HC Deb 03 August 1855 vol 139 cc1748-50

begged to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government which was interesting to every Member of the House. It was their privilege to give tickets of admission to the strangers' gallery. The day before yesterday two soldiers were in the hall, one belonging to the Royal Artillery, and the other a private soldier of the 17th Lancers. The artillery soldier had upon his breast two medals, and appeared to have been severely wounded. They were both anxious to obtain a seat in the gallery, and he gave an order to the artillery soldier, and his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Stafford) gave an order to the other man. It was, therefore, with great regret, mingled with no little indignation, that he saw the doors of the House closed against those two gallant soldiers. They were excluded for no other reason than because they had on the uniform of Her Majesty—a uniform which ought to be honoured by all, and which was respected and feared by every country of the world. He did not know in what the rule for the exclusion of soldiers—if any such existed—originated, but he was sure that the House would feel that it was high time that such a rule, if it existed, should be done away with. He was sure that no one would feel more than the noble Lord the necessity of relaxing the rule in favour of soldiers who came unarmed into the House.


said, that the House had always thought right to exclude from its precincts persons who were armed; but he apprehended that no distinction could be drawn in regard to the persons who should be admitted founded upon the form or colour of their clothes:—and most certainly he should apprehend that it never could have been intended that the soldiers of Her Majesty's army, merely because they were in the service of the country and wore the uniform of Her Majesty, should be debarred from the privilege which was accorded to all other Members of the community, in regard to admission into the strangers' gallery of the House of Commons. He was not, however, aware what regulation existed upon the subject. Upon that point the Speaker was a far higher authority than he could pretend to be; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would inform the House whether there had been any Resolution with respect to it which would require to be rescinded, or whether the matter was one entirely within the discretion of the officers of the House, so that nothing more would be required than an intimation of opinion conveyed to them by the Speaker, and which would be received as a direction of the House.


There is no rule of the House recorded in the Journals which would exclude soldiers from the strangers' gallery, nor do I at all see why they should be excluded, But very many years ago, exception was taken to soldiers appearing in uniform in the gallery, and some conversation occurred in the House, in consequence of which it was understood that they should not be admitted except in plain clothes. That practice had prevailed some years, and of course, the officers of the House felt it their duty to carry it out, until they received contrary directions There can be no objection to the admission of soldiers in uniform unarmed, and he would give directions in accordance with what appeared to be the wish of the House in this respect.


said, that if he rightly understood, soldiers might be admitted hereafter in uniform, so that they did not carry arms. He must do the Sergeant-at-Arms the justice to say that he regretted the arrangement which was in operation, but he felt himself bound to obey it. He saw himself that the soldiers in question were not armed, but he felt a difficulty about their admission. One of the soldiers, seeing the sword of that officer, asked whether he was going to the Crimea.


observed, that the objection to which allusion had been made was taken by one of the friends of the people, a former Member for Westminster, Sir Francis Burdett.