HC Deb 16 July 1858 vol 151 cc1611-3

Sir, I rise to move that the temporary experimental alteration in the central compartment of the Ladies' Gallery, with some immaterial modification, having been generally approved, a similar change should be made in the side compartments, and the whole permanently completed under the superintendence of Sir Charles Barry. In accordance with the Resolution I have placed upon the paper for the consideration of the House, I have now to suggest whether it would not be desirable to increase the present most inadequate accommodation in the Ladies' Gallery; and in doing so, I sincerely trust no opposition may be made on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will act with the same degree of generosity I have already experienced at the hands of the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works. It may be in the recollection of hon. Members, that some weeks ago I brought the question before the House, and received a promise from the noble Lord that an experiment should be made. That has now been effected, as far as the central compartment is concerned, and we have seventeen if not eighteen seats, where before only seven could be placed, in consequence of the space allotted to the anteroom. Should the House think it desirable to sanction my Resolution, and alter the side compartments in a similar manner, they will afford additional accommodation for thirty-three persons, making in all fifty-four seats, instead of twenty-one. Since the question was first mooted, I have heard of two objections, and two only—one, that in dispensing with the ante-room you took away the tea-rooms—the other, that one compartment should certainly be left untouched, in order that Members of the Royal Family might visit the House. The first objection falls to the ground at once, when we consider the rooms available for that object in the immediate neighbourhood, in the same gallery. And with regard to the second objection, I really cannot imagine what harm can arise to any Royal visitors from increasing their accommodation. We are not often favoured with the presence of Royalty; but should one compartment be required at any time, it can be kept free for that purpose. I would, therefore, propose, that the three compartments should be furnished in a similar manner—one be- ing reserved for Royalty in case of notice being given, but occupied at other times as the other two. The cost of refitting the whole permanently would not exceed £300, according to an estimate I have received from Sir Charles Barry, and the comfort from improved ventilation would be greatly enhanced. The majority of the Members of this House, I believe, will bear me out when I state the difficulty hitherto experienced in procuring admission to the ladies' gallery; and I think, in addition to the contemplated extension, we must look forward to some reform as to the admission of ladies to the gallery. Your own gallery, Sir, is always full on the occasion of an interesting debate. The one in question is frequently partially unoccupied till a late hour of the night, because certain privileged parties have their names on the list—and perhaps never intend to come at all—to the exclusion of the families of less fortunate Members and their friends. I, therefore, beg to move that—


intimated that the hon. and gallant Member was out of order in proposing the Motion of which he had given notice.


said, he would then ask whether there would be any objection on the part of Her Majesty's Government to the alteration he had suggested?


thought that, although the space allotted to ladies in the gallery appropriated to them was somewhat limited, the alteration proposed by the hon. and gallant Member would be productive of considerable inconvenience. Under the existing arrangements the ladies had front seats in the two side compartments, and they had a very comfortable lobby behind in which they hung up their bonnets and cloaks. The hon. and gallant Member had suggested that the partition between the seats and the lobby should be taken down, in order that a second seat might be placed in the compartments; but he (Mr. Malins) did not think any lady who had been induced to occupy the back seat would ever be willing to do so again. He hoped that, although the Government had given way to the vagaries of the hon. and gallant Member with regard to the central compartment, they would not make similar alterations in the side compartments. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that the limited space now afforded to each visitor in the central compartment was quite incompatible with the present style of ladies' dresses. He hoped that before hon. Gen- tlemen expressed any opinion on this subject they would walk up to the ladies' gallery and judge for themselves.


said, he thought that perhaps the Government might not object to appoint a Committee on the subject, in which case it would be necessary to examine those who alone could give evidence, the ladies themselves.