HC Deb 31 March 1868 vol 191 cc571-3

(Mr. Dodson, Sir John Pakington, The Judge Advocate General.)

Order for Third Reading read.


said, he had to call the attention of the House to a proceeding which he believed to be of a somewhat irregular and unprecedented character. It was the ancient rule in that House that on Tuesdays Notices of Motion should have precedence of the Orders of the Day. It was, of course, competent for the House at any time, after due notice, to suspend the Standing Orders, and make any change in that rule: but to the great astonishment of himself and other Members, there appeared upon the Notice Paper of that day a Notice that certain Orders of the Day were to have precedence over Notices of Motion—namely, the Mutiny Bill and the Marine Mutiny Bill. Although, on looking at the Votes for a record of last night's proceedings, he found that it was ordered that these Bills should be forwarded a stage at half-past four o'clock that day; yet he did not think that any public notice had been taken of the matter last night. He had been present himself when these Bills had been furthered a stage, and he had heard nothing of such an unusual Order, nor as far as he was aware, had any intimation been given of what was being done. He wished, therefore, to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War what had induced him to adopt this most irregular and unprecedented course with regard to these Bills. He was not aware that there was any public ground for this irregularity. There was no reason why that House should consult the convenience of others, and suspend their Standing Orders in order that these Bills might be advanced a stage that night in "another place." If the noble Lords in "another place" had so much to do, and had such a large amount of business to get through that they were obliged to have an earlier holiday for repose after their exertions, they should suspend their own Standing Orders, and let the irregularity in the proceedings take place in their House. At any rate, the Standing Orders of the House of Commons should not be suspended without notice. The course which had been adopted with regard to these Bills was in direct violation of the rights of independent Members, who were already sufficiently hard pressed by the rules of the House, and who experienced considerable difficulty in bringing on the Motions in which they were interested. If this precedent were to be followed, and proceedings like those he complained of were to become the practice, the House might bid adieu to Motions brought forward by independent Members. He begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War for an Answer to the Question he had just put to him; or perhaps he had better ask Mr. Speaker under what circumstances the arrangement had been agreed to?


The right hon. Gentleman has called this proceeding irregular and unprecedented; but I have to inform him that there are very many precedents for the course that has been adopted, and therefore it cannot be irregular. There are some occasions when public convenience is promoted by the House permitting Bills of this sort to be read on their third stage at an early hour of the evening, and in accordance with many precedents that course has been taken in the present instance, under an Order made by the House last night. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Standing Orders of the House have been suspended in order to permit this Bill to be read a third time: but I am sure that, with his knowledge of the forms of the House, he must be aware that there are no Standing Orders on the subject to suspend. It is for the House—if it thinks that it will conduce to public convenience and promote Public Business—to make an Order of this kind; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman and the House if they ever knew any inconvenience arise from the adoption of the course that has been taken in the present instance with regard to these Bills. This is no question of interference with the rights of private Members. Had it not been for the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, the two Bills would probably have been disposed of by this time. My Answer to the Question of the right hon. Gentleman is, that the course taken with regard to these Bills is quite in conformity with precedent, and only for the promotion of the despatch of Public Business.

Bill read the third time, and passed.