HC Deb 05 July 1855 vol 139 cc486-8

stated, that he was anxious to submit for the decision of the Speaker a question which had arisen upon the Proceedings in the Committee which had just reported.

When the numbers were announced at the Table by the Tellers, his attention was called by the learned Member for Wallingford to the fact that three Members, among whom was the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had voted in the majority, though not in the House when the Question was put; the right hon. Baronet stated that he was in the Lobby beyond the folding doors, at the back of the Chair; and the Question which he had to submit for the Speaker's decision was, whether a Member under such circumstances was entitled to have his vote recorded, or whether he is disqualified from voting, being considered not to be in the House.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER said That to entitle a Member to vote he must have been in the House and within the folding-doors, and must have heard the Question put.


said, he should of course submit willingly to the right hon. Gentleman's decision, and his vote would not be allowed in the division, but he thought it was desirable to call the attention of the House to the consequences of that decision, so that the question might not be again raised when its settlement might have an effect upon an important division. The folding doors at the back of the Chair, and also at the front of the Chair, at the other end of the House, were always open. The question was always put immediately on the outer door being shut by the Serjeant-at-arms after the Members coming from the lobby had entered it, and the folding doors at the end of the House being kept open, it was almost impossible, when there was a full House, for Members who had just entered from the lobby to get beyond them. The consequence was, that the space between the outer door and the folding doors was crowded when the question was put. This point having been raised, he would suggest that it might be desirable, in future, to have the folding doors at both ends of the House closed during divisions.


Strictly speaking, when the question is put, every Member ought to be in his place—no Member should be standing upon the floor. It is the duty of the Serjeant-at-arms to clear the lobby of Members, and those Members who do not wish to vote have the liberty of retiring to the room beyond the lobby. All Members who are in the lobby ought to come into the House and vote, but they ought not to be allowed to vote unless they are within the walls of the House—inside the folding doors.


said, he was one of those whose votes had been challenged, and he acknowledged that, after the decision of Mr. Speaker, it must be struck out; but he would point out that there was not sufficient room in the House for all the Members. He congratulated his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Malins) on the great grievance he had discovered. He (the Attorney General) was engaged with his hon. and learned Colleague the Solicitor General in arduous studies in the lobby before the division took place, and he was a little too late to get in before the question was put. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Member for Wallingford), with a vigilance which showed his extreme anxiety for the observance of the forms of the House, even in a case in which it could not be of the slightest importance, and actuated, no doubt, by a high sense of public duty, thought proper to interfere. He would therefore venture to suggest, in consequence of the decision which had been come to, that some steps ought to be taken for enlarging the boundaries of the House.


The hon. and learned Gentleman must remember that after strangers have been ordered to withdraw all the seats below the gallery are at the disposal of Members of Parliament. If the rule were observed, that no Member was to be allowed in the lobby after the glass was turned, no confusion would arise, because every Member would be in his place within the walls of the House when the question was put.


said, the decision which had been given by Mr. Speaker rendered it unnecessary for him to put another question with reference to the presence of Members in the lobby during a division. The only other question, therefore, upon which he would ask for a decision for his guidance upon future occasions was, within what time after a division had taken place was it competent for a Member to challenge a vote?


If it has been discocovered that a Member was not present when the question was put, the vote of that Member may be challenged before the numbers are declared, or after the division is over.


said, the course he had taken had at any rate had the effect of causing rules to be laid down for the guidance of the House in such distinct terms that it would be impossible for any Member, henceforth, to mistake them, and he was sure every hon. Member felt obliged to Mr. Speaker for the decisions he had given.

Subject dropped.

The House adjourned at Three. o'clock.