HC Deb 22 February 1872 vol 209 cc872-6

I stated to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department yesterday that, as the Chief Commissioner of Works was not in his place, I would put the Question which I have down on the Paper to-day; but, as I am aware that several hon. Members who are present are anxious to discuss this question, and being anxious to say a few words myself on the matter, I shall put myself in order by moving the adjournment of the House. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, Sir, I am sure, at any rate, the House will agree with me and back me up when I claim for each Member a ticket for the Thanksgiving celebration at St. Paul's, and also one for each Member's lady. The number of Members of the House of Commons is 650 in round numbers, and each Member and his wife or another lady, would amount to 1,300. Now, considering that there are 950 places appropriated, it would be easy to order 300 or 400 more seats, and so provide for all. I am informed that some hon. Members, whose wives are unable to go, are anxious to take their daughters—indeed, I am told by several hon. Members that they will take their daughters without asking permission, and I am bound to say that if I were in their place and was a married man and had a daughter, I would do the same Before asking my Question, there is one other matter I should like to refer to. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in his answer yesterday, said this was not a matter for the Government, but for the Lord Chamberlain. Now, I am informed that the Lord High Chamberlain has had nothing to do with the arrangements. [Mr. BRUCE: The Lord Chamberlain.] Well, the Lord Chamberlain is a portion of the Government—and it is in the power of the Government to provide places not only for hon. Members, but also for the ladies of Members. I beg now to ask the First Commissioner of Works the Question of which I have given Notice, Whether, in the event of married Members being allowed a ticket for the Thanksgiving at St. Paul's for their wives, unmarried Members would be also allowed the privilege of a ticket for their sisters or other lady; and, if not, upon what ground it was denied them?

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Montague Guest.)


wished to apologize for not being present yesterday. He was not, however, aware that the hon. Member intended to put any Question on the subject. Now, he did not hold the office of Vice Chamberlain, and, unfortunately, the noble Lord who did was not at this moment a Member of the House. It would be the noble Lord's duty to examine these delicate and interesting questions, and he would be able to deal with them in a manner to which he himself felt unequal. He should be happy to give any information he could; but his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce) endeavoured yesterday to satisfy the hon. Gentleman, and he himself could hardly have done more. The hon. Gentleman appeared to think it a logical sequence that if tickets were issued for the wives of Members they should be issued for the sisters of unmarried Members, who, no doubt, took a great interest in the ceremony, and that in the case of a Member having no sister a ticket should be allowed him for another lady. He could not, however, see any such sequence. It had been his duty, in conjunction with the Lord Chamberlain, to consider how much accommodation, consistently with the general arrangements of the Cathedral, could be provided for the use of the House of Commons. They, of course, examined precedents, and found that about 250 or 270 seats were reserved at the last Thanksgiving for the House of Commons. On the Duke of Wellington's funeral 500 were reserved. Considering the interest which hon. Members felt on this occasion, and the best mode of allotting the space, they devised a plan by which the entire space in the northern part of the dome, between Her Majesty's pew on the one hand and the choir on the other, was set apart for the use of the House. Beyond the dome was without the immediate circle of the service, and they thought it would not be agreeable for hon. Members to be placed beyond those limits. They found that 850, and on careful measurement 875, seats could thus be placed at the disposal of the House, being largely in excess of anything ever attempted or accomplished before. It became the duty, therefore, of the Lord Chamberlain to consider how he could appropriate those seats in accordance with the general feeling of the House. The first consideration was how many Members would apply for tickets. An estimate was made on this head, and the next question was what rule should be laid down for the allotment of the remaining space. Assuming that 500 Members would probably take tickets for themselves, it was clear that a ticket could not be given for one lady to accompany every Member. He was himself in the same position as the hon. Member—that of having only one ticket—and could, therefore, make allowance for the view which he entertained; but the House generally would feel that if there was to be a selection it should be made in favour of those occupying a distinct position of relationship towards the Members of the House, and occupying a position in society as the wives of Members. In the opinion of the Lord Chamberlain they were entitled to the first consideration. But while it was impossible to make provision if an hon. Member were accompanied by a lady, yet the Lord Chamberlain, who was, of course, anxious to do everything in his power to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen who were in the position of his hon. Friend, would be very happy if any hon. Member who was not going to be accompanied by his wife would apply to him for a ticket for any lady whom he might recommend, and the Lord Chamberlain, so far as he had any space at his disposal, would forward a ticket to such lady. More than that was really impossible.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


asked whether the Government Offices would be closed on the 27th instant, to enable the public servants to participate in the general Thanksgiving?


The subject is new to me, and it has not been under my consideration. I am not aware that any order has been made to that effect. The noble Lord will be aware that to close some public offices would be to impose upon a large number of persons a compulsory rule. There are arrangements made for a certain number of the civil servants to go to St. Paul's.


I will put the Question to-morrow, so that the arrangement made can be known.


asked whether the rumour was true that the Procession would consist only of the Royal carriages, or whether, seeing that preparations were made everywhere to witness it, it would be attended by the chief State officials?


said, that unfortunately the Notice that the hon. Member had sent him did not reach him in time to enable him to have communication with the Lord Chamberlain upon the subject. If the hon. Member would put the Question to-morrow, he would endeavour to inform himself in the interval?


inquired whether the Custom House would be closed.


said, there was no instruction to close the Custom House.