HC Deb 25 June 1867 vol 188 cc536-9

, in rising to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to consider whether any alteration can be made in the internal arrangements of the House of Commons, so as to enable a greater number of Members to hear and take part in the procedings, said, he would not detain the House at length, as he believed there would be no opposition to the Motion from any quarter. The inconveniences attending present arrangements were clear and obvious. Unseemly competition sometimes took place for seats; and Members frequently failed to obtain them, al- though they came down early in order to secure them, and were thus prevented from taking part in debates. The subject required careful consideration, but he did not wish to pledge the Committee by expressing any opinion as to what ought to be done. If the Committee were appointed, however, he would do his best to have the subject fully and fairly considered, and he trusted that the Report of the Committee would result in the improved comfort and convenience of Members, so that important deliberations might be carried on in a befitting manner.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider whether any alteration can be made in the internal arrangements of the House of Commons, so as to enable a greater number of Members to hear and take part in the proceedings."—(Mr. Headlam.)


reminded the House that it was not so often as was imagined that their Chamber was too small for the purposes required of it. When any personal quarrel was on the tapis, hon. Members crowded in most abundantly, and caused a great scarcity of seats; but those who kept their places knew, as he did, that between half past 7 and 8 to half past 10 and 11 there was no reason to complain of the smallness of the Chamber. He doubted whether an enlargement of the House would enable Members to hear better what was going on; for though he was afraid, he must admit, that discussions could not be heard as plainly now as formerly, the cause was not to be found in the apartment as much as in the fact that those who led the discussions usually spoke in a tone of voice which appeared to be addressed only to those sitting on the Bench opposite them. This remark did not apply to the case of a debate of great moment, such as had been common of late, but to matters of perhaps less interest, but certainly of far too great importance to be disposed of in a conversational tone, quite inaudible to hon. Members at any distance from the speakers. If the House were enlarged, then he doubted whether they would hear anything at all. When his late lamented Friend Sir Robert Peel was in the House, it mattered not from what part of it he spoke, no one ever had occasion to call on him to speak up; he understood that it was his duty to let the House generally hear what he had to any. Every evening the business of the House was commenced by the asking and answering of a series of ques- tions of general interest, by which a large amount of important information might be conveyed to hon. Members; but such was the buzz of voices prevailing at the time, and such the conversational tone in which this part of their proceedings was conducted, that outsiders were quite unable to profit by it. Some were desirous of procuring a change which would enable more Members to take part in the debates; it was very problematical, however, whether that would be an advantage. He was of opinion that a great deal of time would be saved, and that the business would be more efficiently conducted, if fewer Members spoke upon it than was the case at present. If, for instance, only the leading Members of the Government and Opposition, and those personally concerned in the question were to take part in the discussion of it, he believed the result would be far more satisfactory. But notwithstanding all this, he did not object to the Motion for a Committee.

Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present,


said, with reference to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Headlam), that it was quite evident a sufficient case would be made out in support of it. He perceived, however, that the right hon. Member proposed that the Committee should make inquiry into the internal arrangements of the House of Commons. He thought that the word "internal" would hamper the proceedings of the Committee, and that it had better be omitted, so that their discretion might be unfettered. If therefore the hon. Gentleman would consent to the omission of that word he should be happy to accede to the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "internal."—(Lord John Manners.)

Question, "That the word 'internal' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Select Committee appointed, "to consider whether any alteration can be made in the arrangements of the House of Commons, so as to enable a greater number of Members to hear and take part in the proceedings."—(Mr. Headlam.) And, on June 28, Select Committee nominated as follows: — Mr. BAZLEY, Mr. BRIGHT, Mr. BAILLIE COCHRANE, Mr. CARDWELL, Mr. WILLIAM COWPER, Viscount ENFIELD, Lord ELCHO, Sir FREDERICK HEYGATE, Mr. HANKEY, Mr. BERESFORD HOPE, Mr. LANYON, Lord HOTHAM, Mr. TITE, Lord JOHN MANNERS, and Mr. HEADLAM: — Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.