HC Deb 26 February 1872 vol 209 cc1039-100

, in rising to move the first of the Resolutions of which he had given Notice— That Strangers shall not be directed to withdraw during any Debate, except upon a Question put and agreed to, without Amendment or Debate, said, it was one relating to the admission of strangers, and providing that strangers should only be excluded by vote of the House. Though this Resolution was agreed to by the Select Committee, it was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman, and opposed to it was the authority of hon. Gentlemen entitled to much respect. In his opinion, however, the reasons in favour of the Resolution were overwhelming. The rule of the House was that strangers ought not to be admitted to the debates at all; the practice was to admit them in every possible manner. No hon. Member was innocent of their admission. Hon. Members gave orders for the admission of strangers, asked for orders to admit them to the Speaker's Gallery, and under the gallery, and also to admit ladies. The Standing Orders, moreover, provided for the removal of strangers from that part of the House appropriated to the use of hon. Members, thus by inference pointing to their admission elsewhere. A part of the building had also been set apart, deliberately and avowedly, for the purpose of a Reporters' Gallery. Therefore, the rule had come to this—everybody broke it whenever he pleased, and everybody could enforce it who pleased. Now, if the rule was a right one, it should be enforced on every occasion; if it were a wrong rule it ought to be altered. Was the right thus placed at the disposal of every hon. Member of small value? On the contrary, it was one of the greatest value. As the House of Commons grew in age and experience, it grew in influence, and through the Reporters' Gallery it now spoke to the whole kingdom, and even to the whole world. Thus hon. Members were able to impart information, to remove misapprehension, and to exercise influence with a facility and a power never dreamt of until recent times. The right, therefore, of excluding strangers, ought, in his judgment, no longer to be left to the caprice of one person. It might be of the greatest possible importance to the House and the country that the debates should be published; but one man might prevent their publication, and the House had no remedy. Should the House thus abdicate its authority, and leave itself at the mercy of any hon. Member? He did not say that this right should be abolished altogether; on the contrary, he thought it one of their most valuable rights; but he, and with him the Select Committee, thought that one hon. Member should not be allowed the power, and they also thought that the simplest remedy would be the best—namely, to give to the House at large the power of saying whether it should or should not exclude strangers. Agreeing with the Select Committee that the decision of the majority of the House, which was good on all other questions, was good upon this, he begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Strangers shall not be directed to withdraw during any Debate, except upon a Question put and agreed to, without Amendment or Debate."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


, in moving as an Amendment to the Resolution— That the Resolutions differ in their terms from the Report of the Committee of last year on the Business of the House, and are, therefore, new to the House, and that further time ought to be given for their consideration, said, there was some force in the Resolution that had been proposed by the Government; but he thought it was more convenient that the House should retain its present power. He wished chiefly to call the attention of the House to the mode in which the Government had dealt with the question. Ample opportunity had been given for the consideration of the three first Resolutions, but 48 hours' Notice only had been given of those which referred to the Day Sittings, and that was not sufficient time for them to consider changes so important as were involved in them.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Resolutions differ in their terms from the Report of the Committee of last year on the Business of the House, and are, therefore, new to the House, and that further time ought to be given for their consideration,"—(Mr. Bentinck,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, occasions might arise when some hon. Members might desire to communicate to the House something which would be highly detrimental to the public interests if it should go forth to the country. He remembered an instance in which Mr. Jervis, afterwards Chief Justice Jervis, availed himself of the ancient privilege with which it was now sought to do away. It had been found that in the Act empowering the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to do certain things, there had been an omission through which, when they redistributed the ecclesiastical districts of England, due authority was no longer conferred on marriages, the entries of the baptisms, and the like, the consequences being that the children of persons who had been married within a district which had been taken from any diocese and added to another were all liable to have their properties and inheritance disputed owing to a misrepresentation of the law. Now, if it had gone forth to the public that there was so decided an opportunity of instituting such practices as it had been seen were lately practised in the Courts of Common Law, there might have been endless disputes with respect to property, and many persons might have been placed in the view of ruin, and, as Mr. Jervis observed, of endless confusion. If the House were to adopt the adopt the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it must divide on a question that had not been debated, which if such as he had described, it might be detrimental to the public interest to divulge until the House had come to a decision with respect to it. But if in the event of any such circumstance arising, the House would have to vote in the dark, they must vote on the exclusion of strangers, on the credit of some person standing up in his place and declaring the state of the case to be that which he had just mentioned. The opinion, he might add, which he now expressed was so strongly felt in the Committee, that the substance of the proposed Resolution was carried only by the casting vote of the Chairman. The Committee, therefore, considered the proposal as being of a doubtful character, and if any hon. Member thought it right to divide the House he should, as he had done in the Committee, vote against it.


said, the power of excluding strangers, on the Motion of a private Member, was one which had hardly ever been abused, and he thought it was one which had better he left undisturbed. Not only that, but he thought the balance of opinion in the Committee, especially when he mentioned the names of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), and the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey, would be regarded by the House as being in favour of the retention of the privilege. There were also some objections to the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Many hon. Members who were very well up in the forms of the House; Sir Erskine May being the culprit to whose work they were indebted for their familiarity with the subject—a knowledge not possessed in former times—knew that these forms were often abused for the purpose of delay. He could not, therefore, help thinking—and he must give a note of warning upon the subject—that his right hon. Friend was about to put a most tremendous weapon in the hands of any hon. Member if delay were his object. They were all aware how much delay was caused by Motions for the Adjournment of the House, or the Adjournment of the Debate. This proposal, if carried, would enable any hon. Member at any time in a debate—even in the middle of an important speech—to call for a division. The smaller the minority in favour of the exclusion of strangers, and the greater the majority in favour of their being allowed to stay, the longer would the division on the question take. When it was borne in mind, that in a full House a division occupied half-an-hour, it would be seen that the objection was not without force as against the indirect consequences of making the contemplated change. There was, at the same time, a feeling that the exclusion of strangers, on notice being taken by a single Member, was a rule which could not be any longer maintained. Acting on that supposition, he had placed a Notice on the Paper, which would enable a moderate minority—say 20—to protect themselves from anything which may happen in the Stranger's Gallery by moving that strangers be excluded. It must not be forgotten that although strangers in the British House of Commons behaved themselves very well, they played elsewhere a very important part in the deliberations of Legislatures, and it was quite possible, in times of political excitement, that a minority might be treated by them in such a way as to render their exclusion desirable. He thought it would be well, then, that if 20 Members rose in their places, on a Question put, and said they wished strangers to be excluded, the wish should be acted upon.


said, he must contend that before the present rule was altered it ought to be considered whether there were not some good reasons for its adoption which might still have force. He had no doubt the rule was made for the protection of hon. Members against any kind of pressure from persons out-of-doors, such as often prevailed in the case of popular Assemblies—as, for instance, in America. It was not improbable that the protection afforded by the existing rule of the House might on some occasions be required, and he thought the House would not do wisely in now abolishing the rule.


said, he had a claim to be heard on this question because he might be considered a peccant Member in the matter, and he had cause to complain that the precedent of 1849 was not followed, at which time the Member who then moved the exclusion of strangers was named on the Committee appointed to consider the point. The Committee of last year was appointed to consider the best means of promoting the despatch of Public Business in that House, and yet there were no words in the Motion appointing the Committee stating that this question was to be discussed. He was never asked to be a Member of the Committee, and nothing led him to suppose that this particular matter would be discussed in the Committee. Under these circumstances, he had great cause to complain that a change should now be proposed, which, to some extent, reflected on his conduct two years ago, without an opportunity for explanation being given him. He certainly could not understand how the rule for the exclusion of strangers affected the progress of Business in the House; for, whether strangers were in the Gallery or not, the Business of the House would proceed all the same. The division in the Select Committee on the point was a very close one, and that was a reason why some clear and distinct reason should be given for the proposed change; but the right, hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to give no reason at all. The power of excluding strangers was used in 1849, not for a public purpose, but because the hon. Member who then took notice of the presence of strangers had some private pique against a reporter in the gallery, who, he thought, did not report his observations sufficiently. Now, if ever there was ground for abolishing the existing rule, it was when the rule was enforced for the purpose of spite and not for a public object; but the Select Committee of 1849 unanimously reported that there was no sufficient ground for making any alteration in the existing practice. He would ask the House to consider with what authority that Committee gave their decision on the subject, for it included among its Members, Mr. John O'Connell, Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Brotherton, Mr. Evelyn Denison, and other eminent authorities, and their unanimous conclusion was, that no change whatever should be made in the rule as to the exclusion of strangers at the instance of any individual Member of the House. For his part, he had heard no reason whatever which could justify an alteration in the present rule. When, in 1870, he exercised his right to exclude strangers, he did so purely on public grounds, and whether his conduct was right or wrong on that occasion it was largely supported by the public. He therefore asked the House not to change a rule which had existed from time immemorial, and which had not hitherto been misused except on rare occasions.


said, he had voted for the proposed Resolution in the Select Committee, and he trusted that if it should not be in the exact terms in which it was moved, the House would, nevertheless, deal with the matter in some way or other. The rule for the exclusion of strangers was formerly the unwritten law of the House, and no Standing Order; but there was an inherent right in every hon. Member to require their exclusion, in the same way as any hon. Member might take notice that 40 Members were not present. When Mr. Sheridan brought forward his Motion that this privilege should be dispensed with, the only answer was, that newspapers might give incorrect or prejudiced reports of the debates. In 1845 the subject was grappled with, but not thoroughly dealt with. A Motion was, however, made that the presence of strangers should be recognized by a Standing Order. That Motion was agreed to, and yet the anomalous privilege remained of excluding strangers at the instance of any individual hon. Member. Under these circumstances, he thought that the House should grapple with the question, and settle it either in the way suggested by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, or in some other manner.


said, he did not think the question of great magnitude, or that much time should be spent in its discussion; but it appeared to him that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) had urged a very practical objection to the Resolution, and he had not heard any adequate argument in favour of the proposed change. The hon. Member who last spoke (Mr. Goldney) said that the existing rule was no Standing Order, but only the unwritten law of the House. Now, he entertained as much respect for the unwritten law of the House as for a Standing Order; but he did not ask the House to look at the matter simply from the point of view that this was an ancient practice. He did not wish to appear as a stickler for ancient practice, provided there was good reason for doing away with it. This was a question which had been raised before, and it had hitherto been decided in one way—namely, by adhering to the old practice. Mr. Hatsell, the great predecessor of Sir Erskine May, stated in his work on the proceedings of the House of Commons, that this privilege had been often called in question, but that, on consideration, sufficient good reason had always been found for adhering to the ancient practice. In the present century, the question was twice raised before the occasion which gave rise to the discussion two years ago—namely, in 1810, when the point was brought forward by Mr. Sheridan on the occasion of the Walcheren Expedition; and Mr. Sheridan was then defeated on his proposal to alter the rule of the House by a considerable majority; and, again, in 1849 by Mr. O'Connell, when a strong Committee was appointed, which unanimously reported in favour of upholding the practice of the House. The power of excluding strangers was very rarely exercised, and occasions might arise in times of public distress and danger when it would be right for the House, without hesitation or a moment's delay, to exert the power of debating with closed doors. What was the objection urged to that course? Why, the hon. Member who last spoke said that the House had recognized the presence of strangers, and that, therefore it was an anomaly that they should be excluded at the desire of any individual Member. He granted that that was an anomaly, but if they were to change everything that might be deemed an anomaly there would be a good many other questions raised. What, then, was to be done with regard to the reports in the newspapers? Was not the only control they held over such reports an anomaly? What course did an hon. Member adopt when he found his speech had been misreported? His only course was to complain that he had been reported at all, because by the rules of the House it was a breach of the privileges of the House to report the debates. This question had arisen in consequence of a debate on a delicate subject the year before last, when it was thought desirable by some that the discussion should not be reported. Others, however, thought it should; but it was questionable whether, in consequence of a comparatively trifling inconvenience having arisen on an extraordinary occasion—which it was hoped would not often occur—the rules of the House should be altered. If they did so, it might happen in the future that an occasion of public danger would require the doors of the House to be closed to secure private discussion, and then they would find that they had lost the use of a very valuable weapon of defence. However confident they might be of their security from foreign invasion, that confidence might be shaken in the future, and the occasion might arise when closed doors would be necessary for the well-being of the country. He therefore thought it would be wiser to allow the Orders of the House in this respect to remain as they had for centuries.


said, the Amendment placed the House in a difficult position, because it seemed to upset, not only this, but all the Motions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He remembered the Committee which sat as a consequence of Mr. O'Connell's complaint; he sat upon it. Mr. O'Connell's complaint was, that he was not reported at all, and all the cases brought before that Committee were of a totally distinct class from that which had now arisen. But of all the arguments brought against the proposal to leave the matter to the vote of the House, none was more extraordinary than that of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who was willing to leave the House subject to the dictum of one hon. Member, but would not allow it to be ruled by the voice of the majority. Let the House consider for a moment the cause of this question being raised. The House was engaged in considering a matter which had been legislated upon—not a new subject, but one upon which the public mind had been so much agitated that Petitions signed by 400,000 or 500,000 people had been laid on the Table of the House. The burden of these Petitions was, that the legislation of which they complained had been smuggled through the House, nobody knowing anything about it, late in the morning, and yet under these circumstances the discretionary power of clearing the House was exercised. Where so many persons had petitioned on a subject of great interest to the public, he maintained that they had a perfect right to know what were the opinions of their Representatives, and that it was vain to attempt to stifle the voice of the public, or to prevent them from knowing what took place in the House. None felt more strongly than he the necessity of adhering to our old forms. Twenty years ago the question was raised, and he came to the conclusion that no case had arisen for altering the rules of the House; but now a stronger and much more serious case had arisen, and he had changed his opinion. If the rule were maintained he was perfectly sure the House would be cleared from time to time upon occasions when it would be the desire of all to wish the proceedings reported, simply because the House had been cleared upon another occasion, and simply in order to expose the absurdity of the rule. The proposal of the Government was very wise, and would prevent the House being cleared night after night to bring the question to an issue.


said, the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means had anticipated much that he had intended saying; he should, therefore, be brief in his remarks upon the subject. He had voted against the proposal in the Committee of last year, and had adhered to the view taken by the Committee of 1849, that no sufficient case had been made out to make it desirable to revise the rule in question. No one felt more than he the importance of full publicity being given to the debates; but occasions might arise when even to secure freedom of debate it might be necessary to exclude strangers, and he did not think sufficient reason had been shown for parting with the privilege of closing the doors. He could not imagine in this case any rule better calculated to interrupt the Business of the House than the one proposed, for if adopted, the result would be that the House would be called upon to decide the question immediately without debate, and to give a decision which would not be final, for there was nothing to prevent another hon. Member rising after the lapse of five minutes, and dividing the House again upon the same point, and so continuing the whole of the evening. For his own part, he should have been content to leave this matter as it now stood, trusting to the good sense of the House that the power which now existed would not be abused. He had no intention of inquiring now whether the course pursued by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) in 1869 was wise or not, but at present that or any other hon. Gentleman who used the power given him did so under a heavy responsibility—a responsibility in which the House had no share. He ran the risk of incurring a great deal of unpopularity; and, if in his discretion he made an unwise use of his power, he would be certain to incur the censure of both the House and the country. Hitherto these checks had generally proved sufficient, nor did he believe they were likely to fail in the future. If, however, there was to be an alteration, he very much preferred that proposed by his right hon. Friend near him; and if they proceeded to a division, he should support the Motion that the words proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer should stand part of the Question, with a view to ultimately voting for the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock.


said, he coincided with the remarks which had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), who said that the House had been placed in a delicate position by the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck). But if the House had been placed in a delicate position, it was not by his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk, but by the conduct of the Government itself. So far from agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir George Grey) he contended that the House was bound not to consider this question of the convenience of the House in a piecemeal manner. The way in which the House should deal with this question of Business was after the manner of the Report of the Committee of 1871. Only three of the recommendations of that Committee were now adopted by the Government, and, without giving any preliminary Notice, they brought forward three others which struck mainly at the freedom of debate. So far from censuring the hon. Member for West Norfolk, he thought the hon. Member entitled to the thanks of the House, which he did not generally get, for having moved his Amendment, which he trusted would be pressed to a division. Her Majesty's Government recommended the appointment of a Committee on the subject, and he had never heard any explanation why that Committee had been suddenly withdrawn. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) recommended it; but was that any reason why the Government, which was not always so ready to listen to a recommendation from that quarter, should have so acted in this case, and imported new recommendations which had never been considered at all by any Committee? He looked on these Resolutions as stop-gap Resolutions. They had not been properly considered. After all, when one considered the conduct of hon. Members of the House, they got on very well. It depended very much on the course pursued by the Leader how they got on. He expressed no opinion on the present Resolution by itself; but he took the whole of the Resolutions in the mass, and he contended that they ought all to be sent to a Committee to be considered, for the plan under consideration was at best but an imperfect way of dealing with the question. He thanked his hon. Friend for bringing forward his Amendment, and he trusted that hon. Members would join him in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Norfolk, as being the only way of really expediting the important Business of the House.


, as a Member of the Committee appointed to consider this subject, desired to mention one or two circumstances. With regard to this particular question, he had looked carefully into the Journals of the House, and could find very few instances in which this power was abused. He desired to remind the House that, in presenting this recommendation to the House, they were not presenting what was deemed the real wish of the Committee. There were 9 in favour of this proposal and 9 against it, but both the hon. Gentlemen who were absent—the Chairman of Committees and the right hon. Baronetthe Member for West Essex—were averse to the proposal. If they had been present the question would have been settled in the opposite, direction, for the vote would be as 11 to 9. The question, too, had already been considered by a Committee 20 years ago, and their Report had been unanimous against the proposal, and the Government ought, therefore, to have very strong reasons, indeed, before they brought before the House a suggestion unanimously rejected by the Committee 20 years ago, and disapproved by a majority of the Committee of last year. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock would be an improvement upon the proposal of the Government, but it would be better still to leave matters as they stood.


said, he trusted the House would not speculate as to what would have been the decision of the Committee had certain hon. Members not been absent. He contended that the question under consideration was one not affecting the privileges of that House, but that, on the contrary, it was merely the power which any individual hon. Member now had of over-riding the general opinion of the House; and he believed the time had now come when individual privileges of that nature were narrowly scrutinized by the public, and that their retention had to be justified by the test of wisdom and common sense. That power his hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees acknowledged to be an anomaly; but to his removal his hon. Friend would not consent, because there were other anomalies. He would, however, remind his hon. Friend that the acceptance of this argument would have prevented every reform that had ever been adopted in the country, and that they could not effect every reform at the same moment, nor remove every anomaly at once. But whenever they met with an anomaly, the best thing they could do was to remove it. That was an anomaly, and one which might be productive of very considerable inconvenience to the House. What the Government proposed was, not that that power should be abolished, but that it should only be exercised by a majority of the House. They were governed in this country by majorities, and he could see no reason why they should in this case depart from the ordinary rule. But on that particular question he took a broader view, and contended that there was another party whose interests were to be considered—the public, and he believed that the time had arrived when the public felt that they had a right, and were determined, to know what opinions were held by their Representatives, and when it was therefore necessary that that unwise privilege should be abolished. He thought that on the broadest possible grounds that anomaly ought to be removed; with other anomalies he would be prepared to deal as they arose.


said, he preferred resting the question on the ground originally taken up by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He was of opinion that the subject ought to be referred anew to a Select Committee, as the Report which had emanated from the Committee of last year could not be said correctly to represent the views of the Members, the final meeting having been ante-dated, so that three of the hon. Members composing it found it impossible to be present. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees had placed before the House the views entertained by one of the hon. Members who was absent, he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) himself was another, and under these circumstances the House probably would have little difficulty in estimating what value really attached to the so-called Report of the Committee, carried as it was by the narrowest majority. In dealing with a question so important as the regulation of the Business of the House it was impossible to be too cautious. A reference afresh to a Select Committee, he believed, would, therefore, be the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty in which they found themselves.


said, that when the rule was enforced against strangers in 1870 the rule was not obeyed by hon. Members themselves. A most partial report of the debate appeared in the next day's papers, on both occasions when the reporters were excluded, but especially in the second instance. The speech of the hon. Member for Bedford was compressed into a few lines, and other speeches not at all longer than his were set forth at full length. He spoke without any personal feeling whatever, having taken no part himself in that debate. But he felt that if reports of their proceedings were to appear at all, it was better that they should do so on the responsibility of the authorized reporters than from such accounts as individual hon. Members might choose to supply. He did not hesitate to say that the report which appeared on the second occasion referred to was a shameful report. He maintained that the House was perfectly safe in the hands of a majority of its own Members, and certainly far safer than when left to the caprice of a single Member.


said, he wished to disentangle the two questions—that relating to the exclusion of strangers, from the proposed reference of the subject as a whole back to the Committee. He himself was not in a position very strongly to oppose such a reference, that having been the original proposal of the Government. The matter stood thus—when that suggestion was made, it was opposed by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), who rose in his place, and objected that the question should again be referred to the Committee, claiming that, before such a course was adopted, the labours of the former Committee should at least be submitted to the judgment of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. G. Hardy) spoke in a precisely similar sense, as did also his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). Thus, three eminent Members of the Committee of last year concurred in urging the Government not again to refer the matter to a Committee, and to do so in the face of this protest would have been almost a slight to the labour and time which they had bestowed upon their investigation. Since that, it had come to his knowledge that many hon. Members of the House were prepared to express a contrary opinion, and that view, if expressed, would have been in accordance with the view originally put forward by the Government. In the face, however, of the actual circumstances, and looking to the course which had been adopted, and the representation which had been made by leading Members of the Committee of last year, he thought it would be a very left-handed course if the Government were again to change their minds, and to refer the matters in question to another Committee, without affording the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the recommendations which had been submitted.


said, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would have considerable weight if these proposals now made by the Government were identical with those which had emanated from the Committee last year. On the former occasion, however, only four proposals were before the House; whereas now, within the last 48 hours, and without allowing time for consideration by hon. Members, a series of Amendments of a totally original and controversial character had been put upon the Paper by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, dealing with questions which certainly had not been fully debated by the Committee. The Government, therefore, had shifted its ground, and, abandoning the original recommendations of the Committee, had brought forward a pot-pourri of its own composition.


said, he was afraid the occasions on which it was proposed that the House should determine by a majority of its own Members as to the course which should be pursued, would be occasions on which it was certain that party feeling would run very high, and that, therefore, the House would be asked to decide gravely as to its own course of procedure when its pulse was at fever heat, and when, without disrespect, it might be said that its judgment would be clouded. On a recent occasion, the office of those whose duty it was in turn to preserve the order of debate in the House of Commons had been likened to the rock on whose head eternal sunshine rests. Could that description truthfully be given of the majority of the House itself upon occasions of great excitement? For that reason he was decidedly of opinion it was undesirable to lay down such a rule as the one now proposed.


suggested that his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) should withdraw his Amendment, and allow the decision to be taken upon the Main Question.


said, in consequence of the suggestion of his right hon. Friend (Colonel Wilson-Patten), it appeared to him that it would simplify matters if he withdrew his Amendment, and therefore he would beg leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, upon consideration, he thought it would be extremely inconvenient to allow half a quorum of the House to rise in their places, in order to say that strangers should be excluded. He would, therefore, with the leave of the House, and in order to remedy that defect, in the place of the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper, substitute the original Amendment he had made use of last year for that subject.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "when notice shall be taken that strangers are in the House, Mr. Speaker shall collect the pleasure of the House whether they shall be ordered to withdraw, and if it appear to him that such be the pleasure of the House, he shall give order accordingly forthwith; but, if otherwise, he shall then put a Question to the House whether strangers do withdraw, and shall, without Debate, call on the Ayes to stand up in their places, and if more than twenty Members do stand up accordingly, strangers shall be forthwith ordered to withdraw,"—(Mr. Bouverie,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that Government had no object whatever in bringing forward the Resolution, except to meet the wishes of the House. Though he was personally in favour of the responsibility of excluding strangers being thrown on the majority of the House, he would accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman as a compromise.


said, it was not clear to him whether the words "Strangers shall not be directed to withdraw, &c.," would prevent the Speaker from exercising the power of causing any part of the House occupied by strangers to be cleared in the event of disorder arising there. He was not sure, however, that the same objection applied to the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie).


said, he was of opinion that there ought to be no doubt on this point. He considered it of great moment, for it must be in the recollection of Members of the Committee, that there had been times when the galleries in popular assemblies had assumed a tumultuous and insurrectionary character, and it was therefore necessary for freedom of debate that the power of exclusion should be possessed by the Speaker. With regard to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, any proposal emanating from the right hon. Gentleman on a subject of the kind must, of course, be received with great respect; but, nevertheless, it appeared to him the House ought to have an opportunity of carefully considering the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond had already dwelt on a point worthy of consideration, and the House ought not to proceed in such a matter without due deliberation. It was desirable to have an opportunity of seeing the right hon. Gentleman's proposition in print, and of considering the possible consequences which might arise from its adoption.


said, he was sorry that his hon. Friend (Mr. G. Bentinck) who brought forward the first Amendment had not stood by it. The alteration proposed by the Government was rejected unanimously by the Committee in 1849, and was only carried in the Committee of 1871 by the casting vote of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed, if fair notice of the proposal had been given to the Members of the latter Committee, there would probably have been a majority against it. He greatly doubted whether the compromise now proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock would be an improvement. At all events, it was proposed very suddenly, and, in his judgment, the only practical course would be to submit the question to a Committee upstairs, instead of dealing with it in that haphazard way.


said, hon. Members had to chose between two alternatives, both of which he, for one, regarded with equal disfavour. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock's proposal were carried, it would introduce for the first time the practice, prevalent, he believed, in America and other foreign countries, of calling on Members to rise in their places in substitution of the time-honoured practice of the House of Commons taking the sense of the House by a division. It was hardly fair to hon. Members to ask them within a few moments of the dinner-hour, and after a very brief discussion, to alter the old established forms and customs of the House.


said, there was some reason for requiring a majority to order the exclusion of strangers; but he could see no reason for conferring that power on 20 Members. He had, after careful consideration, come to the conclusion that the House must either maintain the present rule on the subject, or else abolish it and give strangers an absolute right to come in.


said, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock appeared at the first blush to be an improvement on the original Resolution; but still he could not vote in favour of such a proposition at a moment's notice. If there were divisions, he should vote both against the Resolution and the Amendment. The 2nd Resolution the Government had to propose was a practical one, which would have an immediate effect on the proceedings of the House, and he trusted the House would proceed to discuss it without delay. He hoped the present Resolution and the Amendment would be withdrawn, leaving them, if expedient, to be considered at some future time.


said, he joined in the recommendation of the last Speaker (Mr. Dodson), and would urge the postponement of the Resolution.


rose to add his request to that which had been already made, that the Government would not press their Motion to a division, because so many questions were raised by the Amendment suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock that it was next to impossible to consider them, on hearing that Amendment read for the first time.


said, he had suggested that the hon. Member for West Norfolk should withdraw his Amendment, because he wished to be able to support that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock; but the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment perhaps embodied more than his speech; and he agreed that it would be desirable that a little time should be taken to consider the Amendment.


said, he was quite willing to withdraw his Amendment, if the Government would withdraw the Resolution. He read his Amendment only in the way of suggestion, and would not have moved it, had he not been pressed to do so by the hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


, in rising to move the second Resolution on the Paper, as follows— That whenever notice has been given that Estimates will be moved in Committee of Supply, and the Committee stands as the first Order of the Day upon any day except Thursday and Friday, on which Government Orders have precedence, the Speaker shall, when the Order for the Committee has been read, forthwith leave the Chair without putting any Question, and the House shall thereupon resolve itself into such Committee, unless on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, an Amendment be moved relating to the division of Estimates proposed to be considered on that day, said, that the Resolution was adopted unanimously by the Committee last Session—["No, no!"]—at all events, so far as the word "unless," and excluding the remainder. In fact, the substance of the Resolution was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, and carried by a casting vote. The effect of it was, that on nights when the House went into Committee of Supply there should be no Motion made, except in relation to the subject-matter of the Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates. It was generally supposed that the right to make a Motion, or to call attention to a subject was a relic of an ancient English liberty of the most valuable character. [Lord ELCHO: Hear, hear!] Yes, the noble Lord evidently took and followed out that view of it. It was traced back to the time when Parliament laid down the maxim that Grievance should precede Supply. No doubt in old time when the King and the Parliament met together, they had different objects in view; his object was to get Supply and then to get rid of them; and the object of Parliament was to get rid of Grievances and not to grant Supply. Now, if anyone thought that that ancient state of things was the origin of the modern practice, he was under a natural but substantial error. According to the evidence before the Committee, it appeared from the records, which had been specially searched, that these Motions on going into Committee of Supply were not to be met with earlier than 1811, when Parliament cancelled a rule, which had always been maintained up to that time, that in all cases Notices should have precedence of Orders of the Day. Mr. Thomas Creevey, being aggrieved, made a Motion in going into Committee of Supply, and that was the origin of the practice; but so rare was it made that in the next 10 years there were only three instances of it, whereas in the 10 years which had just elapsed there was an average each year of 33 Motions on going into Committee of Supply, and 33 Notions for calling attention to subjects, making a total of 66 Notices. The case for the Resolution was plain, and might be easily stated in a very few words. He did not—for he could not accept the prevalent theory of the Business of the House being divisible into two sections—that which belonged to independent Members, and that which belonged to the Government. On the contrary, he rather thought that both Government and independent Members were there for one purpose—the benefit of the country at large; and what they had to do was to consider how they could best arrange, so that the business of the country might be best got through, and that every hon. Member should know what was the subject that would come on on any particular evening. Nothing could more frustrate that object than the present Rule of taking Motions on going into Committee of Supply. They all knew that on Supply nights there was a large number of Motions put down which did not disappear from the Paper when they were once there, but waited for a convenient day; so that hon. Members never were able to know which one of them was to be proposed on any particular evening, or whether Supply would or would not be really taken. Enormous inconveniences were thus occasioned. But that was not all. Everyone knew that the business of Supply was the core and kernel of the work of the House of Commons. By it the Session was measured, and until it was concluded the Session could not come to an end. Yet an hon. Member might put down a Motion, and might be quite sure that it would come on; the Government might put down a Bill with the same certainty; but they never could tell whether Supply would come on or not. It often happened, in consequence, that the valuable hours before dinner were occupied with Motions, and that, just when the House was beginning to thin, important Estimates were brought on, and the duty of scanning those Estimates and of insisting on rigid economy was imperfectly performed. Moreover, if the Government had a Bill in hand, and also wanted to forward Supply, the effect of the present rule was this—that they felt it necessary to give the Bill precedence, because they had no certainty that if Supply was put down for any particular night, they would be allowed to reach it. Thus Supply got postponed till the fag-end of the Session, when hon. Members were fatigued with their labours, and little disposed to watch the Votes with jealousy. He might also observe that it was now generally admitted that the great weight of legislation must and should fall on the shoulders of the Government, and it was obviously most undesirable that the few days placed for that purpose at the service of the Government should be curtailed by a rule such as the one he now proposed to amend. The Resolution, as he originally proposed it, was that the proposed new rule should apply to every time they went into Committee of Supply, but the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) suggested that it should be limited to one day of the week; and he gladly acceded to that suggestion as a reasonable compromise. The rest of the Motion was suggested by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), with the idea that hon. Gentlemen might wish to make general observations on Estimates, or to move the reduction of the total amount, and it was to preserve the power of doing that before the Votes were considered, that the last clause was added to the Resolution. The matter seemed to him to be in a small compass, and he trusted the House would favourably consider the course proposed. It was not legislation, but Supply, which lengthened the Session; that could be closed with little legislation, but not before Supply had been gone through, and the duty of the House with regard to Supply was as important as any duty it had to discharge. It certainly seemed very unreasonable to interpose between the duty of going into Committee of Supply and its discharge, obstacles which were not allowed to intervene in any other instance. If it was right that the House should go into the consideration of a Bill, surely it was more right that they should go into Supply, and it seemed almost a mockery to say that the right which they regarded as at once their peculiar function, and the one they were most proud to exercise, should have obstacles thrown in the way of its discharge which were well nigh insuperable. He believed hon. Members, by adopting the Resolution which he had the honour to propose, would do more to relieve the pressure on the Business of the House than by any other change which could be made.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That whenever notice has been given that Estimates will be moved in Committee of Supply, and the Committee stands as the first Order of the Day upon any day except Thursday and Friday, on which Government Orders have precedence, the Speaker shall, when the Order for the Committee has been read, forthwith leave the Chair without putting any Question, and the House shall thereupon resolve itself into such Committee, unless on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, an Amendment be moved relating to the division of Estimates proposed to be considered on that day."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


, before asking the House to accept the Amendment he had put on the Paper, to the effect— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the best means of facilitating the despatch of Public Business in this House, and that the Reports of previous Committees on this subject be referred to it, said, he wished to call attention to what had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Resolution he had moved had been agreed to unanimously in Committee, whereas the unanimity referred merely to the introduction of the words "Thursday and Friday," not to the merits of the proposition before the House. The first division was taken on the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), which was negatived by the casting vote of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. But when they came to divide on the general substance of the Resolution, it was not carried unanimously, though he acknowledged it was carried by a large majority, which, however, had been much influenced by the accident as to the meeting of the Committee to which he had previously referred. His reason for asking the appointment of a Committee on this subject was, that he believed they had not yet arrived at—he would not say unanimity, but even sound knowledge on the important subject of the conduct of the ordinary business of the House. There were many points which were raised in evidence before the Committee which had not been duly considered. There was the question, for instance, of the possibility of constituting large Committees, in order to get through the business, in favour of which the weight of authority was very great. They had the statement of the Gentleman who presided so ably at the Table, in answer to a question by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), that the appointment of such Committees would be of great advantage in saving time, and that some scheme having that in view was much needed. That was a practical point in dealing with the Business of the House, which ought to be more carefully considered. There were other suggestions which had not been brought before the Committee, and which required to be deliberated upon; and many of the proposals were put before that body in the absence of the Members who proposed them, and negatived because there was nobody to support them. The House would act wisely, therefore, if they agreed to the re-appointment of the Committee—not as any slight upon their labours—but that they might be carried to the length they ought to have been carried. While admitting that the Business of the House wanted reform, his objection to the Motion was, that it went too far; as, by the introduction of the word "first," there would be a practical limitation to one day of the discussion of any question that might relate to the very Estimate under consideration. He should have been willing to have supported a Resolution which confined the discussion to subjects cognate to the Estimates; but he considered the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman would seriously endanger the liberty of debate. He had already stated his objections to the finding of the Committee; and he had also, on another occasion, stated his objections to the Resolutions of the Government. Some of the Government Resolutions were not the Resolutions of the Committee; some of them were introduced lately, without giving any opportunity of considering them; and, therefore, it would be well to refer the subject back to the re-appointed Committee, where it would be sifted, and where there was some hope of a conclusion being arrived at which would diminish the labours of the House. With those observations, he begged leave to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee he appointed to consider the best means of facilitating the despatch of Public Business in this House, and that the Reports of previous Committees on this subject be referred to it,"—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


hoped the Government would take the advice given by his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). Having already withdrawn one Resolution, they should withdraw the others. They must take the whole of these Resolutions together; and while he sympathized entirely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that time should be saved, they must not lose sight of the rights and privileges of the House. One of the most important of their privileges was, that no Supply should be taken until any question which it was desirable first to discuss should have been brought forward. Again, by Resolution No. 6 it was proposed that no hon. Member wishing to put a Question should be allowed to move the Adjournment of the House. The effect of that would be to deprive hon. Members of a power which they ought to possess, and which they were generally in the habit of using with discretion—namely, the power of calling attention to matters of urgency on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House. If the Resolution now before the House were carried, they would only have Friday nights for bringing forward the questions which independent Members wished to discuss; and if the House happened to meet in the morning of Friday, they knew the difficulty of getting hon. Members down to the Evening Sitting at 9 o'clock in time to make a House. These proposals would, therefore, impair the independence of the House. It was far more important than the saving of time that they should transmit to their descendants what they had inherited from their ancestors—the independence of that House and the right to discuss grievances before granting Supply. He, therefore, recommended the Government, as they had withdrawn their 1st Resolution, to withdraw this one also, and refer the whole matter again to a Committee.


rose to oppose the Amendment of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). The Resolution now under discussion was adopted by a large majority of the Committee of last year; and if the House passed it, they would effect a valuable improvement in the mode of conducting Public Business. He, therefore, hoped that the Government would not allow the Resolution to be put aside, but would take the sense of the House upon it by a division. His own position was that of an independent Member, and he believed that, so far from lessening the privileges of private Members, the Resolution would materially add to their power of fulfilling that most important part of their duties, which consisted in criticizing the Estimates and reviewing the public expenditure. On important occasions the Government felt bound to give up a night for other business than their own—as, for example, when a Motion like that condemning the appointment of Sir Robert Collier was put upon the Paper, and which could not be conveniently discussed as an Amendment on going into Supply. He had himself often come to the House on Supply nights expecting the Estimates to be brought on at an hour when they could be properly discussed; but, instead of that being the case, a number of small questions occupied the greater part of the night, and Supply was not reached till, perhaps, 11 o'clock, when it had to be gone through, if at all, in a scrambling and most unsatisfactory manner. At the beginning of August, when the Session was fast drawing to a close, he had known £15,000,000 of the public expenditure still to remain uninvestigated and unvoted; and he had protested against the House being driven into a corner by having to deal with the Estimates under such circumstances. He had seen Votes taken when not a dozen Members were present, and after 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning. Private and independent Members were much interested in guarding against the repetition of that state of things, and they ought to insist on the Estimates being brought on earlier in the Session, when they could be fairly discussed. With that view they should enable the Government, at all events on one night in the week, to put down Supply as the first Order, when the House would have a certainty that the Estimates would come on at a reasonable hour. If that were done, and the Government still kept back the Estimates till late in the Session, the House would have a just ground of complaint against them.


thought the observations of the hon. Member who had spoken last (Mr. Rylands) were somewhat wide of the mark. The hon. Member, instead of supporting the Government, had really been condemning them altogether; and if he had had longer experience in that House he would hardly have made the remarks he had done. The difficulty in regard to the Estimates had never arisen until the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) assumed the conduct of public affairs. In the days of Lord Palmerston and other Prime Ministers, the Estimates were always fairly considered, and their discussion was seldom protracted to a late period of the Session. A reference to the official records would bear out what he now said. But since the present Government had taken office they had so mismanaged matters that the Estimates had been put off till the very end of the Session. The Committee of last Session on Public Business, of which he was himself a Member, was a very imperfect Committee, and he did not wonder that the hon. Member found fault with it, for he (Mr. C. Bentinck) entirely agreed with him. Its constitution was objected to from the first. It contained too many official Members, and Members with pre-conceived opinions on the questions referred to them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing these Resolutions, had made a few brief observations, stating that the proposal to abolish the right of independent Members to bring on the Motions of which they had given Notice before going into Committee of Supply was not a constitutional question; but before he sat down he trusted to be able to prove to the satisfaction of the House, that it was a most important constitutional question, and that it had been admitted to be so by Sir Erskine May, and by equal, if not greater authorities. It had been said that the principle of the Government proposition had been carried in the Committee which had sat last year by a majority of 13 to 5, but how had that majority been obtained. The object of the Government proposal before the Committee undoubtedly was to do away with the constitutional right of private Members bringing forward Motions relating to grievances before going into Committee of Supply, except on Friday, and as soon as the late Speaker and Sir Erskine May had been examined before the Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced that proposition on the part of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) at once stated that if one day in the week were to be excepted, he should be happy to accept the proposal. The consequence was that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer immediately jumped down the throat of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and closed with his offer. There happened, however, to be on the Committee some independent Members of the House, who objected to matters being thus complacently arranged by the official Members, to the destruction of the rights of the private Members, and in consequence of their opposition, the consideration of the matter was postponed to a future day. Then occurred what was contended had rendered the whole proceedings of the Committee invalid, and their recommendations utterly worthless. The final decision of the point was arrived at by the Committee on Tuesday, the 28th of March, 1871. It had been determined that the Committee should come to a determination on the matter on the Friday following that day; but on the Friday preceding that day, three or four of the Members of the Committee met together, and decided that the meeting should be held three days' earlier than had been originally intended; and, consequently, four of the Members who undoubtedly would have voted against the Government proposition were unavoidably absent, and thus the Government majority was 8 instead of 4, which latter number was not a large majority considering how the Committee had been packed by the appointment upon it of such a large number of official Members. A more extraordinary speech than that to which the House had listened to-night from the Chancellor of the Exchequer he had never heard. His statement that this was not a constitutional question was contradicted by the evidence of Sir Erskine May and by Lord Palmerston, who, in proposing certain Standing Orders on the 3rd of May, 1861, had stated that the adoption of such a proposition would be a great hardship upon non-official Members. The right hon. Gentleman stated that these Motions of private Members upon going into Committee of Supply led to great uncertainty, but that was the fault of the Ministers themselves, who might easily ascertain whether or not a hon. Member intended to proceed with the Motion of which he had given Notice. He also wished to point out that the statistics given by the Government at the end of the Report were likely to lead to erroneous conclusions, seeing that they only referred to the number of Motions on Supply, and the number of pages of Hansard filled with discussions upon them, forgetting what they themselves had wrested from private Members. The Return which had been prepared by the Clerks of the House on his (Mr. C. Bentinck's) Motion gave a much more accurate statement of the subject. When he first had a seat in that House Morning Sittings were never heard of before the beginning of June, and then they only occupied from 12 until 4. The late Ministry introduced a new system of Morning Sittings, lasting from 2 till 7, instead of from 12 to 4; thus occupying the cream of the day, and leaving only an exhausted House, or no House at all, to reassemble at 9 o'clock. That was a serious blow to independent Members, and to make the matter worse the present Government had begun Morning Sittings as early as March, whereas formerly they never commenced till May. Last year there were such sittings on the 8th of March, the 11th of March, the 12th of April, and so on. In the Session of 1870, the number of Notices discussed on going into Committee of Supply was 81, occupying 252 pages of Hansard. It must not be supposed, however, that these were all adverse to the Government, for some of these Motions were favourable to and even encouraged by, the Government. The number of pages of Hansard occupied by the time taken from private Members through the alteration as to Morning Sittings was 395, and during the last three years the Government had had a large balance in their favour on this head. Indeed, Sir Erskine May, when interrogated by himself (Mr. C. Bentinck), as a Member of the Committee, was constrained to admit that the time allowed to private Members had been contracted of late years. When Morning Sittings commenced in March, non-official Members had no option but to bring on Motions on going into Committee of Supply. Then, again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had argued that without still further trenching on the time of private Members, it was impossible to have the Estimates properly discussed, but this was only an instance of the proverb that he was a bad workman who found fault with his tools. No former Government had met with this difficulty. He had referred to the ad- missions of Sir Erskine May, and he would appeal to the opinion of a gentleman, who, though not a Member of the House, had had a long and intimate acquaintance with it, and who from his experience and ability was highly competent to give an opinion on this subject. He referred to Mr. Charles Ross, who last Whitsuntide wrote an able letter on the matter to The Times. That letter was well deserving of the attention of the House, for it evinced not only a knowledge of the evil but of the proper mode of dealing with it. These were Mr. Ross's words— Unless Ministers themselves exercise more reserve and discretion with regard to the introduction of Bills than has been manifested of late years, it would he of little avail to restrict the tendency to over-legislation in private Members. It can hardly be denied that the measures which Governments bring forward are sometimes liable to the suspicion of being framed more with a view to political exigencies than to meet national wants. It is to the proneness of Governments—for, of course, I refer not to the present Government alone—to introduce measures intended to be 'popular' that we must, in a great measure, attribute that accumulation of Bills on the Order Book which was spoken of in the Committee as the 'block of business.' Recent events prove that the Government have failed to profit by experience. Already they have been obliged to withdraw several Bills, the passing of any one of which would be a task for a Session; but the Senatorial Temple Bar—to borrow Mr. Bright's figure—is still blocked up by half-a-dozen Government omnibuses, and there is a line of upwards of a hundred other Legislative ventures behind them. Whence, let me ask, comes this rage for legislation? If we were a now settlement, where everything had to be created afresh, down even to the elements of the social and political system, one could understand it; but that in this England of ours the Parliament should pass more than a hundred new laws annually does seem a thing to be wondered at. These were the remarks of a very sensible man, who knew what he was talking about, and had had the courage not only to write the letter, but to put his name to it. That letter of Mr. Charles Ross was entirely sufficient to confute the Chancellor of the Exchequer. From the death of Lord Palmerston to the present time this country had done no social legislation, because there had always been a cry about Reform. The more they reformed the worse the state of things was. When they got Reform, they wanted the Ballot; and when they had got the Ballot, they would want more sensational legislation. He would advise them to devote a Session or two to the affairs of the country, and to give up sensational legislation. It was a most unjustifiable proceeding on the part of Her Majesty's Government to press the House to deal with these Resolutions before the House had time to come to a correct judgment upon them. He had spoken to scores of hon, Members of the House on the subject of these Resolutions, and they said they had not had time to read them. The Resolutions were concocted on Thursday, and did not make their appearance till Friday; it was consequently impossible that the House could deal with them properly on so early a day as this. If these Resolutions were carried, they would only be the prelude to further aggression; non-official members would have no chance whatever of bringing Motions before the House. Therefore he would give to these Resolutions, which by no means could be of public advantage, his most strenuous opposition.


said, the hon. Member who had last spoken (Mr. C. Bentinck) had found fault with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having made what be called "brief observations" on introducing these Resolutions. Brevity was not a fault which could be laid to the charge of the hon. Member who had just spoken, for he had occupied the time of the House for about 50 minutes. He (Mr. B. Samuelson) thought it was straining the privileges of private Members to make these long speeches, and it was owing to that, and to their bringing forward what they were pleased to call "grievances," but which had no relation whatever to the subject which hon. Gentlemen came down to discuss, that Government found themselves obliged to bring forward these Resolutions. Instead of complaining that the privileges of private Members were to be curtailed, hon. Gentlemen generally would have reason to congratulate themselves if a Resolution such as that before the House was passed. It was a perversion of the privileges of private Members when the subject for the consideration of the House was, for example, the Army Estimates, to come down and call attention to some "grievance," in reference, perhaps, to the passage of carriages down Constitution Hill, or some equally trivial question which had no relation whatever to the Estimates, or even to the question of Supply. There was, however, one observation made by the hon. Member with which he entirely agreed, and that was that Parliament would do well to address itself to business, and it was because this Resolution, if passed, would enable the House to do so that he was in favour of it. What hon. Members wanted to know was, what business was to occupy them on any particular night; for, as the matter now stood, they never knew what their business was to be, or whether they were to do any business at all. That had gone so far now that the country was beginning to take notice of it, and it was impossible that the state of things which prevailed last Session would be tolerated by the public any longer. For that reason he must vote against the Amendment, because the effect of it would be to compel them to go on wasting their time in this year of grace 1872 as they had done in 1871. It was not to be tolerated that the Estimates should be driven off until the month of August, but the Government had no alternative but to put them off, when hon. Members came down night after night with their grievances to take up the time of the House whenever Supply was the Order of the Day. He trusted, therefore, the House would support the Government at least so far as this Resolution was concerned. This was a Resolution which had been carried in the Committee by a large majority, the only one, he believed, which had been so carried. If it were referred back to the same Committee, the chances were that it would be carried by a majority equally large, but to refer it to another Committee would be only to stultify the late Committee and themselves. From what had occurred on the 1st Resolution the House had shown itself quite competent to deal with the subject without the intervention of a Committee. They had a full discussion on the 1st Resolution, and, when it was shown that there were practical objections to it, it was withdrawn. The more the House considered this Resolution the more they would like it, for the scope of it was simply that on one night of the week, and on one night only, if the Government chose to put down Supply, they would do so with the certainty of Supply being considered.


said, he must take this Resolution in connection with its past history, and also with the other Resolutions which he saw on the Paper, and which formed part of the programme of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Resolution under consideration said in effect that private Members on both sides should have no opportunity, except upon Tuesdays and Fridays, of bringing forward the many miscellaneous questions, which not only came under their personal cognizance, but which, in the interests of their constituents, they were called upon to take up. That was how he read the 2nd Resolution. Well, he read the 4th Resolution as saying that Morning Sittings on Friday should begin from the 1st of May; and the 5th, that Morning Sittings on Tuesdays should begin from the 1st of July. Then he harked back to the 3rd Resolution, which was a despairing cry to save from utter collapse an exhausted House, which from the 1st of May had been sitting on Fridays, and from the 1st of July on Tuesdays, at 2 o'clock. Putting all these Resolutions together, all that he or anyone who candidly and dispassionately examined them could say was, that if they passed this Resolution, and went on to the others, which, together with it, formed the whole scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, private Members would really have only to the 1st of May, or, in other words, only to this side of Easter, any assured time during which to raise questions, however important, and that only on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Tuesday was a Motion night, but on this side of Easter it was occupied not only by general questions but by the inception of Bills, and if this Resolution were adopted, all those matters which it was the duty of a Legislative Assembly to take in hand would be subordinate to the cut-and-dry programme of the Government. As to the historical defence which the Government had attempted to setup—before 1811 there were as now questions of great importance which excited attention in Parliament and the country, but they were few in number, compared with those which came up in days of more rapid communication and more free journalism. When Europe was stirred by the revolutionary war, matters of importance requiring Parliamentary interference became more frequent, and hence came the necessity of giving the Government a specific division of time and certain days for Public Business. There was in short a division of labour, and the remaining nights were left for the questions which it was the rightful privilege of independent Members to discuss. Up to the period of the Reform Bill the advantage was not with the Government, for private Members enjoyed almost unchecked licence in the power of raising any question, and speaking at any length upon the presentation of Petitions. Before 1861, when the change was made of preventing Members from making speeches upon the question of Friday Adjournments, private Members may have had, he would not say an excessive share, but the lion's share of the time allotted to business. After 1861, however, the lion's share clearly devolved upon the Government. For proof, let the House look at the Paper of that night. A question of deep interest to the inhabitants of the metropolis had arisen upon the treatment of the Report of a Select Committee on the Thames Embankment. Yet the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) was driven from pillar to post in order to get an opportunity of bringing forward his Motion on this subject. Who would say, in the face of such facts, and the discussion which had occurred that very night, that private Members enjoyed any undue pre-eminence or advantage of position? Where would the House be if all these Government Resolutions were adopted? There would be a rush for the Tuesdays at the beginning of the Session. The Government, it must be remembered, shut up the Fridays after the 1st of May, because they took possession of them for Morning Sittings from 2 till 9 o'clock. They now liberally proposed that the House should not be counted till a quarter past 9, and when a question was to be brought on that suited the Government, they would make a House. Otherwise everyone knew what happened on hot May and June nights, when private Members wished to bring on Motions. There was no system that was worth anything without its abuses, and the proof that a system was really energetic and vital was that it had its abuses. The privilege of moving Amendments on going into Com- mittee of Supply might have been abused by would-be patriots and lazily worked out by bores; that, however, was only a proof the system was a good one, because patriots and bores had a right to be heard in that House. The pressure of public opinion was brought to bear upon Resolutions moved antecedent to Supply, and no man would move such a Resolution unless he had a good reason for it; and therefore to prevent any such Resolution from being moved would be to cut off a great safety-valve. He therefore thought that the Motion for binding over Monday as a bondsman to the Government for Supply ought not to be agreed to; and he deprecated the idea of Government calling on the House at that moment—when the minds of hon. Members were filled with the anticipations of to-morrow, and when they were naturally anxious to retire early to their several homes—to pass Standing Orders blindfolded, and head-over-heels to recognize claims which he thought no Government ought to make.


said, he used to think that some such Resolution as this was necessary, but longer experience in the House had led him to reconsider that opinion. The enthusiasts for economy would be disappointed, for he did not believe that if this Resolution passed, there would be a fuller attendance on Supply nights, nor would any great change for the better occur in checking the national expenditure. One result would be that Governments would get through Supply and then Prorogue, ending in a shortening, and not a lengthening of the Session, which for all practical purposes was already short enough, for in his opinion Parliament sat a shorter time than it ought. It need not sit a greater number of days during the year, but there should not be so long an interval during which Governments might do as they liked. One remedy for the existing state of things would be to meet earlier in the year. Why not in January instead of February? ["Oh, oh!"] He knew such an idea was unpopular, because it interfered with business men, and those who were fond of hunting and shooting. Any way, independent Members ought not to be asked to give up a part of the time now allotted to them. The failure of last year was due in a great degree to the Government themselves, and not to the House of Com- mons. When Ministers proposed distasteful measures like some of those proposed last year, Public Business was not likely to make much progress. For example, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a most eccentric Budget, founded on no rational principles, and exciting the amusement of all those persons who were not too much disgusted to laugh at it, and the effect was exceedingly demoralizing. But the right hon. Gentleman was not the only Minister who contributed to bring the House into this frame of mind. He (Mr. Aytoun) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in his proposal to abolish Purchase; but in the statements of the right hon. Gentleman there was a total absence of information, which produced on his mind a very depressing effect. As to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he had told his constituents in Renfrewshire of the miserable condition of mind to which he was reduced. He felt sorry for the right hon. Gentleman last Session, and he would, he hoped, be more successful in the present. ["Question!"] Those hon. Gentlemen who cried "Question," seemed to be utterly ignorant of the Rules of the House. He, for one, maintained that the failures of last year were in a great degree due to the conduct of the Government. It was, no doubt, one of the great functions of the House to regulate the Supply to be granted to Her Majesty, but another extremely important function of the House was that of criticizing and putting a stop to the action of the Government when, in the opinion of the House, that action was opposed to the public interests—a function which he feared would be greatly hampered if the present Resolution were passed. A great deal of work which had been thrown on the House of late had, it should not be forgotten, been occasioned by the mistakes of the Government themselves, and it was, therefore, unreasonable that they should ask private Members to forego the opportunities which they possessed of criticizing their conduct. Not long ago much time had been consumed in commenting on an appointment made by them to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and, under those circumstances, he thought it would be well to pause before passing a Resolution which would place more power in the hands of the Ministry, already, in some respects too powerful; and with that view, he was in favour of referring the question back to a Select Committee.


said, he had no doubt that the proposition before the House would meet the evil that it was intended to cure—that of enabling hon. Members to know when Supply was coming on. The question, however, was whether in curing that evil a greater might not be created. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to imagine that when he had stated that the practice of making Motions on going into Committee of Supply had originated in very recent years, he had entirely cut the ground from under the feet of those who supported the views he was now taking. But since he had entered Parliament, his (Mr. Hunt's) observation had led him to the conclusion that hon. Members were desirous of having the opportunity of bringing forward subjects of interest and making short statements with respect to them. Indeed, there was of late a great tendency to endeavour to preface questions by short statements of minor subjects. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out that the practice of raising such questions on going into Committee of Supply became general for the first time in 1837, and he thought he could account for the origin of the practice. Before the year 1835, it was the habit of hon. Members on presenting Petitions to make statements with respect to them; that practice gave them an opportunity of calling attention to matters in which they felt an interest. Owing to the time which it took up, however, the practice was abolished by the common consent of the House; but the result was what might have been expected when hon. Members were deprived of one opportunity of bringing forward questions of interest to themselves and their constituents under one particular form of the House, they would be sure to invent another, so in this case, they embraced the opportunity of bringing forward questions on going into Committee of Supply. In 1861, again, the practice of moving the Adjournment of the House from Friday to Monday was abandoned—a Motion on which various topics might be discussed; but it was found to be a great inconvenience that a Minister should in answering questions on entirely different matters, be limited to only one speech, and, therefore, Supply was put down for Friday night, and the Motion for Adjournment was abandoned. Now, the proposal before the House had, in his opinion, both its advantages and disadvantages. It was a convenience to some hon. Members to know when Supply would come on; but, on the other hand, it would be an inconvenience to many to lose the opportunity of bringing forward subjects of great interest to themselves and great importance to the country. Now, the Motion before the House seemed to him to have been formed by persons who looked at the subject from only one point of view. Those who were responsible for the carrying on of the business of the country were apt to look only at the inconvenience of Supply being postponed, while those who called themselves par excellence independent Members, among whom he might instance his hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. C. Bentinck), looked at the question in an entirely different aspect. For his own part, he thought the difficulty of getting the Votes in Supply had materially increased under the conduct of the present Government. He did not recollect that there had been such a deadlock of business under any previous Administration. Of course it might be said that the Conservative Governments had under different circumstances conducted their business, and had not brought forward any great measures; but there was a great measure passed through the House when he held the office of Secretary to the Treasury, and he must say he had not at that time found any difficulty in getting the necessary Votes in Supply. It should not, however, be forgotten that under the late Government the Financial Secretary to the Treasury had the charge of the Public Business, while under the present Ministry it was committed to the hands of the Political Secretary. When the former had the control of the Business Paper, it was arranged with a view to the necessary business; while, in the case of the latter, attention was paid chiefly to what was sensational and popular. The consequence was, that at no period he believed had Votes in Supply been pushed forward to so late a period in the Session as during the last two years—a state of things which the Government, of course, attributed, to the Rules of the House. He wanted to know what, practically, the Resolution would do? It proposed that the Government should have every Monday during the Session for Supply, with this exception—that, on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, an Amendment might be moved relating to the division of the Estimates proposed to be considered on that day. What would be the effect of such a regulation? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to the historical commencement of the doctrine that the Grievance came before Supply, and said that state of things had passed away when a Sovereign on getting his Supplies voted would let his subjects' Grievances go unredressed. No doubt that was true with regard to the Sovereign personally, but it was not true with regard to those who exercised power in the Sovereign's name. He did not mean to suppose that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench would endeavour to manipulate matters so as to defeat the wish of independent Members to bring certain matters before the House; but he would assume that there might be an unscrupulous set of men occupying the Treasury Bench, and on the first Monday, when the Navy Estimates were placed on the Paper, some Friend of the unscrupulous Government might be put forward to make a Motion. In that case the Government would be able on any future Monday to go into Committee on the Navy Estimates without discussion, and the whole Supply for the Navy might be obtained without an opportunity being given to any hon. Member to challenge the policy of the naval administration of the Government. The same course might be pursued with respect to the Army Estimates, and the other Estimates might be postponed until the end of the Session, when the attendance of hon. Members would be small. It would be a very serious matter if, by any alteration of the Rules of the House, they left it in the power of any future Government to perform such manœuvres as that. Such a power would place a great temptation in the way of a Government anxious for popularity to take large Votes on particular nights, and then postpone the remainder of Supply until they had had an opportunity of retrieving some of the blunders into which they might previously have fallen. No doubt something should be done to get rid of the present difficulty, but it should be done without giving up the privileges of independent Members to the extent now proposed. If this Motion were agreed to, he did not think they would ever have any other Supply night than Monday, and whatever Government was in power, would become very much more independent of Parliament than was the case at present. It had occurred to him that something might be done in the way of compromise to relieve the House from the difficulty in which it now found itself, without interfering too much with the privileges of independent Members. He thought, when the Speaker left the Chair on a Monday, and the House resolved into Committee of Supply, that then on Supply nights for the rest of the same week, the Government might be allowed to go into Committee without debate. ["No, no!"] That was a proposition which might be discussed, and which, in his opinion, would effect, to a great extent, the object which the Government had in view, and would not be open to such serious objections as their proposal. He had put down on the Paper of the House another suggestion, which he should like to refer to, and which was to the effect that Friday should be a Motion night instead of an Order night, and that, on speaking to a Motion on Friday, each hon. Member should be limited to 20 minutes. It was his notion that there were a great many questions which hon. Members wished to bring forward without desiring to speak long; and, if one night were devoted to short speeches upon these minor topics, a great many questions would be disposed of, and the "Notice Paper" on other nights would, to a great extent be cleared. Hon. Members who wished to bring forward questions would then have the chance of two nights—namely, Tuesday, when he did not propose that there should be any limit with respect to time, as there were occasions when speeches should not be curtailed; and Friday, when hon. Members would have the opportunity of bringing forward minor questions. If this proposition were adopted, he did not think that they would often have the House counted out on Friday, because many independent Members, anxious to make short speeches, would then be present. The objection to placing Supply as the first Order on Friday now was, that it was a mere sham, and, if an Amendment to Supply was negatived, then no other Amendment could be moved, and hon. Members consequently lost the opportunity of bringing forward their Motions. If the arrangement he had suggested were found by experience not to answer, nothing would be more easy than to put an end to it. With regard to the Amendment for the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the best means of facilitating the despatch of Public Business, he confessed he was at first not favourable to such a course; but the Government itself had now four propositions upon the Paper in addition to those first made, and as the original proposition of the Government had been departed from, it was not surprising that many hon. Members of experience had suggested other courses. Consequently much difference of opinion existed upon the subject, and, perhaps, the best course would be for the Government to revert to their original intention.


said, that whatever the House might do with regard to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Hunt), he presumed it would not be the wish of the House to refer to the proposed Select Committee the Resolutions standing in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had been framed upon the basis of recommendations made by last year's Committee. If the Amendment of the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) were adopted, the Committee would have a most difficult task to perform in searching through the numerous Reports of previous Committees, even through those of Committees which had sat during the last quarter of a century only. For his part, though not present on the Committee last year, he was now prepared to vote for the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it would tend to the removal of one of three great evils. The first evil was the great multiplicity of business; the second was the undue length to which the debates extended; the third and greatest was the uncertainty when any particular business would come on. In mitigation of the first he hoped the House would relieve itself of inquiries which in character were too minute for it to deal with as a whole satisfactorily. For the second there was no remedy but a gag-law, which they were not likely to adopt. As regards the third, it was a matter of regret and of reproach that the machinery of the House was so incredibly cumbrous that it was almost impossible to say with any degree of certainty whether a matter appointed for a certain day would come on for discussion upon that day; and that was so even with regard to the first Order of the Day. The proposition made on the part of the Government removed this defect to some extent; he, therefore, supported it. It had been objected by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt), that if the proposal were adopted the opportunity of challenging the naval policy of the Government would be lost after the first night; but he (Mr. Dodson) reminded the House that the proper time to challenge the naval policy of the Government was upon the first Vote in Supply on the Naval Estimates. While the Speaker remained in the Chair hon. Members would be hampered in discussing the naval administration of the Government, because they could not refer to the Votes without anticipating the business of the Committee.


asked how the naval policy of the Government could be challenged in Committee of Supply?


replied, that that could be done in the most effectual manner by refusing the grant, and maintained that if the Estimates were dealt with earlier in the Session, in a more systematic manner, there would be fewer votes on account—a vicious system, which frittered away the responsibility of the Government, and weakened the control of the House over the Estimates. The objection that the proposal would curtail the rights of private Members was untenable; it would, in fact, facilitate their criticisms and amendments of the Estimates, by providing that the business of the Committee of Supply should come on upon the evening devoted to Supply. He did not think Government would be much the gainers by the proposal, because greater certainty would exist as to when Supply would be taken; hon. Members would be in their places, and the Estimates would be more particularly overhauled. But if it were agreed to give Monday to the Government for Supply, he was inclined to favour the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman, that Friday should be given up wholly to private Members. It was a modern exaggeration of the constitutional principle that Grievance should precede Supply, to claim that privilege for every expression of opinion on any subject whatever. In these times especially, the House always had it in its power to stop Supply at any time by refusing to grant a Vote.


thought the last two speeches sufficiently proved the necessity of a Committee of Inquiry. Both his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Dodson) and the right hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) were men to whom the House would naturally defer, and both of them had shown that the question could be but imperfectly considered now—that the Resolution, as it stood, would require amendment, and that many other points deserved attention. The two questions which the House had to resolve were—should they go into Committee on the whole subject? or should they determine the specific question submitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer? With reference to the first of these, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Dodson) had put the question fairly on the ground that, in his opinion, certainty in the debates would be procured, and certainty as to the time when the debates might come on. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had urged that by the alteration he proposed the House would not be debarred from questioning the conduct of the Government in any matter, and the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) had denied that any inconvenience would arise, on the ground that any great question could always be raised by arrangement between both sides of the House. Anybody, however, who looked into the history of the House of Commons would see that its control over the Executive depended on its ability to question their conduct in any matter before going into Committee of Supply. To deprive it of that power would be to deprive it of the power which had made the House what it was, and which must keep it what it was, if the essentials of representative Government—public opinion, a respon- sible Executive, and Parliamentary control—were to be preserved. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had remarked that this privilege was never dreamed of till 1811, and never constantly exercised till much later; but his right hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) had shown the fallacy of his argument, for he had pointed out that at the periods referred to the House wielded the fullest power over the Government in the shape of Motions of which sudden Notice was given, and debates on Petitions. Indeed, some of the best constitutional debates occurred on the presentation of Petitions. The power of debating on Petitions, and the power of giving rapid Notice of Motions, which could be brought on without any favour from the Government, however, had been taken away, leaving Motions on going into Committee of Supply as the last power possessed by the House of Commons of questioning the conduct of the Government whenever it pleased. The arrangements by which, through the courtesy of hon. Members on both sides, there was the opportunity of questioning any great alleged misconduct on the part of the Government were, no doubt, admirable; but there were many smaller questions, grievances perhaps, suffered by a section of the people, to which those arrangements did not extend, and he hoped there was sufficient independence in the House to say that they would not accept as a favour from the Government what they had a right to demand. His hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Dodson), however, had employed a very telling argument in urging the value of certainty. While, however, this Resolution would secure certainty as to Supply, it must be remembered that the present practice gave equal certainty with regard to the Motions preceding Supply, for, by the existing arrangements, Notices were given to the Government of the questions they were required to answer. All of them, of course, could not come on at the same time, any more than all the Orders of the Day on a Wednesday; but there was certainty as to the order in which they would come on. He questioned, moreover, the advantage urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as accruing from getting into Committee at an earlier hour, for the House generally got into Committee by 8 or 9 o'clock, or a little later, giving ample opportunity of discussing the Estimates, and giving the opportunity of previously discussing other questions. He thought, therefore, it would be a great misfortune to adopt the Resolution. As to appointing a Committee, the Government, in his opinion, were right in their original proposal to appoint a Committee. Some of the recommendations of last year's Committee the Government had taken up, while others they left in abeyance. Now, had they intended to refer to a Committee those subjects only which were inquired into last year, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) and the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), that this would be disrespectful to last year's Committee, and a mere postponement of important questions, was unanswerable. But how did the matter now stand? Eighteen distinct propositions had been made in that House, many of which were not discussed by that Committee. Would it be well to discuss all these on the floor of the House, with Amendment upon Amendment? The question surely ought not to be dealt with in a fragmentary manner, and it ought not to be dealt with at all—a point urged by every Committee which had sat on the subject as of primary importance—unless there was a very general concurrence on the part of the House. He believed Public Business would be better facilitated by referring Bills to a Select Committee, and on their coming back to the House debating only questions which hon. Members intended to raise, instead of going through them clause by clause. By that and other means, business might be materially expedited. In default of a very general concurrence in these Resolutions, what would happen? Every kind of—evasion was a word the Government did not like—[An Hon. MEMBER: Device.]—he did not like to say device; but every plan would be resorted to for getting out of the strict Rules which were to be laid down. This would not conduce to the transaction of business, or to its order and regularity. He would advise the Government to refer the whole subject to another Committee, in which case he would recommend—without intending any reflection on last year's Committee for the omission—that they should report their rea- sons together with their recommendations. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon so important a question, for all of them had the same object in view, and they differed only as to the means of effecting it.


said, he had listened with extreme satisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. S. Walpole), and he had been waiting for an opportunity of putting forward precisely the same line of argument. The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) and the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Dodson) were the only two hon. Members who addressed the House in favour of the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the commencement of the evening, the right hon. Gentleman told the House, with much frankness and bonhommie, that his object and the object of the House were identical, and that he did not wish to force any of his Resolutions on an unwilling House, and he accordingly withdrew his 1st Resolution, on which there was not a general concurrence of opinion. On reflection, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would perceive that the Resolution now under consideration was equally distasteful to the House. He was not one of those who had joined in the ironical cheer that was raised when the 1st Resolution was withdrawn; he believed the right hon. Gentleman had shown a wise discretion in doing so, and he hoped he would act with equal prudence in referring the whole matter to a Select Committee. His objection to the Resolutions proposed by the right hon. Gentleman was that they were of too eclectic a character. Several of the proposals contained in last year's Report he had included in his Resolutions, but many of a most valuable kind he had altogether omitted. For instance, the suggestions made by their Chief Clerk at the Table—the greatest authority upon Parliamentary law that the House contained—were altogether omitted from the Resolutions. The House was compelled to discuss these proposals of the Government one by one, and several hon. Gentlemen had been called to Order for referring to Resolutions other than the one immediately before the House. But they were engaged virtually in framing a new set of Standing Orders, and how was it possible to discuss these satisfactorily, or to discover their full bearing and significance, except by considering them in connection with each other? There were, moreover, the 18 separate propositions of hon. Members which ought to be viewed in connection with the Government proposals; but, unless they were all referred to a Select Committee, how was it possible that a connected view of the subject could be taken? It was necessary that the House should keep a firm check upon whatever Government might be in power, and experience had fully shown that the ingenuity of hon. Members had never failed in adopting plans for that end; and if the opportunity at present existing of raising debates on going into Committee of Supply were taken away, no doubt some other method would be discovered; but he very much doubted whether it would be a course attended with more convenience for the despatch of Public Business than that which at present existed. In former times the duty of the rank and file was confined to making a House and cheering the Minister, but under the modern system, hon. Members returned by large and important constituencies were expected to represent and give utterance in debate to the sentiments of those by whom they were elected. If the right hon. Gentleman would consent to take this Resolution by itself, and refer the others to a Select Committee, he should be willing to support that proposition; otherwise he must vote against the Motion.


said, that if any Resolutions were referred to a Committee the whole subject ought to be referred. There could be no doubt that if the Committee of last year had enjoyed the advantage of hearing this debate, they would have arrived at more practical conclusions. The argument of the Chairman of Committees went further than the hon. Gentleman himself had probably intended, for it pointed to the entire abolition of Motions on going into Committee of Supply—a course to which he, for one, could never give his consent. The Motion of which he himself had given Notice showed that he was not unwilling to increase the facilities for the despatch of Government Business. But the plan suggested by the Government amounted to this—that there was to be a real Supply night on Mondays, and a mock Supply night on Fridays, so that during the week there would he no opportunity whatever of discussing questions in which the liberty and freedom of the House were closely involved. If it were possible to run through the Votes in Supply at so early a period of the Session as to render it unnecessary for Votes on Account to be taken, the Business of the House would be entirely at the mercy of the Government during the summer months. He was unable to agree to the Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because its effect would be to prevent independent Members from bringing forward important questions on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply.


said, the evening's discussion showed how useless it would be to adopt the Amendment proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). The evening had been occupied by the discussion of two Resolutions which were carefully considered by the Committee of last Session, a circumstance conclusively proving that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) was quite right when he said the other night, that it was usless to refer to a Committee questions which were sure to be afterwards re-opened in the House, because every hon. Member deemed himself as competent as the Members of the Committee to discuss them. If the weight of authority were taken into account, the House must agree to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Most of the Members of weight on the Committee—13 to 5, he believed, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and his right hon. Friend near him (Sir George Grey)—were in favour of it. Therefore, if weight of authority were to prevail, the decision of that Committee ought to bind the House, and he might remind hon. Members that they could not get authority of greater weight if they were to refer the matter back to the consideration of another Committee. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. S. Walpole) seemed to suppose that the proposal of the Government was to rob independent Members of every opportunity of bringing questions before the House. This, however, was by no means the case. The House usually met on five days in the week. By the Standing Orders Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were practically appropriated to independent Members. Wednesday was set apart for Orders of the Day, so he would leave that day out of consideration on the present occasion. Tuesday was an open day for hon. Members to get precedence for their Motions by Ballot at the Table, and on Friday nights they could bring forward their grievances on the Motion for going into Supply. Now, the responsibility of passing the Estimates and of introducing and passing the principal measures of the Session rested on the Government, for everybody must be aware that it was almost impossible for a private Member to pass an important Bill. Consequently, the House gives the Government Monday and Thursday for the transaction of their business. One of the main portions of the business of the Government was Supply, and while on the one hand hon. Members said to the Government—"You shall have Monday for the transaction of your business," on the other hand they said—"You shall not have Monday for the transaction of one of the principal portions of your business, because on that day we will bring forward Motions on going into Committee of Supply, and thus give you every inducement to postpone the Estimates to as late a period of the Session as possible." That was the natural result, for, of course, the Government would, wherever it was practicable, put down on the Paper, instead of Supply, some other Order in regard to which they had the absolute right of precedence. He besought the House to regard the question as a practical matter of common sense and business. For the due despatch of business, it was highly desirable to have a settled time for the discussion of it; and yet according to the existing practice and arrangements, it was impossible to say when this most important business of voting Supplies would come on for discussion. He therefore entreated the House to pause before rejecting this proposal of the Government, which had received the support of a large majority of the Committee of last year, and which, if adopted, would greatly facilitate the conduct of the Business of the House.


remarked that five hours had been already occupied in dis- cussing the first two Resolutions, and there were many others awaiting discussion. He should be sorry to waste the time which had been devoted to this 2nd Resolution, but after a decision upon it had been arrived at, he trusted the other Resolutions would be submitted to the consideration of a Select Committee. If another Committee were appointed, it ought to be differently constituted from the last, which specially represented the old opinion of the House; some of the younger Members ought to be a fresh Committee.


said, he did not think any sufficient ground had been alleged for doing away with the undoubted and valuable privilege which hon. Members had so long possessed. The only use of the Resolution was to indicate the will of a Liberal Government to muzzle the House of Commons. It would not help on business, save time, or facilitate the getting of money; it was against the law of nature; for it was as true in public as in private life that, if you wanted to get money, you must hear what people had to say; and the operation of the proposed Rule would make it worse to get money than it was at present. The Speaker might be moved out of the Chair, and then, if any hon. Member wished to bring forward a grievance, all he had to do was to move that the Chairman report Progress, with the disadvantage that the hon. Member would do without Notice that which he now did with Notice. Then others would find that they had grievances, and that they, too, could move to report Progress. The Resolution only said that Motions were not to be made on going into Committee of Supply; but it did not say that when the House was once in Committee of Supply, it was to go on in Committee for as many hours as the Government pleased. Did the Government mean that? That was what it must come to, if the Resolutions were to have the effect desired. He supposed it was not meant that the Committee should be precluded from moving the Chairman out of the Chair? It was well that the House should have a clear indication of what was meant by a Liberal Government; and, at present, hon. Members were groping in the dark. He did not think these things had received the consideration they deserved.


said, they ought to discuss the transaction of the Business of the House, and not say so much about the Government. That ought not to be made a party question. He thought it necessary that greater facilities should be given for discussing the Estimates, and therefore he thought the proposal of the Government was reasonable, and it ought to be entertained, in consideration for those Members who took an interest in financial questions. Those who did not, ought not to place others in an awkward position.


wished to ask the House to consider what it was that had brought them to their present position. The House now discussed matters of minor importance, which formerly would have been deemed unworthy of its attention. That originated, in great measure, from the evil habit of excessive questioning, chiefly on matters of administrative detail. He (Mr. Newdegate) had been often ashamed to see the list of Questions printed upon the Notice Paper. The House had no opportunity of expressing any opinion upon the propriety of any of these Questions, or upon the Answers given to them, and yet these Questions appeared to be asked with the sanction of the House. That system diminished the responsibility of Government, and constantly suggested topics for Motions, and speeches calling attention to them. The result was confusion between the legislative and administrative functions of the House and of the Government. He was a Member of the Committee of 1861, which, with the view of preventing the abuse, recommended that Questions should be limited to one night in the week. They ought to judge the Government by results—not by endeavouring to interfere with their functions. Why were they asked to sacrifice the privileges of the House? Because the Government, having carried several great measures in the two first Sessions of the present Parliament, proposed to go on effecting immense changes, until the country became alarmed at the progress they were making, thinking it would end in a revolution. It was to facilitate that course of proceeding, that the House was asked to sacrifice its privileges. What was the state of the Order Book last Session? The average number of Orders of the Day on Mondays in February was 9½ in March, 11¾; in April, 15⅓ in May, 20; in June, 33; in July, 38; and in August, 35. On several occasions there were more than 40 Orders of the Day. How came that accumulation of business? Because it seemed to be the determination of the Government not to allow the House of Lords its due share of legislative action. According to a Return of the House of Lords, the number of Lords' Bills received in the House of Commons during the Session was 36. The number of Lords' Bills read a third time in the House of Commons, during the months of February, March, April, and May—2. Ditto, read a third time in the House of Commons, June, July, and August—28. Number of Bills, total—30. Number of Bills withdrawn—3; ditto, "committed for this day six months"—1; ditto, "ordered to be discharged"—2; total—36. Number of Commons' Bills received in the House of Lords during the Session—82. The number of Commons' Bills read a third time in the House of Lords, during the months of February, March, April, and May—19; ditto, read a third time in the House of Lords, in June, July, and August—59; the number of Bills rejected—2; ditto, Order for Committee discharged—1; ditto, put off sine die—1; total—82. It was manifest that the House of Commons neglected not only the Estimates, but for some reason they failed to legislate at any reasonable pace during the four first months; and then, in the later months of the Session, they crowded their own Table and the House of Lords with such an amount of business that it resulted in confusion. That was the origin of the evil; and the Resolutions, of which he had given Notice, were intended to meet that state of things, and to ensure that certainty in the transaction of business which the Chairman of Committees had stated, and truly stated, to be essential. The tendency of his proposals was this—to invite the Government to introduce more of their legislation in the House of Lords, and thus to relieve them from the mass of business with which it was the pleasure of Her Majesty's Ministers to encumber them.


thought it would stultify the House to send these Resolutions to another Committee. He did not think the Government were altogether free from blame. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not brought forward the only Resolution which had passed the Committee unani- mously—namely, that Opposed Business should not be taken after half-past 12 o'clock. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward only proposals which appeared to favour the progress of Government Business, and studiously ignored everything that favoured the rights of private Members. What was the use of another Committee, when the only Resolution passed unanimously had been ignored by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? If there was to be another Committee, there must be a new set of Resolutions, referred to it; but that would be only a decent way of burying the matter. The fact was, that the House had, to a great extent, changed its mind on that subject since last year; and the best course would be to drop that debate altogether, and let them hear no more, either of the Resolutions or the Amendment.


said, the question before them was two-fold—First, should they send that Resolution and the other Resolutions on the Paper to a Committee; and, next, if they decided not to do that, should they pass the Resolution? Although he could not agree with all that the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) had said, he certainly agreed that there would not be much wisdom in sending that Resolution to a Committee. In the first place, the claim had been made to them, and it was admitted in the face of the House that it would not be fair or respectful to the Committee to send their work to be done over again. If the House expected to be well served by Committees, it would never think of treating them with any disrespect. But even if they were to have another Committee, where were they to get one that would carry greater weight than the Committee of last year? The proposal now before the House had the full approval of the Speaker and of the able and experienced Clerk at the Table, and was supported by Mr. Disraeli, Sir George Grey, Colonel Wilson-Patten, Mr. Bouverie, Mr. Clay, Mr. Goldney, Sir John Pakington, and Mr. White. All that a Committee could do on a matter of that kind was not to dictate opinions to hon. Gentlemen, but to supply the element of authority in reference to it; and they would seek in vain, he thought, for another Committee which would supply that element to a greater extent. The next Resolution was intended entirely for the relief of independent Members by preventing the House from being counted out at 9 o'clock, and it was also, he believed, carried unanimously by the Committee of last year. As far as the other Resolutions before the House went, if the House thought it desirable to send them to a Committee, and could find a Committee willing to undertake the trouble of investigating them, with the certainty that when it had made its Report it would be set aside, perhaps it was not for him to offer any objection. With regard, however, to the main question, which had already been exhaustively argued, he begged the House not to be led away by the sort of declamation with which it had been treated. Gentlemen talked about its being the main business and duty of the House to check and control the Government, to cross-examine them, and have an opportunity of bringing grievances forward; but they must know as well as he did that they were using the language of a past age, and applying it to a state of things that no longer existed. There was a time, no doubt, when it was the business of the House of Commons to curb the encroachments of the Crown. And when, after the Revolution, that ceased to be necessary, there was another time when it became the business of the House to look narrowly into the acts of corrupt Ministers. But nobody, he apprehended, surmised that those were now really the leading functions of the House of Commons. The House had many functions, perhaps, of a higher, but still of a different kind. Its work was now to be tried by modern standards, and by that test to which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had referred—the test of results. The nation expected the House to look after the public finances and keep the expenditure within bounds; it expected the House, which had gathered to itself almost all power in the country, to exercise that power for the good of the country, and that not merely by cross-examining and tormenting Ministers, but by passing the laws which public opinion and the exigencies of the present times imperatively demanded. Those were the duties which the country expected from the House of Commons. They were blind guides who told them that they fulfilled their duty by merely talking about things, and making "sham" inquiries about little matters of administration, while neglecting the weightier matters of the law—the control of the finances and legislation. Let them then not be deceived by obsolete words and fine phrases. They threw on the Government the whole of their legislation and the whole of their finance, and allotted to them only two-fifths of the available time. Hon. Gentlemen talked about Government nights, but the first hour of those nights was often taken away from them by Questions. Again, a whole night or more nights were given to any hon. Gentleman who wished to censure the Government; and if there was a heavy piece of Private Business to be discussed, it was always put down for a Government night, because there was then a good attendance. That went on, perhaps, for two or three months pretty well, but at last a block arose, and things became quite intolerable. If they chose to be blind to that state of things, the country and their constituents would not be blind to it. The country knew that it must proceed and did proceed from the faulty organization and distribution of their labours. The first condition of doing business satisfactorily was, that they should really know what business they were going to do, and that hon. Members on coming down to the House should know they were coming down to do a particular thing, and not something else and quite different. It could not be maintained that hon. Gentlemen had not ample opportunity for discussion and examination. They had two-fifths of the time of the House to do what they liked in, and another fifth for the purposes of legislation. Considering that all the business of legislation was done by the Government—["No!"]—or almost all, he asked whether it was a reasonable or a defensible division of time that had been adopted, and whether it was not desirable that they should hit upon some means of alleviating rather than to go on aggravating the pressure. He was not saying that on behalf of the Government, but on account of the House itself, whose character, whose usefulness, whose standing in the civilized world were involved in the fact that it should, in addition to all its other great qualities and gifts, show that it possessed that most necessary quality—namely, the power of transacting its own business in a businesslike manner. He was sorry, therefore, that he could not accede to the appeals made to him to withdraw the Motion, but must take the opinion of the House upon it.


, as an independent Member who had sat in that House for 37 years, declined to accept the definition of the right hon. Gentleman of what was his duty; and more especially as the right hon. Gentleman had shown a great leaning for mere official convenience, and appeared to overlook altogether the rights and liberties of his countrymen. In his easy, epigrammatic way, the right hon. Gentleman had treated public grievances as matters of past history; but he could tell the right hon. Gentleman, that if hon. Members had not had the power of striving against arbitrary authority, it would have been impossible to vindicate the rights and the privileges of the people. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that their duty was to look after the Estimates; but could anything be more slovenly than the manner in which the Estimates were passed, while the debates on the great question of Indian finance were mere mockeries? The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of sham inquiries. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees had referred to the vast increase in the amount of Public Business that had occurred of late; but that increase was principally owing to the reckless manner in which the Government introduced Bills which they had no intention of pressing forward. In the course of last Session the Government had introduced no less than 27 Bills—dealing with bankruptcy, with coal mines, with the Charity Commissioners, with the Game Laws, with intoxicating liquor licences, with local taxation, with merchant shipping, with the gas question, with the metropolitan water works, with the metalliferous mines, with pilotage, with rating and local government, with sea fisheries, and with the Royal parks and gardens, all of which were matters of interest to the public, but which, not being party questions, the Government, having dabbled with, quietly dropped. Under these circumstances, such gagging Resolutions as these ought not to be forced down their throats, and the Government, which had instituted such a number of sham inquiries, ought not to be entrusted with the amendment of the Rules of the House. Much time might be saved if the House would return to old-fashioned habits, and would not not lose two hours and a-half every evening in dining.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Lord Elcho.)


said, he did not think it reasonable that the debate should be adjourned on a question the scope of which was not so wide that hon. Members might not be able to come to a decision upon it after the discussion which had been held. As to the reference of the subject to a Committee, that was a movement on which he would not enter, inasmuch as it was quite impossible for the Government to refer it to a Committee at the stage which it had now reached. The Government were, in fact, under a pledge to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), who for some unexplained cause was not in his place, and to that pledge they must adhere. Some rather strong language had been used by the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Claud Hamilton), who addressing himself to the subject with an animation which evinced something of the heroic spirit of old, had charged the Government with an attempt to gag the House, and had said that the gag was actually to be forced down their throats; while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) stated that they were about to muzzle the House of Commons. But was it the attempt of a Liberal Government to muzzle the House of Commons? Why, if the attempt of anybody, it was the attempt of a Committee which had considered the subject without the modification which had been introduced by his right hon. Friend, and had divided in favour of a Resolution much stronger than that which the House was now engaged in discussing by a majority of 13 to 5. [An hon. MEMBER: Some Members of the Committee were absent.] Of those who were absent, one was his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means, who had he been present would have converted the 13 into 14, for the laws of arithmetic were stronger than the intelligence of the hon. Gentleman. It was, therefore, an entirely unfounded charge to describe the action of the Go- vernment in the matter as an attempt to muzzle the House of Commons. The Resolution was recommended by a Committee, and had been so far modified by the Government as to render it more acceptable to the general body of hon. Members. It was, of course, open to anyone who pleased to do so, to speak of the obstruction in the course of business as being due to the incompetency of the Ministry. That was a mode of dealing with the question which might be satisfactory to some; but the Government had done their best, and he regretted they were not more equal to the task which they had to perform, or that the House did not find itself in a position to secure the services of better men. But it was not necessary to bandy accusations of that kind. There was in the matter a difficulty which lay much deeper. The demand for legislation in the country had multiplied of late years not only with reference to moral, but social questions in a way which had added enormously to the burdens of the House. Again, the Government could surely have no evil motive in endeavouring to give effect to the Resolution of the Committee. If the Government succeeded in passing the Resolution, it was impossible that more than four or five nights could be added to the time at their disposal. But what was the difference which would be made in the case of the House? Why, a number of hon. Members who were kept constantly in suspense as to the time when Supply would come on, would be in a position to discharge their legitimate duty of checking expenditure without exercising all that vigilance and patience which was now required at their hands. Then on Friday in every week it would be open to any hon. Member to bring forward grievances on the question of going into Supply—[Mr. R. N. FOWLER: If there is not a count out.]—the hon. Gentleman should not have made that observation, for he knew that it was the Government which endeavoured to prevent a count out of the House. But be that as it might, on Tuesdays hon. Members could bring forward their Motions without any restraint from the Government. The Government had been invited to withdraw the Resolution, but they could not withdraw it in justice to the large majority of the Committee, while considerable dissatisfaction would be occasioned out- of-doors, where a widespread opinion already prevailed, that, whether owing to the vastness of the work or the defectiveness of the arrangements for the conduct of business, the House did not efficiently discharge its obligations to the country. Altogether independent of party, the present proposal was made with the view of rendering the performance of those obligations more satisfactory.


thought that as private Members would have an opportunity of bringing forward their propositions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, considering the great increase in late years in the Business of the House, it was a very reasonable proposition on the part of the Government that on Monday, Supply should be the first Order of the Day, and that on that day private Members should be restrained from bringing forward measures which would prevent that business going forward. The Estimates now voted were nearly double what they used to be, and he knew of no greater grievance than excessive Estimates.


observed that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had informed the House that the Resolution now proposed by the Government was adopted by a majority of the Committee. In that case he wished to know why the right hon. Gentleman did not propose the other propositions which were adopted by a majority of the Committee? It was drawing an invidious distinction between them, and afforded no ground whatever for adopting it by itself. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had selected the proposition simply because it suited himself and the Government. If the House accepted the Resolution, no other amendment would be made in the transaction of the Business of the House.

Question put, and negatived.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


, having withdrawn his Amendment, proposed the following Amendment in lieu thereof:— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Public Business of this House, and that the Reports and Evidence of the last three Committees on this subject be referred to it.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Public Business of this House, and that the Reports and Evidence of the last three Committees on this subject be referred to it, instead thereof.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 120: Majority 32.


suggested the omission from the Resolution of the word "first" as a compromise, remembering the Italian proverb—"Chi va piano va sano."

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 132; Noes 92: Majority 40. Resolved, That whenever notice has been given that Estimates will be moved in Committee of Supply, and the Committee stands as the first Order of the Day upon any day except Thursday and Friday, on which Government Orders have precedence, the Speaker shall, when the Order for the Committee has been read, forthwith leave the Chair without putting any Question, and the House shall thereupon resolve itself into such Committee, unless on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, an Amendment be moved relating to the division of Estimates proposed to be considered on that day.


then moved, in the interest of private Members, the third Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That when the House, after a morning Sitting, resumes its Sitting at Nine o'clock, and it appears on Notice being taken, that 40 Members are not present, the House shall suspend Debate and Proceedings until a quarter past Nine o'clock; and Mr. Speaker shall then count the House, and if 40 Members are not then present, the House shall stand adjourned."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


moved the adjournment of the debate.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Monday 11th March.

  2. c1100
  4. c1100