; but it was found necessary from the confusion which had arisen on a former occasion to make some regulation on the subject. Such a Resolution as that proposed might be necessary on the occasion of the first meeting of Parliament; but he did not think it necessary when large numbers of Members had left town. He thought the plan proposed, that Members who were desirous of attending the Speaker to the House of Lords should communicate their intention in writing to the clerk of the House, would be very inconvenient to hon. Gentlemen. In his opinion the most convenient rule they could adopt would be that all Members who were present in the House within five or ten minutes after the Speaker took the chair on any occasion when they were to be called to attend Her Majesty in the House of Peers, should put down their names in order that they might be drawn to determine their precedence. He thought it would be advisable to follow the plan adopted at coronations, when hon. Gentlemen drew for the choice of places. There seemed no reason why the arrangement should be made over night; the morning would be time enough. As to the second Resolution, that the Cabinet Ministers present should immediately follow the Speaker, he (Mr. V. Smith) had no desire to indulge in constitutional pedantry; but he saw a great objection to Cabinet Ministers being selected in this way. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) seemed to presume that Her Majesty would prefer seeing Her Cabinet Ministers round the Speaker; surely She would desire to see him surrounded by the representives of the people. The House knew no official rank upon that occasion. He (Mr. V. Smith) would take the sense of the House npon that Resolution, which appeared to involve an unnecessarily unconstitutional proceeding.


had a great objection to the restriction imposed by the first Resolution, that no Member be allowed to attend Her Majesty's summons unless he had gone through a certain form the day before; Members were not bound to communicate with the clerk previous to the meeting of Parliament; many Members arriving just before could not comply with this rule. The case would be much simplified if the House of Lords would give the House of Commons room to obey the Queen's summons, and not fill up part of the space that ought to be kept clear for them. He (Sir D. Norreys) would propose to omit the first Resolution, and let the third run—"That on the day of meeting, or prorogation, and before other business, the names of Members then present be put into a glass and arranged according to the order in which they shall be drawn forth therefrom." Members coming in subseqently might draw numbers as they entered the House. Between every 10 or 20 Members a messenger might go, in order to prevent pressure.


thought, that though Cabinet Ministers, as such, might not be allowed precedence on the occasions in question, the House would probably be disposed to recognise a distinction between Privy Councillors and other Members of the House. He conceived that there would be a disposition to allow the Cabinet Ministers precedence, if they would be content to share it with the rest of the Members of the Privy Council; and, subject to that, it seemed advisable to adopt the precedent mentioned by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith). This would be but an experiment, however, and a different arrangement could be adopted hereafter, if thought more convenient. It was very desirable to adopt some plan to secure order, although the avenue connecting the two Houses was now broader than the passage from the old House of Commons, where Members had really sustained personal injury, and one—almost the father of the House—was thrown down.


supported the objection of the hon. Baronet. The scandalous arrangements of the other House rendered unavoidable that confusion which took place on such occasions. A House with 656 Members was summoned to attend in a body where there was not room for 120. He did not care whose fault it was—whether of the House of Lords, or of Mr. Barry, who, he dared to say, had made as good a job in building that House as he was now making of the House of Commons; but it was not the fault of the latter, and the remedy ought to be provided elsewhere. He objected to the third Resolution, which would give a power to the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove Members from the lobby and passages. He supposed the next suggestion would be to give the Serjeant-at-Arms power to remove Members from the floor of that House. If the Resolution were adopted, it would be illegal, unless it had the concurrence of the Crown and the other House of Parliament, for nothing but an Act of Parliament could deprive him of his rights as a Member of the House of Commons and as a British subject. He had visited the library that morning, and had searched for precedents in the Journals of the House; and nowhere, from the period of the Tudors to the present time, could he find any reference whatever to the office of Cabinet Councillor. The Cabinet Council was an invention of comparatively modern and corrupt times, for the purpose of screening Ministers from their responsibility to the Privy Council and to Parliament. Mr. Hallam, the eminent historian, said that the Cabinet Council was not recognised by the constitution or the law, but was a private arrangement of Ministers between themselves, and that any Minister who chose the secrecy of a Cabinet Council might obtain absolute impunity for any crime; whilst Mr. Justice Coleridge said that no indictment could be brought against a Cabinet Minister in that capacity. The question was, therefore, should this House lightly set the example of recognising by name, and, so far as that recognition went, of sanctioning the existence of a conspiracy so illegal and so dangerous? Should they say that the Cabinet Councillors, as they were called, who had seats in that House, ought to usurp the privilege of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair? There was but one superior recognised in that House, and that was the right hon. Gentleman who now so worthily filled the chair; he was primus inter pares; but if this Resolution were adopted, it would be the Cabinet Councillors—not the right hon. Gentleman—who would he at the head of the Commons of England. For these reasons he (Mr. Anstey) should vote against the Resolution, and all the succeeding Resolutions; and also against proceeding in any manner with the question during the present Session of Parliament.


was understood to say that he did not think the Report and the Resolutions called for the strong lan- guage which had just been indulged in by the hon. Member for Youghal. He (Mr. Greene) had often witnessed the confusion which prevailed when the House had been summoned to the House of Lords, and had seen the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, as well as his immediate predecessors, pressed upon in a most unseemly manner on such occasions. It was not upon the Motion of a Cabinet Minister that this subject had been first brought forward. Originally it was proposed that the Privy Councillors in that House should have precedence; but they being too numerous, it was thought to be only a matter of courtesy to give the Cabinet Ministers precedence.


objected to the Resolution, on the ground that inconvenience would arise if Members were obliged to write previously, expressing their wish to attend. He proposed the following Amendment:— That every Member desirous of attending Mr. Speaker shall put his name in a glass when the House is summoned to attend Her Majesty; and that the Members' names shall be drawn by the clerk from the glass, and in such order as they may be drawn they shall proceed to the House of Lords.


said, the proposition had been already made, with this exception, that the hon. Baronet's Amendment involved this difficulty, that after the Black Rod should have summoned the House to the bar of the other House, they would proceed to the ballot. Nothing could be more incongruous or improper than that proceeding. The question should be put in an intelligible form, by allowing the arrangement to be made before Black Rod came to summon them.


had no wish to attach undue importance to the subject, but thought that when they were about to establish a principle they should take care that it was a just one, and not sacrifice any constitutional principle, as they would do by passing the Resolutions. As representatives of the people, they ought to bear in mind that they were equal among themselves. If there was to be any precedence, let it be that which was observed elsewhere; let a baronet bave precedence of an esquire, and a Privy Councillor of a baronet. Cabinet Ministers had no real status in this country; the Cabinet Council was an unconstitutional body, which originated in the reign of Charles the Second. There was one point to which he particularly wished to call attention—a point which deserved the notice of the Lords themselves. In that House every facility was given to the Lords for attendance; seats, and every accommodation, were provided; but the House of Lords did not grant similar accommodation to the House of Commons. Even of the small space allotted to the Members of that House, half was filled by strangers before the Members could enter it. He should certainly support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall), and the House might rely upon it if they established the proposed precedent, a reformed House of Commons would upset it within five years.


observed, that Members were now going to the country, and they would find the people considered that their representatives were frequently placed in a very invidious position. He thought some regulations ought to be adopted to prevent disorder on these occasions; and he conceived that the ballot might be adopted without a formal vote. He should readily grant precedence by courtesy to past and present Cabinet Ministers; but a Resolution to that effect would be unconstitutional.


hoped that the House would not, by attaching too much importance to the question, expose themselves to ridicule out of doors.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


, with a view to remove the objection taken to the Amendment by the hon. Member for Mallow, would propose another Amendment with an alteration in the words.

Another Amendment proposed— To leave out from the word 'do' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'put his name in a glass; and half an hour after the meeting of the House the Members' Names shall be drawn from the glass, and in such order as they may be drawn the Members shall proceed to the House of Lords, in ranks of four,' instead thereof.


observed, that he had moved the appointment of a Committee on the subject, because he understood that a desire existed to render the proceedings more orderly on the occasions to which the Resolutions had reference. He was responsible for having moved the appointment of that Committee. When the Committee met, he certainly proposed that a precedence should be established, which was not the precedence contained in these Resolutions. The precedence he proposed was, that the Speaker should name four Members to accompany him, thinking it desirable that the Members who moved and seconded the Address, for instance, should, on the proper occasions, attend the Speaker before other Members. However, that proposal was unanimously negatived by the Committee, and the proposal now before the House adopted in preference. That was to him entirely a matter of indifference. All he was anxious for was that the House should agree, if possible, without a division, because it was not a question on which it was desirable to proceed to a division: and if the Resolution, as amended by the hon. Member for Marylebone, met the approval of the House, he hoped it would be adopted without a division, in accordance with his suggestions.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived;—Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Resolved—"That every Member desirous of attending Mr. Speaker, do put his name in a glass; and half an hour after the meeting of the House the Members' Names shall be drawn from the glass, and in such order as they may be drawn the Members shall proceed to the House of Lords, in ranks of four.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That after this House has been summoned to attend Her Majesty, no Member of this House do remain in, or cross, or pass through, any of the Lobbies or Passages leading from the Door of this House to the Door of the House of Lords; and that the Serjeant-at-Arms attending this House do keep the said Passages clear of Members.


wished to know whether Members were to be prevented following the Speaker to the House of Lords until the absent and the stray Members had been found to accompany him thither? He had certainly understood that the Amendment of the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) was to be substituted for the whole of the Resolutions proposed on the part of the Government; and finding that was not so, he (Mr. Anstey) would insist on dividing the House. There was no proper place reserved at the bar of the House of Lords for the accommodation of the Members of the House of Commons. The place understood to be set apart there for the accommodation of Members was full of lawyers' clerks, Parliamentary agents, and unsuccessful candidates for seats in the House of Commons. He wanted to know from the noble Lord whether any arrangements were to be made to-morrow for keeping open for hon. Members, not only the square part, to which they were usually confined, but the whole space below the bar of the House of Lords open?


said, in a communication made to them by the Lords, the Committee received a positive assurance that the whole space below the bar, which was said to be intended for the accommodation of Members of the House of Commons, would be kept reserved for the House of Commons. The Committee were likewise informed, that there would be space provided for 300 persons below the bar—at all events, during a division in the House of Lords the other day, 146 Peers were assembled in that place. He might, therefore, assume that 150 Members of the House of Commons might be accommodated below the bar, and that was as large a number as was likely to attend. It was certainly to be desired that persons who had no right to be there should not be allowed to be present to-morrow, or on similar occasions in future, to the exclusion of Members of the House of Commons. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Anstey) objected to the Resolution before-the House. He (Lord John Russell) had always understood that the greatest inconvenience had been experienced in going to the House of Lords on former occasions by the Members immediately following the Speaker, who were pushed and driven about by persons who crossed them as the Speaker passed into the House of Lords. He hoped such conduct as that would not be repeated in future. He trusted also that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Anstey) would not persist in dividing the House on the Resolution.


suggested, that numbered tickets should be issued to Members, and that they should be admitted to the space below the bar of the House of Lords according to the numbers marked on the tickets.


said, if he was not fortunate enough to obtain a prize in the ballot, being anxious to pay all due respect to his Sovereign, he would naturally be anxious to make the best endeavour in his power to obtain a place below the bar. In that effort he might be taken into custody, if the Resolution before the House were agreed to. Then the inquiry would arise, "Where is the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln?" [Laughter.] "Locked up," would be the answer; "possibly in the Crystal Palace." He objected to any hon. Member being prevented paying the respect which he wished to render to his Sovereign.


begged to remind the House, that there was nothing new in the Resolution, for an exactly similar one had been passed on the occasion of Her Majesty's coronation. He merely mentioned that circumstance, as an idea seemed to prevail in the House, that in passing that Resolution they were establishing a rule for which there was no precedent.


wished to know how long Members were to remain in the custody of the Serjeant? Was it to be till the next Session?


observed, that if any Member insisted upon his right of passing, he did not know that the Serjeant-at-Arms would have any right to keep him in custody at all. The arrangement was one which, after all, must be left mainly to the good taste of hon. Members themselves to carry out.


would remind the hon. Member for Bridport, that the power of the Serjeant-at-Arms ceased as soon as Parliament was prorogued.


Then the Resolution is of no use.


considered it was necessary that some means should be adopted for keeping the passages clear during the ceremony.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.