HC Deb 02 April 1868 vol 191 cc697-9

said, he wished to call the attention of the House to a Question of Privilege. The number of seats in the House was very limited, and it would be extremely convenient to Members to know the rule upon which seats were to be retained for the night. Last year a Question arose upon this very matter with respect to two Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who had placed their cards on the Bench before the Speaker came in to Prayers. On that occasion he believed it was ruled that it was necessary a Member should be present at Prayers in order to secure his seat for the night, and that no card left upon the seat before that time would entitle an hon. Member to a seat for the night unless he had been present at Prayers. He thought it was also laid down on that occasion that if any hon. Member placed his hat upon the seat, it was to be supposed that he remained within the precincts of the House, and if he returned before the Speaker came in to Prayers he was entitled to retain the seat for the night. Now, he came down to the House shortly after three o'clock for the purpose of securing a seat, and placed his hat on a vacant seat next to that of the hon. Member for King's County. A few minutes afterwards he returned, and found that his hat had been removed, and that his seat was occupied by the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen. He remonstrated with the hon. Member, because he had perceived that it was the usual courtesy of the House to respect hats. The hon. Member told him that he had been twelve years in the House, and he replied that he had had the honour of sitting in the House sixteen years, and during that time he had never removed any hon. Gentleman's hat. He thus found himself without a seat; and, thinking that it would be very much for the convenience of the House to know, he wished to ask Mr. Speaker, whether the rule he had mentioned would be adhered to?


said, he thought the House would expect from him some explanation as to the charge of want of courtesy on his part. He disclaimed any want of courtesy. The rule of the House was that no Member should have a claim to a particular seat unless he was at Prayers, and unless he put his card on the back of the seat; but there were a great number of Members who were constant in their attendance at Prayers, and who therefore by the courtesy of the House were allowed constantly to occupy certain seats. ["No, no."] He said Yes. On that very Bench there were five Members who continually occupied the same seats in consequence of their constant attendance at Prayers for many years. During the three Parliaments he had been in the House he had occupied the same seat, or the corresponding one on the opposite side, and it had rarely been occupied, though accident had kept him from Prayers. He had an instance of what he stated to be the custom in the case of the hon. Member below him—the hon. Member for Sheffield, who had occupied the same seat ever since he (Colonel Sykes) had been in the House.


The Question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Longford (Colonel Greville-Nugent) has been often under the consideration of the House, and the House has laid down rules upon the subject for the observance of its Members. The hon. and gallant Member accurately stated what passed relative to this question last year, and the words that were used upon that occasion are now before me. It was then observed that hon. Members who came down early in the morning to attend to their duties were placed at a disadvantage, because, being confined to the Committee-room, they could not come into the House until their seats had been secured by others. Under these circumstances it was decided that any Member who, having come down to the House in the morning in the discharge of his duty on a Committee, shall before Prayers place his hat on a seat as an indication of his personal attendance within the precincts of the House shall be permitted to retain that seat, as though he were present in the House. Arrangements were made by the Serjeant-at-Arms to give effect to the wishes of the House, and those arrangements were generally acquiesced in. I think, therefore, that after the discussion that occurred last year, it may be taken to be one of the rules of the House with respect to this matter; and under these circumstances any Gentleman who, having placed his hat upon a seat, and being in immediate attendance upon the House, on returning here has a right to expect that that seat will be reserved for him. That I understand to be a rule, generally accepted by the House, and one therefore which all Members ought to respect.

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